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Number Two: The 15 Worst Marvel Sequels

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Number Two: The 15 Worst Marvel Sequels

Summer is here once again, which means that multiplexes across the nation are currently groaning under the weight of the numerous sequels to hit the big screen. Transformers, Cars, Despicable Me and Pirates of the Caribbean are some of the many franchises attempting to capitalize on audiences’ familiarity with their characters. With Marvel now part of the Disney media empire, the company is not immune to this temptation. This summer has already seen Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor: Ragnarok is arguably 2017’s most hotly anticipated superhero sequel. The template for sequels is clear: bigger and brasher… but not necessarily better.

RELATED: X-Plicit: 15 Most Controversial X-Men Stories

Of course, it’s not just on the big screen that Marvel has attempted to cash in through the use of sequels. Countless successful comic storylines and events have generated sequels, attempting to capture that lightning in a bottle for a second time. Unfortunately, as with movies, there’s an inconvenient truth about comic sequels. While they may often be successful, regularly topping the sales charts and generating a great deal of publicity, they have an unfortunate tendency of being, well, terrible. We’ve collected together 15 of the worst sequels ever to grace the printed page. Brace yourselves, this isn’t going to be pretty.

15. CIVIL WAR 2

The 2006 event Civil War, by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, was a sales juggernaut, changing the direction of the Marvel universe and providing the inspiration for Captain America: Civil War. Unfortunately, its clever premise of a dispute over superhero registration wasn’t explored to its full potential. The book took an interesting real-world issue and hammered it into the ground, replacing subtly and nuance with big explosions and hero vs hero conflict.

Its 2016 sequel, Civil War II, was written by Brian Bendis and again explored a real-world issue, that of preemptive justice. Unfortunately, the fundamental question of fairness and individual rights was lost among the hero vs hero conflict, with many heroes once again acting wildly out of character in order to move the plot along — Hawkeye’s murder of Bruce Banner being a particularly egregious example.

14. PARADISE X

When Earth X debuted in 1998, from the creative team of Jim Krueger, John Paul Leon and Alex Ross, it was a dream project for long-time Marvel fans. Set in the near-future, this sprawling epic attempted to pull together the numerous plot threads of the Marvel universe, creating one interconnected narrative. The success of the initial series led to two follow-up series: Universe X and Paradise X (with Doug Braithwaite replacing Leon on art).

Universe X saw the de-aged Captain Marvell on a quest to conquer death and build a new heaven, while Paradise X dealt with the ramifications of this act. Unfortunately, Marvel cancelled the series before its intended conclusion, causing many plot lines to be abandoned or hurriedly resolved. Through no fault of the creators, it turned this epic from something that could have great into something that was merely very good.

13. TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION 2

gen-2-death

When Marvel’s Transformers series was cancelled in 1991 with #80, the series had come a long way from its planned four-issue run. The battling ‘bots weren’t absent from the comic scene for long, though. Hasbro relaunched the toyline with an accompanying TV series, with Simon Furman returning to pen the new title: Transformers: Generation 2.

This title was markedly darker in tone than the original series, with many beloved characters being killed off in the most callous fashion. While Furman’s work on Transformers properties always entertains, the book suffered from uneven artwork from a variety of artists, as well as a breakneck pacing that didn’t give plot developments room to breathe. The title was cancelled with #12, heralding the beginning of the Transformers’ near decade-long absence from comic shop shelves.

12. DAYS OF FUTURE PRESENT

Days of Future present art adams

“Days of Future Past,” appearing in Uncanny X-Men #141-142 is one of the most beloved X-Men stories of all time, even serving as the inspiration for the 2014 movie of the same name. Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s exploration of a dystopian future introduced a number of story threads that X-writers would utilize over the years.

In 1990, a four-part sequel called “Days of Future Present” appeared, running across four of Marvel’s annuals (Fantastic Four, X-FactorNew Mutants and Uncanny X-Men). This saw Franklin Richards travel to the present day from this future timeline, allowing him to reunite with Rachel Summers and his parents Reed and Sue. While perfectly serviceable, and featuring the first meeting between Jean Grey and Rachel Summers, the story suffers from the fact that the original set such a high bar, with the multiple art teams also making it feel rather disjointed.

11. SPIDER-MAN: GRIM HUNT

In 1987, J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck combined their talents for “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” a SIX-issue crossover that spanned all three ongoing Spider-titles. This took Kraven, who for some years had been treated as a joke villain and not a serious threat to Spidey, and made him a tragic and compelling antagonist. The story saw Kraven gain a victory of sorts over Spider-Man, culminating in his own suicide.

In the following years, the story obtained legendary status among fans, and while Kraven was never resurrected, various family members assumed to take his place over the years. In the 2010 “Grim Hunt” storyline by Joe Kelly and Michael Lark, Kraven’s wife and daughter conspired to resurrect Kraven and other members of their family. The story killed off several supporting cast members — including Madame Web and Mattie Franklin — and resurrected Kraven, but readers were left asking why he needed to be brought back at all after such a spectacular send-off.

10. AGE OF APOCALYPSE (2005 MINISERIES)

Alternate Wolverine Age of Apocalypse

In 1995, Marvel shocked comic fans by cancelling its entire line of X-titles, replacing them with a series that chronicled a world where Charles Xavier was dead and Apocalypse was in control. This world truly was survival of the fittest, with familiar characters placed in new situations and countless heroes and villains switching sides. Although hugely popular and fondly remembered by fans, the AoA timeline was presumed destroyed at the end of the crossover, making it surprising when Marvel announced a 10th anniversary sequel.

From the creative team of Akira Yoshida and Chris Bachalo, this six-issue mini followed many of the survivors of the original AoA crossover, as well as introducing a huge number of new protagonists. Unfortunately, this huge cast coupled with new costume designs that made it difficult to identify even existing characters, made the book into a real chore to read, failing to live up to its predecessor.

9. CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS II

Contest of Champions II

Published in 1982, the three-part Contest of Champions was Marvel’s first ever limited series. The title revolved around a contest between the Grandmaster and Death, who used Earth’s superheroes as their champions. Established Marvel heroes mixed with new international heroes, many of whom (such as the Irish hero, Shamrock) were incredibly stereotypical.

The 1999 sequel, from the creative team of Chris Claremont, Oscar Jiminez and Michael Ryan, deviated from the concept of a cosmic game but kept in the essential element: that of numerous heroes beating the stuffing out of each other. Chris Claremont had long been associated with the trope of heroes fighting each other under the influence of mind control, so was the perfect fit for this concept, However, many fans found the execution lacking, with the results of some of the battles — including the Human Torch beating She-Hulk — proving very controversial among fans.

8. THE INFINITY CRUSADE

Jim Starlin wowed a generation of comic fans with his work on Adam Warlock in the 1970s. When he returned to Marvel in the 1990s, collaborating with George Perez and Ron Lim on The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries, a new generation of fans were introduced to Starlin’s work. The success of The Infinity Gauntlet led to two follow-up miniseries, both by the team of Starlin and Lim, but neither were as enthusiastically received.

The Infinity War relied heavily on the hokey concept of evil doppelgangers, with many heroes fighting twisted versions of themselves. The Infinity Crusade was controversial with fans for an entirely different reason. The Goddess (a personification of Adam Warlock’s “good” side) recruited those Marvel heroes that had faith, with these characters blindly following her. This blurring together of religion and faith, and the use of such characters as the notional “baddies” in the book, proved unpopular with many readers.

7. ONSLAUGHT REBORN

Vision in Onslaught Reborn

The original Onslaught saga fundamentally changed the Marvel universe in 1996. Onslaught, an evil psionic entity created from the consciousness of Charles Xavier and Magneto, was so powerful that it took the sacrifice of countless Marvel heroes to stop him, paving the way for their appearance in Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld’s Heroes Reborn titles. As with Age of Apocalypse, Marvel marked the tenth anniversary of this storyline by releasing a five-issue miniseries, from the creative team of Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld.

The original saga could never have been described as deep and meaningful, but there was an emotional resonance to it, particularly in the X-Men’s reaction to the betrayal of Charles Xavier, and the sacrifice of so many heroes. In contrast, the follow-up miniseries was five issues of fight scenes as Onslaught rampaged across Counter Earth, the setting for the Heroes Reborn stories.

6. RUINS

Ruins Hulk

In 1994, the four-issue limited series Marvels was published, providing a street level perspective of the Marvel universe during its early years. Written by Kurt Busiek and beautifully painted by Alex Ross, Marvels was a critical hit and amassed numerous awards. The following year, Marvel released Ruins, a thematic sequel. Written by Warren Ellis with artwork from Cliff, Terese Neilsen and Chris Moeller, this reinvented Phil Sheldon as the chronicler of an age of disaster, not heroes.

This is one of the most cynical, shocking and downright disgusting comics to ever be produced by Marvel, with super powers not presented as a cause for wonder but as a surefire route to mental illness or death. It’s hard to pick a lowest point, but contenders are Peter Parker giving Daily Bugle staff cancer after his spider-bite, and Johnny Blaze committing suicide by setting his own head on fire.

5. GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS II

Released in 1982, the God loves, Man Kills graphic novel by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson is one of the most acclaimed comic stories of all time. Featuring the X-Men’s struggle against William Stryker, a charismatic preacher who hates mutants, the story is one of the best examinations of anti-mutant prejudice and the X-Men’s ongoing struggle. Originally regarded as out of continuity, the character of Stryker was used in the 2003 movie sequel X2, although re-imagined as a military man. This led to a belated sequel to the original story, by Chris Claremont and Igor Kordey, within the pages of X-treme X-Men.

Any follow-up would have struggled to reach the high standard of the original, but this was disappointing on so many levels. Claremont attempts to fuse the comic and movie portrayals of Styker, leading to characters such as Lady Deathstrike being shoehorned in. There’s mind control (of course) and the whole storyline feels bland, lacking the emotional resonance of the original.

4. THE CLONE SAGA

The original Spider-Man Clone Saga, by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru that appeared within the pages of Amazing Spider-Man in 1975, was concise, contained and seemingly resolved in #149, with Peter Parker defeating the Jackal’s schemes and realizing that he was the original Peter. Its belated follow-up two decades later was none of these things. Lasting for two and a half years, from October 1994 to December 1996, the original intent for a short and exciting story spiraled out of control, until neither creators or readers had any idea how to resolve it.

Ironically, the problem arose from the initial reaction to the story, with the high sales and fan interest encouraging Marvel’s sales department to extend the saga on and on. Despite some good issues and concepts buried within the mix, they were swamped by groan-worthy characters and concepts discarded as soon as they were introduced, along with countless changes in creators and direction.

3. DAZZLER THE MOVIE

Alison Blaire, the mutant known as Dazzler, received an ongoing series in 1981. Originally following her quest to achieve singing success in New York, she later moved to Los Angeles to become an actress. This is chronicled in the Dazzler The Movie graphic novel, which takes plot threads from the comic and heads on a one-way trip to crazy town.

By Jim Shooter and Frank Springer, the book sees Dazzler falling for the charms of a fat, balding film star named Roman Nekoboh. The book spends a lot of time on their relationship, with Roman convincing Dazzler to out herself as a mutant. This leads to a predictable backlash and Dazzler’s career being ruined. Despite the ramifications for Alison, the abiding memory for readers is that of Roman squeezing himself into a corset. Did Marvel really think that this was the kind of mutant action kids wanted to see?

2. SECRET WARS II

The original Secret Wars limited series, released in 1984, was a tremendous success, with Marvel fans lapping up the conflict between Marvel’s heroes and villains on the mysterious Battleworld. Originally published to accompany a toy line, it had no set tie-ins with Marvel’s ongoing titles, but events in the series (such as the introduction of Spidey’s black costume) were reflected in the regular Marvel universe.

The success of Secret Wars led to a sequel the following year. Jim Shooter returned as writer, with Al Milgrom as artist. This saw the Beyonder visit Earth in search of enlightenment, with the crossover having tie-ins with virtually every Marvel ongoing. Fan reaction was poor, with the series viewed as a pale imitation of the original. Particularly irritating were the Beyonder’s attempts to understand Earth customs; readers were also treated to “hilarious” concepts such as the Beyonder learning to eat and use the bathroom.

1. ONE MOMENT IN TIME

Since the Parker marriage was magically dissolved during “One More Day,” fans had wanted an explanation of what had happened to thwart this union. They finally got their answer in “One Moment in Time,” running through Amazing Spider-Man #638-641. This acted as a sequel of sorts to Amazing Spider-Man annual 21, with original panels from the issue interspersed with new material from Joe Quesada and Paolo Rivera.

And what was the big reveal that fans had waited years to discover? It was that Peter had been knocked unconscious by a fat guy landing on him, causing him to miss his own wedding. This not only made him out to be utterly incompetent, but also meant that every single member of his supporting cast now thought of Peter not as a lovable screwup, but as someone that would leave his fiancee at the alter. Absolutely terrible stuff. At least the art was nice…

There you have our picks for Marvel’s suckiest sequels. Be sure to let us know your thoughts and suggestions, either in the comments or on Facebook!

Tags:
spider-man, x-men
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