Monday, December 31, 2018

Family of the Year: My Family!--2018 in Review

Picture courtesy of Sigh Photo Booth, whom I've discussed before.
This year there was one family that I found to be especially noteworthy and awesome, and that is my own! Between my incredible wife, Samii, and our awesome baby-man, Clarkson, I loved spending time with them both and working at being the best possible husband and father for them, respectively. I am thankful every day that I have these two wonderful people in my life, and even though we face challenges sometimes (Clarkson being born prematurely, our own health issues, general life-stuff) we always come together and work to get through any tough times. Between my wife, son, and myself we are the family of the year in my opinion.

You of course may feel differently and believe your family was the best one in 2018, and I respect that, but in my mind there is no other family I'd want to be a part of or treasure as much as Samii and Clarkson, so I say we win family of the year. If it makes anyone reading this angry that they aren't my family of the year, just know that you all are awesome too and the, "Runner-up," position can be shared by everyone else in the world--I wouldn't trade my lady and baby for anyone else, however! This is my last post of the year and I hope everyone has a wonderful 2019 with their family--be it a family of birth, family of choice, or a mixture of the two. I know the next year will bring with it both joy and difficulties, but with my family by my side I'm ready for it!

Large Publisher of the Year: Image--2018 in Review

Dominating the Marketplace Without Compromising Ideals
Image Comics is no longer the little publisher who could, they are the once-little publisher who did. What started as a plucky little comic company with the shocking idea to put creators first and let people actually own the rights to their creations they worked hard upon has grown into the third largest publisher around, with titles that often outsell books published by Marvel or DC. Image publishes all kinds of comics in a wide range of genres so as to appeal to a diverse array of readers, and it has paid off. Talented comic-makers continue to head on over to Image with their ideas, knowing that Image won't try to screw them over, instead helping them to have their idea achieve success.

A comic company that treats creators well is having a lot of creators make comics there which become massively popular and achieve a lot of success and sales for Image. It sounds so obvious, yet it took until the 1990's for a company to actually realize this business model (treat your talent right and you'll make money) would work. 2018 was a stellar year for Image as more and more titles sold like hotcakes. Image treats people like human beings with the right to profit off their ideas, and knows by doing so it'll make money too. The company's continued growth and success proves that giving other's respect is not only ethical, it is good for the bottom-line.

Mini/Maxi-Series of the Year--2018 in Revew

Limited in Length, Not In Scope
A mini-series (6 issues or less) and/or maxi-series (generally 12 issues) may not be as long-running as an ongoing comic, but that doesn't mean their concepts or effort are any more limited. This year one maxi-series I adored finished and a mini-series I am loving is nearing its end. I wanted to make sure and sing the praises of each of them.

Mini and Maxi Fun
Wildstorm: Michael Cray
While Warren Ellis has been offering his new take on the Wildstorm universe, this snazzy spin-off (of which there were supposed to be more, but only this one has happened so far) is doing all kinds of crazy and experimental stuff that caught my attention. Having finished this year, the 12 issues that came out had the titular Michael Cray basically tasked with taking-out terrible people threatening the safety of the world, and these people all happened to be takes on assorted DC heroes with just the slightest change making them often terrible, monstrous, beings. There are plenty of, "The heroes are evil in this Universe," tales, but Bryan Hill's writing gives it some extra oomph that elevates it to something special in having his hero--Michael Cray--possibly be the worst monster of all. Artist N. Steven Harris provides stellar artwork as well, with a style that is a little scratchy in a way that makes the kinetic moments of action really pop. For a barely-discussed little spin-off maxi-series this was one stellar comic, and Bryan Hill has been continuing to prove he is a talent to be reckoned with on books like this or the currently being released (and quite impressive) new Vertigo series, "American Carnage." Keep an eye on Bryan Hill, he's only getting better and better.

The Wrong Earth
Earlier in the previous week I discussed how much I love Jamal Igle's work on, "The Wrong Earth," and his artistic contributions are one major reason I love this mini-series. That said, the overall concept of a campy comic-world's hero switching places with the protagonist of a grim-and-gritty Universe is solid, and the writing of Tom Peyer is pitch-perfect in its satirical take on how as a society we seem to constantly mold and alter our favorite heroes to fit current societal tastes. It is clever, funny, and just the right mixture of critical and heartfelt. For the first comic to be released by new publisher, Ahoy Comics, they are coming out of the gate strong.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Video-Game of the Year: Red Dead Redemption 2--2018 in Review

This Was Kind of a Given
I don't play a ton of video-games, because I'm not made of time. Something has to be either short and sweet or worth my picking at slowly for me to want to commit much of any effort. "Red Dead Redemption 2," is by no means short, it is an epic that I've been gradually unraveling, and it is great. I already declared how it is a masterpiece with all the amazing elements and the flaws, because the damn thing is amazing. Whether I'm doing missions or just riding about the countryside exploring, this is a phenomenal game that I have loved picking at, and anyone who says it is too long or overstuffed is entitled to their opinion, but I'd disagree.

"Red Dead Redemption 2," is phenomenal and I expect to be playing it off and on for a good deal of time. It is a game I'm willing to dig into and miss-out on other potentially good ones just so I have more time to play it of the limited gaming-time available what with having grown-folk responsibilities. Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go hunt some gators outside of Saint Dennis as long as they don't swallow me whole first.

Colorist of the Year: Tom Scioli--2018 in Review

Hey, It's You Again!
I already discussed how Tom Scioli was one of my writer-artists of the year, but besides writing and illustrating his comic works such as, "Go-Bots," he also is the colorist for it. His color-work on, "Go-Bots," is phenomenal, giving everything a retro-vibe while not doing so to a degree it feels cheesy. Between his skill writing, drawing, and as a colorist, Scioli is clearly a talent! Colorists sometimes are overlooked and I'm sure all the folk praising Scioli's art (myself included) at times ignore just how much effort he must put in to his colors as well. The man works hard, without a doubt.

My Biggest Mistake/Most Wrongheaded Prediction--2018 in Review

It Made How Much Money?
I truly would have never, ever predicted what happened with, "Venom." I would've told you it looked kind of hokey (even if I like Tom Hardy) and was going to bomb in theaters. I mean, it was a movie about a famous foe of Spider-Man that wasn't even going to have that character in the movie! I mean, a Cinematic Universe by Sony featuring everybody who knows Spidey without ever acknowledging that bond sounded so dumb (and I still wonder if the other flicks will succeed), how would this make any money? It made a lot. Hell, it continued to make serious bank all the way into December until the DVD came out and people could continue showering, "Venom," with money in the comfort of their home.

Out of all the mistakes I made this year, all the predictions I got wrong, this is one I really blew. There is no sugar-coating it, I totally missed the mark. As for if the movie is any good or not, I'll withhold judgement until I'm able to see it. I mean, if it is this popular clearly plenty of people liked it even despite quite mixed reviews.

Individual Issue of the Year: "Real Deal Comix," #8--2018 in Review

Extreme, Offensive, and Genius
In June I discussed the hardcover collection of, "Real Deal Comix," that was released by Fantagraphics as well as the 8th issue of the series, which was also released by Fantagraphics after how earlier issues were strictly a small-press affair. Created by Lawrence Hubbard (AKA, "Rawdog,") and H.P. McElwee (AKA R.D. Bone) in 1990 and published off-and-on since then (with Hubbard the main creative voice since McElwee's passing), "Real Deal Comix," is in essence a reflection of the complexities and difficulties of inner-city life boiled down to pure wild violence--"Urban Terror"--and has consistently been a clever mixture of satire and destruction.

The issue that came out this year introduced concepts of governmental forces conspiring to make people fight and hate each other instead of realizing the rich and powerful are turning folk upon one another.  The idea is introduced as a complex conspiracy theory, but at this point the overall gist of it is all too clearly realistic. Both ferociously graphic as well as viciously clever, "Real Deal Comix," is like a smack to the face of absurdity so over-the-top it starts making shockingly reasonable points. I look forward to whenever Hubbard is able to put out another issue as the variety of wild violence and sharp political commentary makes for a wild read.

Television Shows of the Year--2018 in Review

A Lot of Great Shows
2018 had a number of television shows I greatly enjoyed. From the serious to silly, fantastical and more slice-of-life, these all were delightful in various ways.

Four Stellar Shows
Black Lightning
It is hard to believe the first season of, "Black Lightning," actually occurred in January of this year and now we are quite far into the 2nd as the year ends. I'm not complaining at all however, instead I'm overjoyed that this amazing show keeps putting-out such entertaining episodes. With its mixture of super-hero action, racial politics, social consciousness, and a cast full of dynamic and great actors, Black Lightning is fantastic.

I talked about how I felt the first season of, "Westworld," suffered from feeling like pure buildup to what would most likely be a much more climatic season 2. Well, it turns out I predicted that correctly because the 2nd season of Westworld delivered almost everything I wanted (it's little habit of jumping around in time randomly still can be a bit annoying, though). This season of, "Westworld," brought us the promised robot revolution and it was bloody, nasty, and full of awesome special effects. The show also filled-in more back-story for everyone, gave us both long looks and short glimpses at other parks (as well as the, "Real," world), and basically made good on the promise of the first season that good stuff was coming, we just had to let it put all the pieces in place. I loved it, and I'm excited for more.

Trolls: The Beat Goes On
The original, "Trolls," movie surprised everyone by actually being really good, and the spin-off Netflix show that follows new adventures of the characters being great as well is doubly surprising. The show may have different voice actors (Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake probably were too busy/wanted too much money) and an animation style that is more cartoon-than-computer, but none of that is a big deal because it is absolutely hilarious whether you're a little kid, big grown-up, or somewhere in-between. Each episode is generally a bit under 30 minutes with two segments (usually separate, sometimes related). They are short, but loaded with clever content and results in a, "Kid's show," that is enjoyable for all-ages.

American Housewife
I have said before that people really ought to watch, "American Housewife," and I continue to think that as the show continues its mixture of twisted humor with a hint of heart. The Otto family is full of characters who may not always behave the best, but in the end you root for them to succeed, or at least learn some kind of lesson from their mischief. The low-key way the show builds itself into humorous situations that zig when you expect a zag are genius and that's saying something when you're myself, a person who usually can guess the overall gag or twist coming on a program. It looks like, "American Housewife," should be getting another season, so I'm excited for more laughs to come!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Surprise of the Year: "Doomsday Clock," is Good--2018 in Review

When it was first announced there would be a big comic featuring a cross-over between DC's heroes and the, "Watchmen," Universe I was skeptical. I said how the only way I could see it working as if it was sufficiently clever and meta enough to make a case for itself. If it just had the heroes duking it out that would be moronic, but making a case for how the existence of, "Watchmen," forever altered comic-books as we know it could work. It would be clever to make a metaphor for how, "Watchmen," had an impact on the DC-Universe, and making that metaphor literal in a way could work. Well, the cross-over that has been coming out, "Doomsday," clock had its eighth of twelve issues released not too long ago, and it has been doing exactly what I theorized it needed to do, and has been...amazing?

"Doomsday Clock," should have been terrible. It should have not worked at all. Instead it has been great thanks to Geoff Johns doing some of the best writing of his career and Gary Frank contributing his usual amazing artwork. The comic even existing is still a smack in the face to Alan Moore, but even people and websites who expressed disgust at the comic occurring have been agreeing with me that it is really good. "Doomsday Clock," has been a mixture of meta-commentary on the history of the DC Universe, an expression of modern political concerns and controversy, and a suspenseful thriller all in its own right. Assuming it manages to stick its landing, "Doomsday Clock," may very well end-up being a worthy sequel to, "Watchmen," and that wouldn't just be a surprise, that would be an absolute blindside--but a good one, of course.

Beverages of the Year: Lemonade and Hot Chocolate--2018 in Review

Two Tasty Drinks
When it was hot this Summer I found myself on quite the lemonade kick. As it got cold I was craving hot chocolate. Now, as the weather in the Saint Louis region never is sure what it will be (for example, six inches of snow occurred November 15th and on December 1st we hit 64 degrees Fahrenheit) I find myself often alternating between them lately. I love both the tart-yet-sweet taste of lemonade and the richness of hot chocolate to an immense degree, and this year I seem to have downed a lot of both. As much as I love coffee or certain kinds of soda, this year I sure was excited to enjoy these two beverages depending on the temperature outside.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Writer-Artists of the Year--2018 in Review

Doing Both!
Comic-books are oftentimes a collaborative process, with a writer and artist working closely together to produce a final product. There are some creators who do both however, and it is worth spotlighting these writer-artists who produce amazing work.

Words and Pictures
Tom Scioli for, "Go-Bots."
The second issue just came out the 26th (I loved the first) and with only two issues out so far this comic is already a masterpiece. Scioli's work on, "Transformers VS G.I. Joe," was incredible and he has continued to step-up his game taking a property often disrespected and making it a thrilling and gorgeous read. Scioli is just plain amazing, to put it simply.

Sean Murphy for, "Batman: White Knight."
Earlier in 2018 Sean Murphy's impressive alternate-Universe take on Batman and the Joker, "Batman: White Knight," came to a conclusion that was both solid and left the door open for future stories. Murphy's impressive scratchy-style meshed perfectly with his political and psychological yarn where the Joker is cured and then proceeds to try and help Gotham in a way that calls the usefulness of Batman into question. I just hope a sequel is made before too long--and that it has Murphy at the writing and drawing helm.
Michel Fiffe for, "Bloodstrike: Brutalists."
Michel Fiffe is probably best known by many for his absolutely incredible magnum opus of a series, "COPRA." When he's not doing that however he can be found popping-up in call kinds of places, such as on the four-issue Image mini-series, "Bloodstrike: Brutalists." Fiffe's work takes a comic that bursts with 1990's excess and both gives it a modern sheen yet evokes that classic era in a way which is nostalgic without pandering. While, "COPRA," is his masterpiece, it is good to see Fiffe has time to utilize his genius on other projects as well.

Movies of the Year...That I Missed--2018 in Review

The Stuff I Didn't See
As has now become tradition, I will discuss many of the movies I meant to see this year, or at least wanted to see, and for some reason or another still have yet to watch. As always, be aware that just because a movie is on this list that doe not mean it is any good (or bad), it could be amazing or terrible, but until I am able to view it, I shan't say for sure.

The List of Flicks
One of the better DC movies stars Aquaman, now that's interesting.

A Quiet Place
Horror and sci-fi collide in a movie about aliens (I assume they are aliens) who prey on humans via sound. Apparently it masterfully uses this gimmick of quiet-versus-loud to bring about some big scares.

Spike Lee has some incredible films, some huge misfires, and stuff that has potential but struggles. I was glad to hear that, "BlackKkKLansman," which draws from a true story, is an example of Lee hitting it out of the park (so to speak). Apparently as suspenseful and insightful as it is funny, this is one movie I'm going to be sure and see sooner than later.

This movie apparently was actually pretty deep as well as funny. Plus, I like John Cena.

Bohemian Rhapsody
I know there has been some debate over just how accurate or inaccurate this movie is in portraying the life of Freddie Mercury, but it sure does look entertaining.

Can You Ever Forgive Me
I love Melissa McCarthy and this movie is apparently one of the best this year, so that sounds like a winning combination.

Christopher Robin
Ewan McGregor and Winnie the Pooh team-up to face the biggest challenge of all--adulthood. Sounds both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

Crazy Rich Asians
The well-reviewed comedy that made enough box office bank to be able to say, "Shut the Hell up," to anyone who claims that Asian-leads don't drive ticket sales.

Creed II
Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone continue to box and philosophize.

Death of Stalin (The)
A dark comedy in fact based upon a comic-book which covers the time in Russia after Stalin died and attempts were made to help make the country a little less miserable (Stalin was a horrible person). It also has Steve Buscemi, so that's a bonus as well.

First Man
A movie about the moon landing. My Grandfather actually worked for NASA and was involved in big moments in history such as this, and the movie has gotten rave reviews, so I want to see it.

First Purge (The)
Remember when these, "Purge," movies just seemed so hilariously far-fetched? Do you also recall how uncomfortably plausible the trailer for, "The First Purge," seemed as an actual political ad? Yeah, it is weird and very disturbing when a franchise that started with an outlandish reason for a home-invasion movie has morphed into one of the most relevant social and political commentaries of our time.

Game Night
This one came out all the way back in February and looked like a humorous flick about some couples who don't realize their supposed story-themed, "Game Night," has in fact turned into an actual life-or-death situation. It looked worth at least a laugh or two, so I ought to see it sometime.

This one surprised a lot of folk by making a ton of cash and being really, really good.

Happytime Murders (The)
I know everyone has said it is awful, but Fuck you, I said I love Melissa McCarthy and I stand by that. I will watch her in basically anything.

Everyone keeps saying you should see this movie knowing nothing about it other than it is quite scary. Well, I know nothing about it other than that, so I guess I'm prepared for when I eventually watch it.

Incredibles 2
Pixar has a spotty history with sequels, sometimes making amazing ones (the, "Toy Story," films) and other times giving us stuff we didn't need at all (anything related to, "Cars," for sure). That said, it sounds like, "Incredibles 2," delivered on all the hopes of folk who loved the original.

Isle of Dogs
A quirky animated feature by the master of off-kilter humor, Wes Anderson? Yes, please!

Life of the Party
Again, I'll watch anything with Melissa McCarthy, she is awesome.

Mary Poppins Returns
I absolutely adore the original, "Marry Poppins," movie, having loved watching it as a kid. A snazzy sequel sounds right up my alley.

Meg (The)
As I understand it this movie features Meg Ryan turning into a shark and eating people as revenge for no longer getting much in the way of movie roles, and only Jason Statham can stop her. Am I right? Does the plot even matter with a movie people went to for the sole purpose of seeing a big shark eat people?

Mission: Impossible--Fallout
If you had told me that of all franchises this one would still be coming out with films getting tons of plaudits and making serious box-office bank back when only the decent-but-flawed first one had come out, I would've been a bit surprised. Then again, if you had told me in 1996 that 20+ years later a whole bunch of then-C-list superheroes would have dominated the box office I would've been shocked too, so basically the future is hard to predict, is what I'm saying.

A corny B-film with an A-film budget, American soldiers fight Nazis who have made inhuman monsters. Sounds fun.

Pacific Rim: Uprising
I thought the first one was some good dumb fun, I would hope the 2nd is more of the same (if not a little bit more over-the-top).

Ralph Breaks the Internet
Previews for this had me worried it was just going to be a never-ending stream of jokes about memes and such, but apparently this sequel has a lot of the same heart as the original.

Ready Player One
Apparently the movie is a lot better than the book, even if the whole thing was horribly flawed, did so-so box office numbers, and is never going to be on a, "Best of," list when it comes to the most-beloved films Steven Spielberg has directed.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
I'll be honest, I have zero interest in this movie for any reason other than I love Donald Glover and am eager to see him as Lando Calrissian, everything else about this I could take or leave as someone who enjoys, "Star Wars," but isn't a die-hard fan.

Sorry to Bother You
A movies full of social commentary about telemarketing, race, and it looks incredibly funny. I want to see it.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
An animated Spider-Man movie that looks pretty darn fun.

I mean, the millions of people who saw it and loved it can't be wrong...right?

Man, Christian Bale is crazy. Whether he's making himself weigh almost nothing for, "The Machinist," getting super-buff to be Batman, or gaining an absurd amount of weight to be former President Dick Cheney I imagine Bale's doctor often pleads with the actor to quit putting his body through so damn much trauma.

A dramatic heist flick about a bunch of women who have lost their criminal husbands having to unite to pull off a big job. Viola Davis brings her amazing gravitas to any role, so I'd see this just for her.

White Boy Rick
One of those true stories so outlandish the previews even admit it sounds crazy, "White Boy Rick," sounds like an interesting crime-tale and it has the usually great Matthew McConaughey involved, so that's a plus too.

Won't You Be My Neighbor
This sounds like a fascinating documentary about one of the few genuinely decent and kind people in the world who just wanted us to be our best, Mister Rogers. He wasn't perfect, as this movie admits, but he was damn well close.

You Were Never Really Here
He may be a difficult person sometimes, but  Joaquin Phoenix knows how to act.