To me, there are two types of “bad” comic: something that is just badly crafted in terms of story/art or something that’s disappointing. To me, the latter is worse. You can usually see a bad comic coming a mile away, but a comic that has everything needed to be good and fails anyway, that will always hurt more. 2017 has been a solid year for comics, but there have been some disappointment. Some of these were set up in 2016, while others were a bit newer to the poop party. Regardless, they let me down in a big way, and I need to make a list, dammit! So in ascending order, here are my top comic letdowns of 2017.
Also, the reason this list is super late is because I wasn’t going to do it. It just got too far into 2018… then I saw ProJared (and others) make 2017 lists still and decided to just make this super succinct. So I’m doing this quick and dirty, because I just need to get these off my chest.
While DC have done a good job slowly building up most of their big returns in Rebirth, the Legion of Super-Heroes have gone nowhere. They were teased from the start of Rebirth, with Saturn Girl in police custody and her flight ring a piece of evidence, and basically nothing has happened since. There was a Supergirl arc involving the Future Five, and… Saturn Girl freaks out in “The Button”… and Tom King teased us a bit in Batman. It’s just frustrating, especially since the interest is certainly there.
A Failed ResurrXion
The ResurrXion relaunch was supposed to be a return to form for both the X-Men and Inhuman franchises after the terrible Inhumans vs. X-Men storyline. With new series and creative shake-ups, it was meant to really reinvigorate both franchises, and… well, Black Bolt and Old Man Logan are good… and I’m assuming All-New Wolverine is still coasting by. Everything has just been incredibly forgettable. X-Men: Gold advertised a return to basics that turned out to be mediocre stories using all the typical X-cliches (and some of Marc Guggenheim’s annoying writing habits). X-Men: Blue is a series nobody asked for and seems to exist because… I don’t even know, actually. Weapon X had its launch hampered by a bad crossover that it’s still dealing with. Cable existed… and that’s all that can be said there (seriously, that was an amazingly pointless story). Generation X, Iceman and Jean Grey are being cancelled. Astonishing X-Men is content with defying X-cliches, as if it should get a pat on the back for just that and doesn’t actually need any emotion in its writing. Royals is wallowing in family drama more than anything else. Secret Warriors is just another mediocre team book from Marvel (and I say that with full knowledge of how bad Champions became). The entire relaunch has fell flat on its face, and now it’s up to Marvel’s Legacy series like Legion, Rogue & Gambit and X-Men: Red to save the X-Men, while it feels like Marvel will be giving up on the Inhumans after lackluster sales and audience response, a terrible show, and getting the X-Men film rights back. 2017 will certainly be an interesting year for Marvel’s Merry Mutants.
Too Much Tynion
While I’m not a fan of James Tynion IV’s writing, Detective Comics and Batwoman had big potential. One is a Bat-team book featuring fan favourite characters (and Clayface) while the other is a new ongoing for one of DC’s big successes from the last decade after her New 52 series imploded thanks to creative differences. But Tynion brought all his usual habits along: awful exposition-filled dialogue, fanfic-calibre stories obviously meant to pander, surface-level storytelling that lacks depth, and just the feeling that someone else should’ve handled these projects. Detective is only worth reading when it’s dealing with wider DC Universe hijinks with Mr. Oz and time travel and the like, and even then its quality is iffy. Batwoman, on the other hand, is tied to whatever story Tynion’s trying to tell, and it feels like Marguerite Bennett is just hampered with all this excess baggage, and this is coming from someone who will give Bennett tons of slack because he loves Animosity so much. Both Detective Comics and Batwoman just turned out to be huge letdowns.
Justice League of America
Steve Orlando’s new incarnation of the Justice League of America had a lot going for it. An interesting, diverse cast with tons of story potential from their backstories alone, it seemed like Justice League of America was poised to be the Justice League title worth reading. But after some mostly great one-shot issues that introduced these interesting characters, the series just went nowhere, with uninteresting stories. It was so bad that I dropped off right after the second arc. That the series opened with a fairly standard battle against Lord Havoc (basically Doctor Doom) did not speak well of it. And it’s truly a shame, because the Atoms, the Ray and Killer Frost had so much potential set up. Hell, the Atoms alone could’ve maintained an ongoing, with a good status quo set up with Ryan Choi, a good supporting cast in his roommate (who was briefly an Atom himself pre-Flashpoint) and not evil Jean Loring, the ex-wife of previous Atom Ray Palmer, the mystery of Ray Palmer’s disappearance, Ryan’s parents… and instead we got a mediocre Justice League series that I’m amazed is still going.
After the breakout success of Grayson, Tim Seeley had my faith. Instead, it turns out only Tom King deserved it. While both have a great understanding of Dick’s character, only King seems to understand the Batfamily entirely. Seeley’s handling of Damian Wayne regressed the character back so far, it’s as if all Seeley’s read of him is Grant Morrison’s works. Which makes sense, since Grayson was a follow-up on Morrison’s Spyral plot, while Nightwing is concerned with some Grayson plots and Morrison’s Batman and Robin. The result is a series that would’ve been great if it launched at the start of the New 52, but as is, just doesn’t feel right. And that’s just Damian! There was also Raptor, a character who had potential as (another) dark reflection of Batman in Dick’s world: a Romani thief who wants Dick to embraced his heritage and throw off the influence of his mentor. Except the character is just… bland. He’s kind of charming, but is overpowered (his intro has him effortlessly beating Dick, and he has a gauntlet that literally gives him anything he needs to win a fight… yes, I mean literally!) and has more than a bit of cliches. Also, while he was threatening, since he knew the Batfamily’s identities, that’st aken away from him unceremoniously at the end of his introductory arc. While the new version of Bludhaven is fine as a tourist city with a bit of an Asian population, the new supporting cast were wasted. Shawn Tsang had a lot of potential as Dick’s new love interest, and fit with the theme of “second chances” that the series loves. But then Seeley decided to insanely rush the couple’s development, basically using just one issue to show how their relationship evolves, with numerous time skips. That alone was terrible, but then the series focused more and more on Shawn, who came off more as Seeley’s pet than anything else. Nightwing was truly disappointing, and while I was reading, all I could do is think “I miss Tom King.”
An Image series by the creative team behind the incredible Alex + Ada, Eternal Empire should be one of my favourite current ongoings. But instead, I dropped it after about three issues, which is an issue more than I should’ve given it, because this series is just incredibly boring, in addition to being way too slow. While Alex +Ada was also very decompressed, it was always to world-build or lend greater weight to a moment, and the art complimented that style. Eternal Empire seems decompressed for no reason, its world is incredibly uninteresting and the art feels too stilted. What should have been one of the highlights of 2017 instead meandered and just went nowhere.
Old Man Logan
Jeff Lemire’s Old Man Logan was one of my favourite ongoings when it started. It balanced drama and action, wasn’t afraid to present Logan in a negative light, and had a character who felt like the best parts of Wolverine with none of the baggage. By the time Lemire left the series, he’d basically repeated one character arc about four times. Logan’s entire thing became “needs to move on”. It was boring and was only saved by Andrea Sorrentino’s art, and it even lost that after a while. While Batman takes a while to go through his distrust/trust arc! This series just became a big ball of nothing, which makes sense given Lemire’s tenure at Marvel (and yes, I know his Moon Knight was apparently really good, just let me have this, okay?).
Infamous Iron Man
The premise of Infamous Iron Man is a great one: Doctor Doom, still trying to reform after the events of 2015’s Secret Wars, sets out to honour Tony Stark by taking up the mantle of Iron Man, with his distinctly shady past factoring in to his dealings with Marvel’s supervillain community… and who comes after him. The heroic Doom had a good start, being one of the few good things about Brian Michael Bendis’ Iron Man run (aside from some off characterisation at times), and his sudden shift in morality being very well set up by Jonathan Hickman. Bendis did a wonderful job exploring Doom’s new status quo, as he was hunted by SHIELD and Ben Grimm, while using his connection in the supervillain community to capture his former colleagues. And in all this, Ultimate Reed Richards was working behind the scenes with Doom’s mother with some nefarious plan…
And it all turned to crap like all of Bendis’ plots eventually do. The budding respect Doom and Ben had for each other, and how they bonded over the loss of Reed and Sue? Gone, because Ben never believed Doom could change and thinks he’s an irredeemably awful person. Ultimate Reed and Doom’s mother? Nope, just Mephisto and an illusion, never mind how it makes zero sense why Mephisto would pick the form of Ultimate Reed Richards when he was trying to pass himself off as the main Reed. And of course, the entire last issue has Mephisto monologue and speak directly to the reader, because Bendis had to somehow make sense of this cop out. I get it, Bendis. You’re leaving Marvel and had to wrap things up. But did you have to burn everything to the ground on your way out? Couldn’t you at least give an Uncanny X-Men #600-esque apology and farewell? Apparently not. Status quos are back, Hickman’s redeemed Doom is wasted, Zdarsky writes Doom out of character in Marvel 2-in-One and nothing is achieved. What a waste of time. So I guess it’s the perfect way to sum up most of Bendis’ Marvel output in recent years.
Almost Everything with the Flashes
DC’s Rebirth relaunch was supposed to be a return to form for the Flash franchise. The return of the original Wally West signified a return of legacy to not just the DC universe, but to the Flash franchise especially. There was foreshadowing of Jay Garrick’s return, as well as the formation of a new Flash Family with the two Wallys.
And… it went nowhere. In fact, it was insulting how it went nowhere. Wally joining the Titans to help discover the mysteries of the reboot? Nope, they just set up a horrible story where Linda Park fails to remember him because they were never a couple in the New 52 timeline, destroying the strongest Flash couple and leaving it to Dan Abnett to reconstruct their relationship, and obviously not do as good a job as Mark Waid did. Oh, and Titans itself went nowhere and just wallows in annoying superhero tropes. When the Shade mentioned wanting “hope”, after Barry sees Jay Garrick and how it made him hopeful? Nope, he meant his love interest. Oh, and the Shade is now a Barry villain, because who cares about Jay Garrick, right? Oh, and when Jay comes back? Well it’s for like four pages and he just says some stuff that might imply that Joan Garrick is dead (and if so, screw you, DC!) before disappearing back into the Speed Force, with Barry not even remembering who he is. Meanwhile, The Flash itself just told mediocre stories that seemed to exist to pad time. The initial story introducing Godspeed was okay, even if the mystery of godspeed’s identity itself was hilariously obvious and Godspeed felt like a bad mish mash of CW’s Hunter Zolomon and the comic book Hunter Zolomon. But everything else, “The Button” and the arc focusing on Eobard Thawne aside, are just… pointless. NuWally’s relationship with Daniel West is unexplored (though there are some good moments), Barry keeps secrets from Iris and NuWally for no reason, and just… it’s just a big letdown after such a strong start.
The upcoming “Flash War” story and annual promise to focus more on the Flash family and be a true return to form for the franchise. But I don’t think fanning the flames of the hate between Wally and Barry fans is going to help. I don’t think finally saying outright saying who the fastest Flash is will help (especially since it’s lowkey been established that Wally’s the fastest anyway and they just never had to make a huge deal about it). I don’t think a feud in the Flash Family will help. I hope the story is a reference to the Flashes uniting against the Reverse-Flashes, and not a big fight that ends with a makeshift race between Barry and Wally or something to decide who’s faster.
Just… DC, fix this. Bring back Bart somehow and explore his place in the Flash family since his niche has been filled. Explore NuWally’s relationship with Daniel West. Set up Wally’s status quo. Give Linda Park her memories back. Bring back Jay Garrick and let him be happy with Joan. Bring back Jesse Quick and don’t age her down or change her personality to have synergy with the CW show. Just… The Flash deserves better than this. And I’m just tired of waiting.
Note: I wrote the Flash bit ignoring that I read The Flash annual #1 already, a comic which addressed some of my issues… kind of.