Near Mint Memories: Holiday Hiccups

Any industry with such a long history will have its share of stinkers. The comic industry is no exception. As a somewhat humorous follow-up to the “Holiday Hints” column that ran last week, John and I figured we’d give you a list of items that you should make every effort to avoid.

To sort of steal a line from George Carlin, “these are gifts that could end a marriage.” Of course many significant others out there would consider anything comic-related a pretty lousy gift. The following though, are in our opinions, the bottom of the barrel.

DC Trade Paperbacks

John’s Pick: The Amalgam Age of Comics: The DC Collection

This was quite possibly the worst idea DC and Marvel had. While fans had been clamoring for JLA/Avengers pencilled by George Perez for years, I’m not sure if
fans really wanted to see amalgams of their favorite (or least favorite) DC and Marvel heroes and villains. While it would be cool to see Superman vs. Thor or Batman vs. Captain America, would a melding of Batman and Wolverine into The Dark Claw be interesting? No. The art was good, but the stories were bad, with an exclamation mark.

This trade paperback chronicles the (mis)adventures of Super Soldier (Superman and Captain America two-in-one), Amazon (Wonder Woman and the X-Men’s Storm), the JLX (Justice League and the X-Men), and others.

Avert your eyes if you see this book on the shelves and/or its companion piece: The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection. That collection includes such “memorable” duds like Bruce Wayne: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Speed Demon (a Flash and Ghost Rider mix), and others.

You know, the only turkeys you need on the holidays should be in your belly not on your bookshelf.

Chris’ Pick: JLA: The Obsidian Age

The only real positive that came out of this storyline was bringing Aquaman back to the DC Universe. I actually read this storyline as it was released, but it was so bad that I figured I’d put up the warning flags on the trade. Even worse, this boring, uninspired story was so drawn out that if you want to read it in its entirety you’d have to buy two separate trades. That’s a lot of wasted money.

The story actually follows two separate storylines. The big time heroes (i.e. Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman etc.) are trapped in the distant past, while a new JLA takes over the guardianship of the Earth. The parts following the “new” JLA (including: Nightwing, Green Arrow, Firestorm, Atom and others) are actually quite good, it’s the parts in the “Obsidian Age” that pose the real problem.

The entire JLA series has had its up and downs, but this storyline was by far the worst thing done. Of course I didn’t start reading the book again until this month, and I heard the stuff that followed this up was actually worse. I shudder to think about that!

Marvel Trade Paperbacks

John’s Pick: ‘Nuff Said

In 2001, Marvel had a brilliant idea: Lets put out comics for a month with no word balloons, just pretty pictures! Luckily it was only 7 of Marvel’s line that made it into this trade paperback: Amazing Spider-Man #39, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #38, Punisher #7, Thor #44, Incredible Hulk #35, New X-Men #121, and X-Force #123. The Magnificent Seven these are not.

I don’t know how to properly express how bad an idea this was. Perhaps in ‘Nuff Said fashion, the less words the better: ugh!

If you find words annoying or you can’t read at all, but bright colors catch your attention, this 150 page plus silent trade paperback is for you.

Chris’ Pick: Captain America: The New Deal

This was the run that got me, until this past month, to stop reading Captain America.

I loved John Ney Rieber’s run on Books of Magic, but his odd storytelling style seemed totally out of place with Captain America. Moving Cap to the Marvel Knights imprint was a travesty in the first place, but Rieber’s storyline, which got him tied up with a terrorist plot, rang of exploitation following the horrifying events of 9/11. These didn’t seem like comic books, but more political manifestos. I like my comic books a little further spaced from the real world, it’s why I read them.

This was a very hollow attempt to cash in on a tragedy, and the relatively fast change in focus on the book seems to legitimize my opinion.

Wildcard Trade Paperback

John’s Pick: G.I. Joe: Reinstated

This is one of the arcs that started the whole “retro” ’80s trend currently sweeping (sputtering?) through comics. I’m all for nostalgia. Many of my favorite monthly titles are rooted in tradition, i.e. JSA, Teen Titans, and others. However, this G.I. Joe trade is a
let down for fans who lived through the first wave in the ’80s.

Yes, Josh Baylock knows the history of the franchise, but couldn’t deliver an engaging yarn. The last 2 parts of Reinstated seem hurried and disjointed. The interior art is also disappointing and very wooden.

You want G.I. Joe nostalgia? Pick up Marvel’s trade paperback collections of their 1980s run. Devil’s Due may be a cool name for a comic book company, but even “the devil made me do it” is not a good reason to buy this trade.

Chris’ Pick: Star Wars: Dark Empire

There have been some really well done Star Wars comics and books over the years, but in my opinion they are the exception not the rule. Dark Empire is a lousy Star Wars story that proves the rule, hell it basically invented the rule; as you can guess, this one just didn’t do it for me.

The best follow-ups to the films captured the flavor and feel of the original trilogy this doesn’t even come close. The characters aren’t well written; they aren’t even close to what they should or could be. Especially irksome was the idea of Luke turning to the Dark Side, and resurrecting both the Emperor and Boba Fett in the same storyline. It just makes no sense whatsoever.

I’ve actually all but given up on printed Star Wars material, but I’ve read enough to tell you that if you’re looking for something really good, this isn’t it. I am awed that this series inspired two sequels (only one of which I have read).

Comics-Related Book

John’s Pick: Excelsior! : The Amazing Life of Stan Lee

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Stan Lee and recognize his important contribution to comics. It’s for that very reason I do not recommend this book. It does not do Stan “The Man” Lee justice.

I have read many books on comic greats. After reading Dick Giordano: Changing Comics, One Day At A Time, and others, Excelsior looks even worse.
It’s printed on poor paper stock and doesn’t contain many pictures at all – I mean these are comic books after all!.

Now I know that Stan himself (with George Mair) wrote this, but perhaps we need someone else to give “The Man” his props. Hopefully a book will come out that properly gives Stan his due. Let me know if you know of any, because this certainly isn’t it.

Chris’ Pick: ?????

I really racked my brain, but I just couldn’t offer up a choice here. My comic reading, beyond the funny books themselves, has been mainly reference, and the books I have read have all been enjoyable. Sorry, but I have nothing to complain about. Maybe by next year!

Comics-Related DVD

John’s Pick: Spawn

You know, I can understand why people really want to like this movie. Its not the worst ever comics-related movie – Marvel’s Captain America tv movies take that “prize”. However, of the movies that made it to the Silver Screen, Spawn is in the running for king of the dung heap.

The plot was boring and the performances by the cast where uninspired – I really wanted to like Martin Sheen in his bad guy role, but even he didn’t bring his “A” game to the work. In addition, the computer generated imaging looks even more dated years later –
and it looked bad when I first saw it in the theatre.

Spawn is a great comic book. The first few trade paperbacks are on my recommended list, but stay away from this movie.

Giving the Spawn movie to anyone as a gift would be like giving a kid coal for Christmas – and I know you don’t want to do that.

Chris’ Pick: Daredevil

There are certainly worse efforts than Daredevil. Spawn is a real stinker, and most of the 80s attempts at Marvel films were really bad. Yet, I chose Daredevil because of the utter disappointment it was for me.

I won’t go into how bad Jennifer Garner was as Elektra or the fact that Colin Farrell, who’s usually a very interesting actor, totally missed the mark (pun intended). What I do want to make clear is that going in I was ready to hate the film because of Ben Affleck. I really felt he was the wrong choice for the character, but I have to say, the man surprised me. Affleck had Matt Murdock down to a tee, and he played Daredevil well beyond my expectations.

My biggest fault with the movie was the lack of any substantial storyline. I wonder what person came up with the brilliant idea to make this movie 103 minutes? There’s supposedly a substantial amount of material that was left on the cutting room floor. I am anxious to see the Director’s Cut that’s supposed to be released on DVD in 2004. The new footage may turn this into a really good movie. Of course, this “new” footage could be so bad that it only makes it worse.

Well, this has all been in very good-natured fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed our look at some of the not-so-hot gift possibilities. I truly hope you didn’t receive any of these this holiday season! As the day this likely sees print is “Boxing Day” in Canada, in the United States it’s the day after Christmas or “Return Those Unwanted Gifts Day,” John and I would like to wish you a pleasant shopping experience on this o’ so special consumerism-driven day!

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