Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Most Overrated Comic Book Storylines

January 6, 2023 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
X-Men Days of Future Past Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we discussed Favorite Comic Book Holiday Stories. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Prez Gar: “Sensational She-Hulk #8. The World’s Greatest Detective. While not explicitly a Christmas story, the titular detective makes it one. Nick St. Christopher, aka Santa Claus.”

D2Kvirus: “The Morgan Special in the 2013 Free Comic Book Day edition of The Walking Dead, where Morgan and Duane celebrate their first Christmas of the zombie apocalypse as best as they can”

Camiwaits: “There’s a Daredevil issue from the Frank Milller run in which Bullseyes is out on the streets around Christmas time and he sees everyone including Santas as Daredevil. I always get a kick out of that one.”

Madness74: “The Lobo special is the only one that comes to mind. I loved it so much I bought copies for all my non-comic friends to laugh at and enjoy.”

More Shark Less Lasers: “Superman #64, Metropolis Mail Bag. Every year, Superman goes through the letters that have been piling up for him, asking for his help. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – but there are some things he can’t do, like save a young boy’s father who is dying from cancer. It’s a great story that helps humanize the DC’s “God among men,” and punches me in the feels every time I read it.

A year later in Superman #76, Superman would be “dead” at the hands of Doomsday, and in his memory the heroes gathered to read his mail and answer as many requests as they could, but it didn’t have the emotional punch this one did.”

Steed: “How can you ever forget that Ultimate Warrior Christmas Special…made me never think not of him or Santa in the same way ever again.”

JJ McClure: “Starman #27 is a great shout and one of the best Christmas comic books out there. Batman #219 is also a great shout and arguably the best Batman Christmas story out there. I also like Batman #239, which features not only a gorgeous Adams/Giordano cover but also a great Christmas story in “Silent Night, Deadly Night”. Justice League of America #110 has another great one with “The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus”.”

Earl Chatterton: “Is there a more famous Christmas-set comic than Uncanny X-Men #143, where Kitty Pryde is alone in Xavier’s school and battles the demon? Pretty legendary issue.”

Too many great comments to list! Thank you to everyone who commented last week!
This week we discuss…

Most Overrated Comic Book Storyline 
Let me start this off by saying that I’ve never liked the ‘Days of Future Past’ storyline. I never connected with it and hearing so many gush over it and Marvel use it as such a central part of X-Men legend didn’t sit right with me. Why?

Because the good guys had lost in the future and make the decision to go back in time to change things in their favor. To me, that’s not something heroes do. To me, they were no different from Kang the Conqueror. It was an OK story but not as great, to me, as everyone makes it out to be.

Now, the difference between overrated and not liking something is a matter of degrees. For the purpose of this column, I’m taking some critical and audience darlings and presenting them to you. I’m not looking for storylines that were considered bad from the start. The books below are some of the more regular ones that pop up in discussion.

Starting with my example, Days of Future Past. For reasons I gave above, this gets on the list. It deals with a dystopian future in which mutants are incarcerated in internment camps. An adult Kate Pryde transfers her mind into her younger self, the present-day Kitty Pryde, who brings the X-Men to prevent a fatal moment in history that triggers anti-mutant hysteria. The storyline was produced during the franchise’s rise to popularity under the writer/artist team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin. Thanks to this storyline, this plot has been used and used and used numerous times, to varying success. While it’s a pivotal moment in X-history, it’s overlooked that the X-Men lost for a reason and need another chance to win.

And yes, I fully know this same thing happened in a very popular, very successful Marvel movie not so long ago. 

Next is All-Star Superman. A multiple Eisner-winning title, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s miniseries took to task stripping Superman down to his essential elements. While many enjoyed this take, upon further inspection this isn’t really so much a Superman story but a story about Superman’s world and cast. It’s been said that this reads like the Man of Steel is a supporting character in his own book, barely registering a personality. Quitely’s art doesn’t do Superman any favors and while this book is spoken of highly, it doesn’t hold up upon inspection.

I know most will consider this a travesty, let’s talk about The Dark Knight Returns. Many consider this the best Batman story of all time. Another dystopian-future story, this time from the mind of Frank Miller. What could possibly be wrong with this story? Lack of centralized plot. If you follow it along, the Batman vs Superman fight is forced and sticks out as a climax to the storyarc. Also, Miller isn’t telling a Batman story as much as he’s telling a “What If…” tale. While we are used to a “grim and gritty” Dark Knight today, back then, Batman was dark but never to that extent. In a way, Miller’s twisted take on Batman derailed the character.

Let’s talk about Watchmen. We’ve gone here before. This is considered one of the greatest comic books of all time.The plot is meticulous and you’ll find Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons at the top of their game. Who could ever find this overrated? First, at its heart, this is a murder mystery. Moore takes it and layers and dumps the story on top. The term “form over substance” works here as Moore keeps the audience on their toes with smoke and mirror storytelling tricks. Instead of a mystery, we are reading a forced deconstruction of superheroes that goes on weird tangents so Moore can relay his heavy handed Cold War message.

Moving on, Civil War might seem out of place, given the company it’s in but it was a big seller for Marvel, fairly popular to fans, gained tons of mainstream media attention, became a storyline in the Marvel movie universe, and gave us the Death of Captain America storyline. To me, it’s an example of everything wrong with “EVENT” storylines. Like I said, this was a huge event for Marvel. Like every other event, this suffers from not really accomplishing anything. In fact, you can blame Spider-Man’s One More Day on this storyline screwing around with Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Also, it’s depictions of Tony Stark/Iron Man never rang true to me.

OK, to be fair, do I really, REALLY think these storylines are overrated? Outside of Days of Future Past, not really. But I had to throw some out there to get the ball rolling. Now it’s your turn. 

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!