We’ve come to the end of another year, which makes this a good time to look back on been good and bad about the year. This post is almost exclusively about entertainment that released this year, and since this primarily is a comic blog, that’s what I’ll focus on the most.
Two pointers before I begin. First, I’m not even going to try and remember what my favourite single comic issue is. There are so many great ones from the last year to choose from. Second, there is an upcoming mini-rant of sorts relating to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a certain “Mary Sue” accusation that’s been going around. You’ll be warned when the spoilers show up.
Without further to do, here are my favourite things of the year, and a few of my not so favourite things.
Favourite comic series that began this year
For me it’s between a couple titles. There’s IXth Generation, which is a great Sci-Fi series taking place in the Top Cow Universe, the only major thing holding it back is that it relies on the previous Aphrodite IX series a bit too much. There’s also the Starfire series that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying so far. But even though we’re only 3 issues in, it’s got to be the new solo series for my favourite X-men character. And no, I’m not just picking this because she’s my favourite character, because if this series was bad, I’d drop it fast.
So far it’s showing how much Laura’s grown over the years, while still giving us the same characteristics and lines she used to have when the facility’s programming dominated her thoughts. Not because she’s slipping into her assassin persona, but because she’s been cloned, and each of the clones are displaying parts of her earlier characterization. It’s a genius move on writer Tom Taylor’s part. The series is also action-packed and showcases Laura’s fighting skills and strategy, and the story is great so far. It’s a thriller first and foremost, and that’s where the new Wolverine is at her best.
Most pleasant comic surprise
There’s no contest here. Angela’s solo titles, written by Marguerite Bennett and Kieron Gillen, are brilliant. It mixes great action, writing that feels like it’s straight out of a medieval play in the best possible ways, and fantastic art. Angela’s turning out to be a fascinating character in her own right as well. These are all very unique titles in Marvel’s lineup and are definitely worth checking out.
Biggest disappointment in comics
The Black Vortex Crossover. This event had so much potential, and more often than not, I like Sam Humphries as a writer. The idea of an ancient cosmic artifact granting people immense power, but risking corruption in the process, is a great one. The event even started off fairly well, with most of the huge cast getting at least a few character moments while focusing on Star Lord and Kitty Pryde well. But then the event sidelines half of the cast in the second half as if Humphries didn’t know what to do with them. Throw in some bizarre characterization for several characters, and a second half that played on repeat for a while, and you have an event that started off at least 10 times better than it ended.
Wolverines is a close second, especially with the dreadful final issue that pretty much ruins everything that happened in the series. If I knew that going in, I probably wouldn’t have bought this series. Thankfully Wolverines 13, the Deadpool issue, is still a great read on its own.
Favourite comic writer
There are a lot of great writers in the industry right now, so many that it’s hard to keep up with them half the time. Kieron Gillen is a brilliant writer as usual, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to crack and start picking up his Darth Vader trades. Tom Waltz, the writer of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, continues to pump out a series that’s fun, intense, and actually really deep with its themes. He’s turned me into a Ninja Turtles fan and still manages to impress me every now and then. But my favourite writer of the year is Kelly Sue DeConnick.
DeConnick’s Captain Marvel series ended this year, and it’s sad to see it go. However, she’s not only writing Bitch Planet, but finally brought back Pretty Deadly last month. The second arc is great so far and could easily get as brilliant as the first. Some may not enjoy her storytelling style or frequent lack of subtlety, but she’s quite possibly the best dialogue writer in the business. Also, she wrote the one issue in Black Vortex’s second half that’s actually worth reading.
Favourite series that ended
Charles Soule’s She-Hulk wins this one. I’ve written several big posts about how great this series is earlier this year, and here they are if you want to know more. Runner ups include Brian Michael Bendis’s X-Men run (even if it didn’t really go anywhere in the last year or so), Supergirl, Gail Simone’s Red Sonja and of course, Witchblade. Looking at that list of great titles that ended this year makes me sad inside.
Favourite comic series overall
Honestly, as good as All-New Wolverine is, we’re only 3 issues in so this doesn’t qualify. Same idea goes for Pretty Deadly 2, which only has 2 issues released this year. Starfire is fun, but it’s not favourite series material. So there’s only one series that’s good enough.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. To learn why this series is so great, here’s my review of issue 50.
And now, let’s get into non-comic stuff. Just so you know, I haven’t actually played very many new games this year. Most of what I played were older games that have nostalgic value to me.
All of my favourite books that I read this year are part of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. This year I read 5 books in this series and save for Book 6 (Magic Rises), I could pick any one of them as my favourite. I still liked Magic Rises, it’s just not as good as the rest. I’m going to have to go with Magic Breaks (book 7). Not only does it pay off everything that the series built up towards since book 3, but it did so in a satisfying way. Magic Shifts (book 8) is also great, but it’s a bit of a transitional book. Since I won’t pick a second Kate Daniels as a runner up, my official runner up is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It’s so much better than the movie and is my favourite book in the series so far.
Favourite TV show
I don’t watch much TV, and most of what I do watch is fairly nerdy. The only shows I really kept up with were Game of Thrones, Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I’d rather watch movies since they’re usually complete stories done in one go. Out of what I did watch, I found this year’s season of GOT hard to enjoy – it’s just too depressing at this point and it feels like death has lost its dramatic value now. Agents of Shield continues to improve overall and both the second season’s finale and this season’s first half are fantastic, but there’s still the occasional weak episode. Agent Carter is fun but I wouldn’t call it anything special quite yet.
I’m kind of split between Daredevil and Jessica Jones as my favourite show of the year, so I’ll just call it a tie between them. They really add a lot of dramatic weight to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and show what it’s like for the little guy. Daredevil is a brilliant struggle between two people who both want to help their cities, but their ideals are completely opposite to each other. Plus there’s that scene where Kingpin decapitates someone with a car door. Jessica Jones is an incredibly personal story and deals with themes of trauma, abuse and redemption. They’re both works of genius that are fairly serious and dramatic, but know when to have fun too.
A lot of big movies came out this year. Age of Ultron initially impressed me, but after a few more viewings, I’ve noticed its flaws. It’s still a very entertaining movie but not as good as the first. Ant Man is a fun heist movie featuring a superhero, and is probably the best Marvel Origin movie since Iron Man. That said, it never really wow me. I haven’t yet seen Jurassic World or Mad Max. My brother has both of those on Blu-ray so I should get on that. And of course Inside Me is up there with Pixar’s best movies. But for a nerd like me, there’s only one true choice.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars is back people. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a long time, but the Prequels kind of turned me off the franchise. I don’t hate them like some people and I can sit down and enjoy at least parts of them, but I would not defend them as good movies as a whole. I’m also not saying that The Force Awakens is perfect. It’s a bit too much like A New Hope in some ways, and the story isn’t as deep as some episodes, but it feels like a proper Star Wars movie. There are also significant variations within those familiar story beats. The plot of A New Hope is all about the Death Star, whereas here, the Death Star equivalent is more of an obstacle than the plot’s main focus. The new cast is fantastic and Han Solo is great. Rey and Finn’s journey to becoming heroes really makes this movie work.
The next few paragraphs will contain major spoilers.
I strongly disagree with the notion that Rey’s a Mary Sue. Her skills as a mechanic make total sense for her line of work. As a scavenger she would not only need to identify parts and remove them without damaging anything, but as someone with almost nothing she’d also need to repair her own speeder every now and then with some of the parts she finds. Furthermore, she even makes some mistakes, including pulling the wrong fuses and releasing tentacle monsters. Living on a rough planet would also require her to be able to defend herself, hence her skills with a staff. Because she’s skilled with a staff, she’s bound to have at least some skill with a lightsaber since their both melee weapons. Keep in mind she also misses several shots with her blaster.
She’s not what you would call a flawless character by any means. Besides making mistakes with her mechanical skills, she’s not without her emotional flaws. She’s a reluctant hero in a lot of ways; one who’s afraid of using the force for one reason or another. It’s loosely mentioned that she’s flown ships before the Falcon, and even then, it took her a few minutes to master it. She dragged the ship on the sand and smashed several buildings at first. 9-year-old Anakin on the other hand completely mastered the Naboo Starfighter immediately, even though he’s only ever driven podracers before. If anything he’s the real Marty Stu.
When it comes to using the force so quickly, so did Luke and Anakin in the other trilogies. That and we don’t know what kind of training she had in her early years – it’s entirely plausible that when Ren tried to read her mind, he somehow unlocked the training she already had, even if she didn’t realize it. The vision she experienced in Maz’s basement seems to indicate she’s at least met Luke sometime in the past, and whether by blood or not, she’s related to him somehow. My personal theory is that she’s Luke’s daughter and I kind of hope so too, since it would mean there’s a direct lineage from trilogy to trilogy, but at this point I’m willing to see where the series goes from here. I could go into much greater depth but many others have. And whatever the case, I still get a bit teary eyed when I even think of Rey pulling the lightsaber into her grip with the force, with the same music beat in the background that played when Luke discovered his dead aunt and uncle. In a sense, that’s the true starting point for both characters’ journeys.
Even for the real world, Rey is an incredibly important character. For years, Hollywood has had this notion that female leads in action films and science fiction simply won’t work. The Hunger Games has helped with that, although the new one isn’t doing as well. The Force Awakens on the other hand has a female lead character, and it’s smashing records on a nearly daily basis. It’s the highest opening weekend of all time, it doubled the previous Christmas Day earnings, it’s the fastest billion dollar movie in history, and all that when it hasn’t opened in China yet. In its second week there was a much higher percentage of women seeing the movie. If this leads to more women getting major roles in movies, I’m all for it. If you look at my lists of favourite comics I mentioned earlier, I clearly don’t have a problem with female lead characters.
I could talk more about this matter, but other people have gone into much more depth about this whole thing and this has gone on long enough. I just wanted to throw in my two cents.
Anyway, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is my favourite movie of the year, and Rey, Finn and BB-8 might just be my favourite new characters of the year for anything period. Even Kylo Ren gives us something new in the Star Wars franchise; a villain who’s being tempted by the light side when it’s usually the complete opposite. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you should. I’ve seen it twice and I want to go again.
Most hated movie
The Green Inferno
There’s no contest here. I went to this movie with some friends of mine just to see a bad movie, and we weren’t disappointed. It’s a homage movie to the Amazonian Cannibal craze that happened in the 70’s and 80’s. The idea could have been scary, but this movie is full of boring characters, tame death scenes (at least after the first kind of brutal death scene), a bit of a nonsense story and a bit of an infuriating ending. Not only is the ending a direct rip-off of Cannibal Ferox, but the jerk survives. That’s a sin you don’t commit in a horror movie. If you spend that much time turning one character into an unlikeable jerk, you’re supposed to give him the most brutal death scene. So yeah, the movie is bad. It was fun seeing it with some friends and riffing on it though.
And of course, my favourite thing that happened this year
No contest whatsoever. My favourite thing was my trip to England in April and May with my family. We saw a tank museum (which has the world’s only working Tiger Tank), a bunch of other fantastic war museums, walked on Hadrian’s wall, spent a couple nights in a castle, saw the Scottish highlands and even visited the castle where they filmed most of Monty Python’s Holy Grail. On my favourite day of the trip, we ate lunch in the very pub that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien hung out in, and then dad and I watched Age of Ultron before it released in North America. England is incredibly expensive to visit for us North Americans, but it’s well worth it. You should visit the country at least once if you can afford it.