It seems that comic publishers are setting up their entire year around one event or another these days. Big events tend to shape an entire line of books, sometimes over the course of 18 or more months, and that means a lot of time and money is being spent on writing and drawing these stories so that everything weaves together nicely.
Events make sense from a business perspective because a collector would need to purchase books from outside their normal reads in order to get the whole story, but when the publisher comes up with a story that essentially sucks, the fans and the bottom line suffer. There are certainly a lot of them to choose from, but these are our favorite picks for the absolute worst events in comic history.
15. ONE MORE DAY
Remember that time when Peter decided the best thing for him to do so he could support his man-crush, Tony Stark, was to come out on live television and tell the world that he was *gasp* Spider-Man? He then moved into Avengers mansion with M.J. and Aunt May, and things were looking on the up and up for the ol’ web-head. That is, until he decided what he was doing was wrong and turned against Tony.
When the dust settled on “Civil War,” a sniper with poor eyesight took a shot at him and instead hit Aunt May! In “One More Day,” in order to save his Aunt May’s life, Peter Parker decided to make a deal with Mephisto (you know, the Devil) to bring her back. One catch, though: his marriage to M.J. became a ‘never was’ and the world wouldn’t know he was Spider-Man anymore. As events go, this one was pretty lame. Marvel clearly wanted things to go back to how they used to be decades ago and this was the tool they used to get it done. Fans didn’t appreciate the “it never happened” way that Marvel got Spider-Man back to being a bachelor and the books suffered as a result.
14. SECRET WARS II
When Marvel’s crossover event “Secret Wars” hit the newsstands back in 1984, it was a huge success. Readers got to see the heroes and villains of Earth transported to Battleworld to face off in an ultimate battle between good and evil. Behind the whole thing was an entity called The Beyonder, a being of infinite power. It was a character-rich storyline written by Jim Shooter with great art by Mike Zeck.
“Secret Wars II” came out the following year and it featured The Beyonder, who decided to come to Earth to learn what it means to be human. The story was poorly executed and kind of unimpressive. “Blah” is a good word describing it. Though it was written by Shooter, whose stories usually draw the reader in, this one never really resonated. Even calling it “Secret Wars II” didn’t make a lot of sense; it was clearly titled that way just to capitalize on the first event’s success. It may have fared better had it been titled “Beyonder” instead of implying a connection beyond that character, but that’s not what they decided to do and we ended up with a less-than-impressive crossover.
13. INFINITE CRISIS
“Infinite Crisis” was something of a mess that never really panned out for DC the way that “Crisis on Infinite Earths” did. “Infinite Crisis” was the third in a series of four ‘Crises’ events (the second being “Zero Hour: Crisis In Time”) that ended with “Final Crisis” in 2008, but unlike its predecessor and successor, it just didn’t add up. Following the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” this new crossover story decided to bring back the DC multiverse and even goes so far as to kill off some major characters. Of course, they had to introduce some new ones as well. They re-introduced Superboy-Prime, a whiny narcissist and the Superboy who lived in “our” universe (his powers only manifested during the first “Crisis,” which is why we’ve never seen him in real life) who became a villain, having killed off several major characters from the Titans (he knocks off Pantha’s head with a single punch and beats Superboy to death) and maiming several others.
This is one of those events that could have played out very well, but it continued to miss the mark at each and every turn. It was unnecessarily violent and much of it seemed unnecessary. It did provide an excuse for the J.L.A. to reform the following year, but beyond that, it failed to deliver on its predecessor’s success.
12. SECRET INVASION
After the Skrull homeworld is destroyed and a new regime picked up the pieces, the species feels it’s time to invade the Earth and that the best way to do so is to replace Earth’s mightiest superheroes with Skrull secret agents. Since these guys can shape-shift into whoever they like, it becomes an issue of “Who can you trust” in this crossover event that fell flat on its face. The level of hype for “Secret Invasion” was pretty intense among fans, which only made it crash and burn when it finally came time to read it.
The pacing was way too slow and when the action finally ramped up, the payoff was barely there. The tagline that led everyone to believe some heroes might come back from the dead or prove to be Skrulls was practically a bait and switch since hardly anyone impressive was actually a Skrull. The final outcome of this event was not only weird, but also unbelievable as well: Norman Osborne gets put in charge of worldwide security. Yeah. The Green freakin’ Goblin. This event failed to deliver in so many ways, making it an absolute must for a list like this.
11. MAXIMUM CARNAGE
“Maximum Carnage” was the event that allowed for the writers to knock out some tired tropes on their way to the “Clone Saga,” which hit the following year. First, they made Venom and Spider-Man team up to stop a mutual threat (and having rivals team up is such a tired cliche in superhero writing), but it really didn’t explore the characters beyond their surfaces. Second, they wanted to preach a moral lesson throughout the books: should we kill this psycho to save countless lives or keep the high ground and lock him up even though he will probably get out and kill again? If you are thinking to yourself that sounds familiar, you must have read a “Batman” comic at least once in your life! Not only is this the basic struggle between Batman and the Joker, it’s just sloppy writing that was reiterated over and over again in all the issues pertaining to this event.
We are left with a series that had a two-dimensional enemy, a tired moral lesson, and a crossover that went on for too long. Some fans may disagree, but “Maximum Carnage” was just another miss for Spider-Man fans.
10. CIVIL WAR II
The first “Civil War” crossover was all about registering superhumans and imprisoning those who refused. The lines were drawn and battles were fought. It was good and it even addressed topical events happening at the time of publication. “Civil War II” was little more than Marvel’s attempt to capitalize on something that worked once (its heroes dividing up into two camps and fighting each other), so they sprinkled a little change on their formula and went ahead with it.
In “Civil War II,” the heroes are again divided over a fundamental issue, only this time, it’s over whether or not they should intervene and stop crimes before they happen. Thanks to a new Inhuman on the scene, they can now do just that… but should they? It’s basically “Minority Report” played out with superheroes instead of cops. Should we stop future crimes and arrest people who never committed them or let them happen and punish the guilty? The event was hardly necessary, nobody wanted it, and it just weakened what came before.
9. THE AMALGAM UNIVERSE
The comics published under the imprint, Amalgam Comics, weren’t so much a crossover event as they were a ploy to make money off a gimmick. Ok, that may be what most of these events were, but this one takes the cake. DC and Marvel decided to work together by producing 12 one-shot issues each of their characters in a single universe. The catch? Well, they had to merge their superheroes into one. For example, Doctors Strange and Fate became Dr. Strangefate while Wonder Woman and Storm merged into Amazon. Can you guess who Doctor Doom merged with to become Doctor Doomsday? You get the idea.
The idea was that the two universes were entities called The Brothers who merged into one, which is why the characters of each universe became conjoined. It didn’t make a lot of sense and it just didn’t work. Amalgam books weren’t well received by fans. While it’s sometimes fun to see who would win a fight between this Marvel Avenger and that DC Justice Leaguer, combining the two into a single person was never really on anyone’s minds before Marvel and DC created this monstrosity.
8. CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN
The only thing that could finally end the Civil War was the death of Captain America. He served the United States well in his decades-long battle against evil, so they offed him to make a point. Of course, comic book characters are pretty much immortal so long as anyone is willing to pay for a new book, so Marvel had to bring him back. Nobody was surprised that they decided to do this, but their execution was just bad.
The whole storyline was a convoluted mess, but the bottom line up front is that Steve Rogers became unstuck in time. If you’ve ever read “Slaughterhouse Five,” you know what that means. He jumps back and forth reliving past experiences. This was a result of the gun used to kill him. It had tachyon particles in them that somehow put him out of sync with reality. Meanwhile, it turns out that the Red Skull’s consciousness has taken over Rogers’ body, so the two battle it out until Rogers can regain control.
7. DC VERSUS MARVEL COMICS
Sure, it sounds fun to see Superman and Thor in the same comics, but does it really work in the end? No. No, it does not. Unlike the Amalgam comics mentioned earlier, DC and Marvel have attempted to knock out a few crossovers over the years and every one of them has been forgettable. When it comes to the crossovers, there was one that could begrudgingly be described as the best: “DC Versus Marvel Comics.” It wasn’t great by any measure, but we did get to see a lot of “Who would win in a fight” arguments play out in the pages of comics instead of chat rooms all over the Internet.
The biggest problem with this had to be the outcome of certain fights. You can’t put Quicksilver up against the Flash. There is no contest between the two and anyone who knows comics would bet on the Flash every time. That wasn’t the worst, though. That honor goes to Lobo vs. Wolverine. They gave Wolverine the win, which makes no sense, and they did it off-panel, which just made fans mad. There was no logic to any of this and it was nothing short of a failure. Though to be fair, the outcomes were decided on votes from the readers (the storyline of this event also led to the Amalgam comics).
On the one hand, it’s hard to blame Barry Allen for wanting to change the past so that his mother was never murdered. On the other hand, he really screwed things up in a big way. The DC Universe is confusing enough without a Flash running through time and mucking things up, but that’s exactly what Allen did, and the fallout didn’t just result in a lot of changes, it also got us a pretty crummy event. “Flashpoint” spanned 68 issues, making it a fairly long event, not to mention an expensive one for the readers and for the history of the DC universe.
The storyline may have been confusing to some folks, but the reason Flashpoint was such a bad event for comics is that it led to another event of sorts, DC’s “The New 52.” The entire DC universe got a shakeup (again) and fans either loved it or hated it. DC canceled all of their titles and relaunched 52 of them. This brought about the “Convergence” event, which then resulted in “Rebirth.” “Rebirth,” as the name suggests, returned much of the D.N.A. of the DC Universe to its pre-Flashpoint form. “Flashpoint” essentially set off a five-year alteration and then return in DC titles, which is why it has landed here on this list.
When it first debuted in 2000 with “Ultimate Spider-Man” #1, written by Brian Michael Bendis and penciled by Mark Bagley, the Ultimate universe was off to a pretty good start. Reception for the book was great and Marvel started bringing in new fans for their reimagined classic characters. So, what could go wrong and destroy the entire lineup of Ultimate books, forever dooming the original Ultimate universe? If you guessed the “Ultimatum” event, well… you’ve been reading this list.
The first thing they did was kill off a bunch of your favorite characters off-panel. This, along with the Blob eating the Wasp, Magneto killing Professor X and Wolverine losing the adamantium from his bones didn’t help to entertain the audience. This all comes about because Magneto wants to destroy the planet due to the deaths of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, only Quicksilver wasn’t dead, but it hardly matters. The event was so bad that they eventually ended up having to relaunch the entire Ultimate universe—not unlike what happened post-Flashpoint for DC.
4. THE CLONE SAGA
You may have noticed a few mentions of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man on this list and there’s a pretty good reason why. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Marvel kept introducing weird new Spider-Men throughout their books, so much so that they had to deal with them all at once. The result was the horrific “Clone Saga.” This event lasted for two years and jumped back and forth between the many Spidey books Marvel was putting out at the time, so anyone who jumped in at random really had no clue what was going on.
What really made fans mad was the introduction of the Scarlet Spider who, as it turned out, was the real Peter Parker all along, while the Spidey we all knew and loved had been a clone these past 20 years! That’s 20 years of publication, not in-comic-universe time. The crux of this event was a distortion of the “Evil Twin” trope from your favorite daytime television series and fans hated it, especially since it was later revealed that – actually – Peter was the real Peter Parker after all!
3. SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
When it comes to an impressive rogues gallery, Spider-Man’s usually tops the list. One of his oldest and best was Doctor Octopus, who in this storyline found a way to switch out his mind with that of his nemesis’, Spider-Man! Basically, it goes down like this: The Doc is dying, he switches his mind with that of Peter’s, Doc’s body kicks the bucket (taking Peter’s soul/mind with it) and Peter Parker is dead. Only one problem: Doc Oc didn’t anticipate finally understanding why Peter was who he was and what he fought for, so he decides to take up the mantle so-to-speak and become the Superior Spider-Man!
The event spread over more than 30 issues and took Spider-Man into some strange territory. He goes back to school to get his doctorate since Otto can’t abide being anything but a PhD. holder, he blackmails Mayor Jameson into letting him advance security over the city, installs thousands of drone spiders to help in this goal and he establishes an island fortress. Eventually, Peter gets the upper hand and reasserts his consciousness, but by the end of the event, readers were left pretty much just asking one question: “why?”
2. DEATH OF SUPERMAN
When it comes to compelling stories interweaving through a multitude of books, this one didn’t exactly fail to disappoint. The problem that arose with the “Death of Superman” event had to do entirely with its marketing, which was incredibly successful. People flocked to buy copies of “Superman” #75, written and penciled by Dan Jurgens, which came in multiple formats – bagged, bagged all in black and more. People who weren’t even collectors went out and bought multiple copies of this thing, thinking it would shoot up in value. Of course, it didn’t because they printed millions of them, after all.
The “Death of Superman” event had a negative effect on the comic book industry similar to what happened to video games in the early ‘80s. People got tired of all the gimmicks and extras you had to buy if you wanted to collect them all. Kids’ allowances wouldn’t cover the costs and people began spending their money on other things. It took a long time for the market to recover from this event and, in the end, it was really nothing more than a moneymaking gimmick and publicity stunt since, as we all know, Supes isn’t permanently pushing up daisies and probably never will.
The idea for “Onslaught” was certainly interesting: take Professor Xavier, the most powerful psychic in the universe, and make him go insane after his and Magneto’s psyches are merged! He transforms into a giant, armored monstrosity called Onslaught who then goes out and conquers Manhattan. Towards the end, Onslaught had become so powerful, he became a being of pure psionic energy. Since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, the only way to finally end his rampage was to send the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Hulk and Doctor Doom into his energy to absorb it, where the X-Men would then use their powers to kill them. That’s right, they killed pretty much every Marvel hero who wasn’t an X-Man (except of course they didn’t really; Franklin Richards shot them into a pocket universe).
When it comes to crummy events leading to other crummy events, “Onslaught” takes the cake. What followed was a cancellation of “Iron Man,” “Fantastic Four” and “Captain America” just so they could all fall under “Heroes Reborn,” which was put out by Marvel’s former competitors, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, who had returned from working at Image. Readers hated this event and would like to forget it ever happened.
Which comic book event was your least favorite? Be sure to tell us in the comments.
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