Best Shots Reviews: The Worst DC NEW 52 Series So Far

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With Best Shots recently reviewing the Top 10 best books from DC's New 52, Newsarama's home team of critics also found plenty of titles that were less than stellar. Just as they did yesterday, Best Shots has put together their list of the Top 10 Worst Books of the DC relaunch. Can you guess which titles were considered duds? Stick around, 'Rama readers, and you'll find out what books gave more tarnish than varnish on DC's bright and shiny new future.

 

10. Stormwatch: Imagine your favorite Mad Magazine parody of Batman and Robin. Now imagine that DC decided to place them into the mainstream universe. “What a terrible idea!” you may be thinking, but that’s not unlike what happens when members of the old Wildstorm teams Stormwatch/The Authority were forced into the DC Universe in the book Stormwatch, which is already troubled enough to be on its third writer.

Paul Cornell tried very hard to give them a reason to exist outside the Justice League, using dual-member Martian Manhunter to explain that Stormwatch are warriors, not heroes. The premise for Stormwatch just opens too many questions, not the least of which is, if the Justice League is for foes too big for anyone else to fight, just why do we need this team exactly? It feels like DC didn’t want to leave marketable characters on the table, but instead of shoehorning them into the main Earth, it would have made a lot more sense to create a new Earth in a shared universe, just as they’re doing with the Golden Age superheroes over in Earth-2.

Readers are better off looking for the original Wildstorm adventures of Apollo, Midnighter and the rest, because they are out of place in their current book. Stormwatch makes the worst list because even after nine months, it hasn't proved it should exist in The New 52. -- Rob McMonigal

 

9. Red Lanterns: Peter Milligan writing a comic book about rage and violence and killing Green Lanterns? Sounds like a wonderful idea! Or at least it did before the first issue came out. Some characters are not meant for the spotlight. Villains, especially newer ones, have it especially hard. Oftentimes, they exist to represent opposition to one aspect of a hero’s personality or ideology which can lead to some rather one-dimensional usage. It also means that they need to be considerably more fleshed out when they are given a chance.

Milligan’s attempt to humanize Atrocitus failed miserably, because fleshing out a character built on “cool” can become very corny without careful and compelling planning. The Red Lantern grunts that surrounded the protagonist were simply that, a series of grunts and hisses with no personality at all. There is no connection to them the same way there is for the Green Lantern Corps.

To top that off, Ed Benes's artwork was wildly inconsistent, at times turning in an excellent scene and then following it right up with something of a distinctly lesser quality. It made the book uneven and did more to highlight the worst parts of the book. Time will tell how long this book can ride Hal Jordan’s coattails. Right now, it’s hanging on by a thread. -- Pierce Lydon

 

8. Mr. Terrific: Here’s a book that seemed doomed from the get-go. Not only was Mister Terrific a less recognizable character, the book was sold on the promise of telling the adventures of the “third-smartest man in the world.” That’s a pretty weak premise but still, not an insurmountable one. Unfortunately, poor writing and uninspired art were the real culprits.

Writer Eric Wallace’s character work, especially, left something to be desired. We never really got a true sense of what compels Mister Terrific to do the things he does. In addition, clunky dialogue and tired plot points (how many times have we seen the corporate businessman attacked in the boardroom by a super villain at this point?) never helped sell the character or his supporting cast.

Unfortunately, artist Gianluca Gugliotta’s work was a perfect fit for Wallace’s script, as it is similarly lacking. Details and facial expressions sometimes ceased to exist, which is forgivable sometimes in moments of dynamic storytelling, but even that was nowhere to be found. Clearly, this book was destined for cancellation. -- Pierce Lydon

 

7. Legion Lost: Legion Lost is an odd book, as it functions to establish ties to the regular ongoing Legion of Super-Heroes book which itself saw little change as part of The New 52. Like the Batman books or the Green Lantern books, with which DC took a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, the LoSH books are building off of the same post-Geoff Johns continuity that he established in Action Comics and Legion of 3 Worlds.

In Legion Lost, a group of Legionnaires has been trapped in the 21st century, unable to return to their future. This in itself is a rehash of stories from the late 1990s, when a team of Legionnaires was trapped in the 20th century around the time of Final Night and the electric blue Superman. The idea of the Legion of Super-Heroes stuck in the past is, well... stuck in the past itself. The time-lost concept of Legion Lost does nothing to push forward or redefine the Legion of Super-Heroes as it is just using the same old plot device with different characters.

The other problem with this book is that it gives them an out. With its ties to Levitz’s Legion book which exists in this strange continuity bubble, Legion Lost maintains ties to the old continuity, allowing DC to have its cake (a new continuity) and eat it, too (story links that are opened to the pre-Flashpoint universe.) It’s a back-door book that leaves a crack into the old continuity. -- Scott Cederlund

 

6. Deathstroke: If the cover art of Deathstroke #1, displaying him aggressively perched atop human bones with giant knives in hand, does not convey Slade Wilson's superb "badassness," then the opening lines of the issue will: "Deathstroke the Terminator — the scariest badass on the planet." Driving that point home seems to be the sole purpose of this book. How many times can it be conveyed that Deathstroke is so badass? Well, several times in the first issue alone. But, if you didn't catch the drift, the first arc promises to show you what's what.

You see, Slade is not a happy mercenary if his badassery is questioned in any way. So, he sets out to, you know, remind everyone just how badass he can be. While Kyle Higgins showboats the character — defining super-human skills of death and destruction — Deathstroke readily becomes the most uninteresting thing in his own book. All the dynamic art in the world can't make up for the lack of depth and overuse of masculine tropes that are unapologetically employed here. "Back to Basics," indeed.

Being a violent egomaniac is about as basic as you can get for a homicidal villain. Deathstroke's imperative "badassness" is gratuitous to ad nauseam, and it is a shame, because it is Joe Bennett's crisp pencils that are really killing it. Deathstroke asserts itself firmly as an exercise in redundancy and a poor strategy on the part of DC. -- Vanessa Gabriel

 

5. The Savage Hawkman: While its ranking on this Worst List suggests otherwise, The Savage Hawkman easily could have been overlooked entirely. Indeed, the Tony Daniel penned and Phillip Tan drawn series was one of The New 52's most surprising debuts. The Savage Hawkman promised a return to high pulp adventure in the modern era. Some even went so bold as to claim this was Indiana Jones meets the DC Universe.

The debut came close to hitting all the marks. Daniel took a questionably popular character and made him feel real and interesting. Tan's art was crisp and made Carter Hall's world exciting and dangerous. Then, when issue #2 hit, so too did the rule of diminishing returns. Each issue brimmed with potential, and without fail, each issue fell short by a greater and greater margin. The Savage Hawkman quickly went from a book that people genuinely wanted to read, to a book many completely forgot DC published. It took the announcement of Rob Liefeld taking over the book to even remind me it was still around.

The Savage Hawkman is the strongest of disappointments for plenty of readers. It's the kind of title where you can see where the book could have succeeded. But frustratingly, all that really stands out are the missed opportunities. -- Aaron Duran

 

4. Green Arrow: The originally announced concept for Green Arrow sounded great on paper — an ordinary man, armed with nothing but a bow and arrow, taking on the worst of the worst from the DCU. Unfortunately, what could have been a radical, action-heavy book was quickly scuttled when DC put writer J.T. Krul and artist Dan Jurgens on the title. Instead of a brave new future for Green Arrow, readers were treated to an unfocused, lackluster new direction for Oliver Queen.

Beginning with its focus on Oliver as a Steve Jobs-type superhero, the very point of Green Arrow — namely, the best marksman in the DCU — became secondary to Ollie's gadget of the month, from the unfortunately named QPads to net-shooting disks. With all of the business intrigue, it felt like Ollie was suffering from a case of Iron Man envy. Jurgens' artwork, meanwhile, seemed like too much of a throwback to appropriately launch the high-flying expectations for Ollie's new adventures, with his characters coming across as static and distant.

The title has since switched hands and directions with a number of creators including Keith Giffens and Ignacio Calero, none of them being successful in turning around the Emerald Archer into a coherent new figure. Daredevil legend Anne Nocenti and artist Harvey Tolibao have yet to correct this trend, either, with monologuing, gratuitous threesomes and art that's so over-rendered and garish it's hard to look at. No matter how many shots Green Arrow seems to get, the fact that the character doesn't have a stable concept means this series will always be missing a moving target. -- David Pepose

 

3. Teen Titans: Long gone are the days of the Wolfman and Perez era of the Titans, and we're now in an age of being at the low end of mediocrity. Teen Titans is a DC staple covered in mythos and spoke volumes without characters engaging in meaningless dialogue.

Scott Lobdell's version of what teenagers sound like, on the other hand, is a complete mess, with Red Robin's rants lying somewhere between The Hills and an episode of one of Disney's cookie-cutter shows. The characters come across as aimless — it's simply Point A to Point B and it all just seems so cavalier.

Meanwhile, the random wit and humor of the team has been replaced with excessive angst and no sense of drama. Brett Booth's art does the title little to no favor as well, as the pages are simply overcomplicated and just comes across as forgettable. -- Lan Pitts

 

2. Red Hood and the Outlaws: While a lot of DC's strategy for The New 52 has revolved around a return to the style and creators of the '90s comic book boom, few titles have felt the weight of that directive more than Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort's Red Hood and the Outlaws.

While the intent behind the title seems to have been redefining the roles of Jason Todd, Roy Harper, and Starfire, former teen heroes with little place left among the superhero community, Lobdell's misguided characterization of Starfire as an over-sexed, aloof alien, and a jagged, seat-of-the-pants narrative style have overshadowed almost all other aspects of the series.

Combined with innovative, but hard to read art from Rocafort, Lobdell's gonzo scripting has failed to provide any compelling reasons to really care about the title's main characters, or about the book in general. Re-imagining the role of cast-off sidekicks in the larger DCU could have been a great premise for a title, but Red Hood and the Outlaws ranks primarily as a widely missed opportunity to explore that idea. -- George Marston

 

1. Hawk & Dove: While a lot of New 52 titles delivered fresh, streamlined origin stories and histories for their characters, DC decided instead to keep Hawk & Dove’s original backstory in place — a complicated and convoluted history, which Sterling Gates attempted to impart to the reader in the form of crammed narration boxes and monologue — not exactly what you’d call reader-friendly. They even seemed to go out of their way to negate the rule that superheroes have existed for five years, with references to when Hawk first got his superpowers as a kid, and when the original Dove died in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The plot of the series jumped around without any rhyme or reason, with story threads going completely unresolved, nondescript villains coming and going with no real explanation for their actions, and one issue just resorting to letting Batman take over in an attempt to boost sales. Sterling Gates’ wooden dialogue was filled with awkward exposition and terrible one-liners, not to mention the characterization being all over the place — and the quality of the writing only got worse after Gates left the title.

The artwork on Hawk & Dove was also a black mark on Rob Liefeld’s already divisive track record. He seemed to bring very little sense of perspective or proportion here, with highly exaggerated anatomies, indistinct facial expressions, and just dull and lifeless action scenes. The inking was also unpleasantly sketchy here, and there were a number of horrible finishes that muddy things up a great deal. Perhaps it was a mercy that Hawk & Dove soon got their wings clipped. -- Edward Kaye

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