Sunday, 30 December 2012

EspanolBot's Opinionated Bests and Worsts of 2012

Best Overall Story From a Licensed Property - Avatar: the Promise
The story based in between the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra shows, the Promise was intended to tie-up any loose threads from the former and lay the foundations for the latter. What happened instead was an actually great exercise in world building, with the writer Gene Yang building upon already established things from Airbender and following what appears to be the natural progression of events. I particularly liked how, for example, that the wide-eyed idealistic approach used to solve problems within Airbender didn't quite work here due to the situation being a lot more complicated. Sending all Fire Nation citizens back to their homecountry from land their country occupied over the course of a 100 year war isn't the most simple thing, considering a lot of intermarrying and the like has happened since then, for example.

That said, the book isn't perfect. There are parts in the second volume that tend to drag, despite them kind of being essential to both the third act and the Legend of Korra's backstory (Aang and Katara's relationship, and the antics of Toph's metalbending school for two examples). But on the flipside we see the characters becoming more mature, and even some previously flat characters getting a bit more depth, the previous Big Bad Ozai for example. In all a great miniseries, though it's probably best read in one go, as opposed to three individual installments.

Best Superhero Movie - the Avengers
Yeah, I bet that there are people out there who saw this coming. As someone who lately has become somewhat turned off by Joss Whedon's work, this film surprised me by not really being that Whedonish. If that makes sense? Fun, exciting, and managing to contain enough character moments for each of the characters for each of them to shine through without eclipsing the others, which is something that a project like this risked considering some are much more low key than the others. I also heard good things about the Judge Dredd movie, but I missed it alas so it won't be covered here.

Runner-Up - the Dark Knight Rises
Don't get me wrong, I love this movie. But DKR works best in conjunction with the other Nolanverse Batman films, while the Avengers works better as a film more or less by itself... if that makes sense. There is a lot to love about this film, but I feel it suffers from a similar problem to another of this year's big releases, Prometheus, in that story was sacrificed in order to prevent the momentum from getting lost. I liked Bane, I I liked Catwoman, I liked that they tried to take some risks, and I liked that we kind of got an adaption of No Man's Land, one of my favourite Batman storylines. But in the end we were left with a good movie, when we really should have had a great one.

Best Female Character - Korra, Legend of Korra
With the new addition to the Avatar-verse we had the titular Korra, a heroine that managed to seem like an actual person than a character, if you follow me. Excellently played by Janet Varney, Korra is a character that departs a lot from the previous Avatar, in that, well, this time she has time to be an actual teenager in addition to saving the world. I know that a lot of people objected to how pigheaded she could be occasionally, but I personally liked that she wasn't quite as good with dealing with people as she was at being a kickass action heroine. She has ups and downs, she gets embarassed, has a sense of humour, is resourceful. A great character, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes with her when the series returns for its next season.

Runner-Up - Catwoman, Dark Knight Rises 
One criticism that I've seen of Christoper Nolan's work is that he has trouble when it comes to female characters, which is something that I'd largely agree with. The other big female character in the series never really sat that well with me, with her coming of as kind of cold and unpleasant even when she wasn't meant to be, while Bruce's mother didn't even get any lines. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman could be interpreted as being of the same mold, but over the course of the film she demonstrates a level of fun, wit and badassery that made her an entertaining character all of her own. Plus she has character development, which is something that both versions of Rachel Dawes sadly lacked.

Best New Couple - Ystin and Exoristos
She's an Amazon exiled from Themyscira. He/she is a ten thousand year old, possibly bigender Celtic knight on a never ending search for the Holy Grail. Something managed to blossom between the two while their band of heroes was trapped in Hell, though we have to see whether it actually leads anywhere further.

Runner-Up - Superman and Wonder Woman, Justice League
Rumours that this one would happen were floating around even before the relaunch last year was even fully confirmed to be a reboot. And yet despite it coming about for kind of daft reasons (they're both strong and kind of detached from regular folk) and at the expense of Lois and Clark's marriage... what we've seen so far is actually surprisingly sweet. It doesn't really fit in with Superman or Wonder Woman's own books that much, but as an insular thing within Justice League it's interesting to watch unfold as Clark takes Diana to a Smallville diner to help her mingle with normal people or teach her the glasses trick to her amusement. It's really just fluff at this point, but it is interesting to see people in the DCnU just hanging out and enjoying each other's company for once.

Best Villain (comic) - the Joker
2012 saw the return of the Joker to the Bat Books after a year's absence, and in turn gives Batman writer Scott Snyder a chance to demonstrate his horror writing abilities that he's demonstrated in his other books, such as American Vampire and Severed. While his new appearance, "murder superpowers" and seemingly complete knowledge of everyone he comes across hasn't exactly been embraced by some fans (a significant amount of them in the "Why doesn't Batman just kill the Joker?" camp), personally I think that they work within the context of the story (like the different versions of Batman) and they're not exactly things he hasn't demonstrated before.

The use of fear and the sense that he'll get you despite whatever precautions you take was part of the character even when he was introduced back in the 1940s, for example. Death of the Family sees a return to the Joker as a diabolical mastermind of the Gotham Cast, and creates a significant amount of interest in what he might do next. Though he seems to be best written by Snyder, as some of his other appearances, in Catwoman and Suicide Squad particularly, don't really fit the tone of the main story, and even undermine it somewhat in Catwoman's case.

Runner-Up - Cyclops, Avengers vs. X-Men onwards
This one may be a case of YMMV, but for me Scott Summers has somehow evolved into being the second most prominent supervillain of the year. Some people have interpreted him as a good man who has to make harsh choices in order to best serve his people... but there's two sides to every revolutionary. First there was his attempt to bring the cosmic entity Phoenix to Earth, despite it EATING numerous planets on the way here, due to him believing that it will possess the "Mutant Messiah" Hope and restart the numbers of mutants in the Marvel Universe, whether Hope wants it or not. Things begin to go downhill rapidly after the Avengers invade the mutants' island home to take Hope away to a safe location where the Phoenix won't end possibly killing everyone, leading to a series of events where Scott and his cabal of ruling mutants get a power-boost and try to take over the world, doing things like kill Charles Xavier and hunting the Avengers for being "terrorists".

Some people have said that him and his Phoenix-boosted friends managing to generally improve the quality of life of people proves the ends justify the means, and that their many, many acts of death and destruction are down to the Phoenix making them mentally unstable... but that seems kind of shallow to me. Scott refusing to acknowledge that he did something wrong after he was depowered, JUST because he wasn't "in control" and mutant population numbers were now on the rise (not all of the new mutants are happy with this) is just the nail in the coffin to me. There's being a well intentioned extremist, and then there's effectively being a fascist, which is ironic considering he descended to using Godwin's Law in a press release regarding the Avenger's attempt to extract Hope. The potential was there to make him akin to Magneto at his best, but the end result appears to be someone willing to do horrible things to get what he wants, even if the people he's doing it for don't want it, and then complains when people try to call him out about it.

Best Villain (cartoon) - the Lich, Adventure Time!
After a season's absence, the Big Bad of the Adventure Time! cartoon returns with a plot to kill all life in the multiverse... and it's actually kind of ingenius. Little details of the plot coming together were laid throughout season three, coming to a horrific head in the season finale through the implications of what he had to do in order to get to that point. Voiced, partially, by the great Ron Perlman, the Lich might not be the most complex villain out there, but he's certainly amongst the most watchable.

Runner-Up - Amon, Legend of Korra
Now, Amon IS a complex villain, but suffers (like a lot of the Legend of Korra first season finale) from being a bit rushed when it came to the resolution. The groundwork is there, a man who sees himself as the hero in his own story (indeed, he's also the hero of a lot of other people's as well, that's how he's able to accomplish so much), who manages to remain threatening and interesting throughout the majority of his appearances. The problem is that due to the creators not knowing whether they were going to get another season or not, all of the plot threads had to be resolved really quickly, meaning that Amon's backstory and motivations had to be dropped on the audience quickly in a monologue by his long-lost brother. Maybe it could have worked better if they stretched it over more than twelve or so episodes, but despite his backstory being logical for the setting it just seems too rushed to seem satisfying.

Despite this, Steve Blum does a great job voicing him, he has a great character design and is an excellent foil for Korra for the MAJORITY of the first season. With the renewal of the show for several more seasons, I look forward to what or who might stand a chance of replacing him in season two.

Best Original Comic - Nelson
Published late last year, but I wasn't able to get a copy until 2012 so I say it still counts... sort of. Anyways, Nelson is a biographical comic about the titular Nelson Baker, a young woman born in London at the end of 1960s, as the story follows her through her life up to 2011. A collaborative work between 54 artists from around the UK comics scene, from big names like D'Israeli to webcomic artists such as Scary Go Round's John Allison, Nelson is a wonderful book in of itself. Great art, an interesting character piece, and an excellent story all around. Great fun. Plus all the profits from the book go to a homeless charity, so you're actually helping out people in need while you're reading it as well.

Best Online Live-Action Storyline - To Boldly Flee, Channel Awesome
2012 marked a lot of changes for internet reviewers, with the near passing of bills like SOPA threatening the livelihood of a great deal online content, it seems only right that for the fourth year anniversary of That Guy With the Glasses.Com also fall in line with that theme. Overall a more dramatic affair than the previous anniversary specials, TBF moved away from being a purely comedic storyline (though still funny in places) to being one focused on the idea of what being an internet reviewer means to both themselves and to their audience. Does it do any good, is it even worth doing in the first place?

Increased production values mean better special effects than the previous years, but the acting and writing is where TBF really shines through. Everyone in the cast does a really good job, even though the size of the cast means that some people are only really there as cameos, and you can really tell the entire enterprise was a labour of passion for those involved. A great swansong for both the Nostalgia Critic and for Spoony's time with the company. Also, Lindsey Ellis, Doug Walker and Kyle Kallgen's song Distraction is an excellent piece of music in its own right.

Runner-Up - Harvey Finevoice's Christmas Carol, Atop the Fourth Wall
A shorter, but none the less really well acted entry comes from Lewis Lovhaug's Atop the Fourth Wall series, focusing this year upon the character of Harvey Finevoice, a somewhat time-displaced 1950s-style crooner. Linkara's story segments occasionally get a little self indulgent, but for this brief storyline it carries an emotional punch that makes it stand out from a lot of his other work. Excellent twist on the Christmas Carol story as well.

Best New Cartoon Series - Legend of Korra/Gravity Falls
In joint best place, my two favourite cartoons from this year are Legend of Korra (big surprise) and Gravity Falls. Although vastly different in terms of style and genre, with Korra being a dieselpunk fantasy show about socioeconomic unrest caused by the inequalities between those with magic powers and those who don't and Gravity Falls being a comedy show about a pair of twins solving mysteries in a weird town in Oregon, damn do I love both of these shows so much. Korra is excellently animated, acted and written (for the most part), things that it shares with GF in spades. Both are a lot of fun, and I look forward to whenever they decide to bring the pair back on air.

Most Bizarre Writer Shake-Up - Gail Simone on Batgirl
So Gail Simone was fired from her Batgirl book, despite telling people in the weeks running up to her dismissal that she wasn't going anywhere. And then a few weeks later she was brought back again just as abruptly. I'll admit that I'm not currently reading the book, but the whole situation seemed really weird to me.

Most Stupid Supervillain Concept - One-Face, Batman: the Dark Knight
Complete with accidental Homophobia! Yeah, Bane decided to dope the inmates of Arkham Asylum with venom for some reason, leading to a roided up Harvey Dent making this bizarre declaration.

Most Horrible Scene Award - Amazing Spider-Man 699
Peter Parker reliving Dr Ock's memory of having sex with Aunt May, complete with feeling the physical sensation of sleeping with his elderly aunt! Probably for the best that Peter died an issue later really...

Most Immature Comic book Creator - Rob Liefeld
So Rob Liefeld decided to throw an incredibly unprofessional hissyfit on Twitter, where he resulted in childish name calling amongst his former bosses and decided to pick a fight with Scott Snyder when he tried to see what was up. I do admit that I felt a tad sorry for Rob when someone gave him a "how to draw anatomy" book at a comic book convention, but yeah, lashing out at others so publicly kind of saps my sympathy somewhat.

Runner-Up: Tony Harris
For THOSE comments. You know the ones.

Most Amusingly Rage-Inducing Marvel Comic - Amazing Spider-Man 700
I'm not a huge fan of mainstream Spider-Man, the amount of continuity behind him kind of put me off, as well as the fact that he seems to almost constantly miserable. Seriously, even Batman seems to have more occasion to crack a smile than Peter Parker without it seeming forced. As such, the sheer amount of RAGE on display over the final book in the long running Spider-man series was really kind of funny to me, as a primarily DC fan. I don't think that it's going to stick, but this is a change to the character that looks like it's going to upset people for some time to come for multiple reasons. From the pedantic (Dr Ock is the new Spider-Man, boo!) to the genuinely kind of skeevy (MJ finally gets back together with Peter... only it's actually an older man inhabiting Parker's body and controlling it... Ick). People sending the writer Dan Slott death threats are over reacting more than just a tad, and should get a bit of perspective really.

Runner-Up: Avengers Arena
With DC's odd fetish for killing off teenage superheroes having mostly run its course with the incredibly confusing Teen Titans/Legion of Superheroes storyline involving the THIRD supervillain in DC called Harvest, Marvel decided to take a stab at the "Killing superpowered young folk" thing with Avengers Arena. Overtly inspired by the current buzz surrounding Hunger Games, and with cover art inspired by the earlier entry into the subgenre of teenage deathmatches Battle Royale, this series does deserve some props for getting all of the silliness of plot and the like over with, and focusing instead in killing off characters. Just 'cause. Few series have had this much hatred directed at them from just the announcement, let alone the issues themselves. Yeesh.

Worst Case of Unintentional Misogyny In A Comicbook - Blue Beetle
Ah, Blue Beetle. Once a series about a kid learning how to be a superhero while still having the support of his family and friends while he did so... not so much with the reboot. Now the scarab that grants him his powers physically stops him from sharing his secret identity with his friends and relatives, amongst other things that generally make both Jaime and the readers miserable. One example of this came where, after the Scarab make Jaime kill his friend Paco against his will, the scarab then regenerated Paco as a more overly destructive version of himself. When Black Beetle/Paco goes on a rampage, Jaime is forced to pick one of his female friends or relatives to kill to show that he isn't in control of his body. He ends up picking his friend Brenda, and literally slaps her in the face "for her own good". Might not have been intended that way, but yeah, playing domestic abuse excuses straight isn't cool DC.

Most Surprisingly Improved Cartoon - Young Justice: Invasion
With the second and possibly last season of Young Justice, the creators decided to mix things up a bit and skip five years into the future, leading to new characters appearing and being introduced to things at the same time as the audience and the like. Whether you think that it succeeded or not, it was a really brave thing to do, and has resulted in an overall improvement in some aspects of the show that season one hadn't quite ironed out the kinks in yet. For example, the constant use of Xanatos Gambits (a reference to a character from Gargoyles, a show the creator worked on previously, who always rigged plots so that he'd get something even if he "lost") by the Light edged from being clever to being kind of infuriating, as it made it seem that the heroes never truly won. Not quite so in season two, where the heroes are not more mature and skilled, and are able to out think the bad guys in increasingly complex ways for once.

Runner-Up - Adventure Time!
This isn't the same as the show being bad to start off with. What I'm saying is that over the past year Adventure Time has gone on to get increasingly better animation, storyarc and character moments than it had previously. The aforementioned scheme of the Lich and the brilliant episode I Remember You being two such examples. AT is heading in new and interesting directions, and I'm interested to see where they might be.

No comments:

Post a Comment