Cancelled Comics Commentary for 2007

January 2007

Firestorm #31 Vol. 3 (DC): It seems that Ronnie Raymond was pushed out of the role of Hot-Head, during Identity Crisis, no less, for the sake of "diversity" (or, as some others might call it, "multiculturalism"). Specifically, what happened was that a new protagonist was brought in named Jason Rusch, of African-American background, and rather inexplicably gains powers that make him into a new Firestorm. Like Ronnie, the only real Firestorm for me, he too had similar powers where he could draw someone inside himself in order to transform into the nuclear-powered superhero, although this may have been dropped soon afterwards so that he could turn into the hero form without having to do what Ronnie once did with his mentor Professor Martin Stein (Ronnie too eventually was able to transform without a partner helping out).

Now the first problem here is that Ronnie Raymond was spat upon when writing up his demise, and if that's how they're going to do these things, then they're invalidating any ability to fully accept the successor, something that holds true for even Kyle Rayner, the former Green Lantern from 1994-2004. Another is that this was done for the sake of the already tired notion of replacing white protagonists with ones from black/Asian backgrounds, or even ones that are gay/lesbian, as has been recently done with the Question during the overrated 52 miniseries. And still another is that Lorraine Reilly, who became the female counterpart to Ronnie as Firehawk, was forced to spew out left-wing stupidity in the penultimate issue by the writer Stuart Moore. Specifically, he wrote her implying that the Iraq war and the weapons of mass destruction Saddam once kept in stock was just a lie. If DC are going to force leftism into the book that badly as well, that's one more reason why this was clearly unjustified.

So far, the new protagonist Jason Rusch still seems to be around, and Ronnie Raymond is still in the morgue. I hope the damage done to him can be reversed, just like for many other DC protagonists who've been wronged, but so far, it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

The Warlord #10 vol. 2 (DC): a disastrous attempt to revive the sword-and-sandal hero Mike Grell introduced in 1st Issue Special #8 in November 1975, one of the more stand-alone adventures belonging to the DC universe, which enjoyed an official run from 1976-1989, and had a special miniseries published in 1992. It starred Travis Morgan, an American military pilot who'd served in Vietnam (something that may since have been reworked) whose plane had been shot down while traveling near the North Pole, and ended up traveling through a hole in the ground that brought him - shades of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth - into a world called Skartaris, where the sun stayed up quite awhile (later on, the entrance to Skartaris was slightly retconned into being a portal into another dimension). There, he met and fell in love with a lovely princess named Tara of a kingdom named Shamballah, who subsequently ascended to becoming queen of her sector of the amazing land, and the twosome later married as well. They would both take on various villains, most notably the sorceror Deimos, and even crooked kings, and Travis acquired more friends and allies like Machiste, Shakira (no relation to the Columbian pop singer who bears the same name), a Russian scientist named Maria, and even his own daughter from a previous marriage, Jennifer Morgan, who learned to practice magic herself.

It was a series that often featured plotlines inspired by all sorts of other movies and science-fantasy tales of yore, plus some very sexy ladies, and succeeded pretty well in this. Grell's wife at the time also ghostwrote at least a year's worth of stories around 1981. As was later learned, the inhabitants of Skartaris were mostly descended from the Atlanteans of Greek mythology. Travis and Tara also bore a son named Joshua who was abducted by Deimos and grew up with the name Tinder in the care of a foster family, later becoming a street urchin in Shamballah, where he met Jennifer who taught him some magic skills too. For a long time, nobody knew that Tinder - who'd subsequently been transported to another dimension called Wizard World where he grew to adulthood and came back as a minstrel - was actually Travis and Tara's son Joseph.

An interesting aside is how Travis vaguely resembled Green Arrow, and at one point actually did meet up with Oliver Queen when Grell was writing the GA series in the late 80s-early 90s. In the early 1990s, as mentioned, one more miniseries was produced that served as a pretty good capping for all the Warlord stories told up to that time.

And most unfortunately for this second volume of the series, it ignored past continuity in favor of technically restarting everything, so much that nobody should be surprised even the Warlord's not getting an audience today. Bruce Jones, who made a mess out of the Hulk prior to this, turned out a pretty wretched script, not helped one bit by the artwork of the now dreadful artist Bart Sears. That's why this series was pretty much asking to be canceled and ultimately ignored. The third volume, listed in the 2010 files, restores most of the original continuity, but as you'll learn, there's some fair reason why I'm not especially enthused about that one either.

February 2007

The Ultimates #13 Vol. 2 (Marvel): I've spoken about this already in the 2004 files, and this relaunched volume was no better, one more reason why its cancellation is just as well. It's just a pity even that didn't last, because following this, yet another volume was launched. And while Mark Millar may have left this series, Jeph Loeb came on, and really pulled out the stops.

What's really angering about this volume is that it ended with the Ultimate version of Black Widow paying a heavy price for betraying Ultimate Hawkeye - that is, she kicked the bucket. Shudder. But then doesn't that signal how little faith they had in this Ultimate universe by this time?

March 2007

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #214 (DC): The series that told more stand-alone Batman stories than most others, this had its moments when it first began in 1989, and one of its first stories was written by none other than Denny O'Neil, but I think after awhile, it lost momentum. And Dan DiDio's severe editorial damage has been one of the things that's led to this dropping in quality after 2000.

The Bat-franchise has lost a lot of audience over the past few years, and that finally led to the demise of this series.

April-July 2007

I cannot find nor think of anything to fill this gap. But then, the industry as we know it is collapsing so badly, artistically as well as financially, it really shouldn't surprise anyone.

August 2007

City of Heroes #20 vol. 2 (Image/Top Cow): one more take on the MMORPG by a company that we could only figure would have an interest in getting hold of the license needed to publish these kind of things.

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 (DC): Let me first note that Bart Allen, who was killed in gross case of going overboard with shock tactics at the end of this ill-advised "relaunch" has since been resurrected, though Geoff Johns, who's laid claim to that credit, has still ruined my ability to congratulate him much further.

When the prior volume of the Flash was de facto cancelled a year earlier, it was apparently to see if they could replace Wally West with Bart Allen. Unfortunately, the assigned writers just didn't cut it, making it a very surprisingly unpleasant affair. Oh, and who were the people who initially scripted this mess? Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, a pair of TV writers who'd developed a brief series based on the Flash back in 1990 that lasted 17 episodes. They also conjured another short-lived one based on Human Target, the creation of Len Wein and Carmine Infantino back in 1972, a troubleshooter named Christopher Chance who specialized in disguises while trying to protect people in danger of criminals. Afterwards, they actually had more success in creating Viper and The Sentinel, 2 other sci-fi series that did well sold in syndication.

Main problem is that they seemed to think that the vicious dialogue seen particularly in the latter two TV concoctions of theirs would actually fit in a series that at one time was thought to be family-friendly (at one point, a villain seen in this series calls Bart a vulgar B-word, which came across here as awfully excessive. And that's putting it lightly). That, plus the fact that they were rehashing some of the ideas used in the earlier Flash TV show, are what ran this into a dead end. I'm going to be quite honest here, but after learning what kind of crapfest they conjured for Bart here, I don't think I ever want to watch any television productions they might work on ever again. In fact, if memory serves, they coughed up more than a bit of darkness in the Flash TV show back in the day, one of the biggest problems with it that now appears to be infecting the vision used in the comics as well. In that case, who cares if David Cassidy of The Partridge Family played the Mirror Master, and Mark Hamill played the Trickster back in the day? (The former has already been making himself look like a fool when he spoke about the revival of Melrose Place and his daughter's starring role in it, thus lessening the chances I'd ever care.)

And when Bilson and DeMeo were fired from the book, DC only made things even worse by killing Bart off at the hands of the Rogues, who were tricked into doing the deed by Thaddeus Thawne/Inertia, the teenaged speedster who was created as a rival for him at the time Bart was Impulse, a codename he's since been robbed of when he became Kid Flash 2. I shouldn't have to tell you how awful things became afterwards, when the Rogues became de facto reviled for their deeds. And even Geoff Johns didn't exactly do much to redeem all that after he coughed up Rogues' Revenge the following year, and first had Inertia become some sort of a Reverse-Kid-Flash (!), and then turned him into an infant killer by depicting him terminating Josh Jackam, the youngster he'd come up with circa the start of his Flash run in 2000, I kid you not. All in order to justify killing him off at the hands of the Rogues.

This was extremely sick and poorly written, and it also runs the gauntlet of rendering Inertia as useless as Dr. Light post-Identity Crisis, and it should be panned, not to mention Johns' work really ought to be boycotted by now. I know that's what I'm doing; I haven't bought any of his work since early 2005. Some critics have argued that his work has become an overload of "continuity porn", and they have a point: there's so many references to earlier comic book work in the DCU it practically submerges any impact of the current story Johns is writing. At the same time, he's had his share of continuity glitches and ignorances, and finally, when I realized how destructive he was actually being, I finally decided enough's enough, I was not going to waste time on his writing anymore.

Yes, I know, since the disastrous ending of this series (which also saw the vanishing of a female cast member featured here), Bart has been brought back in Flash: Rebirth. But Johns has still not exonerated himself completely, as he has continued to feature aggravating traces of excessive violence in his stories. As for the writer of this volume of Flash, Mark Guggenheim, he went on to work on Spider-Man's One More/Brand New Day, spoken about below, and now sadly is even going to work on Superman. This is the bankruptcy the industry has decended into, by hiring hack writers with no interest in genuine storytelling, by editors who oppose creative freedom unless it's done on their terms.

Green Arrow #75 Vol. 2 (DC): I can't say that I'm too bothered about Ollie Queen coming back from death as he did after 6 years when this series was launched, due in part because of how mediocre his death was to begin with during the first volume (spoken about in the 1998 files). He was fighting terrorists on board a plane, then, wounded enough as he already was, has to put his arm into a special compartment to stop a detonator switch from setting off a bomb in the aircraft. And when Superman suggested that maybe they should amputate his arm, his reaction is to just end it then and there, by letting go and blowing himself into the afterlife. Followed by the ascension of his illegitimate son Connor Hawke taking up his role for about 3 more years, and then, the overrated Kevin Smith won DC's agreement to let him resurrect Oliver Queen as part of the relaunch of a new series volume.

Let me first note that the situation Ollie was put into back in 1995 where he'd end up dead was really dumb enough to begin with, though they do earn some points for introducing Connor about a year before Ollie first bit the bullet, and didn't make him Green Arrow as quickly as Kyle Rayner was made Green Lantern (speaking of which, let me note that my opinions on Ron Marz's GL run are very low today). But while that's probably one of the reasons why I'm not bothered by Ollie's return to the living land, I am bothered that Kevin Smith had to be the one to helm it. His run on this book for 14 issues was weak and excessive, and making Brad Meltzer the writer of 6 more issues most certainly didn't help matters. Most definitely not after Meltzer scripted Identity Crisis, and even if some of the most offensive parts weren't his idea, I'm still not going to give accolades to a writer who does an assignment just to get a paycheck.

The last writer here was none other than Judd Winick, and let's just say that his work here wasn't much better either; in fact, it was just crap. So while Ollie's return in and of itself is fine, the way he was handled afterwards most certainly wasn't. Not in his own starring book anyway. As much as I find Geoff Johns's scriptwriting for DC alienating these days, I will say in fairness that the guest appearance he wrote for Ollie in Hawkman was good, but that's one of the few places where they've really handled the Emerald Archer well post-2000.

This was cancelled just to make way for Green Arrow/Black Canary, which hasn't been much better, and the way it was launched through an absurd special was just plain disastrous. I'm not sure if Ollie and Dinah Lance are now married, but the way Dan DiDio's been handling DC certainly hasn't made me care to find out. Nor have any writers assigned to it made me care either.

September 2007

Hawkman/Hawkgirl #66 (DC): When this was first launched back in 2002, it was surprisingly well done for something coming after the turn of the millenium, considering how awful Geoff Johns has turned out to be on series like The Flash, and he certainly didn't do much better on Teen Titans. And considering that his co-writer, James Robinson, who also co-wrote JSA at the time, has also since deteriorated horribly. With Kendra Saunders introduced in 1999 as the new Hawkgirl, grandniece of Sheira Saunders, and Carter Hall brought back from limbo shortly afterwards, they decided to cash in on the Hawks as a series yet again, and to some extent, it worked. They even thought to bring back the evil Egyptian priest Hath-Set as an adversary, and this time it was written that he now lives as a disembodied spirit who can possess mainly the bodies of people descended from his family tree.

But alas, any potential this title had soon went down the drain, just like JSA did (and you can read a little about that in the 2006 files). What really angers me today is that I thought Ray Palmer's guest appearances here were going to lead somewhere for the Silver Age Atom, and then what happens? Identity Crisis. I feel totally slapped in the face now. Yes, I do think Johns has to shoulder some blame here, because he went along with all that, implying that he never even cared about Ray Palmer and Jean Loring to begin with; that's the vibe I've gotten since then.

Another problem is that, after Johns left, the book strangely veered off the continuity path by somehow making it look as though Hawkman's real identity as Carter Hall, was not publicly known. That part, if anything, is where it really became shaky, and there was even a political bias inserted needlessly.

It was implied in Identity Crisis that Hawkman too was a baddie because he took part in the magical lobotomy of Dr. Light, and this may have had what to do with his semi-departure from the book, whereupon it became Hawkgirl, and put Kendra in the starring role instead. Unfortunately, while Kendra looked great in her bare-midriff costume, the role she acquired was not legitimately earned, any more than anything that's come down the pike since Identity Crisis, and the stories lost reader interest and the series was finally cancelled. When it ended though, it had Carter and Kendra finally figuring out how to break the reincarnation curse Hath-Set had caused all those centuries past.

But later on, as Blackest Night was cooked up, more disaster came up with Carter and Kendra being turned into zombies, and do I need to point out how aggravating this is becoming by now? Not really. What I will say is that Geoff Johns angered me with the pathetic excuses he made for why he was killing them off, regardless of whether they'll be resurrected or not.

October 2007

Nothing to declare here either. Wish my knowledge of independently owned comics was better than it is, but alas, it ain't.

November 2007

Deadman #13 (Vertigo): a most unsuccessful attempt to spotlight Boston Brand under the Vertigo imprint, it was written by Bruce Jones, who really goofed off earlier with his protracted tale in the Incredible Hulk that featured too little of the jade giant even as it featured plenty of Bruce Banner. Soon after this ended, Brand was back the regular DC line again, as part of the Blackest Night crossover, where - are you ready for this? - he was resurrected! (Yet Ralph and Sue Dibny and also Jean Loring and Lilith Clay remained dead.) But if you think Brand could prove effective when back among the living, think again: as seen in the Brightest Day maxi-series, he was reduced to little more than an "observer" on the sidelines who couldn't really help people in trouble at all. Brightest Day's title was also dishonest, since it featured more than enough of Geoff Johns' notoriously violent storytelling, and its ending couldn't come soon enough. Sadly, the abuse of DC comics continues with the "New 52".

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24 (Marvel): Terminated as part of Joe Quesada's lockdown on creative freedom for Spider-Man and his biased decision to throw away the Spider-Marriage. Things already went downhill even before J. Michael Stracynski's egregious Sins Past storyline in 2004, where he disgraced the late Gwen Stacy's background by implying she had sex and children with Norman Osborn, yet never had sex with Peter Parker. Now, in this nail in the coffin to Stracynski's overrated run on anything Spidey, notoriously titled "One More Day", which was a followup to the disgraceful crossover Civil War, Peter, who had unmasked as part of an editorial mandate, feels guilty and responsible for causing Aunt May's grave injury when he and Mary Jane were targeted by the Kingpin's mob, so what does he do about it? He makes a deal with the devil in the guise of Mephisto to reverse that damage. And what was the price demanded? Peter and Mary Jane's marriage. It doesn't get more hateful and out-of-character than this. And don't get me started on Quesada and company spewing out abysmal defenses like "we don't need to explain anything, it's magic." Since then, what has come out of this but Brand New Day, and the characterization has gotten considerably worse, with Peter depicted as a complete lout who'd rather lazy around than look for jobs, in stark contrast to earlier characterization that was far better than this.

They've already lost a lot of audience for the franchise since this took place. I hope that this'll eventually lead to Quesada's ouster from EIC position and the reinstation of the marriage. But it still won't counteract the bad taste left behind, which'll take years to repair and clean up.

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #12 (Marvel): surely a candidate for one of the most offensively advertised/promoted books of all time, if you're familiar with the whole story surrounding Hank Pym's and Janet VanDyne's divorce in 1981, when he was going through dreadful mental breakdowns and his status in the Avengers was hanging by a thread, and while having an argument with Jan, Hank smacked her to the ground, an action that repeated itself later during the time he'd sent his misleading robot to cause a ruckus and would then deactivate it by hitting a secret weak point. In the end, all this got him was an expulsion for a time from the EMH, though he did regret his behavior and do his best to repent. While the story from the early 80s, conceived mostly by Jim Shooter in what wasn't one of his best efforts, wasn't depicted graphicly as any of today's output is capable of at the hands of such terrible editors in charge today, it's still not considered a very good story, and to make matters worse, the subject was allowed to keep awkwardly resurfacing over the years, culminating in some of the worst lines seen in Brian Bendis' take on the Avengers beginning in 2004.

I'm not sure if Hank Pym was the star in this new series, since my memory is pretty hazy now, but any series that's promoted with an adjective like "The world's most UNLIKABLE super-hero" is asking for some serious trouble. As though it weren't bad enough that Bendis sent the Wasp into death-limbo during this year, the people writing this book have to make things worse with lines like that? By now, this is pretty par for the course coming from the former Quesada and now Alonso regime to insult their own properties.

Incidentally, what did occur to my knowledge inside this book was that Pym, following the unrequested death of Wasp, took to setting up an institute in her name for battered women. While that idea in itself is sincere, it does not excuse the offensive writing Bendis turned out as writer of the Avengers franchise, nor does it legitimize Jan's death in Secret Invasion. At worst, it only adds insult to injury while still furthering the embarrassing image being forced upon Pym.

On another historical note, Jim Shooter argued on his blog in 2011 that they didn't intend to make Hank Pym look like a wife-beater and that it all stemmed from artist Bob Hall's failure to follow instructions properly. Much as I'd like to believe this, the defense he gave was still very questionable, and if there really wasn't time to have to the page redrawn, maybe they should have considered giving it some! As for this new series, the first I can think of to spotlight any character donning the Ant-Man suit since the Silver Age, its failure was truly deserved. If they're going to be so disrespectful of their own material as to perpetuate the image and notion of Hank Pym as abusive just by stooping to such a tasteless allusion of a title, then they're not doing anybody any favors at all.

The Outsiders #50 Vol. 2 (DC): This particular volume, first written by the awful Judd Winick, "grew" out of the spectacularly awful Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day miniseries, whose only purpose seemed to be killing off Donna Troy and Lilith Clay/Omen, and not by an actual villain, but rather, by ways of a Superman robo-duplicate. It was really stupid, and Indigo's subsequent revelation to be an enemy infiltrator was pretty lazy too. And while Donna later returned, Lilith tragically did not, unless you count her returns as one of the living dead in crossover books like the disgusting Blackest Night. Now, with the Flashpoint crossover having technically rebooted the DCU in 2011 though, it looks like even worse is going to take place: Omen is going to be changed into a villainess.

There really wasn't much of anything to recommend this volume either. Metamorpho developed a clone that grew out of a fragment of himself, and that fragment subsequently merged back into the real Rex Mason. Oh yeah, and Jade was killed off shortly after being a member here, and Thunder and Grace Choi turned out to be bisexual, if anything, for little more than male titillation of course. And Nightwing, as the leader, was not written well either.

No sooner did this end than it became another version of Batman and the Outsiders, reuniting some of the older members of the team like Katana. Chuck Dixon served as writer of that, up until he was apparently fired by the awful Dan DiDio a few months later, after writing one story for Robin that reversed Bill Willingham's own stories that killed off Spoiler and villified Dr. Leslie Thompkins. And even that version looks to be cancelled, even before Bruce Wayne comes back from the incredibly dumb and pointless limbo he's been put into following "Batman RIP". Just like this series is being badly abused, so too is the whole Batman franchise, and the rest of the DCU as well.

December 2007

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #57 (DC): Call it another victim of Dan DiDio's post-Identity/Infinite Crisis disaster if you will, which even a once well regarded writer like Kurt Busiek couldn't save from becoming a shipwreck. The Sea King's title is just one of many that was ruined by the DiDio regime, and even Mera's return to the fold doesn't help salvage it either when Aquaman's underwater world has since been hijacked by the dreaded Geoff Johns, who's only made things worse by inserting only so much gore and bloodletting into the storytelling. In fact, even Bob Harras' as the current EIC isn't helping any (lest we forget that this was one of the same editors who'd helped to ruin many Marvel comics, including Spider-Man and the X-Men). Rather than to make Aquaman a name to be admired, Johns and company are only helping to destroy Mort Weisinger's classic oceanic creation.

Sensational Spider-Man #41 Vol. 2 (Marvel): Almost everything's been told above. But I guess it's worth adding a little more over here as well. I don't buy J. Michael Straczynski's defenses for even a second that he was ever against what happened in One More Day. If he was willing to go along with the alleged tamperings subjected to Spidey during Sins Past, and showed no sign of protest by quitting the book, then why should I believe he was ever sincere? His leftist viewpoints, which did find their way into the books, have also alienated me to no end, one more reason why I have no respect for Straczynski as a writer.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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