Tag Archives: comic books

2012: The Year In…

Usually, I write up a bunch of Top 10 lists to end the year. Unfortunately, as some of you may know, I had a bit of a meteorological problem a few months back and lost all of the notes I had been keeping regarding my year in entertainment. So, instead of four separate Top 10 lists, I’m just going to give you all one post where I info-dump everything I can recall about what I liked this year.

BOOKS:

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

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There’s a reason the haunted/otherworldly traveling circus/carnival has been used as a setting for stories more times than I can remember. That reason is: It works! Morgenstern’s novel revolves around the doomed love between the apprentices of two feuding sorcerers; however, for me, the best parts were about the goings-on at the Night Circus itself, particularly the story of circus-born twins Poppet and Widget.

Cold Days, by Jim Butcher

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Here’s the deal: Jim Butcher releases a Harry Dresden novel and it goes on the Best of list for that year. End of story. I feel about this series the way a lot of people feel about the Harry Potter series.

The Mark of Athena, by Rick Riordan

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I really do love the kids from Camp Half-Blood. I’ve been amazed at Riordan’s ability to weave genuine Greek myth into a modern setting since The Lightning Thief, but the mythology geek in me was blown away by the way he’s decided to address the whole Greek god/Roman god quandary.

Phoenix Rising, by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

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Phoenix Rising is the first book in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. The best way I can explain it is to compare it to that episode of Warehouse 13 where we got a glimpse of what it was like when H.G. worked as a Warehouse agent in Victorian England. Eliza Braun is a dynamite-loving, armored corset-wearing Ministry field agent who finds herself saddled with a new partner: the prim and proper archivist Wellington Books. Needless to say, there are steampunk-fueled shenanigans aplenty.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

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I’m always wary of anything that’s held up as “OMG Like Totally The New Bible of Geek Culture!!!!!111!!!1!!” Nine times out of ten, I can see the oily, pandering fingerprints of someone’s marketing department all over them. This is not the case with Ready Player One. A joy from start to finish, RP1 never felt like it was just trying to cash in on “geek culture” with a few carefully placed references to Star Wars or video games–other than a rather obvious “OMG HE KNOWS WHAT THE INTERNET IS!!!!!” reference to Wil Wheaton.

TELEVISION:

Gravity Falls (Disney Channel)

I’m not really sure what to say about Gravity Falls. I will say that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best thing to come from the Disney Channel since Kim Possible. It’s also leagues better than anything I’ve been able to find on Cartoon Network in a long time.

The Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon)

The Legend of Korra is as different from The Last Airbender as a show could possibly be. Set in the generation following A:TLA, Korra focuses on the new Avatar, a waterbender named Korra. Aang’s world was a world of feudal states, kings, and farmers; Korra’s world is a world of industry, airships, and steam power. The animation has matured, becoming less stylized than the designs used in TLA, and the writing has matured, as well, presenting a darker storyline than that of the original series. Bring on the second season!

Bunheads (ABC Family)

Let’s face it, you are never going to recreate the adorable charm and whimsy of Gilmore Girls. Not gonna happen. But, with Bunheads, Amy Sherman-Palladino returns to what made GG so good, a town full of maniacs. Riding a Northern Exposure-like wave, Bunheads replaces a New York doctor with a Vegas showgirl, and small-town Alaska with small-town California. Yes, Sutton Foster’s Michelle is a cynical, slightly edgier version of Lorelai Gilmore, but you fall in love with her just the same. And, if your heart doesn’t melt when shy, awkward Boo finally dances with Carl–to “Rainbow Connection”, at that!–then you have no soul.

***

Finally, I’d like to take this time to thank the creators, cast, and crew of Leverage for five seasons of pulp goodness. This was a show that pushed every single button I have, sometimes at the same time. Never has it felt like a group of people sat down and decided to make something solely for my enjoyment. Thank you. All of you. Thank you.

MOVIES:

Avengers

I paid to see this movie in the theater three times. I have never done that before and probably won’t do it again. (Okay, maybe I’ll do it for Avengers 2…only time will tell.) The point is: this is the movie I have been waiting for since the night I saw X-Men.

Skyfall

I’ve not been a big fan of the Daniel Craig Era of James Bond; I miss the camp-fueled insanity of Classic Bond. Skyfall did a good job of taking a lot of the tropes from the older Bond movies and either incorporating them wholesale (could Javier Bardem’s villain be any more like Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill?) or, at least, tipping its hat to them. I’m a tad annoyed that the new Q looks like a background character from Portlandia or Flight of the Conchords…but, the new Moneypenny? Yes. More of the new Moneypenny, please.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A lot of people are all cranky about making one book into three movies. As someone who can read, I realize that so much shit happens between the lines in that book that you could probably turn The Hobbit into a six-season series HBO. Also, and this is the heart of the matter, Peter Jackson can make a Middle-earth movie every year until he dies and I will pay money to see that shit. Why? Because they are just so damned pretty.

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom manages to be like every other Wes Anderson movie ever made and unlike every other Wes Anderson movie ever made. Visually, musically, verbally, Moonrise Kingdom uses all of the standard Anderson tropes. But, where it differs from–and, I’d argue, surpasses–Anderson’s other movies is innocence. Moonrise Kingdom is his most innocent film to date. It’s utterly charming, without resorting to the usual undercurrent of snark, dysfunction, and melancholia that you usually find in a Wes Anderson movie.

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is what it must have been like to be inside Joss Whedon’s brain while he was creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Brave

Brave was the most fun that I’ve had in a Pixar movie since The Incredibles. I’m glad that the good folks at Pixar are still able to make a movie that doesn’t reduce grown men to blubbering, emotionally-destroyed shells of their former selves (I’m lookin’ at you, Up). Bows! Gingers! Scots! This movie had it all.

COMICS:

Daredevil

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I’ve always liked Daredevil. I’ve also always been confused as to why the only kind of Daredevil books that sell are ones that follow Frank Miller’s Watchmen-ization of the character. Daredevil is a guy who jumped from rooftop to rooftop in bright red and yellow tights. Grim and broody he is not. And that is why I want to thank Mark Waid. Yes, Matt Murdock’s life has been absolute shit for the last few years, but he realizes if he doesn’t lighten up, he’s gonna wake up one day and swallow a bullet. Mark Waid is responsible for making Daredevil a swashbuckler again and we should all send him a muffin basket.

Captain Marvel

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I can’t gush enough about this book. I love Carol Danvers. I loved her when she was Ms. Marvel and, if it’s possible, I love her even more since she was “promoted” to Captain Marvel. Kelly Sue DeConnick can do no wrong (as far as I’m concerned, Marvel Comics is just KSD and Mark Waid in a tiny room with some artists, cranking out comics).

Indestructible Hulk

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Just like he did with Daredevil, Mark Waid offers up a Hulk concept that’s so simple it should have occurred to someone ages ago. Bruce Banner, annoyed that Tony Stark and Reed Richards get all the credit for using their big brains to make the world a better place, agrees to work for SHIELD. He will invent amazing shit for them every day and, if he ever needs to blow off some steam, SHIELD tells him where to aim the Hulk. Simple. Amazing.

Avengers Assemble

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Avengers Assemble is a no strings attached title for folks who just want to see the Avengers being superheroes. It started as an obvious tie-in to the Avengers movie (the team consisted of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye), but has since found a nice balance between being in and out of continuity at the same time–the characters behave like their standard Marvel Universe counterparts, but the stories seem to take place without regard to what is happening in the other Avengers titles. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only Avengers title Marvel needs. While I’m sending Waid that muffin basket, I should order a second one for Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Dungeons & Dragons

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John Rogers, the co-creator of TV’s Leverage, shows that a group of competent, bickering characters can work in any genre.

The Sixth Gun

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The other day, it occurred to me that The Sixth Gun is, basically, the western equivalent of Hellboy. The mythology that Cullen Bunn is creating around the six eldritch revolvers and the various characters hellbent on acquiring them is as layered and complex as anything that Mike Mignola has come up with. Gunslingers. Zombies. Wendigos. Voodoo spirits. Secret Societies. Golems. Mummies. If you want it, it’s probably in an issue of The Sixth Gun.

Top 10 Comics of 2011

I haven’t really read a single issue of a comic in over a year. But, I do love me some collected trades. Here’s a list of my favorites from the last year. (Note: Not all of these were actually published in 2011.)

1. Locke & Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

  

I read the first three trades–Welcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, and Crown of Shadows–and, aside from a rather brutal beginning to the first trade, these were pretty darn good. The series is about a family shattered by tragedy, who return to the patriarch’s family home…a mansion in New England with a spooky and mysterious past. Oh, and there are keys: magic keys that possess all sorts of weird powers.

2. Red Robin: The Hit List, by Fabian Nicieza, Marcus To, and Ray McCarthy

I was a little annoyed when DC decided to turn former Robin Tim Drake into Red Robin. Thankfully, Red Robin was one of the best books that DC published in the last few years. This third trade continues the story of Tim Drake trying to find his identity as a former sidekick, and includes a city-wide throwdown between Tim and new Robin Damian Wayne.

3. Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne, by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell

As a fan of Hellboy, I shouldn’t be surprised that I fell in love with Atomic Robo. This isn’t to say that the two series are completely identical, although both feature main characters who are one-of-a-kind monster-stompers. But, where HB is taciturn and occasionally broody, Robo is much more flippant. The tone of the books are different, as well: Atomic-Robo being much more ’50s sci-fi whiz-bang to Hellboy‘s gothic vibe.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time, by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos

This is probably the best Spider-Man story that I’ve read in years. There was a huge backlash among fans when Marvel decided to “unmarry” Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (but, when isn’t there backlash among fans?). Now, while I may not agree with how it was done, I loved the result. I like a single Peter Parker. I like watching him struggle and fumble around women. And, giving Peter a job in an R&D think tank was a stroke of genius. Big Time, indeed.

5. Batgirl: The Flood and Batgirl: The Lesson, by Bryan Q. Miller, Phil Noto, Cully Hamner, Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, and Dustin Nguyen

 

Batgirl was the best comic published in the last few years. The. Best. It was fun and funny. It didn’t skimp on action or thrills. And it featured a hero who actually enjoyed what she did. Stephanie Brown may no longer be Batgirl in the current DC Universe, but she’ll always be one of my favorite characters.

6. Sixth Gun: Cold Dead Fingers and Sixth Gun: Crossroads, by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree

 

Cowboys. Undead Civil War soldiers. Witches. Demons. Voodoo spirits. Gunslingers. Cursed six-shooters. Need I say more?

7. Thor: The Mighty Avenger, by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and Matthew Wilson

 

If you were a fan of the recent Thor movie, these two trades might be for you. Thor: The Mighty Avenger is a fun series that doesn’t concern itself with the often impenetrable decades-long continuity of the Marvel Universe.

8. Young Allies, by Sean McKeever and David Baldeon

The Marvel Universe was a dark place for a while: heroes fighting heroes, alien invasions, Norman Osborn put in charge of the defense of the country. Young Allies was part of Marvel’s “Heroic Age” initiative, a period of rebuilding after the heroes toppled Osborn’s regime. Featuring three awesome characters–Firestar, Spider-Girl, and Nomad–this series got off to a rocky start and was unfortunately cancelled after a handful of issues.

9. Superman: Secret Origin, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Jon Sibal

Prior to DC’s big New 52 relaunch, this was to be “the” Superman origin for the modern age of DC Comics. It reconciles both the numerous Crises that have occurred in the DC Universe, as well as giving a slight nod of the head to Smallville. People always want to know about “jumping on points” for comics and, while I’m not sure if this qualifies, it is a nice, self-contained Superman story that hits upon every chapter in Clark Kent’s life, from farm boy, to reporter, to Man of Steel.

10. Spider-Girl: Family Values, by Paul Tobin, Clayton Henry, and Sergio Cariello

If I needed to find a Marvel companion for Batgirl, it would have been Spider-Girl. Like Stephanie Brown, Anya Corazon isn’t overburdened by grief or angst (although her life has been far from easy, and this short-lived series only added to her troubles). Spider-Girl does what she does because it’s the right thing to do, and she enjoys helping the helpless. Also: you gotta love the way Tobin replaced traditional comic book narration with Spider-Girl’s tweets.

Top 10: My Favorite Comic Book Supervillains

Sometimes, you just want to make a list. And, I figured what’s a better topic for a Top 10 list than “Favorite Supervillains”…everyone loves a good villain (writers claim they’re the most fun to write and actors almost universally agree that they’re the most fun to play).

So, for absolutely no good reason whatsoever, here are my favorite comic book supervillains:

10. Juggernaut (Cain Marko)

As a general rule, villains who bounce back and forth between good and evil were not eligible for this list (it’s why Catwoman doesn’t have the honor of being included). Villains should be villains. Done and done. Despite that caveat, I had to include Juggernaut. Sure, Marko’s tried his hand at being a hero…but, to me, Juggernaut will always be a villain.

9. Mad Hatter (Jervis Tetch)

I love the look of Batman’s Lewis Carroll-obsessed opponent.

8. Darkseid

Ignoring all of that Final Crisis nonsense, Darkseid is a pretty solid villain. When you think about it, no matter how much of a pain in the ass Lex Luthor might be, he’s still no match for Superman. But, Darkseid rules a planet. A planet of evil. And he’s searching for the Anti-Life Equation so he can enslave all of creation. All. Of. Creation.

7. Zoom (Hunter Zolomon)

Not really a fan of “evil twin” villains–Bizarro is obnoxious and Venom is annoying–but I love Wally West’s Reverse-Flash, Zoom. I love how DC decided to make Zoom’s speed the result of time manipulation, rather than the Speed Force (something Marvel would do later with Quicksilver). I also really dig that Zoom’s reason for being is to totally fuck with Wally in an attempt to make him “a better hero.”

6. Clayface (Basil Karlo…I think)

There’s been a lot of Clayfaces over the years. The first one I really remember is the Clayface used in the Batman cartoon (he was pretty much the Karlo version with Matt Hagen’s name). Again, he’s a visually interesting character with a really cool power set. I think the current Clayface running around the DCU is Karlo, but I’m not entirely sure.

5. Scarecrow (Dr. Jonathan Crane)

I’m sure thousands of people have done the whole “Batman uses fear and the Scarecrow turns his greatest weapon against him” thing…but, I’m not that boring. Nope. Instead, one of the reasons I like Scarecrow (and The Riddler, who’ll appear later) is that they’re intelligent villains. Sure, they’re six kinds of insane, but they’re also thinking villains. And, despite what certain people in Hollywood might want you to think, Batman is a genius and deserves to face villains who can potentially give him a run for his money.

4. The Lizard (Dr. Curt Connors)

I love a good Jekyll and Hyde story–it’s why I like the Hulk–and Spider-Man’s scaly foe fits the bill.

3. The Riddler (Edward Nigma)

Love me some Riddler. The green suit, the domino mask, the bowler. Awesome. Too bad he’s a private detective or whatever now. Lame.

2. Green Goblin (Norman Osborn)

In or out of costume, Norman Osborn is a ruthless dick…and I love it. There’s nothing this guy won’t do, whether it’s seizing control of America’s military or banging his foe’s girlfriend.

1. Doctor Victor von Doom

Doom’s a genius. If people would just recognize his brilliance everything would be fine. But, no. Everyone’s all about that infernal Richards. Fools!

I Can't Even…

So, pretty much the worst thing in the entire world has happened…

Who? Fuckin’ Scotsmen. That’s who.

 

Let's Cast…THE YOUNG AVENGERS

One of the things I like about DC Comics is the concept of the legacy hero, wherein a hero’s identity is passed on to a member of the younger generation. For the most part, this really doesn’t happen in the Marvel Universe. That’s why I really dig the Young Avengers. At a time when the Avengers were more or less disbanded, a group of teens adapted heroic identities based on heroes like Captain America and Iron Man and took it upon themselves to fill the void.

If Hollywood were to make a movie out of Young Avengers, I think the first arc–“Sidekicks”–would make a pretty good story to tell. Not only does it do a great job of establishing the characters, but it even has a few cameos from some familiar faces.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Young Avengers…

Tristan Wilds as Patriot/Eli Bradley

Eli is the grandson of Isaiah Bradley, one of the first Super-Soldiers created by the U.S. military. Claiming to have received his grandfather’s abilities through a blood transfusion, Eli takes the name Patriot and continues the family tradition. I’d cast The Wire’s Wilds as Eli.

Alexandra Daddario as Hawkeye/Kate Bishop

Kate is the daughter of a wealthy publisher. However, she never felt comfortable living a life of luxury, so she dedicated a lot of her time to charity. A skilled martial artist and deadly accurate with a bow, Kate decided to become the new Hawkeye and do even more to help those in need. Daddario faced monsters and gods in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief…let’s see how she’ll do against supervillains.

Spencer Locke as Stature/Cassandra “Cassie” Lang

The daughter of Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, Cassie grew up idolizing the life of the costumed hero. As Stature, Cassie joins a long line of size-altering heroes like her father, Hank Pym, and Janet Van Dyne. Spencer Locke played K-Mart in Resident Evil: Extinction…if you can dodge a zombie, you can dodge a villain.

Anton Yelchin as Iron Lad/Nathaniel Richards…

…and Vision/Jonas

Iron Lad is responsible for assembling the Young Avengers. Eventually, his armor becomes a newer, younger Vision (don’t ask, it’s complicated). I’d cast Yelchin because…I dunno, it just feels right.

Kevin G. Schmidt as Hulkling/Theodore “Teddy” Altman

As a Kree/Skrull hybrid, Hulkling has super strength, endurance, and shapeshifting abilities. However, Teddy may be the most “human” of any of the Young Avengers.

Nicholas Braun as Wiccan/William “Billy” Kaplan

Believed to be one of Wanda Maximoff’s twin sons, Billy has abilities that are similar to the Scarlet Witch’s chaos magic. Braun was (apparently) in Sky High and that’s good enough for me.

Max Thieriot as Speed/Thomas “Tommy” Shepherd

Billy’s twin brother, Speed somehow managed to inherit his Uncle Pietro’s speed-based powers and brash attitude. To be honest, I really only picked Thieriot because he played Ned in Nancy Drew

Sasha Alexander as Jessica Jones


and Dina Meyer as Kat Farrell


Jones and Farrell play a key role in the first arc of Young Avengers, as they investigate this new group of “Teen Avengers” for The Pulse.

Ryan McPartlin as Captain America/Steve Rogers


and Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark

Let’s throw in a cameo by Captain America and Iron Man. Yes, I know that Chris Evans has been cast as Captain America and, while we have yet to see how he’ll do in the role, I really wanted McPartlin to get the gig. So, since it’s my movie, Chuck’s McPartlin will play Cap.

Clancy Brown as Kang the Conqueror

The time-traveling Kang has been plaguing the Avengers for years, so it’s only fitting that he’d also be a thorn in the side of the Young Avengers. Clancy Brown gives good villain. ‘Nuff said.

When Everyone's Super…No One Will Be.

Apparently, Ashley is some kind of superhero.  And, since I’m too lazy to come up with my own idea for a post, I decided to just steal hers.  Besides, who doesn’t want to be a superhero?

So, without further adieu, here ya go:

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I’ll be honest: the title is pretty damned lame.  I mean, what’s up with that random rank and uber-obvious name?  Guess it’s better than “Gunnery Sergeant Guy-In-A-Cape”.

Anyways…you can make your own here.

I'm a Man of My Word

About a month ago, I wrote that I was fully prepared to ditch DC Comics depending on the outcome of their Batman R.I.P. storyline.  Well, the last issue’s come out, it’s been read, debated, and deconstructed by folks with way more patience than I.  But, in the final analysis, Grant Morrison and DC win.  I’m out.

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I have a reputation for being someone who hates change.  This is, more or less, a well-earned truism.  I don’t.  I have a comfort zone, and I like it there…it’s warm and it’s where I keep all of my stuff.  I get twitchy when plans change at the last minute.  I don’t always react well when friends or relatives radically alter their appearance.  I’d probably eat the same thing for dinner every night.  But, my issues with Morrison and DC have little to do with change.  I know that nothing is set in stone in the comic world.  I know that dead doesn’t mean dead, especially if the potential corpse in question is the star of a hugely successful summer blockbuster.  So, if Bruce Wayne died, I’d be annoyed, but I’d know it was only temporary.

Unfortunately, the problem with Morrison’s R.I.P. is a tad murkier.  I honestly have no idea how it ended.  In fact, I’ve referred to it as a “non-ending.”  There was all this build-up and then…nada.  Is Bruce Wayne dead?  Is he alive?  Is he insane?  I have no fucking clue.  Who is Dr. Hurt?  Well, Morrison keeps changing his mind.  The Black Glove was supposed to be some uber-badass who would topple the Dark Knight once and for all.  Who is the Black Glove?  Just five asshats who symbolize the five fingers of a glove.  Jesus-tap-dancing-Christ.  The least Morrison could have done was come up with a conclusion that pissed me off.  Then I would have respected him.  Instead, he gave me one of the most convoluted story arcs in recent memory.  I can’t remember the last time an issue of Batman made a lick of sense to me…which seems to go against the spirit of a comic about a character fueled by logic and deductive reasoning.  No, there was no anger.  There was confusion and a resounding “Meh.”

I’ve been arguing with DC for a while.  I want to keep giving them money, they don’t seem to want it.  They cancel books.  Kill–or possibly kill–characters for no good reason.  Create elaborate, world-changing events that fail to come close to living up to all of the hype.  Well, you win, DC Comics.  I’ll stop trying to give you my money (with the exception of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps., those continue to be pretty rad…at least for now).