Comic book fans are among some of the most critical when it comes to their favorite characters. Everybody has a favorite writer, artist or overall run that often becomes the standard for everything that comes after it. However, when a publisher experiments with different ideas, it can lead to fans voicing their concerns in a manner that cannot be ignored. In many cases, this begins and ends with relaunches of some sort, where comics begin with new first issues and more new reader friendly story lines.
For DC Comics, the last decade has featured a lot of decisions that have created a fuss in the market. A good chunk of what made its way to this list were runs from the much discussed “New 52” relaunch in 2011. Despite the sales success, some of the character changes along with DC’s own lack of decisiveness on what was still canon made for a slow burn towards reader frustration. But this list has some other stories on it as well that riled up fans for one reason or another. With that, here are the 15 runs that stood out in their ability to provoke a reaction from their audience.
15 EARTH TWO
There is a real issue with relaunching things for a publisher when you decide to eliminate massive parts of the history of characters and relationships that make many fans fall in love with the concepts in the first place. So when DC announced Earth Two and it starred Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, among others that were missing from the New 52, there was a ton of excitement and promise.
However, quality of the story aside, these were not those characters. They were not necessarily poorly written or drawn -- on the contrary -- but the stories could have been about entirely new characters and things would have been no different. There was not potential for a return of the JSA, and when interaction with Earth 0 did come in another entry on this list, it just made the whole series feel like a giant waste of time and money for many readers.
14 NEW 52 FLASH
One of the changes that wound up really frustrating fans when the New 52 began was that Wally West was no longer in the picture. While Barry Allen had already made his way back, his return seemed to be going well under Geoff Johns; that is, until the whole Flashpoint creating the New 52 shift occurred. When The Flash started again under the admittedly great direction of the incomparable Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, it made a lot of fans struggle to understand why some of the changes were necessary.
Elements like nixing the marriage to Iris, making the rogues have actual powers and feeling the need to make another Reverse Flash all felt like something catering to new readers while forgetting the old fans. And while it all looked beautiful when Manapul drew it, there was just no real heart to the stories being told. In fact, that heart came back in the form of Wally West to signal the end of the New 52 and the beginning of Rebirth.
13 BLUE BEETLE REBIRTH
It is hard to not to feel bad for a guy like Jaime Reyes. There is unquestionably a great character there, but he doesn’t seem to be able to carry a solo title for too long before cancellation. In the case of Rebirth, creators Keith Giffen ad Scott Kolins had what may have been his best hook outside of being part of a team like the Teen Titans by having him mentored by Ted Kord, the former Blue Beetle.
The problem is that the stories written for the character, even with Ted Kord and Dr. Fate, lacked what many fans wanted from the characters, at least enough for them to keep coming back. Teenage angst makes for a fine line for characters like Reyes to walk, abut something just did not click with the Blue Beetle fanbase, be it with his villains or the dynamic between he and Kord and/or his scarab.
12 JUSTICE LEAGUE REBIRTH
Sometimes creative teams get a tough act to follow. Considering that Justice League concluded its New 52 run with the outstanding “Darkseid War,” the start of Rebirth was going to be challenging. This is also one of a couple cases on this list of great artists trying their hand at writing, which may yield varying returns of success. Bryan Hitch’s art is top notch, and his writing on Justice League of America preceding the Rebirth launch was strong.
When Rebirth started, after a couple arcs, fans began to see a pattern emerge of a huge threat to the world facing off against the League, which ultimately wins the day. That's true of most League stories, of course, but the problem was that, for many fans, these stories felt disconnected from the publisher's Rebirth entirely. Major threads seemed almost nonexistent in this book, and it left fans wondering why such a flagship title would diverge so hard from the greater company-wide narrative push.
11 NEW 52 GREEN ARROW
We've covered how the New 52 relaunch made some characters much younger than before, making their massive histories no longer part of their character. For a hero like Green Arrow, matters were made worse by the fact that the Arrow television series had become so popular, which led to an obvious desire to capture some of those elements. All of this created a comic that, for some fans, seemed to lack any real identity.
The title just couldn’t find a direction that worked for this now devoid-of-character Oliver Queen. It didn’t really matter who was helping craft the book, be it talented creators like JT Krul, Dan Jurgens or Ann Nocenti, all of whom have incredible work on their resumes; there was just nothing catching on with fans. It took an injection from Jeff Lemire on issue 17 of the run for things to take a dramatic turn in the positive direction for Green Arrow.
10 NEW 52 CATWOMAN
It is no mystery that sex sells, and for a character like Catwoman that is an easy approach to take. This title seemed to take that concept to a whole new level as she is often dressed scandalously or working in strip clubs during the book. There is also the last page of issue one, which garnered a ton of attention for its portrayal of a Batman and Catwoman having one of their (in)famous rendezvous in (and slightly out of) their costumes.
This wasn’t the problem in and of itself, but it lacked the established relationship and the “chase” aspect that make these two so fun to read. Not only this, but Selina’s “best friend” dies in two issues and she later compares a separated shoulder to childbirth. This is not the Selina Kyle fans rabidly love and thankfully, there seems to be a return to form in the current Tom King Batman run.
9 NEW 52 BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT
Once again we have an artist who is getting their shot at being a writer. John Byrne and Frank Miller have done it with great success, but that is not the case for this book. David Finch is a superstar artist -- one of the modern greats -- and he continues to shine on Batman today, arguably brighter than ever. However, stories about venom infected Two-Face, the White Rabbit chasing Batman in lingerie and a comparatively uninspired use of Bane made this book hard to read.
Luckily for fans, this one wasn’t too hard to forget since there was a now classic Scott Snyder Batman run happening at the same time. This title is also a prime example of a publisher having too many books focused on one character, which happens all the time in the industry considering the clout that Batman brings to a title. Thankfully, Finch is focusing his inimitable talents in a much better way in the Rebirth line.
8 NEW 52 SUPERMAN
It is never a good sign when a title the caliber of Superman has four different writers in the span of a year, but that is what happened when the New 52 title kicked off. It seemed like having George Perez write and draw Superman would be a slam dunk hit. Perhaps the problem was that it came with some hefty strings attached.
First, Perez had to write a Clark Kent who was no longer married and was having his revised history told in Grant Morisson’s Action Comics, which was running at the same time. It reeked of a lack of strong editorial planning and by the time readers were treated to a new villain named H’el, things had gone off the rails. Perhaps we have this run to thank for some of the great stuff that has come for Superman since Rebirth.
7 NEW 52 HAWK & DOVE
One of the hallmarks of the New 52 relaunch involved a nod towards some of the most prominent ‘90s creators such as Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. While Jim Lee holds a high position at DC and helped design many characters for the relaunch, Liefeld found himself back in the stable of DC doing a title he had been doing many years before, Hawk & Dove.
The problem was that this book just didn’t seem to have any purpose existing in the New 52 line. It lacked connection with other titles, the art looked rushed and it read as something that was not being written with passion. Fans couldn’t believe having to swallow villains that look exactly like recolored versions of the heroes and it only took five issues for Sterling Gates to step away as writer and Liefeld to step in for three issues before cancellation.
6 DAMIAN: SON OF BATMAN
If there was ever a case of an exceptional artist not being given writing duties, this miniseries may be it. Andy Kubert is an amazing artist whose longevity speaks for itself, but this story which had its roots in his work with Grant Morrison on Batman, just didn’t leave fans wanting more.
The art suffers here as well, with many fans lamenting Damian’s size and age change for being without reason. The characters are also written in a strange fashion with Bruce Wayne wanting to kill Damian for killing some of the rogues. There is also this priest who is seemingly Bruce Wayne in disguise that Damian confesses to in the story. There also isn't much father-son love to speak of here. Even Damian’s confidence wanes throughout despite his usual arrogance in most portrayals. The whole thing left readers wondering why this story was ever published in the first place.
5 JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE
Following Infinite Crisis and before the beginning of the New 52, things were rough for the Justice League. This miniseries was to be the return to glory of the League under the pen of James Robinson and artists Mauro Cascioli, Scott Clark and Ardian Syaff. During the lead-up to the title, the League lineup seemed a bit in flux and what was finally put onto stands was not what many fans expected.
Cry for Justice was filled with controversial events, like when Roy Harper had his arm ripped off and his young daughter killed, and Green Arrow becoming a murderer. The whole story was so intense that it couldn’t be taken seriously. Was it supposed to be intentionally campy in a Batman ’66 kind of way, before then going dark? The consequences and weight of what was happening just didn’t match the ridiculous dialogue.
The story behind Convergence wound up being more interesting than the actual book. DC was moving its offices from Manhattan to Burbank and it needed something to fill the void of time during the move. At the same time, the New 52 was starting to lose its luster, and readers were asking for the return of classic things missing since the relaunch.
This is where Convergence was born. Characters from various timelines were collected by Brainiac and trapped in domes to experiment. The main miniseries promised the meeting of the Earth Two characters from the New 52 and the Earth 0 characters from the main titles. There also seemed to be a strong prospect of some pre-New 52 elements returning to the DCU. It didn’t happen and the whole series felt like what it was in the first place, a placeholder to kill time.
3 NEW 52 TEEN TITANS VOL. 1
Where do we begin when it comes to this run? This version of the Teen Titans came hot off the heals of a major rejuvenation in the past 10 years before under the pen of Geoff Johns. The team had a new generation of characters and relationships that were clicking well. While things may have started going wrong before the New 52 relaunch, what followed put a nail in the Teen Titans coffin for many fans.
Every character involved was drastically different. There were also weird details, like that this story was about the first ever Teen Titans team, removing a wealth of popular DC history. The art and stories were a mess of mixing Wildstorm characters with new characters and villains that felt hollow. The book failed to capitalize on its rich history and family dynamic in the worst possible way, but luckily it seems to be course correcting now.
2 AMAZONS ATTACK
Every now and then, when you read a comic and you see an ad for something coming up, you just scratch your head wondering why that would be published. Amazons Attack was an “event” book that seemed to come out of nowhere. Were fans clamoring to see Hippolyta lead an attack on Washington DC? Maybe? There may have been some good idea here, but the miniseries was a disaster.
Characters like Batman seemed to be written against the grain. One example includes Batman uttering such grand statements as, “Bees. My God.” It has been reported that some readers were so disgusted with the story that they mailed their copies back to DC editorial staff. That is quite a statement from outraged fans.
1 COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS
Coming on the heels of the wildly successful 52 weekly series, DC decided to try it again with a heavily hyped weekly series called Countdown. There were some talented creators involved, such as Paul Dini, but it soon became evident as the weeks went by that this whole thing was a mess. There were disparate stories involving characters ranging from Jimmy Olsen to Jason Todd, but much of what happened never mattered outside this series .
On top of it all, the title changed to add the “to Final Crisis” portion and by the time it was over, it was crystal clear that this book and Final Crisis had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Sometimes you can't catch lightning in a bottle twice, and DC certainly didn’t with this second 52 week series.
Did these runs fill you with rage or were there others that came to mind? Let us know in the comments!