The Gold Standard: Top Ten Books That Need An Overhaul

I got to thinking over the weekend that there are quite a few books coming out from Marvel and DC, and quite a few that have vanished into the shadows of limbo, that need a fresh start. Whether it be a current direction that’s fallen flat, or a book that has needed a shot in the arm for a while, or even just a cool idea for a book, there’s a lot you can do. So I picked out five books from Marvel, and five from DC, and I decided to tell you why they need the overhaul….and in some cases, just how to do it.

10. Flash – Alright, so this is despite Flashpoint. I’ve had an idea roaming around in my head for Flash for a few weeks now, and it centers around where I find my enjoyment with the title. Barry is far more interesting to me out of costume than in costume, and Wally is MY Flash (as well as what seems to be the majority of the Flash readerbase these days, a lot of us did grow up with him). What about a Flash book where Wally is the Flash and Barry does CSI? What about a Gotham Central type of book set in Keystone and Central? Chyre, Morillo, Barry and his crew, and then Wally’s the mechanic, hell, you’ve even got Ashley Zolomon laying around too. Johns could definitely do this, show us why we need Barry by showing us the importance of a good cop.

9. Titans – My biggest problem with Villains for Hire is that it could work, there’s a lot of potential behind the idea, but the execution is just not there. Deathstroke leading a team of bad guys on dirty missions, lots of blood, lots of death, tons of moral ambiguity. I can dig it. I can even dig Roy being there in his new drug riddled state. However, the book isn’t good. If you want to use Roy in a drugged out state, don’t use him as a caricature, don’t treat it as a joke. Use the manipulation of Slade or Cheshire and show him as prey being abused mentally, hell, show his own broken psyche trying to repair itself. Have Slade playing the line of good and evil, not just doing merc for hire work because…hey look, Secret Six is awesome and already doing that. Give Slade a goal, play the missions up as building towards it, and then make it matter when it comes right down to it. Treat Slade like the methodical strategist badass like he is, not like a painfully lazy mercenary. There is no way he goes into an incident without having thought it out twenty steps ahead, so something like knowing the bad guy shouldn’t just pop up on him randomly. Think Thunderbolts, look at what worked with Zemo and Osborn and apply it to Slade. It’ll be better than what we’re getting.

8. Spider-Girl – I’m going to do something phenomenal here and not spend a paragraph harping on how the perfect overhaul would be to let Tom DeFalco start writing May again, that much is obvious to everyone. So instead, let’s focus on how you can make a Spider-Girl series that people would read and that would better benefit the Marvel universe as a whole. First off, if you’re going to use the name Spider-Girl you need a hard tie to Spider-Man, and not just in the “Hey, I like your costume, be the Girl version of me”. Think of Supergirl, why does she matter? Is it because she’s younger female Superman, or is it because the writers make her matter? Paul Tobin tried this, from what I’ve been told, with Arana, but that’s your other problem. They took an established character, changed her name, her costume, and her powers, and then threw her back on the market. Her only tie to Spider-Man were haphazardly thrown together to try and get Amazing Spider-Man reader’s to check out her book. What we need is a character with a direct tie to someone firmly cemented in the Spider-Man family, not a twice a decade supporting character, and then we need the character to….feel like a young Spider-Man. Yes, you can cast a different tone with great success like Batgirl is currently doing, but you need the basics. This girl is Spider-Girl, not girl in spider costume. Webs, wall crawling, and a firm sense of power and responsibility, set in a high school scene….you know what, read Tom DeFalco’s Spider-Girl and then figure out how to adapt it to the Spider-verse, you’ll do great.

7. New Warriors – I’m baffled that New Warriors hasn’t seen another relaunch after the abortion that was the post-Civil War volume which I will forever know as Jubilee becoming “Wonder Bra”. In the wake of Civil War there was a ton of momentum for a Warriors book, I mean, they had just taken the sole blame for Stanford. That momentum went to crap though, so let’s fast forward. Heroic Age, the remaining New Warriors are scattered to various titles, doing various things, and even Speedball has found his much deserved redemption. You know what we haven’t seen though? The New Warriors redeem their name. You could roll them with old stars, a new roster, a combination of the two, you just need to use it! You can’t redeem a name by mothballing it, you just limbo it until fans forget that you made it toxic and then bring it back. That’s boring. Pick up some leftover characters from the Initiative, bring in the new Night Thrasher, maybe even toss in the recently returned Namorita. Let them set up shop in a lesser used area of Marvel, and let them carve out a niche as the “New and Mature New Warriors”, who have learned that their jobs have a lot of responsibility attached. Have them face older, or even newer models of their old established villains. Give them a purpose built around both redemption and moving forward, and watch as people start to actually care about the New Warriors for the first time in a decade.

6. Wonder Woman – Maybe it’s selfish, but if there’s a character that’s as iconic as Wonder Woman who I’ve never given a damn about, isn’t that a problem? I mean, I understand that not everyone likes the same things, but wasn’t the most recent Wonder Woman revamp about making her accessible? Isn’t that what they all are? So why don’t I ever feel like I’m reading something like that? Or better yet, can someone do a “Why the world needs Wonder Woman” story? Because I can’t pretend to understand.

5. Captain America – I’m not sure what I want, but I do know that I’m bored with what we’ve got. Brubaker’s run was incredible pretty much up until he brought Steve back, and ever since then it’s just been….there. I read it, but I don’t look forward to it, I don’t get on the edge of my seat for it. Before I started reviewing books every week, my reading order was that I’d start with whichever book in the stack I cared the least about (like a JSA All Stars or adjectiveless X-Men), and then sort of rank everything in order, finally ending with the book I wanted to read most on that week (like a Green Lantern or Fantastic Four), and Cap usually was one of the last three books I’d read. Nowadays, it would probably be in the first three. The book needs new life, it needs a breath of fresh air…or at least for Brubaker to stop phoning it in and bring back his A game.

4. JSA – The last time JSA was good was the last issue that Johns wrote, and even that came to cap off a run marred by the never ending Thy Kingdom Come storyline. Since then we’ve had Bill Willingham split the team, then do a nazi ruled future story I’ll admit to not reading, while Matthew Sturges has been writing All Stars, which is awful just in that the team calls themselves that in the book, and their ‘proactive’ approach has led to some….well, crappy storylines. The most interesting things to come out of the book (which I do read) are Anna Fortune and Roxie. I want the JSA to get back to what made me a fan of it, big time stories with a strong cast. In Guggenheim’s current run he’s gone ahead and taken away Mr. Terrific brain, how does that help anybody? Even for a story arc, it just leads to boring storytelling around a prominent character. The team needs to be cut down, left in one book, and given a purpose in the DC Universe that doesn’t feel as forced as ‘training the next generation’ or ‘protecting a city nobody has ever heard of’.

3. Daredevil – Because Shadowland was crap, and Reborn isn’t doing much better, let’s think about this for a minute. Who is Daredevil? What makes him tick? And what brought so much success to writers like Frank Miller, Brian Bendis, and Ed Brubaker, while Andy Diggle seems to have dropped the ball with the first Daredevil centric event since….has there ever been one? Where did he go wrong? Was it the giant prison with Japanese architecture in the middle of New York? Was it his army of Vatican Warlock Assassins Evil Ninja Assassins? No, it was when he made Matt into Hal fucking Jordan, and blamed it all on an evil demon parasite called Parallax The Beast of the Hand and all of the sudden Daredevil isn’t insane, he’s possessed! But now he wants to do the said Bruce Banner walk into the sunset while the Black Panther of all people patrols his part of town. That’s an issue. Daredevil is the king of the street level heroes, that’s his deal. Not magic, or time travel, or gods. He’s street level. He deals with Spidey and Luke Cage from time to time, maybe the Punisher or Moon Knight, but he protects Hells Kitchen. He’s not a big time super hero, he’s not an Avenger. He’s fucking Daredevil.

2. Young Avengers – Young Avengers broke the second Marvel decided to wait until Heinberg had time to do another miniseries, because that took how many years? Young Avengers Presents, Mighty Avengers, and even the Zeb Wells written miniseries for whatever event they’re getting loosely pulled into, those have been good. Other writers have done good things with these characters, so it’s not like they suffer without his guiding hand. In fact, they’ve gotten more mileage out of them; Heinberg may have created the roster, but outside of Wiccan and Hulkling he hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot with everyone else. He plays his favorites, it happens, but the fact that this guy whose biggest claims to fame are Sex and the City and Grey’s Anatomy, and not his comic work, is getting this sort of treatment from Marvel? It’s insulting to me as a fan that they’d pause a successful property to wait for his schedule to clear enough to ‘grace Marvel with his presence’, or that the long awaited Scarlet Witch story is supposed to cap off during this run? It’s like they’re rewarding him for not writing for them for several years!

I’m sorry, Young Avengers needs a writer who focuses on comics, not some guy trying to cross promote himself like his additions to the genre are huge. And it’s not just me not liking Heinberg; if Damon Lindelof of Lost was the writer in question, I’d raise just as much hell. The Young Avengers aren’t some little puff piece to come out every few years, these are the next generation. Imagine if the Teen Titans got this kind of treatment, a roster of characters locked down and put away in limbo while they wait for some hack to come in and tell his story. Marvel has talent that could take these characters and make them bigger than the Titans, so I’d honestly like to see Marvel have the balls to give their property to one of their writers and find success without trying to sell the book as “By the writer of a bunch of shows that our target audience probably doesn’t watch”.

1. Superman – I’ve often mentioned my distaste for the handling of Superman over the past few years, and I’m not going to stop until I get a reason to. The Man of Steel gets one in continuity title a ‘month’ with his name brand book, but it doesn’t mean anything if he spends it in an extended period of self pity and boring looks at Superman understanding humanity. I read someone talk about it the other day and they raised a great point, Earth eradicated New Krypton and brought his people back to the point of extinction, and yet he’s the one who needs redemption? He’s SUPERMAN! He’s the most iconic character in comics, period. Not Batman, not Spider-Man, not even Captain America. Nobody is bigger than Superman, and right now what he needs is a shot in the arm that he’s been lacking for a while. Bring back old characters and plots and characters, create new ones, it doesn’t matter. If you balance Clark and Superman, if you put him in situations where you can warrant a “This looks like a job for Superman!” If you can create a single moment in a story arc where it truly feels as if no one could do this but Superman, then you’ve found success.

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