Oh man, what a year it has been. There have been a lot of good new titles that have come out, others have continued on into this year from the last, and some have sadly come to their conclusion as well. I’m reading more books than ever before as well, allowing me to witness all of these enjoyable titles unfold month to month.
However, reading more books than ever before has also exposed me to the underbelly of comic book world. Not every book is lollipops and rainbows, folks. Some titles are rather mediocre and deliver a dull experience, some fail to live up to their true potential, some are poorly written and drawn, and then there are some that make you wonder how the hell they even got released. As such, allow me to share with you my list of the 10 Worst Comics of 2014.
Keep in mind folks, this is all personal opinion. What I think is bad may be different than what you think is bad. There’s no reason to get upset, even with some of my more controversial choices here. Just sit back and read as I explain why I picked what I picked.
Bad Ass (Dynamite): You may have not even heard about this comic and frankly, I don’t blame you. There wasn’t much word on it, Dynamite didn’t really promote it a whole lot, and I didn’t even really do a full review on this (we did briefly discuss it in the AiPT Podcast). There’s not much to say about this in general. It’s Mark Millar-lite, but even less intelligence to it. Bad characters, bad dialogue, sad attempts at trying to be edgy, and a forgettable story. You’ll probably end up forgetting about this comic by the time this article is over!
ODY-C (Image Comics): Not something I reviewed on this site, but over on my blog. Reading it, the comic was a complete and utter train wreck of a story. The plot made no sense, the characters were flatter than paper, the narration didn’t work remotely, and it was a baffling experience from beginning to end. However, it’s hard to get too mad at it considering there was a reason for this. Apparently Image sent out copies that didn’t even have all the pages in them or were out of order! So there’s an excuse for some its badness (Company incompetence!), but even then, there are still parts that just don’t work.
Satellite Sam (Image Comics): This is a comic that has a good hook and setup: a murder of a popular actor in a sci-fi drama during the 50’s, with a lot of sleaze involved. To the comic’s credit, when it focuses on that part of the story, it’s pretty good. However, when the comic doesn’t focus on it—and that happens with this story a lot—it becomes a very tiring and boring experience. Most of the characters aren’t likeable or compelling, their drama distracts from the really interesting mystery, and the artwork can make it downright hard to tell people apart. Not the worst thing I read, but it’s a good example of a comic not focusing on what’s most interesting.
Spider-Woman (Marvel Comics): Talk about your misfire from right out of the starting gate. Marvel decided to a launch a brand new title staring Spider-Woman during the middle of an event, with no explanation for what was going on for new and old friends who knew nothing about the story and focused more on Silk instead of the lead. Not that the writing, poor introduction to Spider-Woman herself, or the mediocre artwork helped matters.
And with that, let us begin…
10. Shinobi: Ninja Princess (Action Lab)
I’m not going to a spend a lot of time on discussing this comic, since there is not much to discuss in general when it comes to it (plus, I stopped around issue three). It tells the story of Shianndrea Toshigawa, a young girl with a mysterious background and possibly a heroic destiny, who is hiding a clan of ninjas from the evil emperor of Japan and trying to stop bad guys. It’s a basic story, but it’s one that’s just incredibly weak from start to finish. The writing, the characterization, and the artwork are all very poorly done to downright amateurish at points.
And that’s the thing when you get down to it about this comic: it feels like a first or second attempt for a creative team making a comic. Everything here feels like a webcomic or something you might see on DeviantART, an artist or writer’s early attempts at creating something. I couldn’t find much about the creative team who the made the book, so I’m going to make the assumption that they are new to the game (if they aren’t, feel free to correct me on this). As such, while this is a pretty bad comic, it seems or at least feels like it has an excuse for it. The rest on the other hand though…
9. Sovereign (Image Comics)
Now here’s a comic that didn’t have much of an excuse for how it turned out. Sovereign was written by Chris Roberson, who wrote one of my favorite Vertigo comics of all time, iZombie (which will be getting a questionable TV adaption from the CW very soon), and I was interested. Sure, I’m not as big into fantasy or Game of Thrones as others (which I heard this comic was being compared to), but with a writer I really liked, I was willing to give it a fair shake. However, what came out was… depressing to say the least.
Sovereign focuses on a couple of different people in this very mystical and magical land: A group of traveling monks, a missionary group of sorts from a faraway kingdom, and the son of the recently deceased ruler of the land. Through these characters, we learned about this new world, the kingdoms, the magic and mysticism of it, and even the religions and mythologies that inhabit this world. While all of this world building was pretty solid, there was a problem. That was all there was to the comic. It barely bothered to give any backstory or characterization to most of the characters, we barely knew anything about the rules this world adhered to (we knew the backstory but not much else), the dialogue and narration was pretty dry most of the time, pacing was horrendous, and then there was the story itself. The main story barely got going by issue 4 and even then, we didn’t get to see much of this whole undead thing that was supposedly a big deal. What was even worse was that the last issue of the comic, #5, didn’t even focus on the main plot, and instead on these completely superfluous characters that weren’t involved in the main event in any way.
Speaking of which, this comic is pretty much done for at this point (or at the very least, we won’t be seeing it for a long time). The artist of the book, Paul Maybury, has been tagged for a new book called Valhalla Mad with Joe Casey, and since there hasn’t been much talk about this comic with him or Roberson, it’s fair to say that Sovereign is gone for good at this point. Image and pretty much the entire public don’t really even acknowledge this book, so it’s probably not going to be that big of a loss. Either way, Sovereign was easily one of the weakest and most disappointing books that I got to read this year.
8. Klarion (DC Comics)
Let’s be honest here. Yes, this book is bad. It’s as bad as you would expect, given that Ann Nocenti is writing it. I’m not familiar that much with Klarion the Witch Boy, outside of his minor appearances in the past DC animated series, so I can’t tell how well this book does with capturing his character, unlike Nocenti’s Catwoman. That being said, the writing is a mess from start to finish. The pacing and story progression is erratic, so the story often is going too fast and is jumping ahead too far with the tale and characters. The dialogue is bad and stilted, and you feel like you have to read the thing a couple of times to actually understand what the hell is going on (and not in a good way where you feel encouraged to go back). It’s bad, straight-up, and it is getting cancelled this coming March quite expectedly.
So why does this book rank #8 on my list if it’s so bad? There are two reasons. One, the artwork. Trevor McCarthy (Batwoman) draws this book and my god is the art gorgeous. The visuals, the scenery, the colors, the supernatural aspect, layouts, and characters are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s all wasted on a bad script mind you, but it’s amazing eye candy. Second is because, honestly, I expected this. I had a bad feeling going into this book and as result, I wasn’t surprised with what I got in the end. I thought it would bad (I hoped it wouldn’t be, of course) and that’s what I got. It’s hard for me to get so mad or angry at a book like this because I had a feeling about it to begin with. So in the end, Klarion was terrible, but I wasn’t expecting much to begin with.
7. Avengers & X-Men: Axis (Marvel)
Then there is this book, which I expected far more from (even though, I probably shouldn’t have to begin with). Marvel has been having some trouble with its event comics as of late. Ignoring the fact that they are event crazy and have so many all the time, the quality of their “epics” have been really down. Avengers Vs. X-Men, Infinity, and Original Sin are all either mediocre or being pretty dang bad for various reasons. However, I was willing to give Axis a chance regardless. We had Rick Remender, who hasn’t done much in regards to event comics, and he floated an interesting premise about heroes’ and villains’ roles being reversed or something. It could been an interesting or at least fun.
Instead, what I and the rest of the reading public got was quite easily one of the worst comic book events in recent years. It was a nine issue story told over three months and it was told poorly. The first three issues were basically a prologue and almost read like another arc from Uncanny Avengers, so things got off very slowly. Then you had the next three issues being basically setup with establishing the evil/inverted Avengers & X-Men, with the occasional glance at the villains (if you wanted to see the inverted villains, you had to get the tie-ins for that!). Then the last issues were one long extended fight scene—which, when you think about it, the “prologue” was exactly like that—and then a very rushed conclusion in the end. It was poorly structured, paced, and told all around.
Even when you get past all that, there were a whole ton of other problems. Bad and rushed artwork, rushed subplots, lackluster drama and emotion, characters being underutilized or misused, questionable characterization even with the inverted personalities (like all of the X-Men who weren’t really inverted, just simply accepting the idea of destroying humanity), plot points feeling contrived or way too coincidental, and deus ex machinas popping up now and then. Plus it didn’t help that this book felt like there was a bit of editorial interference going on, like with the whole Scarlet Witch and Magneto fiasco. All of these things made this comic one ugly mess and while there are some moments of potential, it’s just squandered. Depressingly enough, this isn’t even the worst thing Marvel had out this year, just probably the biggest and most noticeable failure.
6. Sex Criminals (Image Comics)
I’ll be brief about discussing this one, since most people know my opinion about this comic and have complained. Sex Criminals, the story about two people with the power to stop time in some fashion through the power of sex or masturbation, is quite possibly one of the most hollow and empty experiences I have ever had with a comic. There are certainly some good things to it admittedly, like the characterization and how well the main characters are fleshed out, but everything else about really makes for an experience that just leaves me cold at the end of each issue.
Forgetting the fact that I find the humor to be awful and executed terribly (admittedly, a very subjective thing), the comic suffers from a lot of problems on a story structure and narrative level. The first arc was annoyingly structured, with each issue opening and closing with a part of a bank robbery and then the rest of the issue going through constant flashback in order to flesh out the characters. This made the whole “criminal” element of the comic feel like it just went on and on with no resolution and dragged terribly, while it ended up feeling the writer was stretching to pull out some more details to flesh out the characters in the end. Then the second arc has had no real focus and has been wandering around without a clue of where to go. It got annoying real quick, wondering where and what the point was of all of this. Plus, it didn’t help that main characters were becoming rather unlikeable and hard to root for with all of their stupidity, immaturity, and assholish behavior (it made you want to root for the Sex Police) and that there was a real lack for quite a while in the whole “Criminals” aspect of “Sex Criminals.”
Add the lack of good humor, and the book ended up being an empty experience for me. I know that some people like it and that’s fine (if you like the humor and characters, I could see you looking past the bad story and narrative), we just see things differently. Sex Criminals ultimately, to me, is just a bad comedy and there’s often nothing worse than a bad comedy… except for the next five…
5. POP (Dark Horse Comics)
I have to say, outside of The Kitchen, I’ve had a rather weak year when it comes to comic mini-series. A lot of them started off good but ended rather weakly and fell apart at the end (The Wake & Trillium, both comics that were on my Best of 2013 list last year ironically); there were some that were just bad like Genius; and there are some that just didn’t live up to the potential they had or were plagued by problems, like Greg Rucka’s Veil. Then there was POP, a mini-series that both failed to live up to the true potential it had and was just rather bad in general.
POP tells the tale of a woman who was cloned/grown/created to be the next big pop star icon, but ended up escaping the facility and hiding out with a man who was about to end it all. There is potential here with an idea like this, exploring the concept or having commentary on the music industry, pop idols, cloning, how producers and agents can affect and ruin a star, etc. What this comic unfortunately did was miss the potential of that by making a story about a person running away from a shady organization that wanted to hunt her down and bring her back. It’s a story that’s been done before, but with no real clever commentary or twist on anything. Hell, it didn’t even really explore the idea of music that much either.
But even beyond that, the writing wasn’t there. The plot was far too decompressed in areas, the characterization was on the weak side, the villains were boring and forgettable, and it just never felt all that interesting. It had some interesting to good artwork with its unique layouts and visuals in areas, but that’s really all there was to it. It’s a comic that just honestly never fully lived up to the potential it had sadly, and was bogged down by mediocre writing. Frankly, the episode ‘Boyz Crazy’ from Gravity Falls did a much better pop idol cloning story than this and that was a kid’s comedy. Though I will say that reviewing POP did get an interesting response from the people who read my reviews in the sense that the actual writer commented about what I wrote. At least this comic gave me that interesting and awkward experience.
4. Drumhellar (Image Comics)
Last year, Drumhellar was #3 on my Worst of 2013 List and upon reevaluation, it would probably be number 4 with The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys at #3 (having read the ending of that comic after the list was published made me change my mind). As such, it’s almost amusing that Drumhellar is still at the same spot it was last year. Drumhellar was bad last year and this year was sadly no exception, never really overcoming its initial problems from the first two issues.
The comic was mess in every single way when it came to the writing. The stories barely made any sense and almost felt nonsensical, like the rules that the world abides by kept changing and the plot points just popped in and out all the time. The dialogue was just as nonsensical, with characters seeming to know things without any explanation and constantly leaving the audience in the dark. The characters were just as bad, never really explored all that well or given that much depth, with the exception of possibly the lead (though he never really progressed in the realms of likeability). It felt like the comic was experimenting and trying to create a very complex, deep, and complicated narrative juxtaposed with very trippy and wild looking artwork. However, with the writing being so bad, it made the comic feel more unintelligible and nonsensical than complex and deep. Probably the best example of this was #6, where the entire issue was just one drug hallucination & sex scene with wild artwork and a girl trying to get a ghost to get a dog to ejaculate or something. It made no sense and added nothing to the experience.
At this point, it seems like with the passing #10 issue, Drumhellar has come to a close. Honestly, that isn’t that much of a loss with that due to the awful writing and storytelling the series had. While there may be something to take away from the artwork, which a lot of people do like, it’s a series that’s best left alone. Though, if you want something equally out there and insane, there’s always Intersect from the same company.
3. Catwoman by Ann Nocenti (DC Comics)
Last year, Nocenti’s Catwoman was my number one pick for the Worst Comic of 2013 and this year, it actually got bumped to number three! Does that mean it got better, or there were some improvements in the writing? Well… no. The book is still downright awful and easily the worst thing that DC Comics had to offer this entire year, which made me really glad when there was a writer change in October.
Despite offering up some admittedly interesting premises with the remaining story arcs this year (like an alternate world take with Catwoman fighting her inner self and even a race to prove who the best thief in the world is), the stories are terribly written and plotted. They often make absolutely no sense, don’t seem to follow any bit of logic, and the directions taken are mindbogglingly stupid at points. The worst example of the storytelling and writing came with the opening of the Race of Thieves arc, where the comic immediately opens with Selina giving up her life of crime and being Catwoman because of all the problems she has, but almost instantly she goes back to being Catwoman when someone declares themselves the best thief ever. It made no sense and it continued to go downhill from there, ending an awful mess and a rather nasty depiction of Catwoman.
Of course, even beyond the story, the writing sunk this book even more. The pacing and structure were messy, the dialogue and narration were awful and sounded so unnatural, the characterization was terrible through and through, and there was such a lack of focus in the comic. Even more surprising was that the artwork managed to get even worse, being off-model a lot and the action looking just plain bad. Oh, and the final issue of this run wasn’t even about Catwoman herself, but a buddy of hers! Just… just so unbelievable.
Like I said earlier, the book eventually got taken over by another writer, who is leagues better and is writing a damn good crime book now. Because of that, the fact that there were some potentially good premises, and that I got kind of used to how bad the book was kept Catwoman from ended up any higher on this list. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this book was awful and if you see any copies of Nocenti’s run on the shelf, immediately look away to another book. Do not taint your eyes by glimpsing at this disaster that was so bad that DC actually put quotes on the trade collections that were referring to Judd Winick’s run on the book.
2. Avengers & New Avengers (Marvel Comics)
Of all of the comics listed up to now, I’m honestly not that mad or angry about them. Sure, they left me feeling things like frustration, annoyance, empty inside, or just disappointment. However, none of them made me mad per se. Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers & New Avengers are a completely different story. They made me rather angry and even downright miserable at points while reading them and no comic should make a person feel like that.
These books go together like peanut butter and jelly with how essential and important they are to one another, so that’s why they both come in at number #2 on this list. However, I’ll discuss each one separately to explain what makes them so bad. The main Avengers title had easily one of the most boring and wasteful years I’ve seen with a comic in the sense that honestly, not much happens. Until the plot convenient time skip, Avengers is constantly suffering from padding and decompression with barely any plot points happening. The entire alternative Avengers storyline meant really nothing in the grand scheme of things besides two plot points (which didn’t need an entire arc to do so), while the time traveling story was more of the same. Captain America travels to the future several times, Hickman spouts a bunch of super awesome and “deep” sci-fi ideas, and nothing is really accomplished. It felt like padding… really bad padding.
Which would be fine if the writer actually did not make his comic so hollow and devoid of emotion and humanity. The dialogue had no personality to it and often felt like you were reading a college textbook, there was little to no characterization or development in any way, plotlines were ignored in favor of storylines that went nowhere, and more. It was topped off with equally generic and forgettable to rather static and fanservice-y artwork that made for a weird experience.
Then came New Avengers, which also suffered from a bad case of decompression. Nothing really happened for the majority of the year with the characters moaning and groaning about the position they were in, making poor decisions or doing nothing in general (or at least, on screen), Hickman building up his super special villains that have no depth to them, and making other characters far more interesting and likeable (aka the Great Society). Then came the infamous issue where Dr. Strange brutally murdered and sucked the souls out of the Great Society, Namor blew up an entire world, and then every character freaked out and decided to let their world die because they couldn’t do what he did. So it was a nice round of character assassination and the highlight of true stupidity, contrivance, and poor writing & decision making in order for the writer to try make a point about morality and seem like his work was deep.
Then came the time skip and the flaws kind of exploded. The time skip ended up being a poor excuse for the writer just to skip over all of that needless character development, story progression, and interesting plotlines that he couldn’t be bothered writing and just skip to the endgame. In regular Avengers, most of the characters became big douchebags and unsympathetic jackasses, the dialogue became even duller, and it can became very hacky when the writer actually tried to cram in character development. Over in New Avengers, the pacing grew even worse, the artwork degraded further, the characters besides Dr. Doom became bumbling idiots or suffered nasty character assassination (no Dr. Strange. Committing genocide is still frickin’ murder. Why are you getting a new series?!), the dialogue became infested with purple prose in vain attempts to seem deep and profound, and so much more. With the exception of one group of characters actually acting like heroes, Time Runs Out arc is a nightmarish and ugly mess of a comic as it tries to desperately tie everything together.
I will not hide or hold back my feelings when it comes to Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers & New Avengers work. It’s an ugly, frustrating, anger-inducing, pretentious, and dry as hell mess of a run. If not for the fact that I am genuinely interested in how it all comes to a close out of morbid curiosity, I would have written these comics off a long time ago. However, despite everything, there is one comic that is somehow even worse. This comic made me angry, but the last comic managed to do that and also offend me.
1. Ultimate FF (Marvel Comics)
There’s no beating around the bush here. Ultimate FF is a bad comic from start to finish, and does so much wrong. The character work is weak, the stories are terrible, the moral dilemmas are laughable, the artwork is some of the worst art ever seen in a mainstream comic, and more. Then it somehow manages to go even beyond all of that into the realm of being downright insulting and offensive. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that this comic is quite possibly one of the worst comics Marvel Comics has ever put out and should go down in history for how god-awful it is.
Following the events of the Ultimate Marvel universe event, Hunger, there have been some incursions and strange phenomenons going on around the universe. Susan Storm, Iron Man, and a few others team up together to tackle and solve these problems. Right off the bat, the writing is very bland and forgettable. It has a premise with potential, but the characterization and dialogue for the most part leaves no impact. What does leave an impact however is the artwork combo with Tom Gurmmet and Mario Guevara because of how ghastly everything looks. The characters, the layouts, the backgrounds, the details and action all look so terrible and poorly drawn. Worst of all, it continues to get worse in the next two issues when the next issue has four different inkers and the following issue has none and the coloring looks smooshed on all of the pages (it looks downright unfinished!).
Sure, things get slightly better when the artwork is handled by Andre Araujo, whose style is much more consistent, but it still has problems with the fact that the artwork does not remotely match the tone of the book. As for the story and writing, that also degraded as time went on. Characters began getting less developed as more kept randomly popping in, the dialogue got boring and heavy on the exposition at points, the moral dilemmas were not as big of a deal as the characters made them out to be, and the story in general had really no focus to it. It was bad and frankly, the readers knew it. The book got cancelled only three issues in after it was found out that second issue wasn’t even in the top 150 bestselling comics for its month.
However, nothing could compare to what happened next and what propelled this comic to the number 1 spot. My theory is that Joshua Hale Fialkov realized his book was about to get canned and decided to go as crazy and completely nuts as possible for the final two issues. The results of that ended up with a plotline about Susan Storm having to have a baby with Reed Richards in order to stop the end up the universe because Ultimate Spider-Ham says so. As stupid and moronic as that may sound to begin with, her response was to attempt to surgically cut open Reed’s balls and extract the semen from him in order to artificially inseminate herself. I went on a nice tirade and rant about this back in the original review for why this was so bad, so go check that out. But to sum it up so people don’t have to read it, this action would have turned Susan into a rapist in some ways, resulting in an absolute assassination her character, and would have been so damn wrong and a huge highlight of double standards in comics (reverse the situation and I guarantee you websites everywhere would have been talking about this).
But that’s not what happened and Susan and Reed found another way for her to have a baby in order to save the universe, thus finding a loophole in this contrived storyline. Even ignoring how awful the story was, how bad the characters were, how contrived the story was set up, and the deus ex machina of it all… the worst and most insulting thing about this was the sexism. It was most likely unintentional, but think about it. Susan Storm, the team leader and ONLY female character in the comic, in her final story arc was demoted to being a babymaker. She didn’t do a single thing in the final arc except give birth to a magical baby that solved everyone’s problem. She didn’t fight in the final battle nor protect herself when she nearly got into danger. A man had to do that. Also, she acted completely hysterical and tried to cut a guy’s balls off to get pregnant and that man had to talk her down from it. You see? This is quite bad, really damn backwards, and downright insulting for a character like Susan Storm, even if it is the Ultimate Universe version of her.
And there you have it. Ultimate FF: The worst and also most offensive comic of 2014. Marvel Comics, the writer, the artists, and the editors should be ashamed of themselves. What the hell were they thinking when they put this comic out? Frankly, what the hell was wrong with Marvel this year? This was a complete mess for them on the comic front. Price gouging, poor creative team decisions, bad books, bad events, mismanagement of the entire Ultimate line, character assassination all over the place, and more. I can’t think of a company that had it worse this year. Hopefully they’ll pull their heads out of their asses next year.
So in the end, a lot of bad books this year and thankfully, most of them we won’t be seeing again next year for various different reasons. Of the books that will be returning next year, will they improve? Will things turn around for them? Only time will tell…