For every comic there is a fan, and for every fan there is a storyline they admire. There’s always one that springs to mind as soon as they start thinking about comics, reminding them of all the reasons they enjoy reading about the characters and their world(s). But for every yin there’s a yang, and for every good comic book storyline there’s also a bad one. Some of them were either completely disappointing, narratively excruciating, or very much like a punch to the g-darn gut! Either way, they left a sour taste, and a Texas-sized welt right below the rib cage. So, let’s take a reluctant trip down memory lane as we look at thirteen of the worst comic book storylines that punched fans in the gut!
[P.S. Spoilers Below!!]
1. Secret Invasion!
Following the events of Marvel’s Civil War, Secret Invasion was set to be the next big crossover event. The storyline had the shape-shifting Skrulls invading Earth while the Marvel heroes debated over who’s an alien in disguise. The buildup, and even some of the tie-in comics were good; the event itself…was not.
The problems included poor pacing, continuity errors between issues, and heroes acting out of character (and pretty gullible too). For an event called Secret Invasion, there were barely any secrets or surprises; it really should’ve been called Really Noticeable Invasion!! While it did kick off the Dark Reign status quo, Secret Invasion is mostly forgotten and feels like a cool premise that didn’t live up to its own hype.
(P.S. If you want to see Secret Invasion done right, check out Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes episodes 1, 7, and 9-12 of season 2.)
2. Amazons Attack!
Wonder Woman is one of the most important characters in the DC Universe, as well as the most famous super–heroine of all-time. She’s had a ton of interesting and compelling stories over the years, but many consider Amazons Attack to be the worst of them all. The story had Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman’s mother) wage war on the United States, and she managed to take over pretty easily.
These comics spend most of their time making everyone look bad, from the Justice League and the U.S. government looking like a bunch of useless morons, to Hippolyta and the Amazons being too bloodthirsty and too dumb to see the manipulations of the villainous Circe. On top of that, the more important parts of the story were only featured in the tie-in books, so you had to read them to understand anything about the main story! However, the biggest problem was a sever elack of Wonder Woman. For an event that should’ve focused on Themyscira’s favorite daughter, she was barely in it!!
Poorly written and sometimes unintentionally hilarious, Amazons Attack is like a slap in the face to anyone who likes Wonder Woman or her supporting characters.
3. Spider-Man: One More Day!
With Aunt May on her deathbed, Peter Parker has only a small window to save her, but it may come at a price. With great power… comes great stupidity! Spider-man’s traveled some rough seas over the years, but Spider-man: One More Day is one of those especially bad moments where the mere mention of it makes fans angry.
Not only does it have one of the most controversial moments in comics – with Peter Parker erasing his marriage with Mary Jane – but it’s generally…unreadable. The plot has a whiny Peter wandering around; he’s turned away by friends and getting jerked around by Mephisto until the deal finally happens. So, even if you take out the marriage being undone, this story is still difficult to get through because of how boring it is! Worst of all, it makes Spider-Man look bad for not being able to accept Aunt May’s death; it even makes him seem a little selfish at times. It would be the worst story in Spider-Man history, but there’s one even more pungent on this list!
4. The Culling!
Being one of the first crossovers in DC’s New 52, The Culling features the Teen Titans and the Legion of Superheroes as they try to stop the villain Harvest and his Ravagers from making super-teenagers fight to the death. So despite sounding like a Hunger Games rip-off, the two titles weren’t established enough to pull off a successful crossover and it really shows!
The storytelling is just bad, with really slow pacing, lackluster art, characters acting pointlessly and motivations that are just kind of, well, dumb. Most of the story is just the Titans and Legion fighting Harvest, which would be interesting, but they make Harvest so invincible that he just shakes off everything the two teams throw at him. So it makes for a pretty boring fight that takes up a lot of time! The only thing that really came from this was that it launched the Ravagers comic, but that title only lasted 13 issues before getting canceled. In the end, The Culling was one of the worst comic book storylines, and it went absolutely nowhere.
Hey, want to see the Ultimate Marvel heroes die just for the heck of it?? No? Well too bad, because that’s what Ultimatum is about!!
Magneto holds the world hostage in his quest to make mutants the dominant species. At least that’s what the comic tries to make you think. Really, it’s only an excuse to watch a number of characters from the Ultimate Marvel Universe die in brutal ways.
Some of your favorite heroes die horrible deaths while others just die off-panel. Regardless, none of the ends were fitting, feeling more like a cheap and easy way to end the Ultimate Universe quickly. Fortunately, the Ultimate Universe stuck around for a bit, but for a moment Ultimatum was going to be the end, and it would’ve been a poor way to do it.
6. Countdown to Final Crisis!
Speaking of lots of unnecessary deaths, let’s take a look at Countdown to Final Crisis! It kicks off with a pointless death, and a lot of other characters die along the way! That aside, this DC miniseries tried to be a spiritual successor to the awesomeness that was 52, while also building up to the Final Crisis event. Too bad it failed on both counts.
Where 52 was able to balance its many stories and characters, Countdown didn’t, and instead became a big, jumbled mess. Somehow, even with all that was happening – like Superboy Prime on the rampage and Redhood, Donna Troy and Kyle Rayner mucking around the multiverse – none of it was really that important. In fact, barely anything from this story ended up making it into Final Crisis!! In the end, Countdown to Final Crisis was a bunch of badly written stories that were a complete waste of time. If nothing else, at least it gave us a bunch of unintentionally hilarious lines!
7. Spider-Man: The Clone Saga!
Sure, One More Day and Sins Past may be bad, but if you ask Spider-man fans about the worst Spider-man story of all-time, they usually answer with The Clone Saga!
It involves Spider-Man facing multiple clones of himself and even contemplating the possibility of being a clone himself (you can probably guess how much hate that last part got).That’s the simplest explanation I can give, because a whole lot of things happen during this storyline that make absolutely no sense, things that never actually resolved themselves.
The story was originally supposed to finish within a year, but it went on A LOT longer. With tons of development issues and tons of critical backlash, The Clone Saga caused such a drop in Spider-Man sales that it nearly put an end to everyone’s favorite webslinger! A failure in both concept and execution, Clone Saga was so bad that it almost destroyed Marvel’s most iconic character.
8. All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder
So what could possibly match a storyline that almost made its title character extinct? How about a storyline that was so bad it was never even finished?
Written by Frank Miller, All-Star Batman & Robin was a modern retelling of Dick Grayson’s origin and early years as Robin. Sounds simple enough, but it ended up being ruined by a nonsensical plot, horrible dialogue, and a Batman that acted more like an insane murderer than he did a superhero! It was originally supposed to last 16 issues, but in the end only 10 were ever completed.
What’s even crazier is this story was supposed to be a prequel to The Dark Knight Returns! But if you compare the Batman from that story to this one, you’d swear they were two different people (are we even sure that’s really Bruce Wayne under that mask??). With a story that’s just awful in every way, it’s no wonder All-Star Batman & Robin was left incomplete. Not even Jim Lee’s amazing art could save this one!
9. Justice League: Cry for Justice!
Justice League: Cry for Justice feels like a Justice League story that’s missing everything people like about the team! Cry for Justice focuses on Green Lantern and Green Arrow forging their own team to take the fight to the bad guys. Or, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be because we only see the team work together for one mission during the entire seven-issue run.
On top of that, all the heroes in this story are written completely out of character! Between Hal Jordan’s constant whining and the Atom torturing villains, it’s fair to say these aren’t the heroes we know. Poorly written and unnecessarily dark, Cry for Justice is better left forgotten!
10. Secret Wars II!
If you asked Marvel fans what the best event book was, a lot that would answer “Secret Wars! The original, to be precise!” Who can blame them; it was awesome! It had tons of heroes fighting tons of villains, with concepts we would see in Marvel for years to come. So, naturally, Marvel decided to make a sequel to the beloved event. The result? The giant disappointment that was Secret Wars II!
The comic stars the Beyonder from the previous Secret Wars coming to Earth to learn how to be more human. The rest of the series is the Beyonder wandering into weird misadventures like becoming a superhero, becoming a criminal, falling in love with Dazzler, deciding to destroy the Earth only to go back on it, and then dying! If it sounds like a mess, that’s because it is!
The Beyonder is completely unlikable, coming off as either creepy or evil with nothing in between. And that’s kind of a problem considering he’s the character we spend the most time with. It also doesn’t help that there’s a ton of tie-ins for this title that are mostly pointless. Drawn out with philosophical messages that miss the mark, Secret Wars II is a sequel that fell flat on its face!
So, it’s no secret that DC’s New 52 days were not the best. There were many who were displeased by the reboot and wanted to see the pre-New 52 continuity return. Well, in 2015, DC announced Convergence, which promised to bring back the old DC Universe fans had missed! In reality, this only happened in tie-in books, because Convergence was mainly about the characters from Earth-2. This would’ve been fine if the main story wasn’t all over the place!
In the main story, the heroes of Earth-2 face Brainiac as they try to free the cities he pilfered from the Multiverse. Sounds simple at first, but then we find out Brainiac isn’t the real villain, it’s his living planet named Telos. However, we once again discover that the villain presented is not the real villain at all; it’s actually this sorcerer named Deimos who wants to take control of the Multiverse. Oh, and then we learn that Telos isn’t actually a living planet! So, all the Earth-2 guys team up with the captured heroes to stop Deimos and get back to their own respective universes! Did you get all that, because I read through this whole thing and I still feel lost!!
Convergence mislead its readers into thinking they were going to get something they really wanted to see. Instead, it pretty much gave those fans the middle finger and refused to go back to pre-New 52. Overall, the event feels like a massive waste of time with a convoluted story that really only serviced Earth-2.
There were only two good things that ever came out of this story: one was some of the tie-in books, and the other was getting pre-New 52 Superman back into the regular DC universe. Other than that, Convergence had tons of potential that were completely wasted!
12. Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again!
There was a time in comics when a Frank Miller Dark Knight series meant instant success. And since Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was a massive success it made sense to have Miller make another. Sure, there were doubts that a sequel would hold up to the original, or if it was a necessary endeavor, but I don’t think we were prepared for how poorly conceived the follow-up series was.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again continues the tale of an aging Batman as he takes on Lex Luthor and America! Or, at least, that’s what I think it was about. It’s hard to say between the bad writing and awful art. No, really, it’s a huge challenge just to figure out what’s going on in this story. The art makes everyone seem unnatural and, in some instances, a little silly.
Then there’s the writing that tries so hard to outdo the original Dark Knight’s political satire. Problem is, it’s so in your face and full of mixed messages that it becomes obnoxious very fast. Important plotlines happen off panel and the characters are extremely unlikable.
The worst part is, it doesn’t just drag Batman through the mud, it takes everyone else down with him. From the DC heroes to the legendary story that was Dark Knight Returns, nobody was safe from this one. Thankfully, the original will be remembered as one of the greatest Batman stories of all-time. The Dark Knight Strikes Again, on the other hand will only ever be remembered as a mistake!
13. Civil War II!
The original Civil War was one of Marvel’s biggest and most popular events. While the comic has many fans, many will admit it wasn’t perfect. Luckily, Marvel decided to give it another shot with Civil War II! Working off the buzz from the recent movie, Marvel was ready to put out a sequel to one of their biggest successes. Unfortunately, success is the last word you’d use to describe this event.
Civil War II sees Iron Man and Captain Marvel duking it out over a new Inhuman who can see the future. Captain Marvel wants to use those abilities to prevent crimes, while Iron Man believes the visions can’t be trusted. And yes, that sounds exactly like the movie Minority Report! This wouldn’t be so bad, except for one itty bitty problem: Captain Marvel’s pretty much the villain of this story!
It’s actually kind of incredible how unlikable Carol Danvers is. She does some pretty bad things in both the main story and the tie-ins that are almost completely unforgivable, including imprisoning innocent people, turning on allies, and condoning murder! As a reader, you really can’t side with her when she takes such extreme actions to justify profiling!
The worst part? The event was soulless. At no point did the story feel genuine; it all just felt forced and unpleasant! Friendships were broken, characters died because they could, and everyone just seemed worse off because of this story. Even the cast of characters was reduced to a handful of heroes on both sides. This wasn’t a war, it was a skirmish!
If there’s one nice thing to say about this whole thing, it’s that most of the tie-ins were good. Other than that, Civil War II was a heartless cash-grab that finally made fans sick of heroes fighting heroes!
What did you think of my list? Which one of the worst comic book storylines did you strongly dislike? Let me know below!