Cancelled Comics Commentary
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.
Nothing listed for this month. But by now, I'm too weary to care.
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
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.
(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
(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
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
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
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.
Nothing found for these three months.
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
Blood of the Demon #17
(DC): the last time Etrigan had a series was in the early 90s (see
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.
#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
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.
Nope, these 2 months have no input available either.
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