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Comicscape - September 22, 2004

Titles We Wish Had Not Been Cancelled And Some Which Should Have Been

By Tony Whitt     September 22, 2004


The end is nigh for the team in X-STATIX #26.
© Marvel Comics

OPINION:



First of all, you're probably wondering why this week's comics reviews are so far out of date. Well, there's a good explanation for that, and it all has to do with an itty bitty hurricane named Ivan. I've occasionally mentioned the fact that I'm based in New Orleans, but this is about the only time I've mentioned it that it should really make sense. You can bet that, if our mayor was telling us all to get out of the city under a voluntary evacuation order, then he probably wasn't going to let last week's comics shipment get through the meanie. Still, it could have been worse - here in my part of town, we got off with no rain, some high winds, and a few power outages, but lots of folks in Florida weren't so lucky. So, sorry about the tardiness of this week's reviews, but this time I can really say it was an act of God.



Anyway...With the recent spate of comic series getting the axe, I'm a bit surprised by the lack of response to last week's question about the series you wish had not been cancelled and those you wish would be cancelled usually a question like that has people falling all over themselves to express an opinion about it. (Maybe a good bit of our readers were stuck on the I-10 trying to get away from the Gulf Coast, too?) Luckily, those wonderful folks over at the GLA List were willing to step up to the plate when I asked them the same question, and it's one I've been thinking about for a while, as well, so I have some thoughts formed on it already. Even though the GLAers went a bit further back than I'd anticipated, they also reminded me of a few books I hadn't thought of in a long while...



Todd Latoski, for example, went a long way back for the title he wishes had never been cancelled: "SENSATION COMICS. All the DC big guns have always had more than one title, and in many cases three or four - look at Superman (SUPERMAN, ACTION COMICS,MAN OF STEEL, etc.) and Batman (BATMAN, DETECTIVE, LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT, etc.), and in the past even JLA (JLA, JLE, JL TASK FORCE, JL QUARTERLY) and Green Lantern (GREEN LANTERN, GUY GARDNER, GREEN LANTERN MOSAIC, etc.). Yet, for some reason, Wonder Woman has only maintained her one title. For such a great icon as Wonder Woman (I mean, c'mon - everyone has heard of Wonder Woman, but how many really know about Green Lantern?), it would seem that DC would take advantage of that and offer a second, companion title - SENSATION COMICS! After all, that is the comic that Wonder Woman did first appear on her own (after her original appearance in ALL STAR COMICS #8). If they had that title still going, it could easily give not only stories of Wonder Woman, but back-up stories with different members of her cast (Steve Trevor & Etta Candy for instance - where are they these days in this new continuity? Artemis, her Amazon sisters, the gods and goddesses, Vanessa and her mother, tales of her mother's time as WW in the JSA, and so many other countless stories...could be told.) Seems quite unfair that the male heroes have their spotlight in so many titles, yet the number one female super hero has to limit herself to one title!" Hmm, that sounds more like a book we wish would be published than a book that we wish hadn't been cancelled, Todd, especially as SENSATION left our shelves a good long while back but if DC did restart that title, as a sort of stand-alone book in the same style as, say, Marvel's SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED, they might be surprised by the reaction. Sure, the monthly title has sometimes struggled to get the same sales as Supes' and Batman's titles, but how badly would a stand-alone fare?



Todd also chimed in about the titles he feels should be cancelled: "Well, there's more than one title, actually - I'm talking about the line of 'X' titles over in Marvel Comics. I realize that the X-Men seem to have hit a popularity high (particularly after the amazingly good movies!), but I think Marvel seems to

Cover to BATGIRL #50 by James Jean.

be depending too much on the X-titles, with Wolverine in particular. I remember the days when there was simply UNCANNY X-MEN - and what a good title it was! Then came along NEW MUTANTS as the next generation, and later X-FACTOR, which harkened back to the days of the original members. Finally came along that second title, named simply X-MEN, and it started off as a good success. Gradually, however, we have suddenly found ourselves literally flooded with X-titles, spin-off titles, and how many of them get cancelled, only to get re-started as something else, then get cancelled a few issues later and re-arranged yet again? I look at the titles in the comic stores and read an occasional issue of my friend's, and I find myself completely dismayed at what has happened to the 'X-Universe.' Some characters are overused to the point of boredom (Wolverine, anyone?), characters have been killed for no reason (Magik, Colossus, Psylocke....), repeat stories seem to appear (how many times has 'Days of Future Past' been played out? And the death of Phoenix - yet again!), and instead of using already existing mutants in their titles, new ones continually pop up (at the rate they are going, shouldn't the whole Marvel Universe be populated by mutants only now?)."



Um, you mean it isn't? Todd brings up a good point, though, especially when the listings for this very week includes yet another X-title popping up. One does have to wonder whether the interest of X-fans will really sustain that many books, especially since so many of those same fans have expressed such disdain for the whole "Re-Loaded" event as seen in this column a few months back... That brings up a secondary question, though, to all of you who might write in this week to catch up with us: of all the new X-titles out there, which one is the least worthy?



Another response came from Scott Gutierrez, whose picks sent me back in time for just a little while: "Two titles for me that i wish were never cancelled and would give anything to see them brought back or even 're-imagined' or retconned are DNAGENTS and THE ELEMENTALS. They both were from the early to mid 80's. They were also both the first comics I ever read that dealt with a little more mature subject matters. Just in case the titles don't ring a bell: DNAGENTS [begins when] a multinational corporation genetically synthesizes five teens as their own private army, but the twist was....when you're 'born' with a 17-18 year old bod 'n hormones to match, with no experience to back them up (let alone the various superpowers), how do you cope? And THE ELEMENTALS [were] four people with nothing in common [who] all die under unusual circumstances and are resurrected as avatars of the four elements." I seem to recall that DNAGENTS, at least, was recently brought out by DC as an Archives Edition, wasn't it? As for THE ELEMENTALS, I must admit that I remembering hearing about it when it came out, but I don't know the first thing about it apart from what you've just told me. Anyone else feel the same way about this one and anyone know of anyone planning to bring it back?



J.A. Fludd gave a response that might have poor Todd tearing his hair out: "My top choice in this category is John Byrne's X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS. I loved the idea of this series, filling in the missing adventures of the X-Men from the time when the series was canceled. It was designed to answer questions like what the X-Men were doing when Magneto took over Atlantis and battled the Fantastic Four and Sub-Mariner (FF #102-104.) It brought Byrne back to the X-Men and was the only X-book that I found readable and appealing, the only one with the kind of style and charm that attracted me to the X-Men in the first place. Naturally, it had to be the book they axed.



"As for comics I wouldn't mind seeing canceled, honestly, if I hate something that much I just don't buy it or pay it any attention! But from what little I've seen and read about it, I don't think MARVEL KNIGHTS: 4, the so-called 'grounded' re-imagining of the Fantastic Four, would be a loss. I think the whole idea of the FF losing their fortune because of an embezzler (whom Reed for God-knows-what reason refuses to go after) and being reduced to common, lumpen wage-slave mundanity is among the most ill-conceived things I've ever heard of. And really, the premise of the FF having a reversal of fortune and having to work their way out of it is being handled much, much better in the real book. The bottom line is, the Fantastic Four and mundanity just don't mix." Let's hope the movie producers remember that, too...



"Joey"'s response, by contrast, was short and sweet: "Comic I wish was never cancelled: THE RAY - some complex stories and great characterization. Comic I wish was

Cover art for STARMAN #80

cancelled: BATGIRL - It just doesn't work for me and feels like filler most of the time." Oh, but how can you say that, Joey, when it allows the Bat-editors to make multi-title epics like "War Games" even more...um, epic? Oh. Yeah, come to think of it, you may be right on that one... As to THE RAY, the classic 1940's character was originally brought back in a mini-series by Jack C. Harris and Joe Quesada (yes, that one), and the 28-issue monthly series that followed was written by no less than Christopher Priest. By all accounts, it was hip and fun, two words that don't often go together. (See, someone just had to go and mention a title that was being published during that ten-year "dead zone" when I wasn't reading comics...)



Joel Cruz was the first to bring up a title that many respondents mentioned with fondness: "SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATER: an underrated Vertigo series featuring the adventures of the Golden-Age
Sandman. Wesley Dodds was portrayed less as a gimmicky Batman rip-off and more as a three dimensional character...a naturally pacifist, somewhat pudgy guy compelled to solve crimes because of his recurrent nightmares. Adult-oriented and mature stories fleshed out Dodds and his supporting cast, including one of the most realistic romantic relationships ever put in print. Almost the entire run was illustrated by Guy Davis who brought readers into the NYC of the late 1930s in a way I've never seen before or since. Its cancellation after 80 issues was abrupt and unfortunate." That nice round figure reminds me of at least one title from my own list below, but we'll get to that...



Joe Palmer also mentions SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATER and adds, "The other book that I wish hadn't been cancelled is CHASE, also from DC." Damn, y'all come up with the most obscure titles... or rather, they seem obscure to me when I haven't read them! The character Cameron Chase, an investigator with the Department of Extranormal Operations, was introduced in BATMAN #550 in January of 1998, and apparently the CHASE series lasted for only nine issue that year ten, if you count the one-shot issue #1,000,000 that appeared the month after it ended. Wow, they were doing that Year One Million crap with everyone, weren't they?



"caliban" wrote in to say that "Actually, the comic I wish hadn't been cancelled was NIGHTFORCE. It predated the Vertigo concept titles by years. I knew it wouldn't last since the timing was wrong, but it did introduce the character of the Baron." Geez, there you go again... According to the info I've been able to find about this one, NIGHTFORCE, a series created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, débuted in 1980 and lasted for fourteen issues. It involved the adventures of a group of investigators into the paranormal under the leadership of the aforementioned Baron. Hmm, these paranormal investigators don't seem to do too well in their own books, do they?



"Chad" was one of the few to mention titles only recently cancelled: "I wish both WILDCATS and STORMWATCH had not been cancelled. These books contained some traditional superhero elements, but always with a twist. They had stories that were both good and unique. I think they were just a little too far from the traditional superhero story to keep a high readership, though."



I've had many readers echo Chad's thoughts over the last several months bemoaning the losses of WILDCATS and STORMWATCH, but I'm surprised that so many other titles have gone under with nary a peep, even though some of them had quite large followings when they were cancelled. Here's my own list of books I wish hadn't got the chop:



CAPTAIN MARVEL: Peter David's two-volume run on this title was a wild, wild ride but, as the last issue went out of its way to prove, this book never quite fit in with the rest of the Marvel Universe and really, that's the main reason I treasured it, even in those moments that I ranted about how twisted it had become. What other book can you think of that had its main character go homicidally insane for an extended period and didn't roll over and immediately die as a result? But was that the reason it ultimately came to an end, anyway? Hard to say what part Genis will now play in the Marvel Universe without David's hand guiding him, but I hope that, whatever the role, it won't preclude a CAPTAIN MARVEL Volume IV someday.



X-STATIX: Dear Marvel: It is possible to have two books derived from the same concept on the shelves at the same time. No one is going to confuse this book with the newly resurrected (but still stinking of the grave) X-FORCE. Hell, if there can be upwards of fifteen X-related titles all taking themselves seriously to one degree or another, surely there's room for at least one that doesn't take itself so seriously? I know that's part of the reason that longtime X-FORCE fans so strongly hated Peter Milligan's take on the title and probably the biggest reason behind the name change but could the sales (and the revamped Princess Di storyline) have been so bad that the whole team had to be killed off in the last issue? Talk about burning your bridges...



STARMAN: I had just added this title to my regular folder two months before DC yanked it, which is

The end is nigh for the team in X-STATIX #26.

almost reason enough to add it to this list. Fact of the matter is, though, this was one of the first books I gravitated to when I started the whole comic reviewing gig, and it comes as no surprise to me that DC is now releasing those last few, fine issues in trade paperback. I've recently gone back to the beginning and started reading the whole saga, and it's easily captured my attention as much as SANDMAN did before it. I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt strongly about it so why'd it go bye-bye?



ADVENTURE COMICS: I know, I'm going back a ways for this one. It occurs to me after reading Todd's thoughts on SENSATION COMICS, though, that not only does DC have no titles that specialize in stand-alone stories the way that Marvel does (to a limited degree), they have no such titles for all their second-string characters anymore, either. DC used to be the main company for what I'll call "anthology titles": think about books like SHOWCASE, ADVENTURE, and even "group" titles like BATMAN FAMILY, and you'll see what I mean. The time might just be ripe for a new (though not renumbered) version of ADVENTURE to give all those people we don't see on a regular basis in the DCU a new home. How about it, DC?



THE BROTHERHOOD: This was one of the few X-titles I simply loved the hell out of, and many others felt much the same way. However, despite the fact that it was so well thought-of by both creators and fans, it got the axe. Guess that's the rule of thumb for X-titles: if they're too far off the beaten path of X-continuity, then they can't last for long.



THE LEGION: For grife's sake, do we really need yet another "reboot" of the Legion? Even with Mark Waid writing it, I'd be just as happy to let this book carry on rather than having...what, the sixth volume of my favorite book starting from scratch? This is almost as bad a decision as canceling GREEN LANTERN to make way for the "new" series as if vast new "re-imaginings" of the same characters can't be carried out within the confines of one volume of one book. Hell, why not have each and every book restart with issue one whenever it gets a new creative team while we're at it? (Sorry can you tell I'm really upset about this one?)



And last but not least, SPIDER-MAN'S TANGLED WEB: This series provided

Bill Sienkiewicz's trippy cover to NEW MUTANTS #27 (Vol. 1). Long live Warlock!

the sort of stand-alone excellence (most of the time) that SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED is supposed to be giving us. Sure, some complained that the stories in this series had no impact on the "real" Spidey universe, but isn't that the case with UNLIMITED? Besides, the stories in TANGLED WEB were by and large so much better written I still have fond memories of Darwyn Cooke's Valentine's Day story in #21, and that's only one among many. Honestly, was this series any less worthy than, say, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN?



Anyway, that's just a small listing of titles that should never have been cancelled and anyone who reads my column regularly can probably guess the ones I think should be cancelled. There's still time to chime in on this discussion, though, so if you have your own list of late lamented faves or books that forever dwell on your kill list, send them to me via the web site contact address here or e-mail me directly. Also, please use CAPS when giving the title of a series you want to mention. I do the HTML coding on this column every week, and having the titles in caps already makes my life much easier. Finally, as always, don't forget our discussion boards! In the meantime, here's this week's listings:



THIS WEEK:



For the kids this week, DC has come up with a new title, the hilariously named CARTOON NETWORK BLOCK PARTY #1 ($2.25). I dunno why I just get images of Johnny Bravo, Dexter, and the Powerpuff Girls sitting around on their porches eating barbequed chicken and drinking 40s...



A slightly more mature read comes from Marvel in the form of MARVEL AGE: SPIDER-MAN #12, which introduces Mysterio (and still at $2.25 tsk!); while RUNAWAYS #18 ($2.99), though not listed as a Marvel Age title, will eventually be collected in a Marvel Age digest, so I thought I'd save some time.



Wow

Cover to TOM STRONG #28.

not only is Alan Moore not writing this week's America's Best Comics offering TOM STRONG #28 ($2.95), it's being written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Cameron Stewart! What is America coming to?



Once you're done watching the World's Mightiest Heroes get banged up in all sorts of interesting ways in AVENGERS #502 (#87, $2.25), you can then check out the team when they still had no idea what was coming in the AVENGERS/THUNDERBOLTS VOL 2: BEST INTENTIONS trade paperback for $14.99 and the AVENGERS VOL 5: ONCE AN INVADER trade paperback for $14.99.



It's "War Games," Act 2, Part 5 in ROBIN #130 ($2.25), "War Games," Act 2, Part 6 in BATGIRL #56 ($2.50), and "War Games," Act 2, Part 7 in CATWOMAN #35 ($2.50). That about says it all, really. Or you could just read the BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN trade paperback for $19.95 and avoid the whole mess altogether for a while. Thank god for trades...



She's deadly! She's Russian! And she's got her own book! For six issues, anyway! SF writer Richard K. Morgan and the ever-wonderful Bill Sienkiewicz present BLACK WIDOW #1 (Of 6, $2.99). So, Kurt gets an ongoing book, but Natasha can't? Geez, man...



Dark Horse finally answers all your prayers to Crom this week by bringing you CONAN #8 ($2.99). They've also brought you HELLSING Volumes 1, 2, and 4 in trade paperback, each for $13.95, just for being such the good little Hyborian god worshipper you are.



Say, here's a thought: why not get Michael Moorcock to do a book with Walt Simonson about Elric's youth? Oh, that's what ELRIC: MAKING OF A SORCERER #1 (Of 4, $5.95) is about? Hmph. Never have an original idea nowadays...



Get ready for some more darkening of the DCU, folks... In FLASH #214 ($2.25), Wally discovers something about Barry Allen's past he never knew before. It's an IDENTITY CRISIS tie-in, natch.



Robby

H-E-R-O #20.

Reed is still in the ring fighting against Tony Finch and a bunch of other former H-users (not that kind of H, you moron) in H-E-R-O #20 ($2.50).



It looks like Tintin, and the plots may be a little like Tintin, but it's not Tintin! It's the latest Humanoids release, the CHALAND ANTHOLOGY VOL 1: FREDDY LOMBARD trade paperback for $17.95. Silly Americans, Tintin's for kids!



Talk about a load in a good way from Image! There's THE DARKNESS VOL 2 #15 ($2.99); the KANE VOL 3: HISTORIES trade paperback for $12.95; PSCYTHE #1 (Of 2, $3.95); the PUTTIN' THE BACKBONE BACK trade paperback for $9.95; the
PVP DORK AGES trade paperback for $11.95; and the SIX graphic novel for $5.95. If you were able to recover your financial bearings after last week's Vertigo glut-fest, then buy 'em all!



You remember the Burning, don't you? No, not the burning you get before using Preparation H... The Burning that almost took out the JLA? That Burning? No? It was a while ago, of course - JLA #s 84-89, to be exact but the JLA VOL 14: TRIAL BY FIRE trade paperback for $12.95 collects those issues so that you can rediscover the Burning for yourself. Oh, that could be taken so many ways...



In MANHUNTER #2 ($2.50), the DCU's newest masked vigilante has to deal with the aftermath of her killing of Copperhead and something even more horrible a custody visit from her son! Ack!



The fears of the FF are spreading from their nightmares into the waking world in MARVEL KNIGHTS 4 #10 ($2.99). Great guess this means we'll get to see the whole team showing up at the scene of a battle naked. "Oh, so that's why they call you Mr. Fantastic...!"



It's

Mike Mayhew's cover to MYSTIQUE #19.

jumping-on-point time in MYSTIQUE #19 ($2.99)! If you haven't read it before, now's your chance to do so before another one of those big, nasty, shape-changing story arcs comes down the pike. But time is running out!



Plas versus a vampire in PLASTIC MAN #10 ($2.95)? Say, John Byrne didn't have anything to do with this issue, did he?



"Who shot Lionel Luthor?" is the question being asked in SMALLVILLE #10 ($3.95). Hope this doesn't mean that Lana's going to wake up in a couple of issues and find her dead boyfriend Whitney in the shower...



Do me a favor: go get the STARMAN: GRAND GUIGNOL trade paperback for $19.95, read it, and then see if you don't want that series back as much as I do. Hell, you should want it back more than I do at that point, if you've already spent twenty bucks on it.



The Ultimate Kingpin who, strangely enough, looks a lot like the non-Ultimate one makes life difficult for ULTIMATE ELEKTRA in issue #2 (Of 5, $2.25), while the ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR have their first clash with...um, Ultimate Doom(?) in issue #11 ($2.25).



Ok, ok, I could have reviewed VENOM VS CARNAGE #3 (Of 4, $2.99) as I had access to a preview copy of it, but...sorry, much as I like Peter Milligan... It's the same reason I didn't go see JASON VS FREDDY, really. Sorry. I'm sure you'll have fun, though.



From Vertigo comes the

DOOM PATROL VOL. 2: THE PAINTING THAT ATE PARIS.

refreshingly un-Byrne-d (or should that be "un-Byrne-t"?) DOOM PATROL VOL 2: PAINTING THAT ATE PARIS trade paperback for $19.95, as written by Grant Morrison; the Morning Star chases a big ol' dog to the roots of the World-Tree (probably to keep it from peeing on them) in LUCIFER #54 $2.50; and Elsa attempts a ritual that will bring her closer to her "maiden" (yeah, I read it the wrong way at first, too) in
WITCHING #4 ($2.95).



From Wildstorm this week: someone from Mayor Hundred's superhero past may be connected to the murders in his city in EX MACHINA #4 ($2.95); no less than David Brin writes the LIFE EATERS softcover for $19.95; and SLEEPER SEASON TWO #4 (Of 12, $2.95) sees the showdown between John Lynch vs. Holden! OK, so I don't know what that last bit means, but golly, doesn't it all sound so exciting?



And finally, as if there weren't enough X-Titles around, this week sees the début of NIGHTCRAWLER #1 ($2.99). (At least they can explain the appeal of this one has anyone yet figured out the intended demographic for JUBILEE?) There's also EXCALIBUR #5 ($2.99), which sees the beginning of the story arc titled...um, "Food Fight" (really!); our favorite untouchable mutant starts having trouble with her attraction to the one man who can touch her (settle down back there, you two) in ROGUE #3 ($2.99); Sabretooth comes close to being driven over the edge again in WEAPON X #28 ($2.99); someone dies (maybe, but if so, it won't be for long) in UNCANNY X-MEN #449 ($2.25); and there are some very good reasons to be astonished by ASTONISHING X-MEN #5 ($2.99) but naturally, I can't tell you what they are. What are you saving that there three bucks in your pocket for, anyway?



Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think by e-mailing us here!

Comicscape is our weekly Comics column.



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