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Is Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #3 The Worst Comic Book Of All Time?

[show_avatar email=robin@titanstower.com align=right]In a word, no.

Heck, it isn’t even the worst Titans comic book of all time (I’m looking at you, New Titans #100…)

But sparks began to fly when Brian Hibbs wrote a scathing review: “I have read the worst comic I have ever read. [...] I felt incredibly dirty and gross after I put it down. [...] Everyone involved in its production, especially the editor, Brian Cunningham, and publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee should be deeply ashamed of what they’ve done here.”

But it didn’t end there. Lying in the Gutters collected additional reviews, including Chris Sims at Comic Alliance, who wrote, “It’s essentially “The Room” for comics, but without the lighthearted fun: Truly atrocious, but so far gone that it moves back and forth between scenes that would be hilarious if they weren’t meant to be serious (the title character beats a bunch of dudes half to death in order to protect the rotting corpse of a cat that he thinks is his dead daughter) and jaw-dropping out of sheer confusion about why someone would do this.” And David Brothers at 4thletter! has his own take, “It’s lazy and stupid and pointless. My post was going to be called “Rise of Arsenal: Wynken, Blynken, and On the Nod” which is some kind of perfect storm of stupid and amazing, but no–not worth it. Rise of Arsenal is lazy and stupid and doesn’t even have a villain.”

You can check out the Lying in the Gutters link for more reviews (most of them not kind).

Now,  must admit, I haven’t read the full issue of The Rise Of Arsenal #3. I just flipped through the issue in the store to get an idea of what is happening to the character, for purposes of maintaining this site. What DC has done to Roy and Lian Harper is deplorable and creatively bankrupt, in my eyes. And I’d rather not support it with extra sales dollars.

But while I’m not a fan of the book or its direction, I do know J.T. Krul is a good writer. We’ve seen him write other books quite well. He clearly understands plotting, character and story structure. And hey, no one can knock it out of the park all the time. After all, another good writer named Marv Wolfman also gave us the aforementioned New Titans #100.

Those two incidents do share something in common: Both writers were operating under editorially directed storylines. Marv has admitted as much about the stories of that time period. And it’s equally clear that Roy Harper’s fate was charted long before J.T. Krul ever tapped the first words of this story on his keyboard.

And a few days ago, former Teen Titans writer Sean McKeever lamented the degree of editorial inferference during his run on the book. To quote: “Then there’s “Deathtrap”, which wasn’t anything I was at all interested in writing, outside of the opportunity to do a crossover with TITANS and work with Marv. The story wasn’t ours from the get-go. (I was initially only set to write the one TT issue of the story but then I was asked to come over to TITANS and write the bulk of the crossover.) Add to that that the book had 4 editorial teams in my 22 issues, and other “creative differences” that I won’t get into here, and you get a fairly good idea.”

So you see, the “problems” in Rise of Arsenal #3 are larger than “one bad comic book.” It’s endemic of the DC line as a whole: Too much editorial interference.

Name the “greatest comic book stories of all time” and people will rattle off Claremont/Byrne’s X-Men, Miller’s Daredevil and “Dark Knight,” Moore’s Watchmen and the Wolfman/Pérez New Teen Titans. In all those instances, the writers and artists were allowed to create.

Instead or crafting stories, many of today’s DC writers are connecting dots as best they can – often trying to infuse meaning and motivations where there are none. And the difference becomes apparent on the printed page. There’s no heart, no soul, in these comics. Just a succession of jarring moments strung together in a patchwork of random nothingness.

And until DC loosens the reigns and stops dictating stories, I expect a lot more “Rises” before an eventually fall.


End of titanstower.com transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author


32 Comments

  1. tamaranorbust

    Worst Titans books might include NT #129 and Titans vol. 1 #49-50 (tin foil hats) and there might be a couple from TT later in vol. 3 that might be candidates. I don’t think the Arsenal mini is the worst comic ever, but there’s something wrong with it, and that wrongness feels like editorial interference, not problems with the writer exactly. I’m not shocked by the details everyone’s complaining about (dead cats etc), rather I find there’s a wooden or forced quality about it that wasn’t evident in Krul’s other work. When did editorial interference, especially in Titans books, become the norm at DC? And why have the Titans books suffered so much from this? I’ve been collecting since the 70s, but took a long hiatus from collecting, recently came back, and notice the difference.

    • avatar

      The thing that, to me, makes it clear that the editors are hovering over JT and making him Write What They Want is those few, rare moments (like the scene in issue #2 where Rose approaches Roy at the funeral and, for a page, becomes not an attitude on legs, but a girl actively concerned for and reaching out to someone she looked upon as a friend) where the JT I became enthused about rises to the future and struggles to breathe in a few gulps of air before sinking again. There’s such a sharp cntrast between those few moments and the horrific, melodramatic, over-the-top bullcrap of the rest of the book that makes me think there are puppet strings attached to his hands…

  2. avatar

    A couple of bad Titan issues I can think of are… how disappointing Titans East was by Johns, the Amazons Attack thing, the first arc of Titans vol.2.

    I’ve been complaining about all three issues, and pretty much the next, as gratuitous which they already cemented the minute they announced the future issues of Titans. Is it really emotional and meaningful if we all saw it coming a mile away that Roy would become an anti-hero or villain? Yes, Krul is a good writer, and God knows what writing this thing will do to his reputation in the future. I still kind of feel bad for knowing Eric Wallace wrote Villains for Hire. I’ve been sending in reviews of my own to J.T. Krul and I’ve tried to sound adult about it. I’ve noticed whatever small good things there were but this book has still been bad. Ever since Lilith Clay died it’s become more and more consistent that the Titans get horrible treatment. Sure, bad things happened to them before, but in the last six or seven years since Graduation Day 30+ Titans related character have been poorly used, either maimed, killed, or written terribly. Roy and Lian were the straw that broke the camel’s back. But I have to be honest, I hadn’t gotten interested in them until AFTER Lian died. Interested out of disgust when I learned more about and starting to thinking about what DC’s really been doing to these characters.

    • avatar

      What they’ve “been doing” to these characters, since Lilith’s death, is LONG TERM DAMAGE. For almost six years now (!), the Titans franchise has languished. And its also hampered Bart Allen, Cassie Sandsmark, Superboy, Donna Troy, Roy Harper, Lian Harper, Tempest, Cerdian, Kid Devil, Lilith, Duela Dent, Jason Todd, Raven, Trigon, Jericho, Wally West, Terra, Wendy & Marvin and a host of other characters with death, dismemberment and prolonged ill-conceived story arcs.

    • avatar

      Well, yeah….the Amazon Attacks tie-in was truly, thoroughly awful.

  3. avatar

    Oh, and for future reference, I’ve been reading them. NOT buying them. I help out at a comic store on Wednesdays so I have time to read during breaks. In case anyone thinks I read them over the internet or stealing them.

  4. avatar

    I wish I had anything constructive to add to this, really… but Nightwing pretty much hit the nail on the head (considering I’ve been parroting these complaints in a lot of my posts on the tower, is that surprising?)

    As an avid writer of fan fictions, it’s easy for me to get dragged down into the great cry of “Blame the Studio/Network/Editors” whenever I see a decision I feel is stupid… its a habit reinforced by writing fics for properties owned by Disney, where you can just ~smell~ the potential on something, only to see it white washed by old Walt’s ghost. (Gargoyle’s gun violence episode being one shining example of that)

    But my father has a saying… “When you hear the same thing from more than one source, it’s probably true” I’d love to blame the emo-fest on the success of properties like Twilight… but let’s be honest, while that might be reinforcing Didio’s strategy, it’s decidedly not a root cause, as this sort of story telling has been going on long before those books were a twinkle in anyone’s eye.

    What really amazes me is the willful blindness of the label… DC see’s all these books sales going down faster than Titanic’s drunk prom date, and see’s the fan feed back; both directly in letters and at cons, and via websites and journals like this (serious, you mean to tell me NO ONE at DC can use google, facebook, or twitter?) but they just keep shoveling this dreck out the door with the biggest crap shovel they can find.

    So is it any wonder that a good webcomic artist can pretty much write their own ticket these days strictly off merchandising a free property, and manga of all sorts fly off the shelves, while comic books sit in long boxes for months on end gathering dust?

    …okay, that turned into another nice pointless rant… Anyway, I’ll have to leaf through this or hit a scans site when it pops up since I’m in small town right now with no direct access to dead tree media for a few weeks, but yeah, I feel like I could already plot the book out in my head, which is never a good sign. I definitely agree with Nightwing on not giving hard currency to this stuff, but even ~that~ doesn’t seem to dissuade the team at DC.

    • avatar

      Jim Lee and Geoff Johns, among many others, are Twitter fiends.

  5. avatar

    I haven’t even bothered picking up this book. I could guess what would have happened before Cry for Justice even finished.

    Thanks for the entry Nightwing. you seem to have a knack for pulling what everyone has loosely said and making sense of it.

  6. avatar

    While not the worst comic ever written, “Cry for Justice” and “Rise of Arsenal” rank pretty high up there, there is no denying that. The Titans are no longer characters with live and emotions, who we feel we can relate to. They’re cannon fodder. I don’t fully blame the writers. I mean, yes, they did put the pen to paper which led to what happened, but usually it was under protest. You can almost ALWAYS pin-point when the writer loses creative control of the story and the editors start making demands.

    Its painful to read and what’s more, DC is aware of the fans feeling not only by feedback, but also by the declining sales numbers. One would think that they would want to do all they could to either revitalize the book or simply end it. Instead it feels like this book is being put on a life-support prolonging his agonizing death.

    After all, as Jude and Nightwing pointed out, DC has done all it could to make these characters as miserable as possible. I can’t think of a single character involved in the Titans series who is actually “happy.” Even Miss Martian, who is always cheery and sweet seems depressed and angsty lately. And I know, characters need drama to be interesting. But most writers try and give characters periods of happiness.

    And unfortunately, the only thing we can do is not buy the books. We can complain and write letters and talk to the people at conventions, but they don’t accept our opinions. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it seems DC feels that the fans don’t know what’s good and that they do.

    • avatar

      What makes it worse is that this was probably PLANNED for Roy and Lian.

      • avatar

        *shakes fist* ROBINSON!!!

        • avatar

          Robinson, Krul, Wallace… all three of them are gonna have this black mark on their careers for a long time.

          • avatar

            Only from the fans however. The editorial staff refuses to see these books as anything but a good idea.

          • avatar

            Sooner or Later, Time Warner is going to take a good hard look at DC and realize that, aside from the licensed properties (which is its own can of worms), they have run the label into the ground.

            Heads will have to roll, restructuring and maybe even re-imagining of DC as a company will happen, and a lot of these writers are probably going to catch that mark of having been there during the bad days.

            I hope that some of them can survive such a culling, or don’t just burn out before hand and abandon ship.

    • avatar

      All I can say is I took TEEN TITANS off my pull list, and will keep it off until I feel confident in J.T. Krul’s direction for the book.

      • avatar

        Sadly, as you yourself pointed out above, he’ll no more be in control of the Titans than he was of the Arsenal story. We as readers will just end up with what you described, moments of true character development interspersed with pages of Dawson’s super-Creek.

        • avatar

          I don’t recall Dawson ever being impaled on the local bully’s sword.

          One of the things that bugs me about the DCU right now is that it’s ratcheted so over the top as to be a parody of Grindhouse Cinema.

          I have faith in Krul. I suspect he will have more control over TT than he had over the Roy Harper story.

          But then, I’ve had my faith dashed before.

    • avatar

      It seems all DC wants to do is make every titans life hell or kill them off just to give the book some shock value! I don’t know about anyone else but when Superboy and Kid Flash returned to the Teen Titans recently, what should of been huge moment in the book turned out to be a really disapointing part of the story! And the way Cassie is treating Conner is really out of charicter for her. Hopefully JT will bring back some of the magic Geoff Johns gave the book when it was first launched……..time will tell. But hey, at least Titans Villans for hire could be interesting.

  7. avatar

    Risk, Red Star, Marvin, Wendy, Jericho, Mas y Menos, Tempest, Dolphin, Cerdian, Wintergreen, Holly Granger, Roy Harper, Lian Harper, Little Barda, Son of Vulcan, Lagoon Boy, Anima, Kid Devil, Kid Eternity, Power Boy, Raven, Lilith Clay, Pantha, Baby Wildebeest, Riddler’s Daughter, Bushido, Golden Eagle, Terra II, Damage, Mal Duncan, Bumblebee, Rose Wilson, Jason Todd, Thunder, Lightning, Mia Dearden.

    Have I missed anyone?

    • avatar

      And Duela Dent. Sorry.

    • avatar

      Are you just listing the people who recently suffered, or all of them. Because if its all of them, you left out a lot.

      • avatar

        Recently.

        Which ones did I leave out…

        Oh, yeah. Donna, Aquagirl, Don and Hank Hall, Dawn Granger, Magenta, Superboy, Kid Flash, Tim Drake…

        • avatar

          Don’t forget Holly Granger

          • avatar

            Damn. Sorry. Oh, by the way, guys, I made a list of all the characters DC killed in the last seven years. It’s 325 and growing.

  8. avatar

    Good God, that’s roughly a character every 8 days, be they headliners or also-ran’s, that’s just pathetic.

  9. avatar

    Cry for Justice was one of the worst stories of all time (The art was amazing though)! Rise of Arsenal sucks and I wasted my money because Krul was writing it and he said Roy was one of his favorites so I gave him a chance. I am very sorry I did!

    I don’t care if it’s the writer, editor, or who it sucks and there is no guarantee that Kruls run on Teen Titans will be any different.

    ~ Rick

  10. avatar

    Hmm… yes I’m necroposting an older thread… but honestly, the guys over at the new “Gutters” comic pretty much coalesced the schlock chicanery of Roy’s life with their friday comic http://www.the-gutters.com/comic/6-kevin-mellon

    what’s really funny is they make an almost disney’esque point about the comics… doing smack is one thing, but safe sex? perish the though!

  11. avatar

    Hmm, I hate to beg, but could someone please put up a thread so we can talk about how horrible (in my opinion, at least) Rise of Arsenal #4.

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