domingo, 15 de diciembre de 2019

The Top Ten Worst DC Comics of 2019

What has changed from 2018?

Quite a few things actually, while others sadly stayed the same.

Things have been rather quiet in 2019 since some of the worst titles from last year thankfully ended but other terrible ones raised their ugly heads and what makes it even worse is that some of them come from the usual suspects which makes it immensely disappointing.

And I'm going to be blunt here: Some of the worst titles from 2018 still continued in 2019 for some unexplicable reason and they're so bad that they might even keep the same damn spots as before which makes me believe that some lessons just can't be learned.

In fact, many of the same mistakes are commited here since the ramifications of Geoff Johns stepping down from his Chief Creative Officer position at DC Comics are still being felt with directions that can be pretty off-putting, particularly at the beginning of the year. Although is not enterily fair to put all the blame on that since some books from this list started even during his Rebirth initiative and you can just guess what's going to be here with that.

Let's not beat a dead horse and hope is completely dead after this:

10. Dan Abnett's Titans.

One has to appreciate when a writer is honest about a title's flaws.

And believe me, Dan Abnett's Titans run was many things and "flawed" is probably the most defining word for it. Since the beginning, the book suffered from rather slow storylines that not even fans' nostalgia and love for Wally West could fix due that the overly-boringness of the arcs were too much for even them to handle.

Hell, not even a change of direction could save this cursed series since once that the new status quo for the team, making them a group responsible of controlling the new Metahumans that were created after the beginning of Scott Snyder's Justice League run, was enough since they started to lose some of the most important and interesting members and everything quickly went to crap once again.

But if there's something that you have to give Abnett is that he was willing to take the blame for all of the series' problems as you might notice in the image above, something that not many writers are actually willing to do because of pride or whatever. "Shoddy writing, no wonder the series never found an audience", is just admirable.

However, I'm personally not willing to put all the blame on Abnett, in fact, I'm not putting most of the blame of Abnett because DC editorial had a lot of input in the book's failure. Don't get me wrong, Abnett can be certainly responsible for how dull the execution of some of the stories were but it seems like DC was decided to sabotage the title constantly with frequent changes of direction that I don't think any competent writer could have salvaged.

Take for example the beginning of the series, it mostly seemed like Abnett was buying some time until DC was planning what to actually do with Wally West because the whole idea of Abra Kadabra being responsible for Wally's disappearance makes no sense whatsoever and that was quickly forgotten after it. If you want even more proofs then you just have to check how prominent Nightwing was for Abnett's new story following Snyder's Justice League... only for him to quickly leave the book because DC wanted to turn Dick Grayson into "Rick" Grayson and wipe his memories which of course, derailed the whole plot. There was no way the title could recover after that.

Actually, the only reason why I'm calling this spot "Dan Abnett's Titans" is mostly for the sake of tradition of these lists since it should be really called: "DC Editorial's Titans" but since I've already chosen a format and Abnett wants to be handled responsible then I've no other choice.

Oh, but there are others who have the full blame.

9. Kelly Sue DeConnick's Aquaman.

Tell me if you have heard this one before: Aquaman is banished from Atlantis.

Okay, okay, you can stop now. I know damn well that this is like the 10th time such idea has been used but for some reason DC thought it was worth being explored just one more time (But probably not the last).

Giving this the benefit of the doubt though, is not like it was necessarily a toxic premise and with the right craft it might have been at the very least fun to experience. The problem as always falls on the execution and DeConnick's left quite a bit to be desired to put it kindly.

Why? Because quite frankly this is one of the most BORING runs, not only from Aquaman but from all DC Comics that I've seen in a while. To start, DeConnick made Arthur lose his memory (Very original premise) and introduced a bunch of characters that claimed to be more important and interesting than they actually were. I swear to God that I can't remember any single person who was created during this run and what makes things even worse? Is that these are supposed to be some sort of Gods so making deities completely unremarkable is basically a sin.

The stories are nothing to write about either and, again, DeConnick's writing tries to depict everything in a much more grandiose manner than it actually deserves due that since neither the characters nor concepts are worth exploring, such effort feels melodramatic and pointless.

Do you know what makes this run even more pointless? That Dan Abnett made the same basic direction during his run just before DeConnick with a greater effect which ultimately made the latter seem redundant and weaker in comparison (Not that it needed it of course).

I care so little about this run that I'm really at loss about what else to say about it aside from that is to put it bluntly, a waste of time.

But hey, at least it wasn't a disappointment.

8. G. Willow Wilson's Wonder Woman.

Now, this is a disappointment.

I consider myself a Ms. Marvel fan, the Kamala Khan version to be specific and everything is thanks to G. Willow Wilson who created her and wrote unique stories that explored her own culture and world in an compelling manner so I was excited to see what she was able to do with DC's most important superheroine.

Sadly, my excitement quickly plummeted just after the first chapter since just from then you just could tell that Wilson didn't really have anything interesting to tell about the character.

In fact, this run is pretty similar to Kelly Sue DeConnick's run on Aquaman, it tells extremely BORING stories in a direction that many other writers have explored before. What makes Wilson's run worse though, is that I was actually expecting good stuff from her, at least her own characteristically solid character work but there wasn't even a glance of it during this series.

But I think I'm being a bit kind by saying that Wilson has been following a direction that other writers did because I don't think even her had a clear direction about where she was going. At first it seemed like it was about trying to find the Amazons who were missing after Greg Rucka's insultingly underwhelming ending but then it quickly got derailed to follow a bunch of quirky characters, then a story about a Wonder Woman villain, then an introduction of a rather forgettable heroine, then the appearance of a God, etc. And is not like most of that was fun to see, it was mostly padding. When the most enjoyable issue of a run is a tale about anthropomorphic animals that barely involved Wonder Woman and could have been told in any other book then you know you have failed at writing the Amazing Amazon.

At this point I think the book is cursed. We had to endure Rucka's ultimately petty and poor run, Robinson's creatively bankrupt one and now Wilson's misguided and dull one. It seems like the days of Brian Azarello's quality are long gone.

And she's not the only mishandled character.

7. Steve Orlando's Martian Manhunter.

For God's sake Steve Orlando, what the f*ck happened to you?

I'm serious, sometimes I think you still got it thanks to works like Gotham City Monsters which is pretty entertaining but other times I'm just confused about what you're really thinking with some of your directions.

And no, Steve Orlando is not a bad writer, I will always maintain that and remember his early Midnighter series as the highlight from its own time but considering some of the flops he has been working on in recent years, I can understand why some people don't put him on a high regard.

Martian Manhunter is the latest of Orlando's failures and this is pretty bad one for me personally because I'm a huge fan of J'onn J'onnz, I love his extremely kind and compassionate personality that sometimes surpasses even Superman's and basically turns him into the father figure of the whole DCU.

Orlando apparently thinks differently though since the first thing he decided to do was turning him into a corrupt cop on his planet who used to beat Martians for the Government and I don't think you could get a character more wrong even if you really, REALLY tried. It's like you wanted to take the character as far from his classic incarnation as possible for the whole sake of shocking readers and such direction is extremely close to being creatively bankrupt because of how overused and tiring is. We're not in the 80s or 90s for the love of Lord.

Yes, yes, I know what Orlando is probably thinking and currently doing. Trying to make J'onn eventually learn from his mistake and become his most well-known person but tell me, is such journey really necessary just to return to the character we're truly used to? This screams "pointless" to me, there were thousands of ways that Orlando could have created an interesting story with classic J'onn but he decided to do the complete opposite in a vain attempt at surprising the audience and the only surprise for him was how critically panned the book was ("Surprise for him" being the keyword since everyone saw it coming).

No, I don't care if Orlando tried to salvage such direction by saying that "is out of continuity". The book was clearly published as a regular DCU series and there are other out of continuity books that respect the core of their characters, there's no excuse. Even despite of how much I disliked Rob Williams' pretentious and pointless run, I have to admit that even he got J'onn's character better.

Not a good year for one of the most powerful heroes in the DCU and he's far from the only one.

6. Brian Bendis' Action Comics.

This hasn't been a good year for Superman.

I have expressed last year how much I detested Brian Bendis' beginning of his work on the Superman line, particularly how he handled the character Clark's son, Jon Kent who went from one of the most charming superhero kids in comics to an annoying brat who throwed a temper for reasons that are hard to explain aside from Bendis wanting him out of the books.

However and to be fair, I actually thought that his Action Comics run started fairly decently with interesting stories dealing with Metropolis as a whole which helped expand Superman's city while introducing a group of new interesting characters and giving a sound voice to old ones, is the kind of worldbuilding that I can appreciate.

Unfortunately, Bendis is anything but consistent and the book took a nosedive halfway this year because he was more focused on his crossover Event Leviathan which was actually a decent book (underwhelming ending aside but you know Bendis). The problem is that Action Comics was the title leading-up to that event and since Event Leviathan was continuing the main story now, Action Comics was forced to drag, and I mean draaaaaag, what little story they got left to make time for Event Leviathan to end, reveal who truly Leviathan was and follow the new status quo.

For that reason Action Comics eventually became a lifeless book, one that was basically just a bunch of filler stuff that couldn't be kept in the main event, stuff that wasn't even really interesting to explore and worst of all, it also suffered from Bendis' typical decompression and so the pacing of the title became even slower. Bendis even used it as Trojan Horse for his new pet character Naomi and was pretty useless since she didn't contribute to anything to the story and not even her own story progressed that much due that it's being saved for her upcoming second miniseries (You can start noticing a trend).

The main reason why this book is on this list is because with Action Comics stopping being worth reading, the whole Superman line has nothing now because boy, oh boy, this is not even the worst Superman book under Bendis' pen.

But we're going to wait a little for that since there's yet another book that I believe damaged a whole line.

5. Scott Snyder/James Tynion IV's Justice League.

Okay, maybe not "damaged a whole line" since some of the other books were still good but still the ramifications of this were felt over many other titles.

I was actually kinda interested in Scott Snyder's arrival in Justice League. He was coming after a wildly successful run on Batman (which was not perfect but still entertaining overall) and I always thoughts his cinematic and bombastic style was pretty much perfect for the series.

Well, that certainly went well because for some reason Snyder brought some of his worst ticks here and even the best felt lesser and derivative to say the least. One of the biggest problems from his Batman book was the sometimes overwrought narration and my God, it seems like Snyder thought that his Batman run was too subtle for some reason because he decided to make some of the most overwritten titles that I've seen in a while. Basically every chapter contains a third-person narration (which I personally hate) that has the need to explain every single of what's happening in story and even if that wasn't enough, most of the characters have the urgency to say every single thought they have in their minds out loud. Is overexposition at its worst and considering that Justice League is a book of mostly cinematic action, meaning that the art should be the one telling the story for the most part, makes the writing clash terrible with the tone of the title.

Far from the only problem though since Snyder's idea of worldbuilding and antagonists is simply: "Make them BIGGER and STRONGER!". This is especially obvious when at the beginning of his run he created Perpetua who is the mother of both the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor no less! (Which means that she's superpowerful!) Able to destroy universes at her pleasure (Which... pretty much was the Anti-Monitor's whole theme so she's redundant) and a lot of other cool stuff. What Snyder fails to realize that a big power level doesn't translate into an actual personality and if there's something that Perpetua is pretty weak at, is having a personality, she's just a big bad and not even the kind of big bad that Grant Morrison creates and compensates with an interesting concept behind, Perpetua is barely an idea.

Oh, and there's also a third son of Perpetua who combines with the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor to create the Ultra-Monitor! What is this? Power levels? Powerful villains with no personality? Fusion? Yes, this is the Dragon Ball Z of American comics!

And that comparison is not that off since Snyder keeps injecting big moment after big moment without a rest and not even the fanservice segments feel as good because there's very little space to breath (Here's the Justice Society of America! Cool. Here's the Justice League One Million! Neat. Here's the Justice League Beyond! Okay, okay, I get it, you really want to please me). It's almost like Snyder doesn't have much faith in his story so he has to overcompesate with these scenes. That's all this book is, is just shallow spectacle.

Remember also how I said that this book damaged quite a few others? Well, just look at its perpetually ongoing event "Year of the Villain", an event that was very derivative from many other DC villain crossovers before with a lazier name and an even lazier execution that forced a lot of titles to tie-in with it, making them shorter and predictable since they all needed to end-up the same way with each one of them receiving an "offer".

You might also be wondering why do I include James Tynion IV here though and the answer is because he joined Snyder in quite a few issues of this run and big surprise since what is Tynion except of a lesser Snyder? There's not a lot of difference between the two and Tynion continues many of the same problems as his teacher.

I might be skipping a few other issues with this run (Joker's fanboyism, Batman who Laughs, Luthor's portrayal) but let's just say that they're perfectly summarized in: This book could be more subtle.

And speaking of books that could be more subtle:

4. Cecil Castelluci's Female Furies.

Boy, I'm pretty sure I'm kicking a hornet's nest here. After all this book touches very delicate topics concerning harassment towards women and such themes deserve to be heard and be talked about.

But you know what? If I can criticize Scott Snyder for his blunt writing and Tom King for his pretentious writing (More of that later) then I sure as hell can criticize this book for having both things.

As with quite a few titles from this list, I was kinda excited about this one because it was a brand new series based on the legendary New Gods franchise created by Jack Kirby and it was about characters who rarely received the spotlight.

But I just had to check out the first issue, the first frikking issue to realize how this was not so much about the New Gods or the Female Furies as much as trying to make a statement about the topic I mentioned earlier.

Cecil Castelluci really wanted to tell a story about harassment, so much that in fact she changed quite a few characters from the New Gods to actually fit into it. You see, there's apparently an epidemy of rampant sexism going on in Apokolips and not even Darkseid himself is safe from it. All the men, and I mean ALL THE MEN, are misoginistic pigs who treat women like sh*t for no apparent reason. How did all this happen? Why do all of these characters who never before showcased this behavior suddenly act this way? Of course there's no answer since this is all to support the premise this book is going for.  There's "heavyhanded" and there's "beating you to death with a single idea" and I guess you can imagine where this story falls.

Again, I'm not saying that sexism couldn't have been appropriately explored in this setting but when you start making every single male character a blatant douche then the whole concept starts getting extremely repetitive. Worst of all is that you get a lot of New Gods wrong just to display such theme because they're all misoginists in a very particular way, in a very Earthly way. Even some characters like Darkseid could have still been sexist by forcing himself into his female servants instead of acting like a creepy old boss who coerces them into having sex with him in the exchange of a promotion (Yes, the former would have been also pretty terrible but at least it would have been in character).

Even more damaging though, is how counterproductive this ends-up being for the female cast. The Female Furies never needed this obtuse execution to show how competent, fearsome and badass they always were, they only needed to show them in story. Even Jack Kirby understood this back in the 70s, that's why he based Big Barda on his own wife, because he knew women are powerful. This story just turns them into complete victims who barely have any agency on their own.

And if that social commentary wasn't proof enough already, let's just say that Castelluci is not exactly the most subtle political writer either since, as we see above, a Trump-looking New God yelling to your face: "You're a nasty woman!" is the bluntest, laziest and cringiest way to try to pass as "political".

The funny thing about this is that Cecil Castelluci is actually not a bad writer. Her Shade: The Changing Girl series was decent based on the little I've read about it and her Batgirl run has been pretty solid so far and she hasn't gone full Hope Larson's "progressive" there either (at least not yet).

No, is just that she's not really the best author to talk about such topics, or at least not the most appropriate author to talk about such topics since she portrays them as simplistic as possible and not with the right kind of characters.

Which reminds me of other writers that are not fit to write some characters and my God, there's a lot of them.

3. Brian Bendis' Superman.

Same writer, same spot. This is going to get repetitive as I've said.

Yes, Bendis' Action Comics only turned bad halfway this year, Bendis' Superman though? It has been bad since its conception.

You see, unlike Action Comics, Bendis' Superman run has its roots from his extremely flawed Man of Steel miniseries. Meaning that all the same mistakes from last year are kept here including the dumb parenting of Lois and Clark (particularly the former), the extremely uninspired antagonist Rogol Zaar and even more importantly, the terrible treatment of the character of Jon Kent.

I'm going to emphasize especially that last point because I've been a huge fan of Jon even before his Rebirth appearance and Super Sons. From his conception, he was portrayed as a sweet and innocent child who could be a hothead but always had his heart in the right place, you know, like a normal child. He pretty much was a modern Bart Allen/Impulse (even more likable in my opinion), he oozed charm everywhere.

Bendis' Jon however, is not even a pale shadow of that person, is more like Bendis' Jon is a completely unrecognizable character. As I mentioned last year, Bendis portrayed him a whiny brat who throwed tantrums for no justifiable reasons (aside from following Bendis' plot which is a common trend), this year though, Bendis apparently tried to overcompensate for his early treatment of Jon and instead went too much to other extreme, turning him into a by the numbers "good boy" who has a much personality as a cardboard. Bendis just doesn't know how to write the character.

Oh, and he also made him older. If the previous portrayals were not bad enough, this was what completely ruined Superboy.

The appeal of Jon was that he was a fun superhero kid in a world where adult and teenage Metahumans were abundant. Bendis just made him another one of the bunch, losing all the distinctiveness Jon once had and the only reason behind this was explained quite a few issues after it since surprise, surprise! Bendis wanted him out of the book to star into his own new Legion of Super-Heroes series where he's basically a young Clark (Ugh).

This is getting tiring from me I know but as a fan of the Super Sons, I also can't help but mention how much he doesn't understand the dynamic between Jon and Damian. Once the former lost all of his personality, it made the dynamic way weaker since the point of it was how Jon liked to tease Damian often. Plus, Bendis doesn't really know how to write Damian either since he suddenly made him into a kid who likes to give hugs.

About the story, it's just a weak and decompressed plot that tries to deliver big moments but it just fails in execution since Bendis can't be Geoff Johns no matter how much he tries. Besides, since everything revolves around Rogol Zaar as a villain, it just makes everything less interesting to watch.

*Sigh* Speaking of things less interesting to watch:

2. Tom King's Batman.

We're almost over, we're almost over.

This year we had the happy announcement that this critically acclaimed run is going to be over with issue 85 and the common question among every reader was: Why the hell did it take so long?

Tom King's Batman run has not even been a polarizing work, that's giving it too much credit. It has been a consistently underwhelming work since its birth, even Tom King's fans agree that is a disappointing book compared to his other works and, since I wasn't a fan of him to begin with, this has been an especially terrible tenure for me.

Apparently for King, every chapter, every single decompressed and pretentious chapter from his era was building-up to this year where Bane, the "Multiversal Manipulator", executed his masterful plan of breaking Batman and just like I mentioned before, is as impossible as possible because for such plan to actually succeed, Bane would need to have some kind of supernatural precognition or else there's no sense for every single event to happen precisely in the same detail as he thought and every single character to behave exactly as he expected. This whole thing is ludicrous and turned Bane into a joke instead of the competent antagonist that King intended.

But, believe it or not, what makes this whole thing worse is the execution.

There's a single issue where King describes with an overwrought narration Bane's idea and is one of the most tedious wastes of time of the entire year and makes the sequence of events even more unbelievable because it actually makes you think about it, something that King shouldn't have ever made the reader do because once you start thinking about King's work, you start realizing how stupid it truly is.

And it gets better! After the build-up, after the complete build-up that took supposedly and literally years, King took the smart decision of concluding the fight between Batman and Bane even faster and even more anticlimactically than the last one because he suddenly wanted to make the battle between Bruce and the Flashpoint Batman the actual final one of his run, pretty much wasting years of chapters and readers for an ending that wasn't even the major focus of his run.

Yes, yes, I'm sure some King defenders might say: "Oh, but remember how fond Bruce was of his parents at the beginning of his run? Then that makes it a fitting conclusion!".

To what I say: NO! F*ck that! That was just a terrible direction King implemented that regressed Bruce to a very early stage of his development since he wanted to write a very miserable story for him.

Because that's all King does! He writes miserable stories for characters to make them suffer as much as possible and regressing them to a very specific trait of their personalities without realizing that they are so much more than that.

Of course you know where this is leading to, because if there's a series that condenses all of King's flaws then there's simply no other choice.

1. Tom King's Heroes in Crisis.

I swear to God that in all my years doing these lists there wasn't a single image that described exactly what was so wrong about a series and characterization as much as the one above.

Last year, Heroes in Crisis topped this list by far because it demonstrated a complete disregard of characters history and even basic psychology because it decided to throw heroes who never showed any sort of mental illness into an automatized asylum were there was such wonderful treatments as reliving painful traumas and inflicting mental and physical pain.

In hindsight I probably should have seen that this was going to be terrible, not only because of King's erratic track record but also because of how awful that summary sounds.

Nonetheless, nothing was preparing me for what was coming this year since, even I wouldn't believe it, Heroes in Crisis actually got worse.

Wally West was my first and he still is my favorite Flash. He represented a young man who due to the death of his mentor was forced to assume his role, eventually reaching the same achievements and ultimately surpassing him. Something that really resonated with me and turned him into one of the best and most accomplished characters in comics.

Well, Tom King decided to throw all those years of success to trash since no, it turned out that he didn't kill Wally, he character assassinated him.

Just as many of us suspected last year (and it wasn't hard since it was heavily hinted), Wally wasn't actually death but instead he turned out to be the one who killed all the heroes in Sanctuary. Why? Because he had a nervous breakdown which apparently made him lose control of his powers and in his state accidently murdered his friends.

Let's start from the beginning. This whole "Speedsters need to stay calm or else their powers will go berserk" is a complete retcon bullcrap that King needed to create a supposedly logical reason to make Wally the killer but makes no sense whatsoever based on the years of worldbuilding and development of The Flash's mythos. It never happened before and it shouldn't have happened now.

Second, it turns out that Wally went out of control because he grew paronoid because he thought that his fellow heroes were trying to get rid of him which is yet another nonsensical decision since most of Wally's run was dedicated to him gaining confidence as a hero and proving himself to the superhero community. Again, years of development to trash.

Third, Wally's original premise even from his creation in 1959 was about how much he loved being a superhero and his speed with subsequent stories reinforcing that idea so giving him a disadvantage out of nowhere for his unique talent ends-up being counterproductive for the character. You notice a trend here.

Fourth and even most importantly, I could have even accepted that Wally accidently killed his friends if it wasn't for the little, insignificant problem that King made Wally ran away and incriminate Booster Gold and Harley Quinn for the murders!

That is the character assassination. Not that Wally died, not that Wally killed, but that Wally West, one of the purest superheroes there is, decided to run away from his responsibilities and mistakes and falsely accussed innocent and damaged people of crimes himself committed. I would like to think that this is an evil Wally from Earth 3 or something but I would be lying to myself. This is Tom King's Wally West, a pathetic, broken and cowardly man who betrays his friends and moral code for basically anything.

However, Heroes in Crisis is not only guilty of character assassination, it's also guilty of plot assassination.

The simplistic mystery is not the only problem from this terrible crossover, the problem is that there's not a mystery at all when you think about it (Again, this is a King trope). The solution was quickly given as far as issue 1 and in not a very subtle way. However, what completely destroys any sense of a story is the conclusion. I mean, nothing could have saved this mess of a destruction of continuity but at least I was hoping for an appropriate resolution for some of the problems here. Coming from King of course, that didn't happen, the solution to the case was time travel (something that never, ever works, especially for an investigation story), mostly forgiving Wally for killing and blaming people and Sanctuary somehow STILL functioning despite of such blatant examples about why it shouldn't exist in the first place!

There are so many things to complaint about. The obvious pretentious writing since King doesn't really know anything about treating mental illness, the decompressed chapters since there were quite a few where very little happened, the pages of talking heads which didn't tell us much about the characters and had some of the worst dialogue that I've seen. There's just so much to talk about this that I could dedicate an entire article about it.

But no, I don't think that Heroes in Crisis deserves more attention that I'm giving to it. I kinda regret putting so much effort on this. Is better if we just forget what happened here and don't talk about it ever again.

Everything that could go wrong went wrong and beyond.

Final question: Do I consider Tom King a bad writer?

... Is funny how such answer changes from year to year.

Last year I said no because at least 2018 had Mister Miracle to contradict such statement. 2019 though, had nothing else going for King and his other books were also pretty bad, not as bad as Heroes in Crisis but still pretty bad.

So yeah, I would say that in 2019 Tom King was a bad writer. In 2020 however? Who knows?

So, that was my Top Ten Worst DC Comics of 2019 list everyone. As you should expect at this point, I'm not willing to be disappointed at the end of the year so be prepared for my Top Ten Best DC Comics of 2019 list to show how good this year actually is.

See you then!

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