Monday, March 7, 2011

Comics That Should Be Better

The whole point of this blog is to highlight things about comic books that we miss or that really stand out as noteworthy (or cringeworthy, as the case may be). I want to look now at a few titles that should be a whole lot better than they are, but for one reason or another are floundering badly and in need of a push.

Captain America

After they killed Steve Rogers, it seemed like Marvel was taking a big step forward by allowing Bucky to take the suit. In much the same way that Wally West stepped in as the Flash for his mentor when Barry Allen died, Bucky would be the sidekick who became the hero. Unfortunately, it took Marvel almost a dozen issues between when Steve "died" and Bucky put on the suit. The Falcon stepped in as main center character, but he couldn't keep the momentum of the book going. The trip to him finally "suiting up" was good enough that we'd give them a chance to improve in future issues, but it wasn't the best story ever told for Cap.

Then Marvel decided to put Bucky on trial for his crimes as Winter Soldier. Okay, we knew it was coming so that was expected a little. Then we entered this same costume-less abyss of storytelling that started us into the "Bucky as Cap" run. Once more, Marvel brought the Falcon and Black Widow front and center to handle the "action" parts of the story while they buried Bucky and the now-alive Steve Rogers under page after page of dialogue. Now the trial is over, but Marvel spent so much time dragging the fans through the mud in their desperate attempt to be the next Grant Morrison story that we don't care about the character anymore.

Yes, I understand the whole point of the ".1" Marvel stories last month was to give new readers a chance to jump on board...but honestly, what's the point of taking six months to reboot a series no one really cared about anymore? We've had Steve Rogers limited series as "Super Soldier" and an old Captain America story, but we know with the movie coming out Steve will have to put the suit back on by the summer anyway.

All in all, I think Marvel gave up on this title last year and just decided to take a two-issue arch and turn it into a six-issue storyline so they could fill space until it got closer to the movie. It really wasn't fair to Bucky (who had started out doing a great job as Captain America) or to the readers who suffered through the incredibly long process it took to get him in costume.

Comic books like this show the weakness Marvel has when forcing every single storyline into a 6-issue arc. Some plots are made for short and sweet stories only. Flooding them with filler pages just to get it into a trade paperback just kills the title's momentum over time.

The Flash

Finding out Geoff Johns is taking over a title you love is like winning the lottery. With the return of Barry Allen as the Flash added to the mix, it seemed like there was no way this could lose.

A sporadic publishing schedule combined with a storyline that lacked the fire of anything Johns had come up with for Green Lantern gave fans a little pause. "The Flash: Rebirth" didn't have the punch of Hal Jordan's return, but that could be contributed to the fact that Barry Allen had already returned before the storyline came out (rather than the cool return of Hal Jordan we got with GL:Rebirth), so this was more of a re-introduction to the character for folks who had grown up on Wally West in the scarlet suit.

The first six issues of the series didn't break any new ground either. A recent single-issue story gave us the origin of Professor Zoom that really added depth to the speedster's arch-enemy and paved the way for the upcoming "Flashpoint" mega-event.

2011 is supposed to be the big year for the Flash as "Flashpoint" has no less than 14 different mini-series and one-shots springing out of it. Here's hoping it takes this character to the heights fans have been expecting from Geoff since he took over the character.

Batman: Odyssey
Even though the future of this title is currently in doubt, I had to include it in this list as one of my biggest disappointments.

Tell anyone that Neal Adams is drawing a Batman title again, and they'll immediately have high hopes. Adams is considered by many to be the quintessential Batman artist, having taken the Dark Knight through the tumultuous 70's and made him tough in the process.

Now add to the  mix the fact that DC is giving him a free hand in what he does and you imagine nothing but great things coming out of it all. Unfortunately, the first six issues of this 12-issue maxi-series have floundered horribly.

The story isn't part of the Batman canon. As a matter of fact, there is actually very little of a comprehensible story involved. Batman uses guns regularly, he's actually a Hispanic Bruce Wayne, and so far he's found a way to get shot in almost every issue. I've already written about my total confusion and disappointment in this title before, so I won't beat a dead horse. Suffice it to say if DC finishes this 13 issue maxiseries and Adams doesn't pull a major rabbit out of the hat for the last seven issues, this could be his own "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" rather than "The Dark Knight Returns" that he had envisioned.

Brightest Day

I loved Blackest Night, and one of the key moments for me was when I saw two of my favorite DC characters (Deadman and Hawk) among those brought back by the White Lantern ring, I knew I was going to buy the follow-up story without hesitation.

But where "Blackest Night" moved along quickly and cohesively to a major point, "Brightest Day" seems to meander a lot. I'm sure there is some major point they are leading to, but it seems like they are in no hurry to get there and we've lost sight of the whole purpose of the storyline.

Deadman, Hawk and Dove have the most important storyline, as they are trying to find the White Lantern that the ring is leading them toward. In the process, Boston Brand is adjusting to life as a powerless human again, while trying to figure out what the ring wants him to do. That's good reading, and it's the only reason I've stuck with the series.

The problem is that we have a Martian Manhunter storyline that could have been skipped. The Aquaman storyline existed solely to introduce the reboot version of Aqualad. The Firestorm storyline is really good as Ronnie Raymond is back now, but it has taken a long time to get to this point where it is good. The Hawkman storyline wasn't that compelling either. Now that they've started killing these returned characters off, it could be a promising twist to the otherwise bland story. Time will tell.

I think Blackest Night worked so well because there were those 3-issue miniseries offshoot stories that you could choose to follow if you wanted to. For "Brightest Day" there were no offshoots. Instead, the Martian Manhunter miniseries, the Aquaman miniseries, and the Hawkman miniseries were all integrated into the main storyline, which buried the true theme of the book and dragged it to the point where two or three pages in the book further the main story, while the rest just seems to be telling something else altogether.

This may be one of those titles that can only be appreciated when read as a whole after all the issues are published. The story is almost over now. I still have hope, but I'm afraid few people will look back on it as the same powerful work we saw from its predecessor.

Those are four titles I think should be doing better. There will be more in a future post. What about you? What titles were you expecting more from?

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