I haven’t officially been counting or numbering these anywhere except in the files in which I write them, but this is the 100th edition of Off The Rack (or Stew’s Reviews, depending where you read this)!
I’m a big fan of essentially-meaningless milestones, so I wrestled for a bit with what to do when I realized triple digits was right around the corner. Was there a REALLY IMPORTANT book I could review? Should I do a write up on a favorite of mine? Start a poll and let you vote on what it would be?
No, none of those felt milestone-y enough.
What I ended up settling on was an Off The Rack Retrospective. Racktrospective! I’ve done 99 books, right? Well what were the best or those? What were the worst? Ranking things is fun.
It gives me a good chance to see how my opinions may have changed since any given article came out. Maybe I will now put a book I graded out as a 5 ahead of a book I gave a 6? When I grade things, I tend to do so in a vacuum and on the whim of the day But there is more fluidity when I force myself to judge books against each other.
I am rambling on. You just want the list, right? Let’s get into it!
99. Thor: Blood & Thunder – Oh, this was bad. Just the height of everything terrible you hear about 90’s comics. A cash-grab crossover between a bunch of unrelated books, and it has a paper-thin story. AND the art is abysmal. Read up here!
98. The Crow – I was surprised by how amateurishly bad the original Crow book was. Barely anything about it felt like it was done by a professional. Read up on it here!
97. New Gods – I, Robert Stewart, an office worker, have read New Gods once and recorded my thoughts on it. It was startling! I, Robert Stewart, a humble office worker, pledge myself to speak like a Jack Kirby character for the rest of this entry! I, Robert Stewart, an office worker, will overstate who I am and what the plot is. What other choice do I have? I am defenseless in the face of this entry, in which I discuss Jack Kirby’s New Gods, comic book about gods, and wherein they are new! Read up on it here!
96. Ms. Marvel – With 1970’s Chris Claremont at the helm, this should have been better, but it was just an empty book that tried too hard to cash in on Spidey guest stars. Glad Carol stuck around and became a star, but this first series is generic brand. Read up on it here!
95. Cyberforce – Not the original, but the crowdfunded relaunch from the 2010’s! It lacked any of the soul of the first book. The initial Cyberforce may have been an X-Men rip-off, but at least the characters had flair. Read up on it here!
94. Unauthorized Biography of Lex Luthor – I felt bad because this review upset the author of this book, and I respect his reply to my thoughts on it. But to me, I just wanted more… it didn’t feel like it added any depth to Lex. The side story had some unfulfilled promise. Read up on it here!
93. Morbius The Living Vampire – Just one of those “EVERYBODY gets their own comic!” books from the early 90’s. It felt more like what it was (a book to throw on the market and hope it swam) than a wholly complete work. Read up on it here!
92. JLA: Gods & Monsters – This just felt lazy to me, and I wanted it to be better than it was given the talent involved. Read up on it here!
91. John Wick – Boy, when you take away the cinematic aspects of John Wick, all you are left with in an eminently forgettable shoot ’em up book without much heart or entertainment value. It’s just The Punisher at this point. Read up on it here!
90. Street Fighter X G.I. Joe – Both the nicest and meanest thing I can say about this book is that it is almost exactly what you would think a book combining Street Fighter and G.I. Joe would be. There’s barely something resembling a plot keeping it together, but it’s got a lot of action! Read up on it here!
89. Old Man Logan – A book that started strong, OML just devoured itself as it approached the finish line when Mark Millar just couldn’t resist inserting nonsense and making the book absurd. Read up on it here!
88. Chew – Everyone is about to get all twittipated because they all like Chew, but listen: these are my preferences, and I can’t stand gross-out humor. It’s like comedy movies that have a vomit or diarrhea scene. Hate it. I just couldn’t read past the 6th issue of this book because the content kept making me dry heave. I’m not saying it’s objectively bad, but nothing about it was so good to me that I could overlook everything else I despised. Read up on it here!
87. Flash War – This introduced additional Forces, akin to the Speed Force, to the DC Universe in the same way the Green Lantern books had such success with the ROY G BIV Corps. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick. Barry and Wally both felt unfamiliar here. Read up on it here!
86. Aquaman: Time & Tide – Peter David’s look back at Aquaman through the years wasn’t particularly bad, but it was entirely forgettable. That’s going to be a theme for many of the next several books! Read up on it here!
85. Absolute Carnage – This just felt unnecessary, and Cates’ obsession with Knull and making the symbiotes more than they need to be just falls so flat with me. Read up on it here!
84. Firestorm – A Spider-Man rip-off of DC’s from the late 1970’s. It has a neat concept, and the character himself went on to become endeared and have a legacy in DC, but his initial run here is just kind of 1970’s Comic Bookery 101.
83. Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner – This is a split of the end of Hal’s run as GL (and turning into Parallax) and the very beginning of Kyle’s tenure (including a certain infamous fridging). Kyle was still getting his feet under him as a character here, and Hal’s turn was just so sudden… it really needed to be retconned later. Read up on it here!
82. Dragon Ball Super – This came way too late and just felt like a cash grab because Toriyama doesn’t really have anything to say or anything new to do. It just has a played out “MULTIVERSE!” theme, and honestly? GT had better stories. Read up on it here!
81. Age of Ultron – Ohhhh, the Tale-of-Two-Bendises book. It starts with some great low-tier Bendis characterization, but just stalls out at the midway point and introduces some terrible butterfly effect mechanisms that feel out of place. Read up on it here!
80. World War Wendigo – The X-Men fight a whole bunch of Wendigo! The mood for this book was all over the place, and the opening one-shot Amazing Friends story tries to be funny, but is a huge miss. Read up on it here!
79. Cosmic Odyssey – A good idea, but too much was handled poorly. It was fine overall, but you just wish so much had been handled better. Read up on it here!
78. Tower of Babel – A story about an actually interesting plan of Ra’s Al Ghul’s is actually a vehicle to pump Batman’s tires and have the JLA throw a pity party. This should have been a 12 issues series where things could get fleshed out, but it feels so rushed. Read up on it here!
77. Fables: The Last Castle – Another fine-but-forgettable book I read. Not as good as Fables proper, but it wasn’t a BAD book. But it was negligible. Read up on it here!
76. Poison Ivy & Harley Quinn – Okay writing, slightly less-than-okay art. This average out to a book that worked well enough, but the ending was an enormous letdown that seemed so typical of DC in the last decade (whose motto should be “We Can’t Have Nice Things”). Read up on it here!
75. X-Tinction Agenda – 66% of the art was downright terrible. Jim Lee in the other 33% can only compensate so much. That said, the story was interesting. Read up on it here!
74. DC: Rebirth – I appreciate the long-awaited return of Wally West, even with how DC would go on to continue screwing him up. I do not appreciate shoe-horning the Watchmen into DC proper. Read up on it here!
73. Death of Iris Allen – Barry Allen reveals his identity to a 16 year old girl and is upset when she isn’t turned on by him. Then he and his wife go to a costume party. Barry gets dosed with PCP. Then he encounters his arch-enemy, the moronically named Orkin! All in the first issue! The best kind of silver/bronze age zaniness. Read up on it here!
72. Power Man & Iron Fist – I probably should have liked this more, but it was just unimportant. So little of it has stuck with me, aside from how much I didn’t like the stylistic art. Luke Cage vowing not to swear and Iron Fist thinking Jessica Jones hates him were the high points. Read up on it here!
71. Spider-Geddon – Quality writing and art, this follow-up to Spider-Verse was done the disservice of having to use a really bad idea that had long-since passed its expiration date. Read up on it here!
70. JSA: Mixed Signals – Not necessarily a high point of Johns’ JSA run, but it had good moments. The problem with JSA is that there were SO MANY characters… some stories worked if they featured the ones I liked, but others felt weak. Read up on it here!
69. Power Girl – This could have been much higher because the art was stellar and the story was fun. But it tried to have high stakes, but couldn’t really accomplish that when the overall mood was cheeseball fun. Read up on it here!
68. Mystique – A perfectly acceptable Brian K Vaughan book that feels like a disappointment when you know what he is capable of. Inconsistent art helped nothing, even when none of it was particularly weak. Read up on it here!
67. Heroes in Crisis – Like Old Man Logan, this was very good for a while, but then just took a proud running jump off a cliff at its conclusion. Not only was it immensely unsatisfying, it was poorly executed and confusing. Read up on it here!
66. Marvel Zombies – Imaginative and fun, with Robert Kirkman allowed to just run wild and do whatever he wanted without really impacting continuity at all. There was way too much exposition and dialogue that only served to inform an imaginary audience, and that took me out of the story.
65. New Guardians – This was a book that felt like it kept getting undercut by other Green Lantern titles. The first arc works well enough, but then there is a bunch of build to a story that… doesn’t deliver here. The later issues Kyle/Carol Ferris relationship is great, but DC just abandoned it after this title ended. Read up on it here!
64. X-Men: Primer – I love this for introducing Shogo to the Marvel Universe and for bringing Jubilee back into the X-fold permanently. I don’t like it for having Kitty Pryde repeatedly say “OMG!”. Read up on it here!
63. Avengers Disassembled – This never felt as “heavy” as it wanted to be because The Avengers have been through so much worse. Whatever impact it was supposed to have was immediately swept away when New Avengers started the month after this story ended. Read up on it here!
PRETTY GOOD TIER
62. Life of Captain Marvel – As noted in my review, this is a normal and adequate book that was one FANTASTIC issue. It’s really hard to gauge where it should be because of that. Read up on it here!
61. Hulk: Future Imperfect – Peter David LOVES writing about the future and creating weird future slang. Read up on it here!
60. Moon Knight – Warren Ellis’ Moon Knight series has a fun first trade, but the biggest weakness is that it feels directionless. It never feels like it is building to anything. The short, punchy stories are good, though. Read up on it here!
59. Fall of the Mutants – The un-crossover of the X-Books in the 80’s that directly gave us the Outback X-Men, Apocalypse, Archangel, and Magneto returning to villainy. It did a good job making three disparate stories feel important. Read up on it here!
58. Daredevil: Yellow – Not the best work of the great Loeb/Sale tag team, but even their weak efforts are still better than most comics out there. It just doesn’t feel important or necessary at any point.
57. Batman & The Outsiders – This is definitely a product of its time with some of its more juvenile elements, but it was also deeper and more enjoyable than a lot of other Pre-Crisis DC titles. Read up on it here!
56. New Avengers: Illuminati – Some fun characterization with a relevant first and final issue sandwiched around some stuff that just sort of… happens. If the middle didn’t feel like such filler, this would be higher.
55. Civil War – It felt BIG, and it impacted the Marvel Universe for YEARS in its wake. It also had problems with requiring you to read multiple books to follow along with everything. The art was stand-out.
54. Love Hina – Vaguely pervy harem manga series that actually had a lot of heart and humor. It’s embarrassing to read or support, but the story is actually not bad behind it all. Read up on it here!
53. World’s Finest – A solid and underrated book about Batman and Superman agreeing to meet up every year on the anniversary of the death of a man they couldn’t save. It gets weaker as it goes (and even undoes its own hook), but there are some great individual chapters. Read up on it here!
52. Fear Agent – Back before I was smart enough to just read a trade or two for a review, I read THE ENTIRETY of Fear Agent. I used to have more time than I have now. I love Moore’s art, and Rememder tells an impactful, if totally depressing, yarn about a spare-age hero. Read up on it here!
51. Black Cat (Marvel) – A decent mini-series starring a character of whom I have always been a fan. It really built up the heroism that Felicia had grown into over the years, even if the villain and story were negligible. Read up on it here!
50. Battle of the Atom – This is a rather messy modern X-Crossover, but you know what? I really enjoyed it. The art was mostly fantastic, and the story was just a joy of time displaced people and double crosses and heel turns and face turns. It didn’t feel important, but the characters made sense. Read up on it here!
49. Batman: Cataclysm – The opening salvo of No Man’s Land is, at turns, dire, hopeful, and depressing. Considering the magnitude of what Gotham was going through, this did a stellar job creating the stakes for the next year of Bat books. Read up on it here!
48. Venom (Remender) – This was the “Agent” Venom era with Flash Thompson as the titular hero. I really enjoyed Flash in the role after Venom had felt like an afterthought for so long when Gargan was in the symbiote. There was good heart here, but the pacing was a touch off. Read up on it here!
47. Flash Forward – The Rebirth-era Wally West saga continued here with Wally starting to claw his way back after Heroes in Crisis tore him down. It’s good to see even just a spark of the old Wally, and ending that is both uplifting and foreboding is a nice touch.
46. Animal Man – Started weak, but it ended up pretty good as it went. Morrison just needed to find his groove on this one. Read up on it here!
So this article is WORK, and while I have it all written and read for you, I’ll save the rest for next week. What made the top half of books I read? Find out in 7 days!
So… pay me back by letting me have it. What is too low? Too high? What’s in the wrong tier entirely? Give me your thoughts on the first half here! I’ll defend them as best I can in the comments.
Until next time… take care!