Sunday, December 31, 2017

Baby of the Year: Clarkson--2017 in Review

Best Baby of the Year!
Enjoying a messy meal of solids recently!
2017 was a year full of some of the greatest joy I have felt and the most stress and sadness I've ever gone through as well. Samii and I welcomed our son, Clarkson Joseph Raymond Bitterbaum to this world on February 28th, 2017, a whole ten weeks earlier than he was expected. Due to his prematurity Clarkson had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit until May 11th when we were overjoyed to have him come home. It was hard having him in the hospital for such a long period of time as soon as he was birthed but Mercy Saint Louis was wonderful to him and us. Since coming home Clarkson has continued to grow and just be amazing everyday. While many babies were born in 2017 I believe without a doubt that Clarkson is the best baby of the year. You can disagree if you want, but you'd be wrong.

Best Writer-Artists of 2017

It Ain't Easy
Writing and illustrating a comic is something you don't see too often, but there is something very pure to knowing the creator got exactly what they intended onto a comic-book page because they thought-up everything from the story, to the dialogue, to how the page looks. This year two writer-artists especially impressed me and I wanted to give them the recognition they deserve. Both were equally good so I flipped a coin to determine who I would discuss first and it ended up as such...

Charles Forsman
Charles Forsman is a man who jumps around genres with gusto. He'll give us a dark coming-of-age tale in, "The End of the Fucking World," before creating a gorgeous homage to grindhouse flicks with his, "Revenger," comics. This year he gave us, "Slasher," which  starts out seeming like the tale of two desperately lonely and quiet people who have a somewhat unsettling fetish for blood and knives before slowly spiraling into a ballet of gruesome gore that's as disturbing as it is expertly drawn by Forsman's able pen. Forsman has continued to work on other comics as well, releasing a small-press printing of a, "Revenger," Christmas-themed story I bought and look forward to reading plus a book from Fantagraphics, "I Am Not Okay With This," I'm excited to get and delve into. He also is going to be doing a comic exclusively available to people who support him on Patreon too, so clearly the guy isn't slowing down anytime soon with his work!

Katie Skelly
Katie Skelly seems to be everywhere lately from her self-published work to titles such as, "My Pretty Vampire," from Fantagraphics and her involvement in an upcoming series of romance-themed comics from Image. Her drawing-style is a delightful marriage of cute and sexy with a nasty edge to it just, "Wrong," enough to give her comics a stellar zing. Skelly was everywhere in 2017 and I look forward to seeing all the great stuff she gives us in 2018 as well.

Comic-Book Writers of the Year

Stellar Wordsmiths
When you read comics you are enjoying a mixture of text and imagery. The folk who create that text-aspect and plot things out can sometimes make absolute garbage and other times are such good writers that I consider them my comic-book writers of the year. These folk are of course stellar and deserve to be recognized. In alphabetical order by last name I present...

Donny Cates
Cates' career is frankly on fire. He was a lesser-known writer behind such critically acclaimed hits as the stellar, "Buzzkill," but hadn't really blown-up. Then he had hits like, "God Country," and, "Redneck," with Image, got signed to an exclusivity deal with Marvel, and now is getting rave reviews for his work on, "Doctor Strange," and, "Thanos." Seeing as I've at least liked any comic put out by Cates, and loved a good deal of them as well, he easily gets props as one of my comic-writers of the year.

Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell was a writer I had basically no familiarity with when I first heard her name announced as the new writer for the latest re-launch of, "Runaways." A comic that ever since its original writer--Brian K. Vaughn--finished the initial story has struggled to find much of a plot, Rowell came onto the book and in just four issues has turned it into a must-read for me, and frankly it is one of small number of Marvel books I actually still read. Rowell has an extensive career in writing Young Adult novels, but if, "Runaways," is any indicator, she should have a solid career doing comics too if she wishes!

Christopher Priest
Just because I recognized Priest last year doesn't mean I can't do it again. The man is a genius when it comes to writing comics, with his decades of experience and continued quality work standing as a testament to how when we talk about some of the best comic-writers ever Priest better be a name discussed. His work on, "Deathstroke," for DC continues to be my favorite book released by that publisher and now that I'm hearing he will be writing some other books for the publisher as well I can only continue to get even more excited.

Comic-Book Artist of the Year: Fiona Staples--2017 in Review

Always Amazing
I spotlighted three comic-book writes who especially impressed me this year, but I only have one artist who leapt immediately to mind when it came to who was making the best comic-book art: Fiona Staples. The reason I thought of her is that when one thinks about comics they of course take into account how without an artist someone is just reading prose. The artist's contribution is what makes the story a comic-book and the best artists contribute imagery that the reader would not otherwise be able to conjure on their own if reading simply print. Fiona Staples with her work on, "Saga," unquestionably gives us the kind of amazing imagery that astonishes with how unique and amazing it looks. With Brian K. Vaughn writing and Fiona Staples on art, "Saga," is a continuously smashing read that I bet we will be talking about for years, and which I hope continues coming out for many years as well.

Colorist of the Year: Jordie Bellaire--2017 in Review

Yep, Again
It isn't always Jordie Bellaire who wins colorist of the year, but considering just how good she happens to be, it makes sense she wins often. Plus, she's writing comics now too with the quality, "Redlands," being a title she can be proud to get credit for. I'll be honest and tell you I don't know how she does it and colors comics so well, but she does, probably being the best colorist currently in the comic industry. She gets enough respect and accolades she doesn't need this award again from me, but even if she doesn't need it, she for sure has earned it.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Weirdest Comic of the Year--2017 in Review

Only two issues have come out, but, "No. 1 With a Bullet,"  from Image has already greatly impressed me with just how strange it is. The story of a world with technology even more invasive than we already have is like peering into a twisted funhouse mirror of an alternate present or possible future I doubt any of us want. It's weird, it's uncomfortable, and it is so very, very good as I have already extensively discussed. I know two issues isn't a lot of time to make an impression, but, "No. 1 With a Bullet," has already done more with that pair of issues in giving me awesome weirdness than other titles do over a whole year. It's some good shit.

"Tarantula" is my Original Graphic Novel of the Year--2017 in Review

I didn't read a ton of original graphic novels this year, but of the ones I did there is particular title that stands-out in my mind as quite spectacular. Published by Adhouse Books, "Tarantula," is like a psychedelic 1970's genre-flick put to paper with its badass babes, surreal animal-human villains, and of course demon-worship. When I first reviewed it back in June I loved it, and six months later I still adore the book. It is sort of a comic about a crime-fighter known as Tarantula as she solves a mystery, but the book's amazing imagery and pacing make it about so much more. I had so much fun reading, "Tarantula," that it easily is my original graphic novel of the year. I only hope more people check it out!

Ongoing Series of the Year--2017 in Review

An Ongoing Delight
There are series that theoretically could run forever and a part of me hopes they do (as long as they retain their quality, of course). Three ongoing books totally had me enraptured this year and I wanted to make sure to spotlight them.

Black Hammer, The
The series actually just ended with a big cliff-hanger but is re-launching again as an ongoing and has some tie-in series too. The main book was an amazing take on superheroes trapped in a strange world that just seems a bit off, showing us the struggles faced by people who can move mountains stuck in a perfect little town with nary a thing out of place. It is the most human take on superhumans I've seen in some time and Jeff Lemire should be proud he's made something so fantastic.

Well, here we are again. Christopher Priest has been writing a fantastic comic and I've continued loving to read it. I never thought I would be so pumped to read a book with Deathstroke but Priest's skill has pulled that off. I've said nothing but great things about, "Deathstroke," and I'm about out of words I can use to praise it...have I said splendiferous? Just buy it and read it.

Wild Storm, The
Warren Ellis kinda-sorta returned to the characters of the Stormwatch Universe with a brand-new take that I already have said is fantastic, and it has continued to be a smart, satisfying read. It has officially been announced to be planned as 24 issues but that's basically an ongoing that just has a planned end-point, so I'm gonna give this credit as a fantastic ongoing, dab-nabit!

Article of the Year--2017 in Review

I enjoy reading (and obviously writing, hence having a blog). I also try to stay abreast of everything form popular culture, to world news, and anything that I just find interesting. Stellar writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (who also has been at work making, "Black Panther," comics for Marvel) earlier this year wrote an article for The Atlantic as fascinating as it is depressing, "Donald Trump is the First White President." It basically breaks-down how Trump  made his whole campaign based around undoing the work of the Black man before him and won that way. It digs into how despite media claims that Trump appealed to people for a myriad of reasons, at the end of the day it was his whitness all the way that got him elected. The article is horrendously depressing and also very necessary reading.

Best Single Issue of the Year--2017 in Review

A Stellar Standalone

A great single issue doesn't have to be a standalone issue to be my favorite of the year, but this time a one-shot that ties in with, "The Wicked and the Divine," was just amazing. The, "455 AD," one-shot that follows one of the Gods who breaks the supposed rules is just amazingly twisted and weird from start to finish as it is made apparent that the Gods who people nowadays worship as celebrities could wield a dangerous power and pose a huge threat to the world if they aren't kept in check by rules...rules which the main series has seen the Gods currently going against. This individual issue is just smashing and a great standalone way to see why, "The Wicked and the Divine," continues to be a great series.

Friday, December 29, 2017

I Probably Didn't Play The Play Game of the Year--2017 in Review

I heard good things, but I didn't play it.
Now that I have a son his needs come first and can push a lot of other stuff I've enjoyed doing to the side. I've had to prioritize the kind of things I like most and basically dramatically reduce my time doing other things I can live without. Considering how much I love comics, music, movies, television, etc. I found that as I played video-games less and less I was okay with it. There are some games I still really want to try, but those epic ones that I hear take 100+ hours just sound terrible for someone trying to find the time to even read some comics now and then when Clarkson is napping.

There are plenty of games I've heard are stellar, but I ain't played them. I don't have a Nintendo Switch so all of its games are out of the question, I didn't try the new Middle Earth game, or, "Destiny 2," or anything relating to the Assassin's Creed games. I did play, "Horizon: Zero Dawn," for a couple hours and thought it was cool, but that's about it. Oh wait, I got a chunk of time in with the 7th, "Resident Evil," game and found it really, really good (and scary). No, "Cuphead," or even the new and fun-sounding South Park game however. I just don't often have time for video-games and that's okay. Maybe sometime I 'll be able to try out all these stellar adventures, just not now.

Delayed Comics are the Annoying (Continuing) Trend of the Year--2017 in Review

So, So, Annoying
A great cover to a comic that should've already come out and now isn't due till 2018.
"Doom Patrol," "The Black Monday Murders," "Southern Bastards," anything relating to the, "Afterlife With Archie," brand. All these comics I've greatly enjoyed and they all have had abhorrent delays. When it gets to the point when I can't recall what happened in the previous issue of a comic because it has been months, or even more than a year, I know there's a big problem. I was really loving, "Doom Patrol," but I've quit reading it in single issues because at this point I might as well just pick it up in trade whenever the horrifically-delayed issues are collected. "Southern Bastards," has long been a favorite comic of mine but comes out maybe quarterly, and when was the last time we saw any of that zombie-Archie comic?

If a book is solicited to come out monthly or every two months and doesn't that can kill the momentum. I adore, "The Black Monday Murders," with the great writing of Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker's amazing artwork but its sporadic release schedule really makes it hard to recall who's who in its big cast of characters all following their own plots and subplots. I'm happy to get to read the book at all, but I'll be darned if these delays don't temper my enthusiasm a bit at times.
This came out 8/31/16, nothing since. #11 will maybe be out December 26th...of 2018.
Look, I know that things can come-up and make it hard for a book to come out on time. Whether it is a big comic company or a smaller independent book shit can happen. It just is annoying when a book I really dig is delayed beyond all rhyme or reason to the point I just give-up waiting for it. This by no means was a problem exclusive to 2017, but perhaps as I grow older my patience just wears increasingly thin for this kind of thing.

The (Potentially) Best Films of 2017 I Didn't See

The Ever-Growing List
As has become routine at this point, there are a lot of more movies that might be stellar which I haven't seen than movies people rave about which I have. In honor of that, here is my big ol' list of 2017 flicks I didn't see but should view at some point. Let's go in alphabetical order and begin!

So Many Movies and There Wasn't Enough Time
Baby Driver
Wow, this came out in 2017? I ask because it has Kevin Spacey in it and it feels like forever ago we learned he was a creep. Whatever the case, this movie by Edgar Wright apparently masterfully incorporates music with its action and is otherwise a rollicking good time.
Blade Runner 2049
Apparently despite rave reviews plenty of other people didn't see this either, and it tanked hard at the box office. That said, it's got plenty of talented actors and amazing imagery, so maybe after a quick review of the story in the original, "Blade Runner," as I've forgotten basically everything, I'll check this out.
Brigsby Bear
Kyle Mooney takes a plot that sounds potentially terrifying (child who grew up in a bunker and is obsessed with a pop-culture character nobody else has ever heard of) and makes a movie that actually is kind of sweet and makes you think about how we view our favorite cultural-stuff.
Putting aside how everyone hated the Olaf short that preceded this movie (until they pulled it from theaters), I'm told this is an amazing production full of the usual Pixar charm.
Darkest Hour, The
Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill in this film that sounds perfect for someone who is a combination of a history buff and Gary Oldman fan like myself.
Disaster Artist, The
adored the book about the making of cult-classic failure, "The Room," so I'd be eager to see a movie about the book about the movie (whew, try saying that five times fast).
Matt Damon shrinks himself down in order to both save the environment and live like a king. It sounds like a weirdly fascinating plot and something I would never do as I'd be terrified someone would step on me.
Christopher Nolan's World War II film filled with minimal dialogue and extensive imagery impressed a variety of reviewers, and again, as someone who enjoys studying history this should appeal to me.
Florida Project, The
I know basically nothing about this movie other than it has Willem Dafoe in it and it's topping a variety of, "Best Movies of 2017," lists. I just had to know it featured Dafoe to want to see it though.
Get Out
I'm honestly embarrassed I still haven't seen this as someone who enjoys political commentary, horror films, and has enjoyed the work of creator Jordan Peele (he's the director of this movie). I need to make sure I see this STAT.
Girls' Trip
A gross-out comedy with a variety of actresses whose work I enjoy? Sounds fun to me!
Good Time
Robert Pattinson has basically been doing all kinds of weird indie-movies ever since the, "Twilight," saga as if he's desperate to prove he can act. You've proven you're talented man, its okay. All the positive buzz for, "Good Time," just solidifies that.
After years in development Hell I as well as everyone else was surprised when it turned out this didn't suck and was actually really good.
John Wick: Chapter 2
Keanu Reeves is a cool guy and a solid actor. "John Wick," was surprise hit and its sequel is apparently splendid as well.
Justice League
I mean, plenty of people didn't like it but as someone who thought even, "Batman VS Superman," had its charms I'm interested in checking it out.
Logan Lucky
Steven Soderbergh is a filmmaker who always manages to impress, so knowing he made this movie which even he has his character's jokingly refer to as a, "Redneck Ocean's Eleven," makes me wanna see it.
Apparently this is a weird movie full of religious symbolism that either had nobody go see it because it is pompous and dumb, or because it is too smart and went over everyone's head, depending on whom you ask.
This is actually a Netflix original movie, but they screened it in some theaters too I believe. It's a weird mixture of genres and features a gigantic pig. Frankly, once I knew it had a mega-pig I was excited.
Patti Cake$
A movie I've heard described as, "Charming," about a lady who wants to be a rapper. I like charming movies, so I'd see it!
Shape of Water, The
Director Guillermo Del Toro is a craftsman at the top of his game and this film about love, humanity, and power is apparently amazing. Plus, from the previews it totally looks like that lady bangs the fish-dude.
Star Wars the Last Jedi
I'm not a diehard, "Star Wars," fan, but I for sure enjoy the series a great deal and look forward to checking this out.
Thor: Ragnarok
I need to make sure to see every MCU film I've missed (not too many, but still) before the big latest, "Avengers," movie comes out so I can be sure I'm fully up-to-speed. Plus, hearing this is a Thor movie that is actually really good is encouraging.
War for the Planet of the Apes
The threequel to the prequel series! I've been a fan of the other two films so I'm eager to check this out. Plus, Woody Harrelson is always a solid actor to put in your film.

There We Go!
If I didn't include a movie on this list there is a good chance I either saw it or don't care about it. 2018 clearly is going to involve some catching-up however!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Best Newer Comic of the Year: Runaways--2017 in Review

Amazing Stuff
I loved Brian K. Vaughn's series, "Runaways." It was an amazing mini-series that became an ongoing. Then it basically wrapped-up its story of kid on the run from their supervillain parents and at that point the series had not clue what it wanted to do. Besides the occasional short series or tie-in with a big comic-event it really felt like, "Runaways," was struggling to find its purpose, its identity. Marvel hired a writer of Young Adult fiction named Rainbow Rowell for their comic, probably realizing they needed some fresh blood for the series, and the resulting four issues that have come out so far are amazing stuff.

Rowell realizes that these characters have been a bit aimless since they finally defeated their parents and leans into that plot element instead of trying to ignore it. Yeah, these characters don't know what to do with their lives and some of them have gone on other adventures in various series since, "Runaways," but at the end of the day they still are struggling barely-adults desperate for purpose. Whether that means traveling back to the past to try to fix a terrible death, going to college, or trying to get the gang back together in a desperate attempt to feel like things are how they used to be, these are the characters we loved under the pen of Vaughn now being written by Rowell with that same magic. Not too many issues have come out yet, but this is already a fantastic series.

Fiasco of the Year: Trump's Presidency--2017 in Review

Donald Trump is an utter failure as a human being, nevermind as a President. Moronic, rude, offensive, a lair, and all the other words for a terrible person apply to him. He can't take criticism, is obsessed with himself, and is otherwise just a God-awful human being. I've written plenty on the blog about Trump and as 2017 has shown his Presidency has been an utter fiasco.

Coffee Is My Much-Needed Beverage of the Year--2017 in Review

I have a son. He doesn't always want to sleep lately after at first being a great sleeper but now doing some sleep regression lately. I also have a fondness for coffee having been drinking it for many, many years. I need immense amounts of coffee in order to feel awake and have been downing it like nobody's business since Clarkson has come home and been giving my wife and I joy and exhaustion beyond measure. Coffee is love, coffee is life, coffee is without a doubt my food-type item of 2017 and also is basically a drug I'm addicted to at this point thanks to the caffeine it contains and which I continuously pump into my body. Thank goodness I love the taste and smell of coffee so much considering I'm drinking it non-stop.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

You Already Know Kendrick Lamar Had the Album of the Year!--2017 in Review

Album of the "DAMN." Year
When it comes to rappers putting out new content that I like the list of people I enjoy is quite small with most of my favorite rappers either being dead, retired, or having children with Kardashians and Jenners. Kendrick Lamar is like a shining beacon of light in the darkness however, with his music continuing to just flat-out amaze listeners such as myself. He gave us what was easily my album of the year in 2015 with, "To Pimp a Butterfly," and this year he released, "DAMN.," which is not only a title, but also what anyone who listens to this will most likely exclaim. Whether he's addressing race, politics, gun control, economics, or whatever else is on his mind, King Kendrick is operating at a level of rap-ability I don't think any other living rapper could hope to touch besides maybe Andre 3000 who is of course a genius but chooses to rarely spit any bars.

Lamar's album, "DAMN.," has that period in the title because, "DAMN.," frankly says it all. He's ready to address haters, point out flaws in the world, and otherwise make it apparent that there is more to rap about than being rich, partying, and having lots of women desiring you sexually. While some jokes of rappers are bragging about all the bitches they slept with Lamar is addressing the very broken state of our nation with motherfucking U2 backing him on a track! As long as Kendrick Lamar wants to put out albums I'll surely listen to them, and the odds are extremely good that as long as he keeps rapping he'll keep crafting masterpieces like, "DAMN." which is without any doubt my album of the year. Go buy a copy already if you haven't yet, seriously!

Fun Cover-Gimmick of the Year--2017 in Review

A Good Gimmick
I don't always like gimmicks, but the Retailer Appreciation Variant covers that Image did tickled me just right. They look like regular covers except the text is in a shiny gold, and it is just snazzy! I talked back in April about my fondness for them and Image has kept putting them out. I think the reason I like these (besides how fun they look) is that Image doesn't make stores jump through any weird ordering-hoops to get these covers. If they ordered the book they'll just also be sent one of the shiny covers to show Image's appreciation to the shop. These covers don't come out too often, just with the occasional first issue (but not all of them, or else it would be a flood), and they are a cool little thing I liked. Compared to the gimmicks I hated (the Marvel Legacy cover debacle) this is a really fun thing. I hope Image continues doing it into 2018!

Marvel Legacy Was the Relaunch of the Year...That Kind of Sucked--2017 in Review

They Can't All be Winners
Hey, remember how at the end of 2016 I remarked how astounded I was that DC's big, "Rebirth," re-launch actually didn't suck? Yeah, well, Marvel proved this year that it is still really easy to mess-up a huge relaunch of your comics from confusing numbering to horribly broken cover-ordering schemes, to just not having that many books worth reading. From what I've read of market reports it has been a pretty big flop and at this point Marvel should just be happy their film division gets to start using the properties they once sold to Fox before too long.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mini-Series/Maxi-Series of the Year--2017 in Review

The Weirdest Assortment Possible
This year there have been three mini-series that especially caught my attention. One has already wrapped and two others are maybe half-way through. One is a big release from DC featuring a unique take on superheroes, one is a fantastically twisted indie comic and the other is about as cheesecakey as a comic can get without being straight-up porn. Yeah, my taste in comics can vary.

Mister Miracle
Tom King is of course the writer behind such stellar 12-issue series as, "The Omega Men," and, "The Vision." He writes ongoing titles currently too such as, "Batman," but for my money his, "Mister Miracle," has been a smashing title. The first issue didn't, "Wow," me as much as other folk but since then it has provided an amazing take on superheroes, mental illness, and otherwise has just continued to impress me more and more. The fifth issue just came out recently so we have seven more to go, and I look forward to every page.

Charles Forsman starts this book out with it seeming like a tale about two sympathetic individuals who lead lives of quiet desperation. A man and a woman who have bonded over the internet thanks to their shared fetish of knives and blood-play struggle with difficult family members, miserable jobs, or other issues. They really seem quite sad  and easy to relate least until the killing starts and by issue #4 it turns out one person has been catfished and the bodies keep piling up. I don't get scared or unsettled by movies/video-games/t.v. shows/comics that often but this book gets incredibly twisted just slowly enough that you don't realize how flat-out wrong things have become until its the final fifth issue and someone in a full-body S&M suit who had their hand cut-off is eating raw meat in the middle of a grocery store.

Lookers: Ember
I won't deny this book published by Boundless is like the guiltiest pleasure possible. A book about two sexy female private detectives hired by a famous superhero to find her sex tape sounds like the hokiest plot possible, but the book is self-aware enough of how silly everything is to actually be quite fun, and works in a lot of surprisingly deep commentary on technology and privacy whilst doing so. I know its a limited series but set to go into the double digits (I don't recall how many issues it will be total, however). It's silly fun, but sometimes silly fun is what you need in this world.