Top Disappointing Comic Books of 2009 | Carlos Ruiz

fantastic-four-header09.jpgHonestly, how bad does something have to be that, after talking it up for months and months as the epic Fantastic Four story that everyone has been waiting for, the creators just abandon it by choice?


1. Fantastic Four (Marvel)
by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch

What happened? Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch came out of the gate with guns blazing and threw everything but the kitchen sink at this title. Fresh off his fantastic second run on Ultimate Fantastic Four (the run that made the FF relevant again, producing Marvel Zombies, a kick ass young punk-rock Namor, and an exceptionally tragic Thing), Mark Millar set about working his mojo on the main Fantastic Four title. (As a side note, his first run on UFF with Brian Michael Bendis might have been one of the most god-awful things I’ve ever read, and almost killed the title dead until Warren Ellis came along and saved it.) Along for the ride was Millar’s Ultimates partner in crime, Bryan Hitch. They started off well enough with "World’s Greatest" and rolled on strong with the high point of their run, culminating in "The Death of the Invisible Woman" storyline. Had they ended there, their run on the title would have been quite well received, but they decided to keep going and it was all downhill from there…

First they went to the UK for a much needed Christmas vacation. National Lampoon’s it was not. Then, after much build up, the final storyline came in the form of the "Masters of Doom." A storyline much hyped by Millar, "Masters of Doom" was set to reveal how Victor Von Doom became Doom and from whom Doom learned all his evil tricks, revealing that Doom had a master, and was once a Padawan learner to this guy. It sounds cool, except it wasn’t. It turns out that Doom’s Master was an anorexic burn victim who used to be a mental patient. Wow! This turkey was so bad that Bryan Hitch left with two issues to go to start work on Reborn (see number 3 on this list) and Mark Millar, sensing the steaming pile that he created, left the script on the final issue to someone else. Honestly, how bad does something have to be that, after talking it up for months and months as the epic Fantastic Four story that everyone has been waiting for, the creators just abandon it by choice? To my recollection, this is a first, and it is why this baby is at the top of my list.



2. Secret Invasion/Dark Reign (Marvel)
by Brian Michael Bendis and Various

The premise of Secret Invasion was pretty amazing. Finally the Skrulls, a shape-shifting race of aliens on the brink of annihilation of their species, found a way to get their act together and implemented a plan so devious that no one saw it coming. Infiltrating all aspects of the Marvel universe, the Skrulls’ sleeper cells reached all levels of power in governments throughout the planet. The set up was great… then came the actual miniseries. Essentially, the 8 issue miniseries amounted to a slugfest that could have been handled in 3 issues, and then it ends with Norman Osborn taking over SHIELD and most of the government, which leads to another all encompassing year long crossover called Dark Reign. And if that wasn’t enough to turn you off of the series, the big reveal features the leader of the Skrulls unveiling her plan to Tony Stark in her valley girl…like, totally…speech. WTF? The secret is out, this epic event is a dud.



3. Reborn (Marvel)
by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice

Brubaker’s run on Captain America has been unprecedented, and has turned the series into one of the best comics of the decade. Not only did Brubaker kill off the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, but he had Cap replaced with his old partner Bucky Barnes, who was believed to be dead but had been secretly brainwashed and turned into the Winter Soldier by the Russians. With the original Cap gone, Bucky set about uncovering the Red Skull’s nefarious plans and solving Steve’s murder. The lineup for this title hit it out of the park: just about everything that Brubaker touches is fantastic and a must read (except for his run on the Uncanny X-Men); Bryan Hitch is one of the best artists in the business and even though his run on Fantastic Four ended poorly, his art was always top notch; and Butch Guice, whose work is severely underrated, has delivered time and time again on everything that he has done. So what went wrong?

Listen, it was a given that Steve Rogers was coming back in time for the Avengers movie of 2011, but the way they did it was garbage. The Slaughterhouse Five, Steve-Rogers-is-a-Man-frozen-in-time premise was a little too contrived and convenient. Plus, as great an artist as Hitch is, deadlines aren’t his cup of tea. While having Guice work with Hitch on the book in tandem was a good idea on paper, in execution their artwork never seemed that cohesive or in step with one another, and still didn’t prevent the blown deadlines that caused the revelation at the end of this miniseries to appear in many other titles a good one to two months before the last issue ships. That’s just poor editorial oversight and just compounds the disappointment in this title.



4. Avengers – Dark/Mighty/New/The Initiative (Marvel)
by Brian Michael Bendis and Various

Brian Michael Bendis is one of the best and biggest writers working in comics today. His run on Daredevil ranks 1a behind Frank Miller’s trans-formative work on the series. Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man also ranks up there with Stan Lee’s work on the character. Hell, he even took the lagging Avengers franchise and made them into one of the best-selling books around. That’s pretty amazing. So why are all of the Avengers books on here now? For that exact reason- there are 4 Avengers books these days, not only diluting the brand but also spreading the consumer’s dollar mightily thin, especially since two of the books carry a $3.99 price tag.

Bendis’ New Avengers came as Marvel’s answer to DC’s JLA (the company’s biggest characters all in one book). So how did the biggest and best characters on team of Avengers lead to being 4 books of various so-called Avengers on different missions with different agendas? New Avengers success lead to a Mighty Avengers team, which was convenient when Civil War split up the Avengers into two competing Avengers teams and then added a third book of new and pre-existing minor heroes with Avengers: The Initiative. Then Secret Invasion added the Dark Avengers to the mix, and they all are following one ongoing storyline and never-ending event that continues from year to year. Enough already.

I think it speaks volumes that some of my favorite books and writers are now some of the books I’ve become most disappointed with. And the fact that my top disappoints are all Marvel books shows just how Marvel’s Never Ending Events and across the board price increases have led me from "Make Mine Marvel" to "Make My Drop List Marvel." Here’s hoping things change, but with the upcoming Siege event, I really, really doubt it.



5. Philip Tan on Batman & Robin (DC)

Philip Tan’s artwork on this title was not that terrible, but it wasn’t great either. To be fair, it’s sort of wrong of DC to throw Philip Tan on this title after Frank Quitely, because having Morrison and Quitely on this book as a follow-up to their All-Star Superman run raised the bar considerably on this book. Tan may one day become a great comic book artist, but right now he doesn’t have the chops or the storytelling capability to keep up with Grant Morrison. His contribution to this title helped to diminish the story, which is never what you want from an artist. Cameron Stewart, who has worked with Morrison before on the great Seaguy miniseries, has shown that he has the skill and talent to partner with Morrison and will surely help make Batman & Robin great again. I, for one, can’t wait to see Morrison and Stewart on this book.



6. War Heroes (Image Comics)
by Mark Millar and Tony Harris

Mark Millar said War Heroes was based on an idea he had if he were going to make an Ultimates 3. Jeph Loeb ended up handling Ultimates 3, and turned one of Marvel’s best books into one of its worst. How can a decent writer like Loeb and a great artist like Joe Madureira completely botch a book like that? Well, take comfort, Jeph and Joe, in the fact that Mark Millar and Tony Harris’ War Heroes is as bad as Ultimates 3. Well, maybe Ultimates 3 is worse, but not by much. Oh, and it’s been about a year and a half and only 3 or 4 issues have bothered to come out. I forget how many issues because I stopped caring after issue 2.



7. Young Liars (DC/Vertigo)
by David Lapham

What the f-k just happened? I was amped to see Lapham back and this book was one of my favorites or 2008, but its strong start soon diminished and the story took a dramatic left turn that it never recovered from in my mind. The art was strong, but the problem with having an unreliable narrator who constantly lies is that you can’t trust him. Lapham does a great job in writing these unreliable, lying, morally bankrupt, degenerate characters, but with Young Liars, I think he did too good of a job because by the time the series was canceled and the last issue came out, I hated every one of the characters. I’m not sure why, but I still miss it though…




8. Haunt (Image Comics)
by Todd McFarlane, Robert Kirkman, Greg Capullo and Ryan Ottley

Read that lineup of talent on this book. Does your mouth salivate with anticipation of greatness? Mine did, too, until I actually read the first three issues. Maybe if it were 1994 and I was in junior high again, I’d be thrilled with this book, but it’s not and I’m not and the only thing that’s haunted is my wallet because I spent money on this book.



9. Greek Street (DC/Vertigo)
by Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice

I love Greek tragedies and myths as well as all the plays of Sophocles and the tales of Oedipus and Antigone. This series was sold as a modern re-imagining of those Greek tales into modern day London. The art is nice, but I’d stick to the original because Greek Street has so far been a dead end.



10. The Final Issue of Madman Atomic Comics (Image Comics)
by Michael and Laura Allred

Madman is one of my absolute favorite comic books of all time! It really, really pains me to put this one on the list, but the fact of the matter is that this last issue may have been the most disappointing read I had all year long. This series started off really well, and artistically Allred was trying out an assortment of new techniques and experimenting with various styles. But as it progressed, the series sort of meandered and then fizzled out with this relentlessly self promoting mash-up of Madman, The Atomics, Red Rocket 7, The Dandy Warhols, Allred’s band The Gear, and all the cool merchandise that is available for purchase from Graffiti Designs.

On the first page they give you an order sheet, then throughout the book all the characters were conveniently dressed in t-shirts and gear that you too can wear if you buy it (and in case you didn’t see the order form on the first page, they put one again on the last page). I’m all for self promotion and cool merchandise, but you can’t bang your audience over the head with it, because then the whole comic comes off as a nothing more than a 24-page infomercial. Besides, anyone knows that you can’t wear the shirt of a band that’s playing to the concert because then you come off as" that guy."

I never thought that either Madman, the Atomics, or Red Rocket 7 would be "those guys." | Carlos Ruiz


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