We focused on positivity first. Check out our Best In Comics Awards and our Top Ten Indie Comics lists for a lot of that. This, however, is where we trash other people's hard work with irrational anger and pretentions to taste, letting the inner fanboy rage run free. You've got to do that once in a while, just to get it all out of your system. So if you're in the mood to hate on some of the more annoying aspects of the superhero comics of 2011 one more time, let's take one final steaming dump on 'em and let it all go.
So since this was the year of the New 52, and we've already given you examples of what it's done right, we'll start off with what it's done wrong… and sad to say, the wrong has outweighed the right so far.
WORST REBOOT OF A CHARACTER
Iann Robinson: I’ve always dug Hal Jordan; he’s always been a favorite of mine. So I find it hard to understand why DC comics decided to reboot him as sniveling loser who has nothing without his Lantern ring. Jordan was a top fighter pilot, he has friends in the JLA, and he’s a hot guy with chicks all over him. This guy has always been able to make lemonade out of lemons; he always rises above the odds, that’s what makes him such a powerful Green Lantern. However, if you take away his Lantern Ring, Hal Jordan can’t even pay rent. He tries to hit Carol Ferris up for money to buy a car and he whines a lot. That’s not Hal Jordan at all. The Jordan we know would have ran to Batman and asked for cash, or gotten his old job or something to make it work. He would have fought to get his ring back instead of becoming Sinestro’s bitch. Nothing in the rebooted version of Hal Jordan works at all, it’s a complete misfire.
EVERY CLASSIC BAT-VILLAIN WHO ISN'T PENGUIN
Andy Hunsaker: Sentimentally, I was inclined to choose Deadshot, who went from a fantastic, instantly identifiable and fairly slick character to a nondescript stache-less clown-banging nothing with an overly-busy cyborg look that cluttered him up… and that led to thinking 'wait, shrinking down Amanda Waller was even worse.' But the most surprisingly lame redux was the complete lack of it for the best of the Bat-villains. They're all just sort of lumped into Arkham with an "oh, yeah, it's still business as usual" kind of shrug-off. The thing to do with Harvey Dent would've been to retire the nonsensical no-skin-grafts-please thing and get him back into the Gotham CIty government, not roid him out, lose an eye and call him One-Face. How depressingly boring. Then there's the Riddler. Question marks drawn on his head… with a green question mark mohawk. That seems like such a sad "oh, maybe we should do something different" afterthought, stripping away his dapper and cunning operator traits and make him just seem pathetic. The wasted potential with this lot just makes a fella somber. Every one of these guys deserved their own Penguin: Pain and Prejudice style miniseries to re-establish them.
WORST NEW CHARACTER
Iann Robinson: This character was the big bad in Fear Itself and, like the book, he didn’t amount to much. Supposedly the greatest evil in history, a God who drove people insane with fear, and all he did was make speeches and shout commands. There was never any real threat to this guy, nor did he inspire any feelings of fear. It was like somebody had let loose a D&D character with an addiction to making speeches. He also had no real endgame and little depth. Odin’s Brother was a paper villain riddled with bad guy clichés. His lack of real weight made his ultimate battle little more than another boring plot point to move Fear Itself along.
Andy Hunsaker: This isn't progress.
Iann Robinson: The four-part Prelude to Schism was so good I couldn’t wait for the series to begin. I have my issues with writer Jason Aaron, but I wanted to put them aside and be dazzled by Schism. Instead, I got another bag of Jason Aaron wind. This dry and boring story featured “CRAAAZZZZYYY” kids out to destroy the world with their master plan. When I say kids, I mean kids, like 10 year olds. In a particularly eye-rolling instance, Aaron writes how one child sold his brother to an alien slave trader. Really? Outside of the clichéd “evil kids” Aaron also decided that Wolverine would act completely different and so would Cyclops. Wolverine would be an overprotective daddy and Cyclops would be the guy pushing to always fight. This inconsistency in character went through the entire book, right up to the epic battle which was filled with Wolverine and Cyclops saying random things to each other and then fighting while a giant Mutant Hunter was about to destroy their home. By the end, Schism was just an excuse to separate the two mutant factions for this year’s new event and that is a serious let down.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
Andy Hunsaker: This was it. The first and only issue of the New 52 the week it debuted. It didn't have to be all that good to be better than Flashpoint #5, the only other DC offering that week, but it really should have been great to kick off the entire New 52 initiative with an enticing bang. Justice League #1 – you've got all the stars available to you to blow people away and make people eager for the next issue, so how could you go wrong? Well, Geoff Johns found a way. He somehow figured that the best way to really showcase this bold new move from DC would be to write a whole book of nothing but Hal Jordan being an insufferable, stupid douchebag while Batman tried to ignore him. Aside from a minor derailment into pre-Cyborg's high school life and an end cameo from Superman, that actually is the entire issue. In fact, the second issue is just another superhero slap fight, and the third issue is just reacting to Wonder Woman… then in the fourth, there is the unholy Fart of Darkness. While it was a complete and utter letdown, the truth is that Justice League #1 did set the tone for what the New 52 would turn out to be – a few neat things and a lot of sighing eyerolls.
WORST EVENT / WORST MINISERIES
Iann Robinson: This series from Matt Fraction was a lesson in wasted opportunities. The idea was good; a god who drove humanity into frenzied terror and crazed bouts of fear was trying to take over the world. What should have followed was a story profiling the inability of the world’s greatest heroes to function in the face of the world’s greatest threat because they were afraid, something these heroes were not ready for. Instead, Fraction gave us big explosions, speeches and a whole lot of nothing. The heroes just stood around and talked to each other or got completely beaten up in one of the many tie-in issues. With the entire goings on, all the fighting, violence and storylines, Fear Itself was mostly boring. The finale was a cheap attempt to wring emotions out of a failed series. This was easily the Worst Miniseries of 2011.
Andy Hunsaker: I chose this as Worst Event of 2011, because at least Flashpoint had a function. Fear Itself was just a loud, annoying mess with no pacing, no building tension and no real sense of fear at all, save for a tie-in or two. All the characters seemed snippy and pissy instead of scared. It was overlong, over-turgid and just a bunch of stuff that broke. You'd think something containing and American Blitzkrieg would turn out awesome, but it was just this never-ending parade of uselessness that got into every other book to make sure everyone not directly involved was also usesless. A few creators were able to polish this turd in their own way, but all that served to do was make it shiny and more noticeable, like Mitch Hedberg's Cold Sore Highlighter.
Iann Robinson: Though Fear Itself was a horrific pool of acid feces, Flashpoint was the actual worst "event" because it launched us into the mediocre New 52. Not only did we have to suffer through issue after issue of nothing really going on (2 issues of Flash getting his powers? Really?) but there was also the twenty or so tie-in series that pretty much all sucked (save Batman Knight Of Vengeance). With all the multiple story lines happening within Flashpoint the whole story came down to Flash missing his mommy. That was it, mommy issues. The eradication of the entire DC legacy comes down to unresolved issues Barry Allen has with his mother. Wow, talk about a crappy way to reboot an entire Universe. Flashpoint was the Worst Event for me because it led to the bigger awful event, the New 52.
Andy Hunsaker: This was my Worst Miniseries, because the actual main book was very bad. The tie-ins had varying levels of decency and some interesting idea seeds, but Iann has adroitly summarized that killing the history of the DC Universe because of Barry Allen's mother does not make one excited for a new world (and especially not to read any more about Barry Allen as the Flash ever again). Really, what would've been worse – a villain like Zoom getting an ultimate triumph over heroes by messing up the time stream, or having one crybaby hero ruin everything and then still expect us to care about him? Flashpoint did have a function, but it was a ham-handed hijacking of DC's whole summer, taking the place of what should have been a strong and fitting farewell to 70-plus years of their storied history.
WORST OF THE NEW 52
Iann Robinson: I love Catwoman, I always have. I enjoyed her as a weird criminal that bested Batman and the deeper her character got the more interesting she became. Judd Winick’s tits and ass reboot of Catwoman was insulting and forced the character two steps back instead of one step forward. I understand Winick’s desire to make Catwoman an adult book with mature themes, but he tried to do it by reducing his series to the lowest common denominator. I waited for the first three issues to kick into something else but it never happened. Catwoman deserves better than this, as do all the writers who worked so hard to make her a three dimensional character and a true value to the Batman Universe.
HAWK AND DOVE
Andy Hunsaker: Say what you want about the degradation of Catwoman or the obnoxiousness of Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws, the fact remains that Rob Liefeld is involved in the New 52, and that automatically makes his title the worst thing about it. Bashing Liefeld is so old hat that it's a stovepipe, but the fact remains that he's still dicking around out there trying to be Jim Lee and falling far short of the mark. It's such a quality vacuum that writer Sterling Gates has already left the series so Liefeld has to suck out loud on his own handling double duty. Liefeld's is the only art in comics that is not subjective. It is objectively bad.
WORST SINGLE ISSUE
FEAR ITSELF #7
Iann Robinson: I called this out for worst single issue because of how cheaply Matt Fraction tried to suck some emotional response out of his dead series. The trivial “rise” of the people against fear to assist in the destruction of the God Of Fear didn’t work because it had no precedent. Everybody was too scared to anything, and then suddenly they were rising up against the power? The death of Thor came off like a cheap writer’s trick, plus the big battle for all mankind was up against a dragon? Fraction can call it a “Serpent” but it was a big dragon. The worst part of issue 7 was that it was a double sized. There were twice as many pages with nothing going on as before. The problems with Fear Itself were apparent through the entire series; they just really came to fruition in the final issue.
HAWK AND DOVE #1
Andy Hunsaker: Seriously, the entire issue was that goddamned face. The entire time I read it, the monotonous sound of a guy yelling "GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" was running through my mind. That is headache-inducing.
WORST ONGOING SERIES
Iann Robinson: I was really close to going with the Avengers and New Avengers here, but I realized something. Neither of those comics is poorly written, they’re just overburdened with too much Brian Michael Bendis. For me, Bendis isn’t a bad writer, he just tends to be one note, and with both Avengers and New Avengers under his wing, it can be a lot to take. On the flipside, Wolverine is just poorly written and has been for most of the year. I really liked Wolverine’s trip to hell, but since then writer Jason Aaron has dropped the ball. For example, he wasted a wonderful idea of a villains group made up of those who hated Wolverine for killing their loved ones. Instead of exploring that, Aaron wasted several issues with long-winded exposition and this Game Of Death tribute where Wolverine battled through hired killers. Aaron ended that entire arc poorly, trying to inject emotional resonance by having the killers Wolverine battled actually be his children. The latest issue, involving the Kingpin and what’s being touted as a “massive story arc” had the same lackluster writing as almost everything else this year. It’s time for some new blood to step into the Wolverine series.
HAWK AND DOVE
Andy Hunsaker: And then the bad guy was a goddamned turd-color Hawk clone with the same goddamned GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH face! COME ON, MAN! PEOPLE HAVE EXPRESSIONS!
CANCEL THIS NOW
THE MIGHTY THOR
Iann Robinson: Thor has been mishandled for so long now that I think we need another Ragnarok break. It doesn’t have to be for as long, but a minute to step back and reassess what the God Of Thunder is could be a good thing. Thor is dead and nobody remembers him, a fact that’s so muddled you can barely figure out why. Loki is a little boy and Silver Surfer is a short order cook? Writer Matt Fraction has gone so completely off the rails that there’s little hope a solid arc can come of this. I say cancel the series for a year, let Thor cool down and then bring him back with a writer like Greg Pak, Dan Slott, or Jeff Parker. Thor is a staple in the Marvel Universe and he deserves better than what he’s been given.
HAWK AND DOVE
Andy Hunsaker: GAH! GET AWAY FROM ME! GET OFF ME! GO AWAY! STAY AWAY! DON'T GET ANY ON ME! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!
MOST EGREGIOUS CANCELLATION
Iann Robinson: This was a sad end for many reasons. First up, I love me some Alpha Flight. I have always enjoyed Canada’s answer to the Avengers, so when the miniseries was announced I was excited. Issue #1 was a solid read and the series got better as it went along. Marvel seemed so amped they decided to make it an ongoing instead of just eight issues. Then, maybe an hour later, they had cancelled the ongoing and the series would end at issue 8. Such a great story with such great characters being treated so shoddily was sad and disappointing for the fans. It would have been one thing if Alpha Flight was given a chance, but to be added to the roster and then dropped so quickly seemed unnecessary.
Andy Hunsaker: Ahem. Where was I? Right. By far, the loss of Secret Six is the most frustratingly painful cancellation in 2011, and it's the biggest reason to be pissed about the New 52. Gail Simone was firmly in her element with this cast of morally very-dark-grey malcontents who refused to be pigeonholed – when they were supposed to be bad, they'd save the day, and when they were supposed to be good, they would shoot you, stab you and feed you to a giant talking shark with arms and legs. It was the perfect balance of fun and pathos, twisted plotting and pull-no-punches bastardry. You wanted to watch these characters be complete badasses and total failures at the same time. To be fair, DC gave Simone enough warning that she was able to put together a reasonably satisfying ending rather than an abrupt 'oh well, Flashpoint!' sort of bullpuckey-fest, but this was the best thing DC had going, and they killed it. And gave us a really, really crappy substitute with the new Suicide Squad. There's no justice.