The Worst and the Best of 2001

March 11, 2002

By Avi Green

The year 2001 is over, and I wanted to present a list of the yearís best and worst. First, I think I would like start with the worst books of the year, and then turn to the best, because I think that the ďhappy endingĒ should come afterwards. And we do all like happy endings, don't we?

So anyway, what weíve got here first are the yearís worst, and the losers have turned out to be Ė some of the X-Men books. Letís see:

UNCANNY X-MEN. Iíll be honest, Caseyís work at DC on the Adventures of Superman is surprisingly okay, but when it comes to Marvel, heís hopeless. The 394th issue pretty much spelled the beginning of the shameless exploitation of the menage a trois from the yesteryear involving Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. And it was also one of the dullest, throwaway stories Iíve seen too, with the following Poptopia arc ranking proudly alongside it. Ugh, argh! What a bore! The story with Mr. Clean had holes in it big enough for a brontasaurus to walk through. First, heís got no superpowers, than he does, and then, while I didnít read the last issue of the arc, I found out on Cinescapeís X-Fan that heís even impervious to knives (eg- Wolverineís claws), which contradicts the scene in the third issue where heís shown cutting his arm. As for Sugar Kane, the only interesting things about her were her breasts and her butt, and the whole turnout of the story involving her and Chamber was throughly predictable. Iíve seen some sources calling this the neglected stepchild of the now bloated franchise, and thatís quite right.

NEW X-MEN. Sorry everybody, but not only was this whole mess very distastefully violent and morally bankrupt, it also defied logic fairly well. Including, as Iíve also found out via Hero Realm, that Jean Grey suddenly became the Phoenix! Thatís right, I kid you not, itís the Phoenix Saga all over again! Wasnít it Madelyne Pryor who took that role? And no explanation is ever given for that. And to make matters even more illogical, she dispatches the U-Men serenely, and not via emotion, as was originally written. Now that I think of it, the whole story involving Cassandra Nova Xavier was pretty hard to swallow too, since Charlesí background leaves no room for a sister, as evidenced by issue 12 of the X-Men which was published way back in the silver age, ditto the whole mind-switcheroo scene. But what really makes this farrago abominable is that it makes it seem as if Jean Grey, our darling little Jean Grey, is the Goblin Queen, the slayer of the D'bai, which, as Alex Hamby, second in command at Hero Realm, has said in his Got Character column, turns her into someone with whom we the readers cannot identify. I'm getting out the hankies already.

In fact, let me also add the Eve of Destruction story arc that took place in both of them to the list, which was truly unbearable. Not often have I ever seen a story as heavy-handed as this one turned out to be, and then they even defied logic by implausibly showing us that Dazzler and Xavier werenít even dead! There were some things that Lobdell did in the past years that were okay, and I probably donít have to pan him for everything, but with this he went too far.

X-TREME X-MEN. If Claremont is going to put a decent lady like Psylocke to death all for the sake of a rock bottom one called Sage, and even an unbearable criminal like Gambit, the character that turned Rogue into a hang-on rather than an independent lady, then I have no use for this. It was pretty dismal, going into tailspin pretty quickly, and Iím hoping itíll be canceled as soon as possible.

X-MEN FORVEVER. Big mistake. As is apparent by now, that Marvel should capitalize on the movie and/or imitate it as well is exactly what hammered another nail in the coffin. Even the Toad in this mishmash was just an excuse to feature one similar to the movie version.

X-MEN ICONS: ROGUE. Iím sorry, but this was just pure crap, and of all the X-Men Icons miniseries produced so far, this was by far the weakest. It all turned out to be a rewrite of Rogueís history, and a pretty clumsy one too at that. No connection to Carol Danvers or even Mystique, and there were plenty of questions left unanswered about our darling southern belle. I once heard someone say to me somewhere several months ago that itís supposed to be an out-of-continuity story, but I could find no such information that it was. But even if it were, it just wouldnít work. As for the ending, well, what a cop-out! It was so utterly stupid and sloppy. Fiona Avery is certainly a talented writer, but the powers that be at Marvel kept her from realizing those talents. If she canít have the creative freedom she deserves, then whatís the use of taking the task?

Comic book hate crimes: WOLVERINE. The less said about the 165th issue, the better. Not recommended for dinnertime reading, thatís for sure.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, JOKERíS LAST LAUGH CROSSOVER CONNECTION. Sure, like I said, Caseyís work on the title was okay for awhile, but with this issue, itís begun to self-destruct. If it was meant to be funny, it failed miserably. Lex Luthor was nothing more than a bag full of hot air in this dud, which may very be the weakest of the badly-concocted Joker crossover.

And with that, the bad news of the year ends, and the good news begins. So now, what do we have?

AVENGERS. Hip-hip-hooray, hip-hip-hooray! Iíve been hugely enjoying the current battle against the sinister Kang, one of the most cunning enemies the Earthís Mightiest Heroes have had, and one of the most challenging too. One of the best moments for me was when Warbird stood her ground in a David vs. Goliath battle against a hefty alien called Glomm, and she managed to beat him, what a brave woman! Hers was one of the strongest characterizations in the story, with many kudos going to Kurt Busiek for his great writing on this joy inducing title. Woo-hoo! I sure hope that this gets collected into a TPB soon, this was one of the best! And I hope that Geoff Johns will follow through on Warbirdís characterization, because I really want her to have her own ongoing series (for the record, she did once have one back in the early 80ís, but it didnít do very well, and I sure hope that this time sheíll have a chance of having one).

FANTASTIC FOUR. Personally, I enjoyed the Abraxas affair, and it was great to hear the Thing calling out ďITíS CLOBBERINí TIME!Ē again. I canít wait to see Mark Waid taking over the reigns next season.

BATMAN & DETECTIVE COMICS. All parts involving the Lew Moxon affair were among the best. Brubaker and Rucka are very good at writing mystery and character drama, and this was all very absorbing. An otherwise stand-alone story like this is what brings out the best in Batman. Even the inclusion of bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux was interesting.

And you know something, Iím very glad that the issue that was part of the Jokerís Last Laugh crossover didnít really deal with it, but just kept on with the current story arc. Maybe Brubaker fought for his creative rights, and if he did, then bravo! It certainly helped to keep things in order.

WONDER WOMAN. I enjoyed the Paradise Lost story as well as her interview with Lois Lane in the 170th issue, one of the most well written stories that Diana has had. That issue was one of the best of the year. I sure hope theyíll come up with yet another story with both of the best ladies of the DCU. Many kudos to Phil Jiminez for his steller work here.

THE FLASH. The 175th and 176th issues featuring the return of the Weather Wizard were also among the best of the year, and the Scarlet Speedster has never had a better writer in the past decade than Geoff Johns, who I was so delighted to discover would be writing the Avengers beginning next year. Gorilla Grodd was also a great villain.

SUPERMAN. Jeph Loebís story in which the Man of Steel went to see a psychologist was a very surprisingly well written post-OWAW chapter. Who would have believed that a story like this could be pulled off so well? Just leave it to Loeb, and youíll strike comic book gold. And also...

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL. I found the 120th issue in which Supes investigates Talia Headís motives for accepting the job of heading Lexcorp after Lex left for the White House was also a very interesting chapter in this series by Mark Schultz. I also liked the artwork of Yvel Guichet and Dexter Vines. And even the 121st issue with a new Royal Flush Gang by talented guest writer Geoff Johns was a big treat.

STARTLING STORIES: BANNER. For an ďout of continuityĒ story, this was surprisingly good. Tells us why Banner hasnít killed himself yet, and gives us a look at what happens to all the people who get in the way when the Hulk goes on a rampage.

The semi-villainous personality embodied by Leonard Samson here was also well written, but nevertheless, I wanted to point out that, I personally have never found him boring myself, and I donít think that a guy like him has to be portrayed as a crook in order to be made more interesting. But still, he too was well written out, and Brian Azzarello deserves many kudos for this.

CAPTAIN MARVEL. Hey, this is a pretty good book! Itís the kind of thing you could probably describe as funny and touching together. Peter David writes Rick and Marlo Jones very good! Not to mention also the guy with the starry body who toplines this title. Captain Comics is so right, this is a sadly underrated book that deserves some more attention. Everyone, please buy it!

And so ends the list of the best items as well. Bravo!

There were some rhinestones this past year, it is so, but as seen above, there were also many genuine gems. And those gems that I had the pleasure of reading were some of the best things in my life. So letís look forward to more great stuff for the coming year! Onward, I say, to victory for comics!

Avi Green, who'd like to be part of the Avengers and the JLA himself, can be reached at avigreen2002@yahoo.com

Copyright 2002 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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