The 5 Worst Superhero Plotlines in Recent History
Posted on 28 January 2016 by Brian Fox
Awhile back we listed, what we consider to be, the five best superhero graphic novels. Well, today we’re slummin’ it hard with the opposite list. Comics have always had a history of being confusing but these losers really step it up with their overly ghoulish, blatantly sexist, or weirdly racist plots.
I think the less racist takeaway here is that Dr. Doom still got his butt whooped over $200 though.
If it’s about superheroes; came out after the year 2000; and sucked, then it’s probably listed below.
#5 Countdown to Final Crisis
First of all, to even read this mega-series, when it was released in 2007-08, you needed to spend about $140 to collect each of the 52 weekly issues! With that price tag and level of commitment you expect a reading experience on par with freaking Beowulf! What you get instead is a story on par with the novelization of the movie Beowulf. DC pulled off this method of storytelling quite well with the aptly named 52, but the confusing motives, out of character reactions, and rushed artwork makes this thankfully retconned pile mark our number five spot.
So did we, Donna. So did we.
#4 Superman: Grounded
In this story, writer J. Michael Straczynski gives us a conflicted Superman. Supes decides that in order to be the superest man, he has to hoof it across America, reacquainting himself with the mundane troubles of everyday citizens. Cool, I can get on board with that—Superman pondering his role in the American infrastructure and maybe rocket-punching a lava monster every few panels or so to keep it moving. Instead what we got was a disjointed series of overwrought dilemmas, which pretty much any 4th grade social studies student could sum up. First off, we have a group of literal illegal aliens from the war-torn planet Natalla. Clark Kent, being an undocumented immigrant himself, takes sympathy tells them “sorry, bros, planet’s full”.
It’s cool though because the aliens use their wealth to restore a nearby factory and the town prospers!
As Superman makes his way across America, the heavy handed, far right overtones just keep coming. Midway through, Strazcynski dumped the story's second half onto Chris Roberson—after discovering that the impending company-wide relaunch would render this and other stories moot—which only made the overall narrative read more like a Jayden Smith tweet than an actual comic book.
#3 Spider-Man: Sins Past
Here we see Strazcynski up to his old tricks again, this time with everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. The Spider-Man mythos is rooted in Peter Parker’s feelings of loss and isolation—as you already know because the last six or seven movies have kept beating us over the head with it. One of the most devastating losses for Peter was that of his first love, Gwen Stacy—at the hands of the villainous Norman Osbourn/Green Goblin. Sins Past is the story of Spider-Man discovering that his first true love had, in all actuality, been secretly having an affair with the aforementioned goblinoid, effectively turning every printing of 1973's The Amazing Spider-Man #122 into toilet paper. It gets worse when we find out that Gwen gave birth to twins while she was studying abroad. It gets worse, worse when we find out those twins have hyper-aged to their late teens—due to weird goblin DNA—and seek convoluted revenge for their parents’ deaths. As luck would have it, Spider-Man eventually makes a deal with the devil to alter his timeline, so I think the statutory goblin rape technically never happened. Seriously, stop letting this dude write your comics.
Curse you, deus ex machina!
#2 The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Frank Miller—what happened, man? This guy gave us the best Daredevil story ever AND made the genre defining Sin City. But what have you done for us lately? Years before the emotionally abusive father-son dynamic in All Star Batman and Robin or the almost cartoonish Islamophobia in Holy Terror, we got this dark harbinger of Frank Miller’s end times as a competent writer. In DKSA we get a glimpse of the Ayn Rand wish fulfillment fantasy that plays out in Frank Miller’s head. Superman is a puppet for the US government, while Batman organizes a cadre of disgruntled white youths to rebel and just kind of tear shit up, in general. Of course, I’m painting in broad strokes here. I’m just salty about the way my boy Dick Grayson—the original Boy Wonder—gets treated in all of Frank Miller’s work.
You don't have to take that, Nightwing!
The main reason this gets included in most people’s ‘worst of’ lists is because it followed Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns—two of Frank Miller’s stories that paved the way for the future of the series. The third in this Dark Knight trilogy is being released this year so maybe there’s still hope for redemption? Probs not.
The now defunct Ultimate universe in Marvel comics was actually really cool at one point. It seemed like an organic way of retelling a lot of character’s origins that for once wasn’t hokey or forced.
Except for Dr. Doom’s cloven feet. Really? Chicken-Doom is what you’re giving us? Really?
Eventually this led to writers each trying to up the ante on shock value until just about anyone you might have cared to read about had died in this continuity. Ultimatum had 30+ characters die, most not even heroically. The plot was impossible and the oversexualized female characters looked like they were all missing ribs. After this event, sales never recovered and the only remnant of the Ultimate universe that’s still around in 2016 is the second Ultimate Spider-Man.
This guy’s pretty cool though!
These pieces of trash have been talked to death on the internet already but hey, maybe we missed something? If you think we got any of these wrong, go ahead and correct us in the comments below—or just let us know what you're reading this month! As always, you can like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for some daily screen printing updates. See you next month!