Top 10 Least Necessary Trade Paperback Collections

A column article, Top Ten by: Michael Deeley

In recent years, the comic book industry has shifted its focus from monthly comics to TPBs and graphic novels. Many of us follow series through their inevitable trade collections. Publishers are also bringing many older, classic stories back into print. But some stories are best left forgotten. In their rush to publish new books, publishers forget to ask if anyone would actually buy these books. Here is a list of 10 TPBs that have no reason to exist.

10. Siege Prelude

I'm including this as representative of a new kind of TPB. Siege Prelude,Fall of the Hulks Prelude and Prelude to Infinite Crisis are advertisements you pay for. These books contain comics from different series that supposedly relate to the big event crossover they're promoting. The comics are often collected in their own series' TPB where their stories can be read in context. These books are also a double-strike against the crossovers. The presence of a prelude implies a story so big and complex, it needs a long build up. And the events leading up to it will not be summarized nor explained. So the crossover looks likes it's badly written before it's released!

And that's only true of Siege.

9. Dark Horse Heroes Omnibus Vol. 1

The early '90's saw an explosion of new comic book series, universes, and even new publishers. Dark Horse Comics launched a line of superhero comics initially called "Comics Greatest World", then later called "Dark Horse Heroes". This world was introduced in a 16-part weekly series that featured 2 dozen characters. Two, maybe three, of them can be called "successful".Dark Horse Heroes Omnibus collects that initial series and a 12-part crossover called Will to Power. These comics initially sold for $1, but are now worth almost the same price. So it's hard to justify buying them again for $25 at a smaller size. I don't know why Dark Horse would want to remind people of one of their greatest publishing failures. Maybe there's a growing interest in the origins of Dark Horse Hero Barb Wire.

8. Essential Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe Master Edition

We continue our dark trek through the '90s with this reprinting of the OHOTMU Master Edition. What made the Master Edition unique from all other versions of the Marvel Handbook was its lack of text. No biographies, no diagrams of weapons, no useful information whatsoever. Just big pictures of the characters drawn from front, side, and back. No wonder it was the last edition of the Handbook for 10 years.

7. Thor Visionaries: Mike Deodato Jr.

There was a time when Mike Deodato wasn't as good an artist as he is today. That time is called "The '90s". This book collects a handful of comics from Deodato’s run on the title. The stories by Warren Ellis and William-Mesner Loebs are already forgettable, but this collection omits issues resulting in a near-unreadable mess. I’d place this book higher if it was still in print.

6. Superman: The Wrath of Gog

Few writers have had the opportunity to write for Uncanny X-MenAvengers, and Action Comics. Few writers have been universally derided and outright hated by readers. Chuck Austen is the only writer to be both. Speaking as someone who enjoyed and even defended his work on Uncanny X-Men, the man sucks. He consistently displays a complete lack of understanding of the characters he writes. His work also frequently contains plot points that criticize organized religions, if not outright blasphemous. Superman: The Wrath of Gogcombines all those elements. Lana Lang is suddenly a jealous bitch. Superman is threatening violence. And a series of time travel paradoxes lead to an army of Gogs and a heroic Doomsday. It's ugly, pointless, and confusing. 

At least Chuck didn't draw any of it. 

5. Onslaught Reborn

In 1996, Marvel cancelled 4 of their longest running titles: Fantastic FourIron ManCaptain America andAvengers. The four titles were relaunched under the direction of Jim Lee and Rob Leifeld. The results were mixed at best. Lee's comics were partly crap, while Liefeld's were completely crap until he was fired. This editorial mistake was explained in the Marvel Universe by Onslaught. Onslaught was the living embodiment of all the power and hatred of Prof. X and Magneto. He was so dangerous, he could only be defeated by Marvel's greatest non-mutant heroes running into him at full speed. Luckily, they didn't die but were reborn into a pocket dimension.

No, really. That's what happened. 

Well, in 2007, Jeph Loeb and Liefeld, the two men responsible for the worst of the Heroes Reborn comics, revived this terrifying villain and the world he helped create in Onslaught Reborn. This series was a disaster from page one. The Earth from the Heroes Reborn comics still existed in the Marvel Universe, and yet another Earth is miraculously created. New versions of the FF and Avengers also appear on this Earth who were similar to, yet distinctly different from their original versions. It all turned out to be yet another reality-warping dream from Franklin Richards. Onslaught was left floating in space where he was hopefully found by a writer who knew what the hell he was doing.

4. DC's Millennium

Remember what I just said about crossovers? This is why I said "most" and not "all". Millennium was a crossover published in 1988, 12 years before the millennium ended. A Guardian of the Universe and a Zamaron, his mate, have come to Earth to evolve 10 humans into new guardians. Their choices include a racist South African white male whom they expect to turn evil; insane plant-man Jason Woodrue; and two people who are killed by the second issue. 

Earth's heroes must protect these chosen people from the Manhunters, a race of androids who've opposed the Guardians for centuries. These Manhunters have even secreted themselves on Earth, recruiting thousands into their secret society. The heroes are shocked to discover many of their closest friends, and even family, are working for the Manhunters! My God! Where did these evil machines come from? Oh yeah, the Guardians made them. The Manhunters were built to fight evil before the Green Lanterns. But when they learned the Guardians themselves were responsible for bringing evil into the universe, they rebelled and were cast out. Thus began the new legacy of the Guardians of the Universe being short-sighted, manipulative bastards.

Long story short, all the important plot developments happened in crossover comics not included in this collection. The New Guardians gained superpowers based on their ethnic stereotypes. Nearly all of them died of AIDS a year later. No, I'm not exaggerating. Bad story, wasted potential, pointless aftermath.

3. Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic

I still can't believe this is real. If there was one storyline that I was sure Marvel would never reprint, it's the most hated Spider-Man story until "One More Day". Even "One More Day" has a better reason to be collected since it actually affected long-term Spidey continuity. The Clone Saga gave readers two years worth of terrible storytelling, art from the darkest depths of the '90s, and editorial interference that dragged the story out longer than good taste or common sense dictated. And like many of the books on this list, the original comics can be purchased for less than the trades.

2. Youngblood Vol. 1

If any comic needs a remake, it's 1991'sYoungblood mini-series. A government-sponsored super team used for propaganda as much as crime fighting is a good idea. It's been touched upon in other series, but it has never been the core premise. And Joe Casey could have pulled it off. Unfortunately, Rob Liefeld tried it first and failed miserably. In 2008, Casey and Liefeld returned to the original series to re-edit, re-write, and re-draw parts of the story. Not the entire story; just "fixing" a few things here and there. The result is like a special edition of the Howard the Duck movie: Same crap, different shape.

1. Countdown: Arena

It can be argued that any tie-in book to a crossover is unnecessary, especially after the core story has concluded. But most crossover stories still generate interest years after their conclusion, which spills over into related comics. But what if the core story is immediately rendered unnecessary? Countdown to Final Crisis was meant to connect every major event in the DC Universe to the epic Final Crisis. Instead, "Countdown" was ignored and even contradicted by Final Crisis. Readers quickly forgot this unreadable mish-mash of overlapping plotlines, pointless violence, and poor characterizations. It was a terrible series easily forgotten.

So what about the spin-off mini-series and specials? If Countdown had zero significance to the DCU, the spin-offs dipped into negative territory. Still, two of these books have something good going for them. The Search for Ray Palmer revisited popular Elseworlds stories and gave us The Jokester, one of the most tragic and compelling characters I've ever seen. (So of course he was killed right away.) Lord Havok and the Extremists was a darker take on Civil War-era Marvel comics. It was a combined satire and rewriting of that story.

But nothing good can be said of Countdown: Arena. Not only does the villain use one of the least effective schemes in comic book history; not only is it an excuse to have impossible and pointless fights; not only is it badly drawn; not only is the team assembled at the end never seen in Countdown, but the ending is printed on the cover. That's right. The only surprise in the book is revealed on the cover. It's the first TPB to defeat its own purpose. See the cover? Congratulations, you just saved $15 and 20 minutes.

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