Monday, August 01, 2005

Ten great plot disasters

1 Reed Richards joins the Avengers

It was always difficult to imagine that Avengers spear-carrier was an appropriate job for the most brilliant mind of his generation, who could create an entrance to the negative zone, build a protective shield round Earth's atmosphere, punch out Annihilus, contemptuously defeat Galactus and still have time left over to read "Fix-it Duck" to his son. It might all still have worked if Steve Rogers had acted like a born leader with decades of combat experience, rather than a clucky manager of an under-12 after-school football team. It all ended in tears when Reed saved the universe without first asking permission from the musclebound control freak.

2 Tony Stark wires up his repulsor rays and heart pacemaker to the same power source

Which led to dozens of stories where Iron Man would be about to administer a finishing blow to the exposed skull of the Crimson Dynamo only to be cruelly felled by a sneaky villainous one-two-three of rabbit punch to the kidneys, knee in the cobblers and massive coronary arrest. You're a great engineer, Tony, couldn't you have used a battery?

3 Illyana Rasputin gets de-aged

Five year old Illyana was lost in limbo for ten years where she was brought up by demons. Recovered by the X-Men, she was a tormented character, caught between good and evil and easily my favourite New Mutant. Naturally, someone (do I detect the hand of Louise Simonson?) had to go and return her to her original age, seemingly oblivious to the fact that five year olds, who spend most of their time building farm animals out of Playdoh and telling you they've done a poo, make poor superhero material. Then some clown gave her the Legacy Virus and killed her. Sigh...

4 Gerry Conway butchers half the Spider-Man cast

Mesmerized by the personality of serial gibberer Mary Jane Watson (sample dialogue: "Hiya Petey-o, let's go jivin' with those crazy cats down at the Whisky a-Go-Go, Tiger"), Conway killed both Spider-Man's girlfriend and his greatest enemy, destablising his best friend in the process and effectively terminating the golden age of Stan Lee's finest title.

I'm willing to reconsider my position on this story if someone can convince me it really did usher in a fantastic Mary Jane-inspired era of quality Spider-Man stories, rather than a decade-long glacial tundra populated by malign skateboarders, will o' the wisps, stupid made-up cults and mallet headed gangsters. And let's not forget Stegron, the Living Dinosaur.

5 Stomach churners join the X-Men

Maggott. Marrow. Run the names around in your mind. He had two large alien parasites nestling in his large intestine. She was able to pop bones out of her own body and throw them at people. You can see what's wrong with these characters, right? Aspiring writers should note that if thinking about a new character's powers makes you feel slightly sick, then you should probably go back to the drawing board.

6 Bill Mantlo let loose on Howard the Duck

Not so much a plot hole as an extended subterranean complex of interconnected fistulae. Marvel flicked a two fingered "fuck off" at outgoing writer Steve Gerber by putting a career journeyman on the most subtle and difficult title in its stable. Mantlo rose to the challenge, wreaking similar carnage as that caused to Roman Late Antiquity by Genseric the Vandal. Favourite moment - Howard goes back to his world, Duckworld, where ducks called Duck McDuck eat duckmeals with duckknives and duckforks while watching the Duckovision. OK, I'm exaggerating, but sadly not by much.

7 Peter Parker marries a supermodel

Surely an Iron Man plot which accidentally got filed in the Spider-Man drawer? A kind of reverse colonic irrigation, it injected a seemingly endless seam of excrement into Marvel's flagship hero by removing two great cornerstones of Spider-Man's greatness: the sexual tension and Peter's poverty. Writers have spent the last twenty years trying to explain why an ambitious vacuum-head who could make a hundred thousand dollars in two days just by putting on a halter top and staring moodily into the middle distance would stay in a flea-ridden apartment with a High School Science Teacher with an above-average number of facial bruises.

8 Police Officer becomes Black Panther

Christopher Priest's great run ran into the buffers when he appeared to tire of trying to get inside the head of difficult-to-write Panther. His solution was to have a New York City policeman go through the Panther initiation mumbo jumbo, despite an absence of any obvious claim to the throne of Wakanda. A blatant attempt to get readers to jump to another of Priest's books, it should be required reading for those who see Priest being given back the writing duties on Black Panther.

9 Clark Kent gets busted down to junior reporter

This inspired piece of managerial diktat should have been successful for exactly the same length of time it would have taken Pulitzer Prize winner Kent to

- consider which rival publication he'd like to work for
- decide how much they would have to pay him
- work out which of Perry White's bodily orifices his demotion was going to be shoved up

10 Bullseye kills Daredevil's girlfriend...again

Much as I hate to criticise Kevin Smith's otherwise brilliant Daredevil run, but this was idiotic. Daredevil is hardly packed with fascinating support characters and Karen Page was HIV positive, a failed actress, and Matt's great love. All this potential spewed away in a farcical and pointless murder which was to all intents and purposes exactly the same as that of Elektra. Perhaps Karen will also be coming back as a Ninja assassin.


Blogger Tim O'Neil said...

Ouch. All true, all true... I do have fond memories of Reed on the Avengers, however, if only becuase it was so ill-conceived.

3:21 pm  
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