Saturday, December 31, 2016

Pregnancy of the Year AKA My Wife and I Are Expecting!--2016 in Review

A Baby on the Way!
That's right, I haven't officially announced it on the blog here, but my wife, Samii, and I are expecting a baby boy around May of 2017! I know many people were pregnant or became pregnant during 2016, and as always you can disagree with my opinion, but I feel that my wife has been the most awesome pregnancy of this year!

I am extremely excited to become a Father during the next year and am so amazed by how Samii has handled the difficulties of pregnancy with good humor and grace. I am so happy to call her my wife and just as honored to have our first child together.

Food of the Year: Sweet and Sour Chicken from A Specific Restaurant--2016 in Review

Sometimes I'll have a favorite food of a year, other times it might be a beverage. This year it was for sure a particular dish, however. In 2016 I often ate Sweet and Sour Chicken, with me purchasing it almost every Friday night (or other weekend day) from one of my favorite Saint Louis-region restaurants, China in Bombay. China in Bombay is a smaller restaurant that doesn't have a ton of seating because much of their business is from carry-out. They don't deliver, but their food is so good I'm more than willing to drive the 10-ish minutes there to get some awesome food. It isn't just their Sweet and Sour Chicken that is delicious, they have great wontons, soups, and superb Chicken Fried Rice. I just really love the Sweet and Sour Chicken though.

I'll usually order a differing number of items for other friends and relatives hanging-out with me when I call, but when I get to my order they know exactly what I'm going to say, "Sweet and Sour Chicken, no vegetables, sauce on the side." I get it that way because I find vegetables just get in the way of the crunchy-goodness, and I enjoy dipping my chicken in the sauce as opposed to it being pre-sauced. That way I cat get just the right amount of juices on my chicken before biting into sheer heaven. Without a doubt the meal I ate the most this year was Sweet and Sour Chicken from China in Bombay, and quite frankly, I wish I ate it even more than I already did (it's that good). I know no matter what trials and tribulations 2017 may bring that I will be calling China in Bombay whenever the mood for Sweet and Sour Chicken basically, anytime I'm hungry.

Anthologies of the Year--2016 in Review

A Grab-Bag of Works
Anthologies run the risk of being a double-edged sword. You get a variety of stories, but that increases the risk that there will be some stinkers mixed in the with the winners. No anthology can be perfect, but the monthly one and collection I picked definitely hit it out of the park more often than striking out.

Monthly Anthology of the Year: Cinema Purgatorio
First-off, before anyone gets mad, I mean absolutely no disrespect to, "Island," which has Brandon Graham and all the talent he finds doing amazing stuff. That said, I just especially found myself adoring the supreme weirdness of Alan Moore and friend's "Cinema Purgatorio." Whether it is Moore and frequent collaborator Kevin O'Neil with their monthly film-inspired oddity, Kieron Gillen with a post-apocalyptic riff on Poke'mon, Max Brooks telling an alternate-history version of the Civil War where troops fought literal giant ants, or the other cool stuff, this book is loaded with stories that are incredibly odd, and I quite dig that.

When creators are allowed to basically do whatever they want things can easily go horrifically wrong. Thankfully this anthology full of people telling bizarre yarns has been a treat to read, and I look forward to enjoying it as long as Avatar Press publishes it/Alan Moore feels like doing it.

Anthology Collection of the Year: Kramer's Ergot 9
It's the, "Kramer's Ergot," series, do I really need to say more? Okay, I figure maybe I should say more, so I will do so.

Throughout all the creative minds helming it, its changes in publishers, size-shifts with every edition, and general changes every time a new edition has come out, one thing has remained constant with "Kramer's Ergot," and that is how it contains fascinating comics and artwork. Opening up this 9th edition is like stepping into a surreal world. Picture a barren landscape, but as you start to walk around mirages appear. Some are beautiful and incredible, others are abrasive and intimidating, and they flicker in-and-out, disappearing as quickly they appear, living you disoriented and half terrified of your hallucinations and half hoping they never stop because you feel your brain being stimulated in ways like never before. That's what it is like to read, "Kramer's Ergot 9," in a nutshell. Read it and you'll see what I mean, because I think I've now explained it the best I can!

Knocked My Socks Off!
Those are the anthologies that managed to, "Knock my socks off," during 2016 as they say. Considering my affinity for anthology-comics I really ought to read more of the O.G. of comic anthologies that is still coming out--"2000A.D." Someday I will, I just need to find the time/money.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Weirdest Comic This Year--2016 in Review

Just Plain Odd
A comic can be bad and weird, or it can be good and weird. Weirdness is not a quality indicator, but Lord knows I enjoy it when a comic is both weird and an enjoyable weird. I am happy to say my selection for weirdest comic of 2016 is both startlingly bizarre and as delightful as it is fascinating.

The Black Monday Murders

This is a comic where the issues come out in big $4.99 editions--but its okay because every issue is huge and packed with pages and pages of content. "The Black Monday Murders," is in essence about fiance and money--but it is really bout so much more. It's about control, family legacies, ancient evil forces, the concept of, "The Market," as a living-breathing creature almost, and it is full of in-universe documents such as police reports, journal entries, or ancient manuscripts that are interspersed with the comics and help fill-in some of the details of the world. Jonathan Hickman is a writer who often has grand ideas but struggles to make me care about the characters. He isn't having that problem here though, giving us a wide-ranging cast full of both people we root for and others we can only pray meet their end before inflicting much more harm to others.

Another element that makes the comic work wondrously is Tomm Coker's artwork. Whether he is doing harsh and scratchy lines within scenes of violence or cleanly illustrating sparkling skyscrapers that hide horrific secrets, Coker's illustrative style is always a treat and has served this book well with its eerie and uncomfortable look. Coker can make a police interview that turns supernatural just as exciting when everyone is talking as he does when violence and madness starts. Truly, Hickman and Coker are working in-sync to a degree rarely witnessed in comics.
"The Black Monday Murders," is about so many things, as the said at the start, but in the end I suppose it is about one thing in particular: Power. If someone has power then arguably the money, control, legacies, and all that comes with it. In the world of, "The Black Monday Murders," however the market is itself seeming to be its own dangerous living concept, and one that could destroy everyone if they aren't careful. It's so incredibly weird, and I love it.

Best Colorist--2016 in Review

It Can't Always be Jordie Bellaire
This issue came out at the tail-end of 2015,
but is too gorgeous not to use as an example.
Look, I love the work Jordie Bellaire does, she is amazing. That said, I can't just give her the award every year (maybe just most years). Plus, there is one person who has done some stellar colorist work on a book for quite some time now and seems to only be getting better and better at his job.

Brad Simpson on "Sex"
Simpson has worked on a number of books, but his time on, "Sex," has been amazing. Written by Jose Casey and (usually) illustrated by Piotr Kowlalski, it is a book about a retired super-hero who over 30+ issues has becoming a little bit less-and-less retired as the city he once protected falls into complete and utter disarray. Simpson uses a wide-ranging pallet of colors that perfectly matches a super-hero comic that isn't about super-heroes. Anytime a new issue of, "Sex," hits the stands I know I can expect great writing, stellar art, and amazing colors. The, "Look," of the comic owes a lot to Simpson's incredible coloring. For that reason, he fully deserves to be called the best colorist of 2016, in my opinion.

Best Comic-Artists--2016 in Review

I talked about a number of great comic-book writers in 2016, but only have two artists to talk about. A big aspect of comic-books is of course the artwork, but two people in particular caught my eye. The reason for that is while plenty of comics had great art these two creators made stuff where just seeing their illustrations made me say, "Whoa," to a degree that no other books did. One of these artists was on a book I otherwise honestly didn't really care for and the other worked on a title I loved but which was cancelled.

Jerome Opeña
I was not amazed by the story in, "Seven to Eternity," but man did it have some incredible art thanks to Opeña. I've only kept reading it due to how utterly incredibly the man's drawings of this strange alien world are. Opeña has worked on a number of comic books I've read and seems to just get better and better as the years go by. Even when he's doing a comic I don't especially like the story of, I know he'll doubtlessly impress with his art.

Kate Niemczyk
Niemczyk was the illustrator on one of my favorite cancelled comics of 2016 and while writer Chelsea Cain obviously was a big part of my enjoyment in regards to, "Mockingbird," Niemczyk and her artistic skills just made the book even more of a home-run. Whether creating cool layouts of a boat in a manner reminiscent of the complex designs found in, "Acme Novelty Library," or masterfully showing a fight scene's motion, Niemczyk is a boss on the comic-page.

Film Friday: (Potentially) Best Movies This Year I Didn't See--2016 in Review

Yet Again I Missed So Many!
It is becoming quite the trend that plenty of movies will come out which I would like to see, but don't actually manage to have the time to view until much, much later after they have come out. 2016 had numerous movies I'm sure are excellent, but I was only able to see some of the flicks I'd like to enjoy. I've got a selection of the (potentially) best movies of this year that I didn't see, and I'm sure there are some movies I missed that I'll also forget to include on this list. Just so much great stuff comes out!

In Alphabetical Order...
Accountant (The)
A stellar cast, a cool concept (a accountant who is much, much more than just that) and solid reviews all makes for what will probably be a good time.

This twisty-turny movie about Aliens and our planet's attempt to communicate with them was apparently quite the interesting science-fiction film, and unlike many sci-fi flicks also appealed to the more art-house crowd with its minimalist style and story-telling.

Doctor Strange
I know, I know, I'm embarrassed I missed it too. As a Marvel-movie lover I should have seen this, but I just didn't manage to get my bottom in the seat at the theaters for this. I'll make sure to get it on Redbox so as to continue making-sure I'm up-to-date on everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we approach the mega-sized, "Infinity War."

Don't Breathe
A home-invasion movie with the twist that the people doing the invading are the ones who actually end-up being preyed upon. I'm a fan of Stephen Lang and I bet he helps inject plenty of gravitas into the concept as the man hunting-down his would-be burglars.

Green Room
A punk-rock band fights neo-Nazis, and Patrick Stewart is in it? Sold.

Finding Dory
I've been told by many people it isn't as good as, "Finding Nemo," and seen reviewers stating the same. That said, everyone has told me it is decent entertainment.

Founder, The
The story of how McDonald's became a huge brand owes a lot to a milkshake-machine salesman portrayed by Micheal Keaton with his usual excellent acting abilities. Sounds quirky and interesting enough to check-out, wouldn't you agree?

I just want to see this because I'm a huge Natalie Portman fan, if we're being honest.

Jason Bourne
I always found myself pleased with the Matt Damon-starring, "Bourne," movies and this one was apparently a stellar return to form after a mostly forgotten spin-off attempt that happened awhile ago (poor Jeremy Renner).
Legend of Tarzan (The)
This movie got almost the most mixed-reviews of anything that came out this year, with some people loving it for its inventive storytelling and lush imagery, and others decrying it as boring pap. I want to see it and hope I like it as much as some folk did.

Lobster (The)
In the near-future people turn into animals if they can't find love. This concept is quite weird, and apparently results in an equally-strange and darkly comedic movie.

Midnight Special
A movie about a kid with super-powers filtered through the scope of an independent film-style. Folk who saw this loved it, and I imagine I might too.

Miles Ahead
I heard this movie was heavily flawed, but worth seeing for Don Cheadle's portrayal of Miles Davis if nothing else.

Many people are already declaring this the best movie of the year, and it sounds fascinating. A coming-of-age tale about a young black and gay man filled with apparently amazing direction and cinematography, if it is as good as people say I wouldn't be surprised to see it take home plenty of awards.

Nocturnal Animals
You had me with, "This movie features a story within a story." I'm a sucker for meta-textual stuff like that.

Pete's Dragon
Apparently this is an enjoyable mellow kids movie based upon the classic Pete's Dragon story. I have foggy memories of enjoying the original, "Pete's Dragon," growing-up so this movie sounds appealing too.

Purge: Election Year (The)
This of course isn't a high-brow film, but with each, "Purge," movie the political messaging and metaphors seem to become more-and-more apparent. This movie continues that trend and is apparently as visceral in its points about how we treat the poor and anyone we consider the, "Other," as it is action-filled and violent. Considering the recent results of the 2016 election the terrifying thing is how this concept feels less and less far-fetched as time goes by.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I've always been more of a, "Star Wars," fan than a, "Star Trek," fan. I'm not a super-fan but I'm definitely a big enough follower to know my share of lore and history. I might still make it to the theaters in time to see this before the long wait for DVD/Blu-Ray.

Tom Hanks portrays the real-life hero of the Hudson. We all know the general story but I'm sure getting into the details is especially fascinating--and terrifying considering how much could have gone wrong.

Swiss Army Man
Remember how I said, "Tarzan," got nearly the most mixed-reviews? This baby here definitely got the biggest variety--with some folk calling it genius and others thinking it was a pointless piece of dreck. Personally, when you tell me it is a movie about a farting seeming-corpse that teaches a suicidal man how to value life again it sounds like you've described the perfect movie for me, so I'm gonna rent it and make-up my own mind in the near future.
A documentary that started out as being about a seemingly-silly subject ("Competitive Endurance Tickling,") but takes all kinds of interesting and lurid turns as what seems like an absurd little niche turns out to involve a sprawling business empire full of questionable ethics and possible crime--and then the threats of physical violence start! This movie sounds astonishing bizaare and I definitely want to check it out.

War Dogs
Loosely based on a true story, this movie apparently has its flaws but generally succeeds thanks to the chemistry between and great acting on display by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. I always like a good dark comedy.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Relaunch of 2016 That Surprisingly Didn't Suck: DC Rebirth--2016 In Review

It Shouldn't Have Worked, Yet it Did
DC Rebirth shouldn't have worked when you look at the facts, and yet it did.  I mean, I thought they were going off the rails with this talk of incorporating, "Watchmen," into the books, sort-of undoing the latest reboot, and basically continuing to alter what is and isn't in-continuity that everyone is hopelessly confused. Then again, I did also ask if maybe, just maybe, it could work? I would think for the most part it has, as DC is getting a ton of market-share, released a number of books to rave reviews, and otherwise things are coming-up roses. I think it helps that some good creative talent is on the books and that DC used the broken continuity to its advantage as well.

What do I mean by that last statement? Well, basically, some of the characters in the DCU are starting to realize their continuity is hopelessly broken, with all these timelines and versions of them in existence (and memories starting to bleed together for some characters). In fact, maybe 10 years are missing of everyone's life with little explanation, and most of the Nu52 has been undone, with that forever now to be regarded as an opportunity for experimentation DC kinda blew.
It seems like possibly Doctor Manhattan of, "Watchmen," is to blame for all this, which seems stupid but DC maybe, just maybe could get to work. If they are meta enough and cover how comics such as, "Watchmen," forever altered the field of super-hero comics, that could be cool. Basically the characters within the story of the DCU can cover how the stories of another world impacted them--some real Grant Morrison-style stuff.

Whatever DC chooses to do going forward with Rebirth, at least it has brought us some great books (like, "Deathstroke!") and otherwise been surprisingly good. The whole thing could still blow-up in our and DC's faces, but it is starting to look more and more like the company may finally be on a successful and smart track.

Best Comic-Book Writers--2016 in Review

Putting Pen to Paper (or Finger to Keyboard)
There were a lot of writers who all made some stellar comics this year. I feel they all were great and can't pick one above the others. Therefore, I shall present them in alphabetical order (by last name). Shall we?

Jason Aaron
The relentless misery of, "Southern Bastards," and, "The Goddamnned" was addictive.

The two books by Jason Aaron I loved the most seemed to come out the least often. Plagued by delays, "Southern Bastards," and, "The Goddammned," still managed to impress anytime they came out. Both books had a healthy helping of religion, with the former often discussing the degree of religiosity in the South and the latter being itself Aaron's take on if Cain had met Noah in the ruined world set right before the infamous flood. Each series has a good helping of violence, anger, but also carries with them some touching sadness; be it Cain's desire for family and peace or how everyone in, "Southern Bastards," Craw County lives in a state of constant fear or anger. Each book is horrifically depressing, and each book is one I couldn't put down.

Chelsea Cain
"Mockingbird," was fucking awesome.

Chelsea Cain said in the afterword-text of the eighth and final issue of, "Mockingbird," that she didn't think of herself as a comic-writer. A writer, perhaps, but not someone who usually does comics. Well, I think considering the quality of some so-called, "Comic-writers," that she is already well and beyond, Cain should call herself a comic-writer with zero hesitation. "Mockingbird," may have only run for eight issues, but between the clever puzzle-style plotting of the first five issues and the continued great entertainment and characterization in the remaining three, "Mockingbird," was a stellar enough book it easily makes Chelsea Cain one of my comic-writers of the year.

Tom King
"The Vision," and how great it was.

Tom King has been writing plenty of great comics, from the stellar, "The Omega Men," to his current, "Batman," stuff. That said, his 12-issue presentation of "The Vision," was something amazing to behold, and I clearly can't stop talking about it within a number of my 2016 in Review posts, so of course I would consider King one of my comic-writers of 2016. You can't make, "The Vision," and then be snubbed for that kind of recognition! I suspect that even though King has made a number of stellar comics and will doubtlessly give us more amazing stuff that we will all be talking about, "The Vision," for quite some time.

Jeff Lemire
"Moon Knight," has been incredible, and his work on other stuff ain't been bad at all either.

Jeff Lemire has been giving us some incredible storytelling on, "Moon Knight," but also has made such awesome books as, "The Black Hammer," which I suspect may be popping-up quite a bit on my 2017 in review lists once I feel I've got a greater handle on the kind of story he's trying to tell (a little bit, "Essex County," but with plenty of super-hero elements incorporated too). As I said though, "Moon Knight," has been giving me the kind of stories about Marc Spector and his many identities that I am oh-so-happy to be reading, and I consider it to be up-there in quality with the stellar stuff by other previous creators. Honestly, when you love the character as much as I do and then get stories this incredible, you've gotta give the creator some love.

Christopher Priest
Because he's Christopher Priest and, "Deathstroke," never fails to impress.

Besides a project here-and-there, Priest had essentially left comics. Thankfully he took an offer from DC to come back and write about boring old Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke and turn a character I had never liked into the titular star of the best bi-weekly book on the stands (bi-weekly as in every two weeks, not twice a week, that would probably drive any writer insane). I had concerns about DC releasing certain books on an accelerated schedule, but if it means I can continue to get more of Priest's incredible work on a quicker basis then keep it coming! Priest has been in the field of comics for so long and is so talented that he deserves the utmost kudos for creating such wonderful reading. Once Priest is done with, "Deathstroke," I may not care as much about the character anymore, but I'll definitely be hoping Priest takes over writing something else awesome as opposed to taking another lengthy break from comics. Someone this good should leave the field for that long!

Creators/Creative Teams I Was Happiest to See Return This Year--2016 In Review

A Joyful Return!

This year there was one creative team I was pleased to see reunite and one individual creator whose return I was overjoyed to witness. 

The Team Behind "Alias"/"Jessica Jones"

Alias was a stellar comic with an awesome creative team. Now, both writer Brian Michael Bendis and illustrator Michael Gaydos have by no means stopped doing comics. Bendis is on all manner of good solo-books and atrocious event-books, and Gaydos has provided his artwork on a variety of titles as well. That said, outside of the occasional comic where they would work together again on the adventures of Jessica Jones (a little bit of, "The Pulse," here, a spotlight-issue of, "Avengers" there) we haven't seen the two Michael's work together in earnest on another, "Alias," book. Well, because since the last, "Alias," comic there was that unrelated television show with Jennifer Garner, and because the popular Netflix show about the character was just her name, we now have, "Jessica Jones," as a comic, with the original writer and artist picking things up wonderfully. 

Things have changed since the chunk of years since, "Alias," ended, but the original magic discussing the adventures of Jessica Jones is still there. The book also isn't a, "Max," title anymore, so we don't get F-bombs, but it is labeled as having a parental advisory so we get all manner of other swear-words. Whether titled, "Alias," or, "Jessica Jones," this series continues to be a great hero-comic that isn't quite a hero comic, and I continue to be a huge fan. I hope Bendis and Gaydos give us a run as good as the original series (and that it lasts even longer), they are off to a great start!

Christopher Priest

Christopher Priest has been the in field of comics for many more years than I've even been alive. He kind of quit for more than a decade though (little occasional project aside) because he wasn't getting offered to write anything he wanted to do, so he did other work. Finally something came along he thought he could work with, and lo and behold Christopher Priest started writing the comic, "Deathstroke." In the process of taking over the story of this character Priest took a fictional character I had no interest in, and turned that into one of my favorite comics currently coming out.

It is not surprising Priest was able to make me care about Deathstroke, however, as the man is one of the best writers of comic-books out there and I'm just incredibly pleased that he was given the chance to write something that piqued his interest. As long as Priest is writing ,"Deathstroke," I'll be reading it, as well as any other future comic-projects I hope he embarks on--I pray this isn't just another brief return and that Priest instead will want to write a number of books!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Titanfall 2 was the Best Video-Game This Year, Even if Sales Don't Reflect That--2016 in Review

Game of the Year...That Nobody Played
If almost nobody plays the best game of 2016, is it still the best game of 2016? Yes, without a doubt, and if you're reading this, own a PC/console that can play, "Titanfall 2," and didn't buy it, I hold you personally responsible for its failing in the marketplace--you're uninvited to my tea-party.

Wait,  I take it back, you can come to my tea party. I mean, if we should blame anyone perhaps it is EA for their disastrous release schedule and shoddy marketing. It is an incredible shame however, because besides a surprisingly great single-player mode, "Titanfall 2," features more fun I've had playing online against folk than since maybe, "Overwatch," and that game sells like hotcakes so who knows what the problem is? I mean, its a game full of awesome mech-suits and soldiers fighting-it-out across action-packed landscapes. People should be begging to play a game this good, and instead it goes mostly ignored. I don't know what the problem is, but as long as enough people play to keep the servers active I'll always be eager to hop-onto a server and into a Titanfall mech.

Best New(er) Comics--2016 in Review

Relatively New
There are two books that have had some issues come out and which I feel both are starting strong. One is a mini-series that is about at its half-way point and the other is for now an ongoing, although it is up to the creative team how long they want to make it.

I first heard about this comic when it had a massively successful Kickstarter campaign that also led to it being picked-up by Black Mask Studios. I wanted to check it out because it has an artist I like a lot--Jamal Igle--and has a killer concept. The idea is that a very small portion of the population happen to have super-powers, and they all also happen to only be black people. This is of course a really loaded concept, but writer Kwanza Osajyefo has pulled it off so far and Igle's artwork is of course wonderful. This title is a mini-series which just had the third issue come out and will feature a double-sized finale for issue #6, so it is about halfway done. Considering how much I've enjoyed the book so far I'm excited to see how the book finishes, and if any future stories set in this world may occur once this wraps!

Kill or Be Killed
Ed Brukaer and Sean Phillips basically are as in-sync with another as an artist and writer can be. There are not many creative teams that have worked together as much as these two, and their latest project of, "Kill or Be Killed," is a fascinating blend of crime-drama kind of like, "Criminal," but with a healthy dose of supernatural/demon aspects a bit like their work on, "Fatale." The basic plot is a college student named Dylan survives a suicide attempt but then is told by a demonic presence he has to kill people every so often or he will die. This leads to him being a murderer, but he seems to actually be killing people who it turns out are awful human beings, so is he crazy, or something else? As the book is only at issue #4 (I believe) a whole lot remains to be revealed, but for right now I'm extremely impressed with what I've read and look forward to seeing if at the end of the day our protagonist turns out to be kinda-sort a good guy, or just is flat-out evil.

Still Smells/Reads as Fresh!
Depending on where these books go during 2017 they may very well reappear when I'm going over everything at the end of the next 365 days (I know, I know, we had 366 this year). It is always good when a book starts strong, and even better when that strength can hopefully continue!