Cancelled Comics Commentary for 2009

January 2009

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D #35 vol. 4 (Marvel): With Warren Ellis at the helm of this volume when it first began publication in early 2005 (at which time it still had the adjective Invincible, but following the 28th issue, it was changed), ugh, I'd rather be at the bottom of a deep well than reading whatever he'd messed the pages of this once great book up with. In any event, that this book was as much a victim/hostage of the modern Marvel crossover plague is exactly what sinks it too. Hence, no need to waste time on it.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #60 (Marvel): The third longest running of Marvel's alternate universe titles, this appears to be the first to go in the wake of Marvel's decision to relaunch the Ultimate universe line. But with Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar as the co-writers, I'm sure it wasn't such a big deal to begin with.

February 2009

The Flash #247 Vol. 2 (DC): Revived soon after the abortive run with Bart Allen in the role of the Scarlet Speedster, and with Mark Waid returning, this volume, alas, did not work out well, and there's some good reasons why. I think giving Wally and Linda children so soon may have actually served to the disadvantage of this book, just like almost everything post-Identity Crisis, because it could not obscure the pall that was spilled all over the shared universe. Waid tried, but it was clearly to no avail.

Giving Wally a secret identity again may have also undermined this book, as seen at the time Geoff Johns introduced that nondescript second supervillain to bear the name Zoom. I guess even Johns must've decided Hunter Zolomon didn't have much left to him, and that's why, in the horrific miniseries called Rogues' Revenge, where Wally seemed surprisingly absent, he reverted Zoom back to Zolomon, and back to a wheelchair again. But the really angering problem with said miniseries is that it sent out Inertia/Thaddeus Thawne, the adversary of Impulse, in the worst way possible: Inertia was killed by the Rogues in revenge for tricking them into killing Bart, but not before he slew Josh Jackam, the young infant Johns featured when he was first writing the book, whose own mother Julie was murdered as part of a plan to strike at the Flash by slaying people he'd saved by a cultist named Cicada (don't even get me started on how stupid that story all was!). This is almost just like Johns to write such joyless tommyrot by now. Besides the offensive story depicting an infant being pointlessly slain, Johns has made further use of Inertia embarrassing, just like Dr. Light in Identity Crisis, certainly for as long as those elements remain.

Now to another reason why this volume was cancelled. Well, since things weren't working now with Wally, due in no small part to their poor editorial mandates on how to write things, and how the stench of Identity Crisis hangs over this horribly, they decided to bring Barry Allen back from death-limbo, and make him the star focus again. And since they don't have anyone else available, Geoff Johns is taking up the writing again. But lo and behold, he unsurprisingly went by what has become a sad staple of his work in the past decade, and that's cruelty: he de-facto retconned Barry's background so that it would be little different from how most other superheroes are depicted these days, by foisting the premise he'd used for the new Zoom onto Barry. And while this was revealed to have been caused by the first Prof. Zoom, Eobard Thawne, after he apparently took time-travel steps to change Barry's history, it's still a retcon, especially if it remains. And even if it doesn't, that's not going to excuse how Johns has become so predictable with featuring gratuitous cruelty tainting the edge of his work. Right, we're supposed to overlook the unpleasant elements just because he supposedly hasn't disrespected continuity and origins? Please. I'm not fooled anymore. Why, as has been advertised already, Johns is going to be depicting Barry dealing with murder mysteries a la CSI: Miami. Given his track record, I know by now that it won't be good news.

It's also appalling that Wally West, who earned his role legitimately as opposed to younger-gen heroes like Kyle Rayner, who didn't, is now being shafted for the sake of Barry. Chances are that the series will begin to lose audience thanks to how Barry's return is being done at Wally's expense, and instead of giving Wally the roles Barry once had, and making Barry a supporting character like Jay Garrick, which would've been a better idea, Barry is being made the main focus again, and according to the new on this, the only main character focus of 2010. There was said to be a backup feature for Wally and a new series for Bart Allen coming up, but it turned out to be bait-and-switch news. The Flash has really been one of the biggest victims post-Identity Crisis and in fact, post-2000.

March 2009

Legion of Super-Heroes #50 (DC): at one point, the title had been published as Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, as they tried to do this with the Maiden of Might taking the Boy of Steel's place in the futuristic super-team as was seen in the Silver Age. But even then, it never got anywhere.

Noble Causes #40 (Image): created by Jay Faerber, the focus of this series was a wealthy family of superheroes but was more about their personal lives than their battles with supercrooks. Towards the end in the 32nd issue, it moved 5 years ahead when 3 of the family members were no longer involved, and the second wife of chief protagonist Dudley Noble was now married to him. Now there's one superhero concept that really knew how to incorporate drama!

The New Warriors #20 vol. 3 (Marvel): another attempt at the team title first run during the 1990s, and since it was plagued by crossovers tie-ins, including The Initiative, that's why this can be considered by far the least successful take on the group. Even the presence of Jubilee, who'd moved here from the X-Men, couldn't salvage it.

Street Fighter #12 vol. 2 (Devil's Due/Udon): another take on the video game franchise, done in co-publishing with Canadian-based Udon, the highlights here were any part featuring the game's darling Chun Li, as you can expect, ditto her legendary rapid kicks.

Ultimate X-Men #100 Vol. 1 (Marvel): Well, there goes the second official entry in Marvel's attempt to launch an alternate universe; the first one can be found a few months down below. Until then, what can be said here?

Well, this was surely the most dishonestly marketed of all the Ultimate books. One of the first storylines had this world's Wolverine abandoning Cyclops in a deep valley, so that he could then seduce teenaged Jean Grey for sex. I wonder what's more troubling, that aforementioned idea, or some of the more violent moments taking place, including Magneto's invasion of the White House, where he pulls gold fillings out of the president's mouth? (Logically speaking, is that even possible if gold isn't magnetic?)

As if that weren't bad enough, Mark Millar even had to make Colossus homosexual, as though that were novel today. Why exactly couldn't Colossus be Bulgarian or Armenian? See, when the writers spectacularly fail to consider the possibilities of emphasizing a character's nationality, which can make for some good posibilities, and the editors especially don't allow it, you know that they're really running bankrupt, and creativity is being supressed. (There's more on this case involving Ultimate Colossus in this comment thread on Amazon, though the topic beginner doesn't seem to realize that Ultimate Colossus was characterized as gay from the get go; a few other respondents provide corrections.)

After awhile, Marvel didn't even try to pretend anymore that this series was entry-level, and it just continued on as the would-be adult entertainment it was really launched as, with even Brian Bendis taking up the writing. Eventually, this series, like most of the other Ultimate titles, lost audience, and certainly doesn't have the following it used to, and so on this year, Marvel decided to restart/reboot/relaunch, first by coughing up a kind of crossover mini called Ultimatum which would end everything in a lot of bloodletting. Just what the world needs.

April 2009

Birds of Prey #127 (DC): This ends the adventure series that starred the former Batgirl Barbara Gordon in a role vaguely similar to Ironside, where she'd pose as Oracle on the internet and give assignments to Black Canary who'd do the legwork (speaking of which, some of the artists sure knew how to give Dinah Lance some great legs!), and went on missions involving criminals who could work overseas.

This first officially began with a handful of miniseries and one-shot specials in 1996, and 3 years afterwards got an ongoing. I might add that Chuck Dixon, who proposed the idea, went about this the right way at the time, by testing the success of the miniseries to see if that could prove this worthy of getting an ongoing series. Dinah didn't know who Oracle was initially, only knowing her vocally, and often wore a special pair of earrings for radio communications. And she could sure kick butt here! Some of the adversaries even included the Ravens, led by Cheshire, and the relationship between Dinah and Oracle, the former who eventually was let in on the secret of the latter, was handled pretty well in its first 4 years.

When Gail Simone took over the writing 2003, however, while it may have started out well, it soon dropped in quality, due in no small part to the intrusion of Identity Crisis, and I'm going to make clear that the mere mention of it in the fourth TPB collecting the work of Simone was irritating. Aside from that, it was really defeating when, come the 100th issue, they had to mark it with the departure of Black Canary and replacement with Huntress. Now it's fine with me if they want to add Huntress/Helena Bertinelli to the cast of regulars, but considering how Black Canary reverted back to mediocre characterization when Green Arrow/Black Canary was launched, that's one of the reasons why I find the dropping of Dinah from the cast here all the more defeating.

Interestingly enough, Simone's work on this book didn't generate much sales any more than that of Dixon's, and when she left shortly afterwards, the audience really lost interest, though the editors clearly were abandoning any effort to make it a worthy book. And if you consider that post-BOP, Oracle herself was not handled well in a 3-part miniseries intended to pit her against the Calculator, who was also wasted as part of a pointless story connected with a most disastrous one in Teen Titans, that's what makes the end of series a real disappointment.

Blue Beetle #36 Vol. 6 (DC): Another of DC's multicultural/diversity idiocies down the drain, deservedly. Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle who came after Ted Kord, who was pointlessly yet disgustingly killed in Countdown to Infinite Crisis by Max Lord, another victim of character assassination, did not earn his position legitimately, any more than Kyle Rayner or Ryan Choi. Worse, this book also featured additional character assassination against Jean Loring, turned into a female version of Eclipso during the Day of Vengeance miniseries. Why then should I care?

It's a shame that Traci-13, first seen in Superman, had her potential squandered in this book, but that's what DC's been doing under Dan DiDio for a long time now.

New Exiles #18 (Marvel): Chris Claremont tries to rejuice this concept, to no avail. He even has Psylocke added to the cast, yet fails to make any really good use out of her, any more than the other members of the cast. Marvel even had the hilarious gall to say this series sold out, when it sold barely 30,000 copies. Man, these fools running the store really know how to beclown themselves.

Later on, this series too was cancelled, and what happens next? It was relaunched yet again. But don't bet on it being - or getting - any better. As for Claremont, he may be finally washed up as a writer following this travesty, which is just another wheel spoke connected to the hub of a franchise that's been way overused for far too long.

On a site note, Psylocke could sure use some real justice as a character, but she certainly hasn't gotten it in a miniseries that came up in late 2009, which is a shame.

Nightwing #154 (DC): This was cancelled as part of DC's incredibly dumb shoving of Bruce Wayne, the real Batman, into limbo as part of the needless Batman RIP "event" (or, more precisely, publicity stunt). I'll get to that soon.

After the New Titans ended in early 1996 (and it's already been written about over here), it was decided to give Dick Grayson his own solo book where he'd become the resident crimefighter of Bludhaven, a city not far from Gotham. In contrast to Batman's main residence, Bludhaven's police force was riddled with corruption - and even crooked officials working against each other - who didn't take kindly to having the former Teen Wonder battle crime in their district. That's why Nightwing often had to remain one step ahead of them whenever dealing with the underworld there, because the police chief certainly didn't welcome him.

There were at least a handful of recurring enemies who made appearances there, including a pair of teenaged burglers known as Double Dare, and, most notably, the modern day take on Blockbuster, a villain originally seen during the Silver Age who was updated later on as a gigantic mafia lord who specialized in killing his enemies with a neck-breaking technique. This very gimmick of his was even used upon a corrupt police agent in his employ named Dudley Soames who actually survived, ending up with his head backwards upon his shoulders and becoming known as Torque. I'll have to be honest, but that idea was rather embarrassing. And the series did run the gamut of being overly violent.

Even so, things were not made any better when Chuck Dixon, as the writer who began this whole series, left and was replaced by Devin Grayson (who, if you're not sure, is a woman), who made things worse by killing off almost all the villains Dixon created specially for this series courtesy of a villainess she came up with called Tarantula. Aside from being characterized with a dreadful Latina accent, what really sunk things was when Tarantula seemingly killed off Blockbuster, and then, in one of the stupidest parts ever written, it turns out that Tarantula de-facto rapes Nightwing when they have a tryst on a rooftop. That's certainly what was argued on the internet during 2004. If anything, it was basically a bad fanfiction-ish story element that could be described as a Mary Sue - the fanfic slang for when a writer theoretically writes him/herself into the story, and yes, there are those cases in many fanfics where it's truly tasteless.

Nightwing may have eventually defeated Tarantula and handed her over to the cops, but it still doesn't excuse how he was depicted as a wimp during the aforementioned nonsense, and subject to a ridiculous story that didn't serve him well as a character at all.

To make matters worse, in 2005, when Infinite Crisis took place, Bludhaven was largely wiped out, not unlike Coast City in 1994, at the hands of Deathstroke (yep, he too has been subject of considerable tarnishing). In other words, still things were made bad. Nightwing then moved to New York City, where he and the Titans had stationed themselves during Marv Wolfman's famous run in the 80s. And Wolfman himself actually came back to write at least one story. But the damage was done and not fixed, so it was all for naught. Finally, this series was cancelled as part of the Batman RIP stunt, so that Dick could become the Batman, and would even be teamed with Damien, the son Bruce and Talia al-Ghul once had who was written back into continuity, but boy did they do a bad job! Damien was characterized so annoyingly, like they actually want the audience to dislike him on purpose, so that then they'll drop the book and thus force the return of Bruce Wayne to be enacted more quickly. Hey, much as I find DC's moves of late offensive, that doesn't mean they have to make things that much worse. This has been replaced with a series called Batman and Robin, which is unrelated to Frank Miller's All-Star miniseries(?), a concept that he gets editorial control over himself. I can't say it's been anything big since it began, and sales on the Bat-franchise do seem to have worn down. And even if Bruce Wayne does come back, chances are not many in the audience will care anymore.

Robin #185 (DC): The new Teen Wonder's solo book is another victim of Dan DiDio's sabotage post-Identity Crisis, especially if we were to consider that Tim Drake's father was killed off in IC. I'll try to address that in a moment too.

Chuck Dixon was the writer who developed the new Teen Wonder into a series of his own following at least 2 miniseries in 1992-3, and even added his own creation of a vigilante, Stephanie "Spoiler" Brown, into the mix as one of the co-stars. It worked very well when he was writer for at least 7 years. Interesting thing about this was how Tim got a costume with pants, because the bare-legged costume worn by Dick Grayson years before (and possibly by his first successor, Jason Todd) was seen as embarrassing by now. It's understandable.

Unfortunately, after Dixon left following the 100th issue, that's when things turned to disaster for this series too. One of the problems is that Spoiler's characterization became truly awful, and the worst part is that the editors were mostly likely hoping that people would not care if she were killed off, as though it were really her fault for how she, a fictional character, was characterized. And Bill Willingham coming on board didn't help. He wrote some stories with a very negative depiction of women, not the least being the one where Spoiler was killed off in War Games. And then Jack Drake, Tim's father, was killed off in Identity Crisis itself. Chuck Dixon once told in an interview that when he was writing Robin, the editors had been trying to get rid of Jack all the time, because he was supposedly a crutch on the character. How stupid, and good that Dixon managed to stand strong at the time. As for Willingham, I am not interested in reading his books, and I'm not going to give accolades to writers who do things solely to pick up a paycheck. After the reaction on the Fabletown forum to the story he wrote depicting Leslie Thompkins as allowing Spoiler to die, Willingham responded quite rudely, and let me assure anyone who was alienated by that ill-adivsed address he gave - your anger at Willingham was completely understandable. Why, it only undermines his credibility, and as a conservative myself, I'm going to make clear that Willingham does not speak for me as far as his negative depiction of women in the DC books he wrote circa 2004-2006 is concerned. Thus, I failed to be impressed when I found him talking about "superhero decadence" on Big Hollywood, and I think Andrew Breitbart made a serious mistake choosing him as a contributor. Honestly, I think Willingham's an embarrassment.

Following a campaign in favor of Spoiler, Stephanie Brown's fate was reversed, but that of Jack still stands. Dixon was brought back to write the reversal for Steph's situation. Unfortunately, he was then fired when DiDio decided upon yet another crossover, the one called "Batman RIP". That's why this series was terminated, to make way for "Red Robin", where Tim goes in search of Bruce. But what's really needed is a better EIC. With DiDio around, that won't be possible.

May 2009

Amazing Spider-Girl #30 (Marvel): the relaunch of the Spider-Girl series set in the future, now sporting an adjective, but alas, not only did Quesada not promote this series on a serious basis, by that time, his name alone was enough to drive away every last potential customer with common sense from their entire output. And that could explain why it sadly failed.

Amazing Spider-Man: Extra #3 (Marvel): one of the shortest lived ongoing spinoffs ever, and after what Joe Quesada did to the Spider-marriage 2 years earlier, it's no wonder this tanked so quickly.

Captain Britain and MI-13 #15 (Marvel): If they could abuse Captain America as badly as they did since the turn of the century, it only figures Captain Britain would suffer the same. The UK's been invaded by Skrulls, and Brian Braddock and Pete Wisdom's recruits for a new team include a Muslim character named Faiza Hussein, obviously and deliberately introduced for the sake of leftist propaganda, British style or otherwise. Which has sadly been the case for a long time since 9-11. But they never think to come up with new characters who could be metaphors for anybody who'd lost their relatives in jihadist terrorist attacks, or even victims of Islamic honor murders. So they shouldn't be surprised if, in the end, these PC-flooded titles are bound to fail as they have. The most embarrassing moment in this series had to have been when the Hussein character was given the Sword of Excalibur at one point to become a new Captain Britain(!), even if it was set in an alternate timeline. That too was obviously intended for shock value, no matter how momentary it was, and if that's all they could think of doing, then they should be working in another medium. This is one politicized title that won't be missed.

June 2009

Ultimate Spider-Man #133 Vol. 1 (Marvel): And there goes the first official entry in Marvel's alternate universe line, and interestingly enough, it appears this was the last book to go before being relaunched.

When it first began, it may have seemed "revolutionary", but in this day and age, that's faint praise. I do know that surely the most puzzling thing here was that almost everyone and anyone knew Peter Parker's secret identity as Spider-Man, and considering the type of setting they came up with for it, we had to suspend a considerable amount of disbelief that our web-slinging hero could still operate effectively.

There were some other cop-outs too: Ultimate Gwen Stacy was offed just like her regular counterpart in the 616 universe. So much for the possibility of coming up with a different direction, where Gwen could actually be developed as a character.

After awhile, this too lost momentum, and was subjected to the onslaught of the Ultimatum miniseries that preceded the relaunch. But even now, what's it got going for it, other than tedium?

July 2009

Moon Knight #30 vol. 3 (Marvel): the hero Marc Spector first debuted during the Bronze Age in Werewolf by Night #32 in 1975, and was co-created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin. He was the son of a rabbi whose family had fled Europe in the 1930s to escape the Holocaust. Growing up, Spector drifted away from his dad's morality and embraced materialism while taking up careers as a boxer, US Marine, and then a CIA operative. While there, he met William Cross, an agent who later turned bad and became the villain Crossfire. But the real tragedy was when Marc's own brother Randall joined the agency and turned criminal as well, and murdered Marc's girlfriend after she found out. This led Marc to go on the rampage against his brother, tracking him down and injuring him so badly that Randall turned into even more of a psycho.

Marc quit the CIA and became a mercenary, and during this time, while trying to help overthrow an autocracy in a fictionalized Latin American country, reached the tomb of a moon god named Khonshu, whom he believed had restored his life after being so near death while on the run. He gained special powers that were most effective at nighttime, and carried weapons like nunchuks, and together with Marlene Alraune, the daughter of an archaeologist and Jean-Paul duChamp, a friendly mercenary nicknamed Frenchie whom Marc had worked with, they developed a superhero career for him.

It's an interesting premise that led to 2 prior series in the early 80s and early 90s. This third one, however, had the extreme misfortune of being part of the Initiative crossover, and there was some PC-madness involved too, so its demise could only be considered a mercy.

August 2009

The Immortal Iron Fist #27 (Marvel): What could've been a golden opportunity to spotlight one of the most famous martial artists in comicdom was turned into a farce here when hero Daniel Rand gave up his inheritance in an ultra-left-wing style story written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, neither of whom should've been allowed anywhere near this once cool vigilante character.

To bring up some history, Danny Rand's story began with his father, Wendell Rand, once finding a secret mystical city called K'un Lun (possibly located in a different dimension), where he once saved the ruler's life and was honored there. He later returned to the USA where he became a wealthy businessman, and years later, when Danny was born, Wendell and his wife Heather Duncan took Danny on a trip with Wendell's business partner Harold Meachum, to find the secret city again, and Wendell was killed courtesy of Meachum, who allowed him to fall to his death from the mountain they were climbing, apparently because he coveted both Rand's business and wife, the latter who shunned him as she and Danny continued their journey towards K'un Lun without him.

Tragically, as detailed in Marvel Premiere #15, where the whole story began, Heather was bitten to death by wolves as they neared the city, which she allowed to happen if that's what it took to save Danny's life, and even some archers arriving from the city failed to reach her in time. They took Danny to the current ruler of K'un Lun, who arranged for him to become a disciple to one of their leading martial arts masters, and went on to become one of the most formidable fighters, particularly thanks to his attaining a form of superpower that his codename comes from.

Danny later returned to the USA to seek vengeance upon Harold Meachum, but after wading through the barrage of criminals standing in his way to reach Meachum, he discovered that the man who'd caused the death of his father was now confined to a wheelchair after suffering from frostbite up in the mountains. Meachum was actually flattered by Iron Fist's success in reaching his quarters, and accepted his fate by inviting our hero to kill him, but Rand, now feeling almost pitiful for this now pathetic shell of a man, decided not to do so. Instead, it was a mysterious ninja assassin who put Meachum to death, and thus Iron Fist was framed for a murder he didn't commit, and Meachum's daughter Joy blamed Iron Fist for what happened. Eventually Rand managed to clear his name and even to reconcile with Joy, and began his career as Iron Fist, later teaming up with Power Man in a series that first began in 1972, and both heroes were joined together in 1978, continuing as partners until 1986. Both heroes are some of the best creations and had some of the best stories from the Bronze Age, and it's a pity that later people in charge of the Marvel franchise would take them downhill.

And that's pretty much where this new take on Roy Thomas and Gil Kane's famous creation ended up, in a quagmire of pretentious writing that was not helped by the leftist leanings Matt Fraction in particular has a penchant for shoving into the scripts. What a waste.

September 2009

The Amazing Spider-Man Family #8 (Marvel): just what "family" is there exactly, if Quesada was going to destroy any foundation for it? This particular spinoff was practically begging to fail.

Captain Britain and MI:13 #15 (Marvel): A pretty stultifying take on Brian Braddock, here being depicted as leading a government-sponsored team of crimefighters, and I thought he'd all but given up the role of Capt. Britain at one point because unlike Captain America, Brian didn't want to work for the government! Another problem was that this was the kind of book that featured an Islamist as a cast member with the whole religion being normalized (or, put another way, it was all a superficial depiction, with no negative takes allowed), and the writer of the series himself (Paul Cornell) was basically a British dhimmi who seems to think Islam is more interesting than say, being of Armenian descent.

That aside, another problem with the book was that it was almost entirely tied in with the Secret Invasion crossover from that time, and a lot of it focused on the Skrull interlope on the UK. So now, besides series where political issues get hammered in, there's even series these days whose very writing is largely based upon a crossover, and beyond the politics do not have an independent view of their own. No wonder this was such a botch.

October 2009

Nothing to declare, and who knows if there ever will be.

November 2009

Runaways #14 vol. 3 (Marvel): well, that's the third installment of this series wrapped up. Even before it ended, there were crossovers with the X-Men, which doesn't surprise me, and even with Young Avengers. But in the end, the blush was off the rose, and the crossovers with Secret Invasion and Civil War could pretty much explain why it fell flat on its face too.

December 2009

Empty as can be.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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