It’s inevitable for comic writers to make dumb decisions when there are so many stories being told about the same characters over and over again. Even the art goes through waves — sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s absurdly terrible. As someone who’s been reading comics for… over twenty years now, I feel like I have some real standouts for the ol’ hall o’ shame. These are the all-time worst storylines in comic book history.
You’d never know it from how things are, but during the mid-’90s, the only Marvel books that were really selling well were Spider-Man and X-Men books. So Marvel made the decision to keep those books in the main universe, and shuttle the others into an alternate reality, where they could tell totally different stories. The way they did that is to have all the non-X-Men and Spider-Man characters sacrifice themselves, because their psychic energy was needed to defeat Onslaught!, the creation of a merging of Professor X and Magneto. Onslaught was an all-powerful entity, and an all-time bad attempt to reboot an entire comic book universe. It was quickly undone.
Ms. Marvel’s Forced Pregnancy
Look, the unbelievably upsetting notions about consent that exist in the Ms. Marvel storyline have been covered much more in-depth by other writers, so let me give you the gist — Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel) discovers she’s pregnant, but there’s no father. She doesn’t want it, the Avengers encourage her to keep it, then she gives birth to a man who reveals he impregnated her himself via time travel… I think? Honestly, it is unbelievably baffling. But the Avengers are all cool with this, which is unnerving, and they encourage Carol Danvers to go be with this guy, who used MIND-CONTROL to make her love him. The one upside is that Chris Claremont later got the chance to write a story where Danvers rips on the Avengers for encouraging all of that, but nothing could redeem a story this bad.
Mr. Fantastic’s Lack Of humanity During Civil War
The comics’ Civil War storyline was fairly different than the one we saw in the movies, with one of the big differences being the key role of Mr. Fantastic in working with Iron Man to come up with the programs used during super hero registration. We’re talkin’ a giant, inter-dimensional prison to contain the rogue heroes, and CLONING THOR! It gets to a point where Black Panther tells Mr. Fantastic to go talk to his wife, because Mr. Fantastic doesn’t seem to care that the Human Torch is in the hospital. This is far beyond the frequent portrayal of Reed Richards as autistic; this is him just being a huge, absolute jerk. And it was not good.
One More Day
Tom Breevort was the managing editor of Marvel about eight years ago, and he thought “Hey, I hate that Spider-Man and Mary Jane are married.” Wanting to break them up, but also being uncomfortable with the idea of Spider-Man getting a divorce (I’ve gotten one, and let me tell you, believe the hype — they’re bad), he came up with the best possible solution for that situation: have THE DEVIL (aka Mephisto) make a bargain with Peter to save his Aunt’s life and undo much of Peter Parker’s actions during Civil War. The price? HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH MARY JANE. Look, I’ll be honest, my elderly relative probably wouldn’t want me to give up the love of my life so they can have… what, three more years before they die of natural causes? Comics Aunt May isn’t Marissa Tomei — she old.
Norman Osborne’s Resurrection (And Much of What Followed)
Y’know how the death of Gwen Stacy and then the subsequent accidental-suicide of Norman Osborne are maybe the two biggest moments of Spider-Man’s life? Well, Marvel was like “what if we bring Norman Osborne back, and have him be the architect of all of the misfortune in Peter Parker’s life?” Well, the answer is that it’ll be dumb, and it will take almost two decades before Norman Osborne actually becomes a valuable part of the Marvel universe (really, it’s once he becomes the head of SHIELD, essentially removing himself from Spider-Man stories). But the return of Norman Osborne featured the impregnating of Gwen Stacy (I swear to God), and particularly lots of clones. So, so many clones. And unless you’re Orphan Black, clones probably aren’t a good thing…
The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Oh. Boy. The sequel to “The Dark Knight Returns” (one of the greatest comic book stories ever told), “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” is honestly one of the worst things ever written. Also? One of the worst things ever drawn. It is an absolute disaster, a story that balloons the scope of the original from a vigilante fighting government fascism and trying to take his city back, to a giant, super powered tale of multiple Superman villains and outer space intrigue. Also, I can’t stress enough how butt ugly the art is. It is the ruination and watering down of a classic. For shame, Frank Miller.
Can you think of any worse comic storylines than these? I don’t think so, but you can feel free to let us know @Smosh.