Tuesday, August 23, 2005

High Five!

Over at Snark Free Waters, they've been doing a week of top five lists. As I continue to rip off--er, pay homage to other blogs' features, I've decided to do a couple of my own.

Top Five Most Disappointing Superman Story Arcs in Recent Memory
Not necessarily the worst ever, not even necessarily the worst, just the ones that seemed to peter out, or failed to live up to their hype, and the ones that spring to mind most readily.

5. Steven T. Seagle's Run
When "Batman: The 10-cent Adventure" came out, I ended up buying the whole Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive storyline. The whole thing. I hadn't bought a Batman comic in forever before that, but it was a surprisingly good crossover. Much better than, say, KnightFall/Quest/sEnd.

So, I had similarly high hopes for "Superman: The 10-Cent Adventure," which was supposed to kick off one of several "years of Superman" that DC has hyped to breathe life back into their flagship character. Unfortunately, it kicked off a year of absolutely awful Superman stories, but few were more awful than Seagle's own series (though Joe Casey sure tried). Seagle introduced a new, poorly-costumed Supergirl, mere months after Peter David's fantastic Supergirl series was cancelled, some forgettable villains, and a robotic Superman from the future, capping his run by apparently making the Birthright origin the official background for Superman.

But, the worst part? Every time Superman or Supergirl used a super-power, it was accompanied by a caption explaining said power. Ugh.

4. Ending Battle
Set smack in the middle of the most consistently bad year or two that Superman has seen in decades, Ending Battle was supposed to be some fantastic story that ended the trend. Instead, it was mostly incomprehensible and poorly-executed. It'd be ranked higher, but my expectations were already pretty low by this point.

3. Superman: Birthright
I've got a long tirade on Birthright that I'll finish some time, but for now I'll just say that, after Kingdom Come and JLA: Year One, I expected Mark Waid to do a 'revamp' that paid attention to character and continuity, that made revamping worthwhile. Instead, it was one of the most dragged-out, boring, uneventful Superman stories ever. And it's caused no shortage of idiotic flubs in continuity that have yet to be ironed out.

Plus, it (re-)introduced that stupid, stupid soul-vision that has only cropped up recently in continuity. If that's not the dumbest power Superman's ever had, then I don't know what is.

(I say re-introduced because, though it was never really in continuity, apparently it was the creation of Elliot S! Maggin in the novel "Miracle Monday.")

2. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Jeph Loeb built up the Lex Luthor presidency for years, telling some of the best Superman stories of the time at the same time. Teamed with fantastic artist Ed McGuinness to put the cap on the long arc, it seemed like it couldn't possibly fail. Yet, the cerebral drama of a manipulative Luthor in the White House ended with a battle and a giant robot, as well as Lex uncharacteristically injecting Kryptonite into his bloodstream (a man who lost a body to Kryptonite-cancer wouldn't go pumping it back into himself). Lex wasn't undone by Superman and Batman in the sort of well-planned scheme that allowed them to steal Luthor's Kryptonite ring. He was undone by an insanity that hadn't been a part of his character since the Fall of Metropolis. Mastermind Lex is and always has been more interesting than madman Lex.

1. Superman: For Tomorrow
Jim Lee on Superman? Awesome! Brian Azzarello? Well, his Batman arc was pretty good the second time I read it, and I hear 100 Bullets is pretty good. "For Tomorrow was supposed to be the most awesome title of the recent re-launch.

Too bad this ain't Superman. Azzarello managed to miss the whole point of the character in this moody, brooding story. He introduced pointless characters (another Zod? Yay! That's like, seven!) and even more pointless plot twists, while constantly confusing "unfinished sentences" and "cryptic dialogue" with "mysterious" and "interesting." Lee's art was wasted on this waste of a story, while Greg Rucka's underhyped Adventures of Superman consistently outshined it in every way.

Runners Up

Chuck Austen's Reign of Terror
Austen shined--shined!--on "Superman: Metropolis," but his regular Superman fill-in issues were awful. Too bad he didn't follow the Metropolis model when writing his incoherent opus. Thrill to Superman's epic battles with Doomsday, Gog, and...Repo Man! Azzarello's Superman was Batman with an "S" on his chest. Austen's was Spider-Man with a cape. If not for the warning signs of Austen's fill-in issues, I might have had high hopes for this abysmal arc. Thank goodness for small miracles.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel
Such wasted opportunity. I'm pretty sure Brian Azzarello has never read a Superman comic he didn't write. If I hadn't been so underwhelmed by "For Tomorrow," I would have ranked this high in the top five. More on this garbage soon.

Coming tomorrow: Top Five Most Surprisingly Good Superman arcs!

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