Cancelled Comics Commentary for 2006

January 2006

Nightcrawler #12 (Marvel). After many years, X-Man Kurt Wagner finally got his own ongoing series. But as bad luck would have it, it had to come at a time when a terrible editor in chief, Joe Quesada, was in charge, and that aside, there really wasn't any serious effort being put into the writing. No wonder it ended up on the scrap pile.

February 2006

Nothing listed for this month. But by now, I'm too weary to care.

March 2006

Flash #232 Vol. 2 (DC). This particular numbering was actually resumed a year afterwards, and I'll try to get around to talking about it. But until then, there's still some things I'd like to talk about in regards to what this volume's been through in the time since it's momentary cancellation, which became very appalling.

When Geoff Johns first took up writing the title in 2000, following Mark Waid's departure, the writing was pretty bad in hindsight, and I'm going to have to warn that the violence featured was certainly eyebrow-raising. And the Crossfire story was overrated.

Soon afterwards, it began to go even more downhill, as Gorilla Grodd was brought in to smash the back of the man who would become the new Reverse-Flash - Hunter Zolomon. Note that this reflects my opinions in the time that's gone by since then. When I first read some of that stuff back in 2003, I was enthusiastic. But since then, my opinions have begun to change.

The main problem was that Johns was beating the readers repeatedly over the head with jarring violence, some of which was directed at Linda Park West. Worst: it seems as though Johns was trying to incorporate a commentary about the sorry state of comics today. But that's still no excuse for keeping on with it as Johns was actually doing, and if there's no point to the violence and promiscuity beyond that, then any such "commentary" fails miserably. Even most Japanese manga writers and artists could do a much better job than what he did here.

But where Johns writing began to take a turn for the worse was when Identity Crisis, the abominable 2004 miniseries, took place. Not only did the series tie into it with Barry Allen's involvement in the "conspiracy", but as this was done, the writing became utterly serious to the point where any sense of fun was lost. And even shortly beforehand, another problem was that Johns did something to the oldtime villain, the Turtle, that was almost similar to how Dr. Light was turned into a rapist in Identity Crisis: it was implied that the Turtle was a child molester!

Is this what superhero comics have sunk to these days? Where implications are made that aren't even consistent with past characterization, and where honorable personality traits of the villains are thrown to winds? Needless to say, if Johns was trying again to inject any "commentary" on the sorry state of comics into his script then, I'm sorry, but that was uncalled for. Such things should be done in a newspaper or a magazine op-ed column, not smack-dab in the middle of a book whose purpose I thought was meant to be entertainment and escapism.

I could go on to say that Johns' knowledge of the Rogues' history, such as Heatwave, was awkward, and during that issue where he "profiled" Mick Rory, there was a telling error made: why exactly was Mick shown wearing winter coats before that dreadful time when he was locked in a freezer at a meat-packing plant in his youth? (Even earlier, there was another glaring continuity glitch where Johns made it sound as though Cyborg, Vic Stone, became what he is today via an explosion in his dad's laboratory, not because an alien from another dimension burned him badly. So, is Johns really the genius some might think he is?)

Things sure didn't get any better with how it was implied that the Rogues never really reformed, and that the Top was influenced into hypnotizing them into doing so, which didn't click well with past history either. I'd like to think that Linda's bearing children after all at the end of the story was a long sought payoff, but you know what? I think not. Because even before then, we were hit mercilessly over the skull with a torrent of overplayed violence and other nonsense that didn't need to be.

And I guess you could say that nothing since Identity Crisis was published has impressed me at DC. Not even this.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #22 (Marvel): yes, it really was called that. But does that make it any good? Not really. The problem I have with this is that it was written by Mark Millar, and was little more than an excuse for over-the-top violence. Sure, Mary Jane and Black Cat were splendidly drawn and endowed here, but beyond that, there was little to nothing to offer here that we haven't seen already. Honestly, even the battle with the Green Goblin didn't make much of an impression on me.

As trivial as it really was, it did have a rather intriguing line up of guests: Captain America made an appearance, and so did Emma Frost. But Millar, whose ultraleftist positions really turn me off, only made me feel discouraged from reading this.

What's really funny is that when this short-lived venture ended, almost the entire Knights line went with it (Daredevil, which had for a couple years been under this banner, stopped carrying it). A line that Quesada himself may have been instrumental in launching back in 1998, and several years later, decided was no longer needed. Just like he's no longer someone whom fans want to be EIC of Marvel.

Plastic Man #20 (DC): a series spotlighting the first really stretchy superhero, Eel O'Brian, a reformed burglar who'd gained his powers and took to being a do-gooder instead. But with an artist/writer like Kyle Baker - already infamous for illustrating The Truth miniseries at Marvel a few years earlier - at the helm of this series, I can't say it's my forte. That this series may not have been granted real promotion was probably just as well.

The series was apparently using a cartoonish viewpoint and possibly out-of-continuity storytelling too, all of which might've been palatable if they hadn't assigned Baker to be in charge. Then again, with DiDio as the EIC, there's no way any choice he makes could lead to a successful take on Plastic Man.

April 2006

Batgirl #73 (DC). Cassandra Cain, who was introduced during the No Man's Land storyline in the late 90s, and was one of the few good things to emerge from that time-wasting crossover within the Batbook line, did surprsingly well in her own starring title. The illegitimate daughter of the ganglord David Cain, she had been trained since a very young age to be an assassin, but Batman and company managed to turn her around and bring her to the good side, where she was given the Batgirl role her predecessor, the famous Barbara Gordon, had retired even before her terrible encounter with the Joker when he shot and paralyzed her in 1988, not unlike how Ironside, Raymond Burr's second most famous television role after Perry Mason, was when a sniper shot and paralyzed him in the 1967-75 TV series, putting him in a wheelchair.

(However, I'll have to note that while I have more respect for Alan Moore than for some other writers from Britain these days, I don't think Batman: The Killing Joke, which he wrote in 1988, was a good idea, even if DC hadn't exploited and used it as the basis for a new direction for Babs Gordon. In contrast to what Raymond Burr's hero went though on TV, Babs goes through far worse at the hands of the Joker. Very tacky.)

And under the writing of co-creator Kelley Puckett (a man, if you're confused), Cassie Cain did pretty well, even forging a friendship at times with Stephanie Brown, the teen vigilante known as Spoiler. An interesting thing about her characterization was that she didn't speak much, as her dad, to show just how nasty he could be, didn't actually teach her to, leaving it up to Batman and company to provide her with better education.

Unfortunately, she too ultimately suffered as a character, because Batman was depicted as not providing her with the chance to be more independent, and she often had to rely on others to get some things accomplished. We can probably lay that problem with ease at the feet of the editors, including Bob Schreck, and none other than Dan DiDio. Especially after they forced their mandate upon her by turning her over to the bad side: she joined the League of Assassins, the criminal organization formed by Ra's al Ghul years ago, and may have even been its leader. This was, as is apparent by now, all part of the bizarre mandate rife with sexism that DC's suffered from ever since 2003, and maybe even earlier. This happened shortly after the title was cancelled, and some of the worst characterization surfaced under writer Adam Beechen, who was writing Robin at the time, and put her in a situation where Tim Drake beat her up in a contrived clash scene.

I think the revelation that Lady Shiva was Cassie's mother was also ill-advised. I think Cassie may have been depicted as Japanese when she first debuted, and if so, she's not Chinese like Shiva is.

Now in fairness, shortly after the time when Cassie was turned evil, Geoff Johns wrote in Teen Titans that it was because Deathstroke injected her with drugs that led to this. But it still doesn't justify wrecking any possible chance for better character development that Cassie could've had.

Finally, she's been brought back to the good side, but sadly, not everything's good news. Beechen, the writer who'd done some pretty bad work with her during 2006, screwed up again two years afterwards when he wrote a miniseries where she's being accepted back into the Bat-family, but here's the problem: it was implied that during her time with the League of Assassins, she'd killed quite a few people. How absolutely disgusting and embarrassing. It shows why using the same writer who'd done badly before is the wrong way to go, and this was probably even more of a bad move than it was for Marvel when they kept assigning Howard Mackie to write Spider-Man even after the 1998 reboot. (Before that, Mackie actually did some good work on Spider-Man, with the 75th issue of the sans-adjective series being a major plus; it was after the reboot that he went downhill. If, as he'd admitted later on, he was running low on ideas of what to write, he shouldn't have continued with it.)

And with Dan DiDio as editor-in-chief all this time, how can one possibly expect things to improve convincingly? That's what's really sad - that chances are unlikely.

Firestorm #22 vol. 2 (DC): one of the things this series had going against it was that it was a case of forcibly switching white protagonists with minorities, and in the worst ways possible - Ronnie Raymond, the real Firestorm, was killed - and very insultingly at that - in the pages of Identity Crisis, all to make way for Jason Rusch, a teen of African-American descent who inexplicably acquires powers similar to what Ronnie had back in the day. Another thing going against this series was that it never really found a focus, and at one point Lorraine Reilly, aka Firehawk, was forced to utter leftist propaganda towards the end.

Ronnie later came back following the series' cancellation, but even then, they were running around in circles unable to find a path to take, and couldn't decide whether they wanted Jason to be the protagonists or Ronnie - they all but merged them together just like with Prof. Martin Stein! What's the use?

JLA #125 (DC): It's tragic that this once very decent series, titled in acronym, had to end as badly as it did involving the aftermath of a miniseries as awful as Identity Crisis, with the League torn apart over their forced and contrived differences over what went on there. As of now, it's been relaunched again in long title format, but things are not good. Until then, let me offer a little detail on this item as well.

JLA was relaunched with Grant Morrison writing it for about 2 years, at a time when he was doing decent enough work on a mainstream title of this sort. It was later taken over by Mark Waid, who kept on with it for another 3 years and did well enough at it too, and the book was then taken over by Joe Kelly, who work was either way. But then, after he left, disaster began to strike, as the book suffered from "rotating" writers, with Chuck Austen being one of the worst. And when Identity Crisis came around, that's when it really fell apart as it came under editorial mandate.

Really disgusting about how they relaunched it afterwards, returning to the titling of Justice League of America is that Brad Meltzer was assigned to write it. Now I'm not surprised that, unlike IC, this new volume of the League didn't involve any outright misogyny, but does that make it worth reading? Does Meltzer deserve an audience if he was even going to go along willingly with what DC editorial wanted when they did IC? No. Nor would Mark Waid, now that I think of it, deserve an audience if he'd gone along with something as vile as that.

Wonder Woman #228 Vol. 2 (DC): another victim of the post-Identity Crisis syndrome, I'm afraid. When Greg Rucka, the last writer to work on this volume, first took it up, it was done well enough. But then, as IC came around, this too began to falter, and when the story where Diana killed the since tarnished Max Lord, that was distasteful. Especially considering that, misuse of Max aside, he was mind-controlling Superman and Diana was trying to do what it took to stop him (and as this Max was telling her, she'd have to kill him to stop the chaos he was causing). And for this, Superman and even Batman resent her actions, which were well-meaning?

The story I mention did swerve into sexist territory, and it's a shame they had to do this. Since then, Rucka's gone downhill into quasi-leftist biases, what with his wishes to introduce a new Batwoman who's a lesbian in the pages of the 52 miniseries, something that was really only done for shock-tactic publicity stunts.

The series has since been relaunched in a third volume, which has suffered some severe problems, such as having the pretentious Alan Heinberg write it for starters, which led to serious delays.

Superman #226 Vol. 2 (DC): Cancelled and technically merged/continued as part of the series it once took over for as a sans-adjective (The Adventures of Superman, and see more related notes in the 2011 files), at the time the Superman franchise was being reworked post-Crisis on Infinite Earths. I'll say this series did have its moments when John Byrne first started it, though this too, like a couple of other Byrne-scripted stories of the times, had some elements that had to be taken with a grain of salt, and there was one definite embarrassment, that being a 1987 story where Supes and Big Barda ended up under the brainwashing influence of a toadish thug from Apokalips called Sleez, who wanted to give them to a snuff-filmmaker to make a porno tape out of! And you thought just teenage buffoons were capable of writing overwrought fanfiction?

That aside, just like a lot of other series in the post-Identity Crisis publication field, they really ran this one into the ground, which can only spell declining sales, and thus, so too did this Superman series' own receipts. I myself hadn't even thought of it in a while, mostly due to how DC had gone out of its way to ruin much of the whole franchise. And there's no telling where anything's going from here.

May-July 2006

Nothing found for these three months.

August 2006

Captain Atom #9 Vol. 2 (DC/Wildstorm): Nathan Adam, the hero who originated as part of the Charlton line, was thrust momentarily into the Wildstorm universe. Why I have no idea, and seeing how soon it was ended, not many cared to know either.

The Thing #8 Vol. 2 (Marvel): this could have been a great opportunity to put the ever lovin' blue-eyed Ben Grimm back in a starring role like what he had in 1974-86 when he appeared in Marvel Two-in-One and The Thing Vol. 1, first co-starring with special guests in a semi-anthology style adventure series, and then in a more solo vehicle that focused more on his personality up front. Unfortunately, aside from the terrible prospect of having someone like Joe Quesada as EIC, what did this in was the mass attention being given to Marvel's execrable exercise in moral equivalence, Civil War. That's right, they basically heaped all their concern upon promoting that notorious crossover while dumping this one out there without any interest in promoting it instead, which would have been a much better idea.

I suppose it's fair to say that assigned writer Dan Slott did a good enough job on this, though I've since lost respect for him after he went along in lockstep with the destruction of Spider-Man's marriage post-Civil War.

September 2006

Blood of the Demon #17 (DC): the last time Etrigan had a series was in the early 90s (see the 1995 files for that), and was certainly better than this hack job by John Byrne, who's been slumming ever since his take on the Sub-Mariner was canceled that same decade. About the only noteworthy thing in this book, a product of the DiDio mindset, is that it ran one issue further than the original early 70s series did. Other than that, beware this take on the Demon strenuously.

JSA #87 (DC): It may have started out well in its first year or so, but when Identity Crisis came around, much of this series began to go downhill. One of the lowpoints was when, around the time of the Infinite Crisis crossover, Hector and Lyta Hall sacrificed themselves. Isn't that just creative - rather than to give them some special focus following Lyta's emerging from a coma after many years, they threw her away along with Hector very soon afterwards. If that's how they're going to run things, they clearly they're not truthful at all about developing character relations.

They came up with another protagonist who'd take the role of Dr. Fate within this time, one whose name I can't even recall at this time, but it really doesn't make any difference; the series was already doomed thanks to Geoff Johns' clear apathy for the series and its cast as he became increasingly obsessed with pointless shock tactics and self-referential nostalgia. That's why long-term, he was a very bad omen for this series.

Spider-Girl #100 (Marvel): nice to see they allowed this to get as far as a 100th issue, but even so, this starring book for the future daughter of Peter Parker, whose name was May "Mayday" Parker was never really given much of a chance to shine nor was it particularly supported by the awful Joe Quesada when he sadly took over as EIC.

Spider-Girl was the sole survivor of the M2 line first started in the late 90s, and was actually very well written and even girl-friendly for a book. It was scripted by Tom deFalco, himself once a EIC for Marvel, and one of his better writing efforts too. It told what you might consider an alternate reality version of the regular cast, spotlighting the daughter of our beloved wall-crawler and her own adventures and relations, and the cast here included the son of Harry Osborn and Liz Allen, Normie, who was more in his teens in this rendition.

Unfortunately, it never got the audience it really deserved, and for that we can thank Quesada too, who didn't have much respect for this series and its heroine any more than he did for Peter and Mary Jane either. I suppose he let it go as far as it did just in order to try and stave off the flak he was taking for his horrific treatment of the Spider-Man lore and marriage, but now that I think of it, no, that he let this reach a hundredth issue doesn't excuse his shoddy treatment as a whole, thus, it's not like anybody could or should let him off the hook.

This would be continued in a new volume for a little longer called Amazing Spider-Girl, but it didn't get any better treatment than before.

Swamp Thing #29 Vol. 4 (DC): Of all the takes on ol' Swampy to date, this was by far the least successful. My, how the mighty have fallen.

I think what sabotaged this whole effort was that they were basically trying to retroplay it all - by trying to bring this back to a state resembling 1982. Well, it got nowhere, and they failed, because it's clear they didn't know what else to do. We are after all living in an era where many entertainment writers seem unable or unwilling to take on more challenging and inspiring ideas, and that's just one of the problems with this short-lived effort.

I suppose you could argue that the Swamp Thing was one story that should've ended years before and be allowed to rest, but alas, that's the problem with corporate media quite often - they don't know when to leave alone. Maybe now they'll consider that, and let the Swamp Thing, daughter Tefe and Abigail Arcane have a nice retirement. And with the 2011 Flashpoint reboot, one could almost say they did that...except that truly, they didn't.

October-November 2006

Nope, these 2 months have no input available either.

December 2006

Soulsearchers and Company #82 (Claypool): the tale of a group with a career not unlike Ghostbusters, this came to an end as Claypool was unable to afford more printed content.

Fathom #11 vol. 2 (Aspen MLT Inc): also called Michael Turner's Fathom, there had been at least one miniseries before this, and then came this second attempt to publish an ongoing, this time more via a company that owned some of the later Turner's properties. But it looks like in the end, the buzz had worn off, and this volume was discontinued. No matter.

Another series centered on heroine Aspen surfaced in mid-2011, but for now, I have no idea how that's working out.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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