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Top Ten Unnecessary Sequels in Comics

A column article, Top Ten by: David Fairbanks, Jason Sacks, Danny Djeljosevic, Steve Morris, Nick Hanover

Straight up? We're doing this because of Before Watchmen. But rather than browbeat some more, why not look at other occasions where awesome superhero comics were sullied by followups, often made by different creators, but sometimes not. A LOT OF THESE COMICS ARE TERRIBLE


 

10. Blackest Night

 

 

The Original: Green Lantern #21-25, Green Lantern Corps #14-19 by Geoff Johns and a bunch of other dudes (2007-2008) (also some Alan Moore story in 1986's Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2)

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: Blackest Night #1-8 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis and a shitload of tie-ins by other bros (2009-2010)

Geoff Johns is almost solely responsible for there being any ongoing Green Lantern comics right now. His resurrection of Hal Jordan in Green Lantern: Rebirth and the subsequent series were popular enough to warrant four ongoings in the New 52. It wasn't all green pastures for Johns, though. While Rebirth was pretty well-received, the first ten or so issues of the series met some pretty lukewarm reviews. That is, until the seeds of the "Sinestro Corps War" started growing. Johns' comics can be pretty divisive now, but "Sinestro Corps" was him at the top of his game. What's the ultimate villain for an intergalactic peace force with the most powerful weapon in the galaxy? An army of equal size, wielding equally powerful weapons, led by a former GL, hell-bent on murdering the Corps.

Did I mention that the Sinestro Corps also had the villains of the previous three Crises as members (The Anti-Monitor, Superboy Prime, and Parallax [Zero Hour/Crisis in Time counts])?

It was its own beast of a story, a wonderful crossover between Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps with a couple of one-shots. It felt epic in a way that space comics don't generally seem to accomplish (aside from Annihilation).

The next logical step is, of course, to take this idea and generate, oh, six other such groups, right? 

No. No it's not.

Blackest Night was an idea that Johns had been seeding since before "Sinestro Corps War," in his two previous appearances of Black Hand, and it's an idea that he should've let die. The road from "Sinestro Corps War" to Blackest Night was one of every story arc promising just how important the next arc was toward Johns' endgame, because he had to churn out his rainbow corps and do it fast, and because I was caught up in it with everyone else, I didn't notice the decline in quality until around 3/4 of the way through Blackest Night, where it became pretty apparent that Johns couldn't balance that many characters and still keep it as fast-paced and exciting as "Sinestro Corps War." The first time around, the revelation of the villains Sinestro had recruited was surprising, kindling excitement for the rest, while the appearance of Nekron's villains -- some of which were the same or similar to Sinestro's -- felt predictable.

Blackest Night wasn't bad; as far as event comics go, it was passable. "Sinestro Corps War," though, set a precedent that Johns couldn't have hoped to live up to when quadrupling the number of corps he was juggling.

-David Fairbanks


 

9. The Conclusion of "Panther vs. the Klan"

 

 

The Original: Jungle Action #19-22, 24 by Don McGregor, Billy Graham, Rich Buckler and Keith Pollard (1976)

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: Marvel Premiere #51-53 by Ed Hannigan and Jerry Bingham (1979-1980)

Yeah, you read that right. Under the pen of CB columnist Don McGregor, there was a storyline in the unfortunately named comic Jungle Action in which the Avenging African, the Black Panther, found himself battling members of the Ku Klux Klan. McGregor's intensely moody script saw the Panther's girlfriend, Monica Lynne, and her family targeted by the martial forces of the Klan that was dominating her small town in the state of Georgia. This is a sobering and intense storyline, with both dramatic action and intense human drama, written with a thoroughly sober passion that seems to be ripped right from McGregor's heart.

The KKK storyline ended unfinished in Jungle Action #24, with mysteries unresolved and a cliffhanger thoroughly unresolved. McGregor was removed from the strip after that issue when Jack Kirby returned to Marvel to create his surreal adventure story featuring T'Challa. It was a goddamn crime that we never got Don McGregor's conclusion to this story, the least Marvel could have done was to embrace the elegant solution and leave "The Panther vs. the Klan" unresolved.

Unfortunately, after the Kirby adventure wrapped up, Marvel saw fit to conclude the Panther's battle with the Klan nearly four years after it had paused. The storyline was forgotten by all but the hardcore fans, but continuity must be maintained. Of course, Marvel didn't ask Don to wrap up the story that he launched. Instead they hired Ed Hannigan to complete the story, who did his best to resolve the surface elements of the story with chockablock action. The story is entertaining enough, but it has none of the intensity and brilliance of Don's original story.

-Jason Sacks


 

8. Batman: Dark Victory

 

 

The Original: Batman: The Long Halloween #1-13 by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (1996-1997)

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: Batman: Dark Victory #1-13 by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (1999-2000)

While Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb's Batman: The Long Halloween is indebted in some ways to Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One, this 13-issue series expanded on the gritty early days of Batman to track the weird transition of the Dark Knight's enemies from goon-ass mob thugs to goof-ass supervillains as district attorney Harvey Dent becomes the scarred gangster Two-Face, a themed serial killer named "Holiday" kills somebody once a month and Batman tussles with a different iconic rogue's gallery member -- all to create an incredibly compelling noirish crime tragedy on the level of… well, probably not a REAL crime tragedy that an adult would read or anything like that, but at least a really good Batman comic.

 

POP QUIZ: Is this fight from Long Halloween or Dark Victory?

 

A few years later, Loeb and Sale re-teamed for Dark Victory, which attempted to replicate the success of the Long Halloween by doing the same exact thing all over again, but with a different serial killer (this time going by the name of "Hangman"), some more Falcone crime family drama and the inclusion of Robin and more rogue's gallery appearances. The result was a passable piece of entertainment, but failed to resonate on the same level as its predecessor(s). Maybe it's Loeb's attempt at trying to recreate the formula of the first one (certainly a problem of many notable Jeph Loeb comics). Sure, Solomon Grundy and Poison Ivy are pushing it, but maybe once you get to more fantastical Robin and Mr. Freeze you gotta stop playing the noir game and move on into a different genre. Either way, you could pretty much only read The Long Halloween and not miss a whole lot in the sequel except some pretty sick Tim Sale art.

-Danny Djeljosevic


 

7. X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong

 

 

The Original: New X-Men #114-154 by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Ethan Van Sciver, Igor Kordey, John Paul Leon, Phil Jimenez, Keron Grant, Chris Bachalo, and Marc Silvestri (2001-2004)

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong #1-5 by Greg Pak and Greg Land (2005)

Woof. Grant Morrison's run on the X-Men concluded with Jean Grey crashing and burning into the Sun, resurrecting as a Phoenix and then getting a stroke. While her past history has always been a confusing mess of clones, comas, spirits and primal forces, Morrison decided to simplify things (well, as far as he was concerned anyway), and make Rebirth an essential part of her character. Whenever she dies, she will eventually return.

Now this has managed to give every Jean Grey fan a persecution complex over the past few years, as they'll (rarely accurately) point out numerous occasions where Marvel promised to actually bring her back to life only to fake them out. And the most notable one came in the form of two miniseries from Greg Pak. Endsong came first, in which the Phoenix Force -- now apparently a sentient energy which was deeply in love with Cyclops for barely discernible reasons -- came to Earth (where had it been before? Christ knows, don't get too involved in these things or you'll explode) and promptly resurrected Jean Grey for a bit. Then it took over Emma Frost, because she was Cyclops' new partner and ALL IT WANTED WAS SOME SLIMLINE LOVIN'. So Beast threw possessed Emma Frost and Cyclops into a magical cage and then had what appeared to be eternal tantric sex. Or they would've, but another Morrison character -- Quentin Quire -- showed up for, again, barely discernible reasons, and ruined it all. Jean got blown up by some Shi'Ar aliens at the end and nobody knew where she was anymore.

At least Morrison suggested that she was "incubating" in a place called The White Hot Room. Now nobody knew where she was.


 

6. X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong

 

 

The Original: X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong #1-5 by Greg Pak and Greg Land (2005)

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong #1-5 by Greg Pak and Tyler Kirkham (2006-2007)

ENDSONG WAS FOLLOWED BY WARSONG!! Which is hot garbage. This time the Phoenix Force decided to go after Emma's students The Stepford Cuckoos, who had been revealed by Morrison to be part of the Weapon Plus program which also designed Wolverine. Why had they been infiltrated into the X-Men? Morrison never got to answer, so Greg Pak did instead. Except he didn't. He outed them as the newest "weapon" from the program, and never explained why. Then we found out that Emma Frost had been cloned millions of times, and then the Phoenix Force flew in, possessed the Cuckoos, and went on a rampage. It was ultimately stopped when the Cuckoos TURNED THEIR HEARTS INTO DIAMONDS and trapped the Phoenix in their hearts. Because that's where emotion physically comes from? Your heart? How were they meant to have blood circulation with diamond hearts?

Warsong doesn't even follow on from Endsong in terms of continuity. Endsong establishes that only a powerful psychic like Jean could handle a Phoenix possession. When Emma is possessed, she starts to burn up. However in Warsong, Emma's three young Stepford clones all get possessed without any side-effects. WHATT

The two stories show no evidence that Greg Pak at the time had any idea what the Phoenix Force was, what the X-Men's personalities were, how to tell a story or had even heard of the X-Men before he wrote it. That sounds mean? You should hear the things that Jean Grey fans have to say about these follow-up stories, then. I'm barely raising my voice compared to their fury. When a new reader picks up Avengers vs. X-Men, and doesn't understand if the Phoenix is meant to be a threat, a friend, an avatar or a primordial spirit? THAT'S BECAUSE ENDSONG AND WARSONG RUINED PHOENIX


 

5. The Conclusion of Omega the Unknown

 

 

The Original: Omega the Unknown #1-10 by Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes and Jim Mooney

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: The Defenders #76-77 by Steven Grant, Mark Gruenwald and Herb Trimpe

Sigh. I've written about this comic many times before on this website, and my heart demands I discuss it again here in this Top 10. Because what happened to the great 1970s series Omega the Unknown shouldn't happen to any great series. Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes and Jim Mooney created a comic that was a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, surrounded by an enigma. It was a complex, freewheeling, intensely weird story that told the story of a middle-school boy with a strange and unexplained connection to a mysterious adult creature that comes from another world. And the series ended on the ultimate cliffhanger: the main character was killed -- and the final panel of that story declared that "The story of Omega the Unknown will be concluded in a future issue of The Defenders."

Two years later, years after Gerber was unceremoniously expelled from Marvel, the then-current team on Defenders chose to wrap up the storyline -- but in the clunkiest, most awkward and inappropriate way possible. Like a summer blockbuster that has a great opening sequence written by one screenwriter and a completely baffling conclusion written by someone else, this wrap-up is an atrocity that I've been trying to purge from my memory -- much like that horrible sight of my parents in bed that I saw that one horrible night that I couldn't fall asleep. 

I've had my revenge against this thoroughly unwanted follow-up by sticking my fingers in my ears and believing it doesn't exist. La la la la la, I'm not hearing you, horrible unnecessary follow-up to a classic story.

-Jason Sacks


 

4. Any Sequel to Road to Perdition

 

 

The Original: Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner (1998)

The Unnecessary Follow-Ups: On the Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins, José Luis García-López, Josef Rubenstein and Steve Lieber (2003-2004) Road to Purgatory (2004) and Road to Paradise (2005) by Max Allan Collins; Return to Perdition by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty (2011)

Many have seen Road to Perdition, director Sam Mendes' somber attempt at a gangland Chicago Godfather starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig and Some Kid, but the original graphic novel the film is based on is a surprisingly loud, rock 'n' roll comic were a betrayed mob enforcer murders a shitload of gangsters with a tommy gun and his young son in tow -- a piece more influenced by Lone Wolf & Cub than New Hollywood crime pictures, but one that still attempts to deal with that whole "sins of the father" concept amidst all the violence.

 

 

It shouldn't be surprising that Collins -- he of dozens of media tie-in novels and sequelized character-based mystery novels of his own creation -- would try to revisit the world of Perdition first with a pseudo-side-story graphic novel series called On the Road to Perdition that takes place during the events of the original story, then some prose novel sequels following said the aforementioned son going into adulthood (Road to Purgatory, Road to Paradise) and then a graphic novel following his son (Return to Perdition). Oh, and all these guys are named Michael.

While thematically it makes sense that Collins track subsequent male descendants' foray into violent gang murders, the ending of the original Road to Perdition tied things up quite nicely by depicting the gangster's now-adult son as a priest to make up for his father's sins. Considering all these follow-ups came after the movie, you can see the basic motivation behind them.

-Danny Djeljosevic


 

3. X-Men: Deadly Genesis

 

 

The Original: Giant-Size X-Men #1 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum (1975)

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1-6 by Ed Brubaker, Trevor Hairsine and Pete Woods (2005-2006)

Ed Brubaker writing the X-Men! The writer had just come off an extensively brilliant run of comics including Catwoman, Gotham Central and his own creator-owned titles, and was announced as the new writer for Uncanny X-Men with much excitement. But, before he could get to the flagship book of the X-Universe, he had another idea he wanted to bring to the table: a follow-up story which recontexualized the original genesis of the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men. If you remember, this was a story where the original five X-Men were captured on the sentient island Krakoa, seemingly about to die. Cyclops manages to escape and fled back to Xavier, who recruited a secondary team of X-Men made up of Storm, Sunfire, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus and others. Together this new team saved the original team, and a brand new lineup of characters were brought to the World.

In this new story, Deadly Genesis, Brubaker posited that this was actually Xavier's THIRD team, and that a second team (including Cyclops' brother Vulcan) had gone into the breach, and promptly all been killed. It was only then that the third team were recruited. Now, this not only means Xavier is directly responsible for the deaths of a group of kids, it also complicates his relationship with Moira MacTaggert -- who he "borrowed" this team from -- and Cyclops, who had to be brainwashed in order to forget that he watched his brother died.

It also needs to be pointed out that this story is GARBAGE. Banshee was killed off for cheap impact partway through, as Vulcan returned, having survived the massacre and angry at Xavier, and threw a plane at him. And Banshee was GREAT! We also got dodgy characterizations for Kitty Pryde and especially Emma Frost -- which ultimately supplanted her existing characterization, and has near-ruined her as a result. The story also feels incomplete, as Vulcan gets away and flies off into space to kill his dad or something... and thus began years of space stories. Have you ever read an X-Men in Space story? They're APPALLING. Deadly Genesis was a story which didn't hit any of Brubaker's strengths, weakened the X-Men franchise in several places, and was just awful entertainment all-round. Most fans choose to pretend it never happened, and that's probably a good move.

-Steve Morris


 

2. The Kingdom

 

 

The Original: Kingdom Come #1-4 by Mark Waid and Alex Ross (1996)

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: The Kingdom #1-2 by Mark Waid, Ariel Olivetti and Mike Zeck, plus a bunch of one-shots (1999)

Kingdom Come, besides inspiring the title of a Jay-Z record (itself an unnecessary follow-up to The Black Album), was a pretty dope Alex Ross/Mark Waid collaboration -- an alternate future story where the DC Universe is populated by violent, "extreme" superheroes who are more preoccupied with brawling in the streets than protecting anybody. This pisses off a paunchy Superman into coming out of retirement to reform the Justice League and put all these young upstarts into super-jail, which goes pretty awry, to say the least. It's kind of a '90s take on Dark Knight Returns/Watchmen in terms of its commentary on/reaction to the state of superhero comics coupled with stabs at literary gravitas in the form of religious symbolism.

For a brief period, Ross and Waid attempted a prequel set in regular DC Comics continuity called The Kingdom that was meant to bridge the gap between the present and the future as seen in Kingdom Come, to be drawn by Gene Ha (!). Amidst creative differences Alex Ross left the project in favor of dreaming up Marvel's own dystopic future in the form of Earth X while Waid soldiered on and wrote what would become The Kingdom, a two-issue miniseries bolstered by character spotlight one-shots written by Waid and drawn by a cadre of artists including Barry Kitson and Frank Quitely.

Despite some cool ideas in the first issue (Magog constantly killing iterations of Superman as he travels back in time), the second part of The Kingdom goes completely off the rails as it reveals itself to be an excuse to introduce Hypertime, a pretty excellent idea for the increasingly confusing DC Comics continuity but one totally inappropriate and irrelevant when we're talking about a follow-up to Kingdom Come.

Turns out the only thing worse than a comic created exclusively to set up some other comic is when it's snuck into a follow-up to a beloved work. It's like if Before Watchmen was created just to set up for Flashpoint or something.

-Danny Djeljosevic


 

1. Onslaught Reborn/Onslaught Unleashed

 

 

 

 

The Original: That whole Onslaught crossover that happened in a bunch of 1996 Marvel Comics titles

The Unnecessary Follow-Up: Onslaught Reborn #1-5 by Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld (2007-2008)

The REALLY Unnecessary Follow-Up: Onslaught Unleashed by Sean McKeever and Filipe Andrade (2011)

The explanation for the character of Onslaught may have been that he was the physical manifestation of Professor Xavier's innate negativity, merged with the elements of Magneto's psyche that Xavier absorbed during one of their many battles (don't ask, it doesn't matter which one). But you could just as easily read Onslaught as Marvel's innate negativity as a publisher during the time of their greatest economic failing, the character and his requisite crossover appearing at arguably the nadir of Marvel's history.

So why the fuck would anyone at Marvel think it was a good idea to return to the character?

Because a decade had passed and who doesn't love round numbers, that's why. Like a nasty case of herpes, Onslaught returned in 2006 in a series helmed by that unholiest of creative combinations, Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld. To make matters worse, the series was given the name Onslaught: Reborn, in order to remind readers of the "Heroes Reborn" group of titles the Onslaught event had spun off into, back before Marvel figured out how to do reboots properly with the Ultimate line. Onslaught: Reborn is exactly what you'd expect from a Loeb/Liefeld team-up, with the added bonus of it being a series that attempts to revive a character exactly no one gave a fuck about anymore while simultaneously forcing it into more relevant events like Decimation and Civil War

The gist of it is that Scarlet Witch's "no more mutants" pronouncement caused Xavier and Magneto's newly vacated powers to collide and reform as Onslaught. And before you say it, yes, that is eerily similar to what Brian Michael Bendis was doing with New Avengers a year prior. But Loeb was considerate enough to make things slightly different by having the bulk of Onslaught: Reborn play out on Counter-Earth, where the newly "reborn" Onslaught made it his mission to hunt down Franklin Richards and fuck up his life. Confused? Don't worry, you're not alone.

Eventually the Bucky of Counter-Earth saved the day and drove Onslaught into the Negative Zone through the creative use of a Fantasticar. OR DID SHE?? That's the question at the center of Onslaught: Reborn's own unnecessary sequel Onslaught: Unleashed, which features a battle of the wills between Bucky and Onslaught, with the latter claiming the former is just a made up entity whose sole raison d'etre is to act as a "tether" for Onslaught to return to the 616 and… Jesus fuck I don't even know. The moral of the story is that if you make a terrible event and enough people read it you can go on making more terrible sequels to it until you reach a point of such What-the-fuckitude that the entire universe collapses and suddenly we're all forced to awaken in a world where Rob Liefeld is the supreme intelligence behind our own existence.

-Nick Hanover

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