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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Editorial: The Five Worst Marvel Heroes.

Editorial: The Five Worst Marvel Heroes.

We've been talking a lot about the worst characters in DC lately, and with Marvel much in evidence lately, producing a seemingly unending stream of films, TV shows and video games to go along with their massive output of comics, it's important for us to remember that DC is by far not the only comic book company to produce terrible characters.

So, here's a run down of the five worst Marvel heroes. The top three of these were no-brainers, incidentally.

5. Dazzler (Alison Blaire).

Dazzler, a mutant with the power to convert sound into light and also to rollerskate aggressively towards things, was pretty much the late 70s and early 80s personified in superhero form. I'm not kidding, that's basically the brief she was written to: She was thought up as a 'Disco Queen', and her backstory, powers, costume and storylines were thought up around that principle.

Time has not been kind to her, as roller discos have - much to everyone's chagrin - fallen out of style, and so a pop singer disco rollerskater just seems like a bizarre anachronism these days, which is quite possibly why there have been several attempts to make her more 'conventional', giving her a different and more archetypally superheroic costume and making her powers more offensive, with less focus on rollerskating and more focus on lasers and hard light shields.

The changes have never really stuck, because nothing ever does in comics, so we're left with this kind of odd avatar of the 80s showing up like a sore thumb in otherwise very 2015-y comics.

4. Namor the Sub-Mariner (Namor McKenzie).

Namor is essentially what you get if you take DC's Aquaman and filter him through being a terrible, and in many ways kind of pathetic, person.

Much like Aquaman, he has the unenviable power-set of 'swims fast and talks to fishes' - although various comics have attempted to change this, variously giving him powers like electricity manipulation, a radar sense, and time manipulation, but much like the changes made to Dazzler, it never really lasts - but unlike Aquaman he's a scantily clad braggart who spends all his time sneering, making snide remarks at people, and contemplating genocide.

He's pretty much universally hated, both in-universe and out, and it's really not hard to see why. Time and Marvel's descent into a darker (well, 'darker') tone has only seen him become more and more unlikable, making him a member of a handful of morally and ethically sketchy cabals, involving him in the universally hated Phoenix Five storyline, and having him attack and devastate Wakanda, one of the more interesting locales in the Marvel universe.

His one redeeming feature is that he's probably a better love interest for Sue Storm than her actual husband, but that's an incredibly low bar to be setting.

3. Cyclops (Scott Summers).

Even to people who don't know the X-Men comics very well, Cyclops is known as the boring one on the team, and that's never exactly the strongest recommendation of your character.

A mutant with the power to shoot beams of concussive force from his eyes, Cyclops was originally meant to be the stalwart leader of the team, and the morally upright lets-do-things-by-the-book boy scout to the X-Men's various mavericks and rogues. That's never the most interesting character brief, but time, editorial whimsy, Marvel's obsession with seeming 'dark', and proximity to more interesting characters has caused significant decay to the lad's character.

Most people wrote him off after the first couple of decades of relationship drama between Scott, Emma Frost, and Jean Grey - a larger than life soap opera of a thing that included multiple deaths and resurrections, telepathic adultery, time travel, and Scott having intimate relations with Emma Frost on Jean's grave, spurred on by telepathic influence from Jean's ghost. Because that's - dramatic, I guess?

Even more recent developments have cast him in an even worse light, with Scott having become part of the aforementioned Phoenix Five and later on becoming a kind of mutant isolationist-and/or-supremacist. Good, well, that certainly makes sense as character development for him, well done.

2. Ant-Man (Hank Pym).

Hey, everyone remembers Ant-Man, right? The lad recently got his own film - it wasn't the Hank Pym Ant-Man in that (although much to everyone's chagrin, Pym was present in the film - his wife, founder and namer of the Avengers Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, was not, at least not in any significant capacity) but everyone who watched it probably got the gist of what Ant-Man's skillset is: He shrinks and he controls ants.

It's not the best set of superpowers, but even if his powers were the most awesome thing in the Marvel universe, he would probably still be in the exact same spot on this list.

Because Hank Pym is known for one big, glaring thing: He beat his wife. The context doesn't improve matters either - as if there's any context that could possibly improve spousal abuse - that being that Janet was at the time gently asking him if maybe he'd like to reconsider his plan to get himself back into the Avengers' good graces (after he attacked from behind and brutalised an already surrendered opponent) by building an evil robot (technically another evil robot, as Pym is the creator of Ultron) that only he can defeat.

While various writers have tried to have him and Jan reconcile after that, and various other writers have tried to have him break away from the stigma of being a wife-beater, it's - you guessed it - never really stuck. That's Hank Pym's lot forever.

1. Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards).

If we were to enumerate the many crimes of Reed Richards, the elastic leader of the Fantastic Four, we'd probably be here all day. A colleague of mine wrote a post on the subject once, but we'll run through the highlights of Reed's terrible actions here.

But we'll start with the fact that the Fantastic Four's origin - which involves them being exposed to deadly cosmic radiation - is all Reed's fault. Reed, you see, was warned about the dangers of cosmic radiation by Ben 'I'm an actual astronaut' Grimm, who would later become a gigantic creature of rock and self-hate, and decided that the appropriate response to this was to not only continue with his space mission, but also to bring his girlfriend and her brother (who was a minor) with him.

Or we could talk about how Victor Von Doom and Reed were roommates at university, and how just twelve weeks of the two living together turned Victor from a well-meaning if slightly anguished genius to a man who was calling himself 'Doctor Doom' and plotting to take over the world. Because that's just the effect that Reed has on people.

Or we could talk about how Reed regularly comes up with inventions that could revolutionise human society - renewable energy, cures for horrific diseases, nigh-instantaneous transport - but always, without exception, refuses to share them with anyone.

But the biggest thing, the absolute biggest thing, is - you know how I mentioned that Hank Pym beat his wife. Well:

So did Reed!

And also his child.

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