Top 10 of 2016: Comics and Graphic Novels

This is part four in a series of top ten lists. For movies, television shows, and books, check out their respective posts.

Out of all of the lists I made, this was the trickiest, because my comic book reading is pretty much all over the place. I read single issues, graphic novels, and the occasional manga series. Oftentimes, I read current releases, but I also dig into older runs. As a result, this list is kinda chaotic. I’ll try to be as honest about what I actually read without diving into information overload.

Without further ado, here are my top ten comics and graphic novels of 2016, leading up to my number one favorite.

10. Daredevil. Written by Mark Waid. Illustrated by Chris Samnee– This year I finished off the longest run on Daredevil by reading the final two trades, and even those last few issues were pretty freakin’ fabulous. The Waid/Samnee run on Daredevil was exciting, and fun, but not afraid to get serious as well (they gave Foggy Nelson CANCER!). The artwork was dynamic and unique, and the characters were oh-so-lovable. I have yet to dive into the Charles Soule run, which follows this, but it has some sizable shoes to fill.

9. The Private Eye. Written by Brian K Vaughan. Illustrated by Marcos Martin– The Private Eye is a self published webcomic by Vaughan and Martin that has been collected into this ENORMOUS hardcover collection. And I don’t necessarily mean enormous page count. The panels here are some of the largest I’ve seen. The Private Eye has a singularly unique concept. In the future, The Cloud bursts, sending everyone’s private information out to the wild. To protect themselves, everyone takes on a secret identity, complete with costumes and masks. Take this cool worldbuilding and combine it with a noir-esque storyline and you have a comic that’s really worth your attention.

8. Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. Written and Illustrated by Jill Thompson– In this graphic novel, Jill Thompson re-imagines the Wonder Woman origin story in a rather surprising way. Sure, it involves amazons, and ends with Diana leaving Themyscira, but it also suggest that maybe growing up as a spoiled princess had some… adverse effects on Diana’s personality. As a result, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is less about Diana discovering her powers, as much as it’s about what inspired her to become a good person. What brings this to the next level is the fact that the hand-painted style artwork is so gorgeous, almost more like a storybook then a comic. Not all existing fans will appreciate this portrayal of Wonder Woman, but if you’re looking for a good place to start with the character, then this would be a great choice.

7. Monstress. Written by Marjorie Liu. Illustrated by Sana TakedaMonstress is a grimdark fantasy that takes place in a gorgeously illustrated matriarchal fantasy world, involving Lovecraftian level horrors, and chibi-style sidekicks. And if that description sounds like your type of book, seriously, why haven’t you read this yet? Writer Marjorie Liu has really hit her sweet spot with this one, and Sana Takeda is one of the best artists currently making comics. I’ve only read the first trade, but I am so ready for volume two.

6. Saga. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Illustrated by Fiona Staples– This is one of the comics I read in single issue form- although I am a couple issues behind due to holiday shenanigans. It says a lot about the quality of Saga given that this year produced the storyline that I’ve been the least fond of (the prison storyline) yet it’s still this high on on my list. So instead of falling in love with every issue, I merely enjoyed the crap out if it. Saga remains the perfect place to go for a wonderfully weird sci-fi adventure that’s not afraid to step on your heart every now and then. I’m really looking forward to catching up on this one.

5. Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. Written by Kathe Leth. Illustrated by Brittney Williams– I’m also reading this one in single issue format, although it couldn’t be any more different than Saga if it tried. Patsy is a wonderfully relatable protagonist. She’s trying to help out people with superpowers who don’t necessarily want to become superheroes or villains, AND juggle her complicated past, while dealing with the crazy machinations of the Marvel universe. The fact that this comic feels so grounded while totally embracing the crazy-cakes backstory of the protagonists is a real testament to the writer, Kathe Leth. This is a great selection for those looking for a light, fun read, starring a female superhero.

4. Ms. Marvel. Written by G. Willow Wilson. Illustrated by Adrian Alphona. This year, I read the 4th and 5th trades for G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel and damn it’s still good. Kamala Khan is everything I want my superheroes to be. Admirable, yet flawed. Well intentioned, yet still learning about herself. This year, Kamala dealt with her newfound fame as Ms. Marvel as well as the massive crossover event, Civil War II. As someone who usually despises crossover events, I’d like to hold up the Ms. Marvel comics as an example for how to incorporate crossover events while still keeping the storyline personal. Too often, crossovers feel like useless filler that detract from the protagonist’s current journey, but that was not felt here. Civil War II brought some massive changes to Kamala’s life, and I can’t wait to see what happens to her next.

3. Attack on Titan. Written and Illustrated by Hajime Isayama. This year, I’ve been keeping up with the manga, Attack on Titan, reading volumes 17-19, as well as the spin off, No Regrets. Last year, the manga, while still good, was caught up in a political arc that didn’t always play to Isayama’s strengths. Now, the emphasis is on character drama and action, which is where Attack on Titan shines the most. Attack on Titan is one of those series that 100% worth all the hype it gets. The spin off, No Regrets, which focuses on Levi’s backstory, is also really great, despite the fact that it wasn’t written by Hajime Isayama. I am both excited (and dreading) to learn what will happen to our cast of characters next.

2. Wonder Woman. Written by Greg Rucka. Illustrated by various. Now this is going to be the most confusing item on my list, because while everyone else is reading Greg Rucka’s current run on Wonder Woman, I’m reading the one he wrote ten years back. And why am I doing that? Because it’s awesome. I still have a few more issues to go, but time and time again, I have been impressed at how well Rucka manages to capture Diana. Wonder Woman is a peacekeeper, but also a warrior. A diplomat, but also someone that will kill when necessary. A woman who isn’t bound by traditional women’s roles, despite being from an ancient society. It can be difficult to capture a character who wears so many hats, and is seemingly full of conflicts, but Rucka always portrays her with dignity and grace. I can see why they invited him back for a second run.

1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Written by Ryan North. Illustrated by Erica Henderson– Please. You know me. What else could I pick for my number one? I only wrote an entire column praising Squirrel Girl, and this run specifically. There’s just something so lovable, so perfect, about Doreen Green. She’s feisty, strong, smart, and compassionate. The artwork by Erica Henderson is just suits the story so well. And it’s so nice, that in a world where humor is so often devalued and looked upon as lesser, that you have a comic that’s not afraid to put the lighthearted first, and is pretty much universally praised for it. Squirrel Girl is my favorite superhero of 2016, and my favorite comic book (I’m reading it in trade paperback form). I can’t wait to see what she gets into next.

Honorable Mentions: Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Run- last two trades), Paper Girls (current issues), Lazarus (current issues), Black Widow (Mark Waid/Chis Samnee run- current issues)

Anything I miss? I’d love to hear what everyone else has been reading for comics this year.

Next, for my final top 10 list, I’ll be talking about my random favorites. Think music, podcasts and anything else that didn’t fit into the previous categories. Hope to get that up soon!

Make Your Own Avengers Team!

I was going to write this big post about dealing with self doubt, and how difficult it is to tell the difference between genuine needs of improvement in one’s writing vs. the falsehoods based on personal insecurities. Buuuuut then I found myself in the middle of a pretty busy week, and that just sounded way too serious/depressing. So I’d thought I’d reference a conversation I had with my husband a few days back about the Avengers.

Here we go! Thanos assembles the infinity gauntlet in Avengers: Infinity War (now presented without parts!). He snaps his fingers and all of the Avengers (BOTH teams, the one from the original Avengers movie, and Cap’s team at the end of Age of Ultron), vanish without a trace. It’s up to you to form a new Avengers team of SIX people. You can choose from anyone who has appeared in an MCU movie, an MCU television show, or is contracted to appear in either. So Captain Marvel is fine, as she has her own movie coming out. And Iron Fist and Ghost Rider are fair game since they will be showing up in the shows. Basically, you just can’t pick anyone that hasn’t already been an official avenger. Any other MCU character is on the table.

Here’s what I chose for my roster:

Avenger #1- Loki
This is the choice that gave my husband the most pause. Technically, he’s not a hero, but a villain. Also, to my knowledge he has never been an Avenger in the comics. BUT! look at the previous films, and his role actually makes a lot of sense. After failing with the Chitauri at the end of the first Avengers movie, Loki is already on Thanos’s shit list. So with the Mad Titan on his heels, Loki might be forced to make some… interesting alliances. The values of having Loki on the team are pretty high. Although he’s not the fighter that Thor is, as an Asgardian, he’s certainly no slouch. Also, he has previous experience with an Infinity Stone (the aether, from Thor: The Dark World). Loki is also a trickster, which might allow him to turn the tables on Thanos. Thematically, Loki’s tricky nature and moral flexibility would bring in a an element that we haven’t really seen with an Avenger (Tony may have made Ultron, but that came from a place of good). This would result in interesting interactions with our more lawful good team members (more on them later).

Avenger #2- Black Panther
The loss of Captain America is a heavy one. The former solider is one of the team’s strongest fighters, an impressive tactician, and a leader that people can stand behind. Would could possibly come close to replacing that? Enter Black Panther. Civil War has proven to us that he’s a beast when it comes to combat abilities. Not only that, but his decisions at the end of Civil War show a real emotional maturity that I believe is necessary when it comes to being a leader. That and the whole being a monarch of a country thing. Also, without Tony, you’ve lost your cash cow, a role that the wealthy Wakandan could fill quite nicely.

Avenger #3- Gamora
No offense to Star Lord but as the “daughter” of Thanos, I couldn’t think of a Guardian who’d be better suited for a fight against Thanos. This works both logistically (she’ll be the only Avenger that KNOWS that guy after all) and thematically. Going up against the man who killed your family then forced you to work as his personal assassin for years? That’s powerful stuff. Also, I would love to see see her interact with other Avengers, who are unlikely to know what to do with a truly alien presence. And as someone who prides herself as living with honor, I could see a real strong friendship forming with Black Panther. On top of that, she ALSO has previous experience with an infinity stone (the power stone). That and we need someone green on the team.

Avenger #4- Captain Marvel
This one is a little tricky. Unlike the other members of the team, who we have seen on screen to some effect, how Captain Marvel will be portrayed is a bit of a mystery. Will they emphasize her military roots? Those are skills that could be useful to the team after the loss of both Cap and Rhody. Or will they chose to make her a cosmic hero, emphasizing her connection to the Kree? Having another Avenger with knowledge of the alien side of the MCU is not a bad choice. Regardless of her backstory, if there’s one thing that’s consistent about Carol Danvers, it’s the fact that she’s a powerhouse. And without Thor or Hulk running around, we are going to need someone who will play the role of “big gun.” I couldn’t think of anyone better suited to that then Captain Marvel.

Avenger #5- Doctor Strange
He’s another tricky choice, as we’ve only seen Stephen Strange exchange a few lines in a couple of trailers. But one line in particular has stood out to me. When Strange comments to the ancient one that “this (magic) doesn’t make sense,” she replies, “not everything has to.” What better way to take out an all powerful being then someone who doesn’t have to play by the rules? Someone who has inter-dimensional powers. Also, if the rumors are true about an infinity stone appearing in Doctor Strange, he will ALSO have experience with a Stone. That and with Tony gone, we’ll need a new beardo on the team.

Avenger #6- Spiderman
This one is tricky, because I knew I wanted to put a more street level person on the team. While my heart may be with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, I know that, tone wise, what we really need is a wise cracker to break the tension created by the super-serious team members already assembled. Also, it would be really interesting to see the perspective of a shiny new hero. Peter Parker is a teenager, not a thousand year old Asgardian, or an alien assassin. He doesn’t have military training, nor has he studied the mystic arts. He’s just a kid trying to keep his neighborhood safe. And that, more human perspective, when combined with his tendency to crack jokes to break tension, is surely one that viewers will find themselves drawn to the most.

So there you go, Kevin Feige! I made your next Avengers team. I’ll be waiting patiently for my paycheck.

What does your roster look like? And yes, I am aware that this is a VERY BIG question, so it might take you a minute to think it through 🙂

Thought on Nominating for the Hugo Awards

Hugo award nominees are due Tuesday, March 10th! So if you have a membership to one of the participating WorldCons, don’t forget to vote!

The Hugo Awards are given out once a year to honor great works (mostly literary, although not 100%) in the sci-fi/fantasy field. In order to be eligible to nominate and vote on these award you have to be a WorldCon member. This does cost money, although there is a special lower cost category for people who just want to vote and won’t actually be attending the con. This is my second year participating in the awards, and I found it to be a lot easier than the first time around. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I knew well in advance that I was going to be voting this year, while last year I waffled back and forth for a while before committing (guess I’m a fickle gal!). This allowed me to keep an eye out for really promising books that would likely be worth my attention come voting time.

Because I recently filled out my ballot (a more time intensive process then you might think!), I decided to share a few of my nominees. I’m not going to go into the whole slate because that would be waaay too long and I’m pretty sure no one would actually want to read that (myself included). Instead, I’ll share the ones I’m the most excited about.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison for Best Novel– Now, if you told me last year that one of my favorite novels from 2014 was a book about elves who are in the habit of speaking in first person plural, I would have looked at you like you were a crazy person. But there’s something about this book that just works. I was swept up into Maia’s world on page one, and I couldn’t help but route for this unlikely goblin Emperor until the very end. This is one I’m pretty sure is going to make the official ballot, given that it is a Nebula nominee and has a lot of positive buzz online.

The Ninety-Ninth Bride by Catherine K King for Best Novelette– On the other hand, I would be shocked to see this one actually make the official ballot. But I loved it, and I think it deserve accolades, so I’m putting it on there. The Ninety-Ninth Bride was published by The Book Smugglers, who did a whole series on subversive fairy tale retellings last year. The Ninety-Ninth Bride retold one of my favorites, Arabian Nights, and the author did such a good job putting her own personal stamp on this beloved tale. I loved the characters and was sad when it was over. I’d recommend reading it, even if it doesn’t get nominated.

Rocket Talk, hosted by Justin Landon for Best Related Work– This is one of my favorite podcasts (the other being Writing Excuses, which I also nominated). The focus here is issues facing the book-loving sci-fi/fantasy community, making it perfect for the Hugos. The host, Justin Landon, does a fantastic job of picking guests. He also has a great talent for knowing when to steer the conversation, or when to just let the guest go off. Last year, Rocket Talk was filled with episodes that were both insightful and entertaining, which is what I really need to keep me awake on my 45 minute commute.

Ms. Marvel, vol 1: No Normal by G Willow Wilson for Best Graphic Story– Holy crap was this category difficult to narrow down! There were so many great comics last year. One of the ones I really hope to see on the ballot is the new Ms. Marvel comic, which introduces Kamala Khan, a Pakistan-American teenager who discovers that she has superpowers. In addition to being really fun, I think this comic is very easy for new readers to pick up which, for whatever reason, isn’t always the case with first volumes!

The Legend of Korra: Season 4 for Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form– Regardless of it’s shaky second season, The Legend of Korra has always succeeded in bringing a level of sophistication and quality that you’re not used to seeing in children’s television. It’s also a show that it perfectly willing to take risks, which Season Four did again and again. This begins with the decision to jump ahead a few years, bringing our teenage characters into young adulthood, and ends with a final scene that establishes our heroine Korra as a bisexual protagonist. How often do you find that in regular television shows, never mind a kids cartoon? This show has been denied any Hugo love over the past few years. I hope to see that rectified this year, either in the Long Form, or Short form categories (where I nominated the two part finale).

Captain America: Winter Solider for Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form– Boy was 2014 a great year for superhero movies not made by Sony! But where Guardians of the Galaxy (which I also nominated) is clearly the most popular, I find The Winter Solder to be the best of the best. Captain America was just a perfect blend of bombastic action sequences, lovable characters, and real life issues. Also, wasn’t it satisfying to see the bad guys getting taken down by a team of primarily women and POCs? Marvel has set the bar awfully high for Age of Ultron.

SL Huang for the Campbell Award (Not-a-Hugo)– Sometimes you’re drawn to a writer for the quality of their writing, or the strength of their characterizations. Other times, they just have really neat-o ideas and execute them extremely well. And while Huang doesn’t fail or anything in the first two categories, it’s the third where she knocks it out of the park. I highly recommend picking up her debut, Zero Sum Game, which is about a superheroine who gets her powers from being really good at math. Her stand alone short story, Hunting Monsters, is also really cool. Huang is also self published, so it would be nice to see some indie love on the ballot.

Those were some of my nominees! Who do you hope to see on the official ballot?

Everything I Watched in May 2014

In Theaters
The Amazing Spider-man 2- What a mixed bag. The fight scenes are amazing. The special effects are incredible. The soundtrack is really creative. The actors do a great job with the characters. There are a handful of scenes here that are absolutely pitch perfect. Unfortunately, there’s an entire movie around these pitch perfect scenes that isn’t so great. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems to be dead set on repeating one of the biggest problems with Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 3, stuffing way too much stuff in one movie. As result you have talented actors that are painfully under utilized, and relationships that feel forced and unnatural. The script has additional problems, from inconsistent characterization, to some really, cheese ball moments. The Amazing Spider-man 2 is unique in the fact that it both moved me to tears, and made me want to check my watch constantly. The Sinister Six movie better have a damn good trailer if it wants to get me excited about this franchise again. C

Godzilla (2014)– I must admit that I feel a little guilty about reviewing this movie because it was deeply impacted by a very negative movie going experience. Still, I found very little about this movie to hold my interest. All of the human characters feel disappointingly one note, and for a movie called “Godzilla,” this movie doesn’t feature enough of our favorite giant lizard. Oh and the dialogue? Awful, awful, awful. Admittedly, there were a couple of really cool action sequences. My time wasn’t completely wasted at least. D+

X-men: Days of Future Past– It took a while for the X-men franchise to bring itself out of the deep dark pit it flung itself down with The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine. Yes, both First Class and The Wolverine showed sings that the brand was moving in a more positive direction, but with Days of Future past, I can honestly say that the movies are back where they should be, quality wise. Days of Future Past may have a few logical snafus, but there’s so much about that film that perfect, that I barely noticed. The acting is exceptionally well done, especially from James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence, and the characters’ journeys are so compelling. On a shallower note, its clear that a lot of the new X-men were chosen for their highly visual power sets, and the results- from Blink’s portal powers to Quicksliver’s super speed, are just so cool to look at. Days of Future Past effectively reinvents the X-men franchise and does a fabulous job setting up the next installment. A-

On DVD (from the library)
Orphan Black (Season 1)– I feel like I do a horrible job at selling this show to people, which is a pity because it’s pretty outstanding. Focusing on a small time hustler who discovers that she’s one of many clones, Orphan Black simply does so much right. First off, there’s Tatiana Maslany’s fabulous acting. She has the demanding job of portraying several different characters, and pulls off each one flawlessly (thanks in part to a really impressive job done on hair and makeup). Each episode is wonderfully paced; chock full of excellent suspense and surprises, but never to the point of feeling overloaded. I am eager to see if they can keep the quality of this show up in season two. There wasn’t a single bad episode in season one. A

On Netflix
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 5– It feels strange to review the whole season, as Tanner and I have been watching it on and off for a while now. Still, we watch the final eight episodes this month, so I might as well talk about it here. Watching The Next Generation is interesting, because it shows how our expectations for television have changed over the years. It’s true that the season features some of the most memorable episodes in Star Trek history, which hold up impressively well, over twenty years later. But, in order to get to such great moments as “I, Borg,” “The Next Phase,” and “The Inner Light,” you need to get through the dull as toast “Imaginary Friend” and the painfully bad “The Perfect Mate.” It makes me wonder if we used to be a little more forgiving of our TV shows. One or two bad episodes aren’t that a big of a deal after all, and the show is head and shoulders above what it used to be in season 1. I’m certainly planning on watching season six. The finale did end on a bit of a cliffhanger after all. B

On TV
Agents of SHIELD– This month, I watched the final three episodes of season one of SHIELD, Nothing Personal, Ragtag, and the Beginning of the End. I need to applaud the writing team for successfully keeping the quality up in the final block of episodes this season, because it was looking shaky for a while now. The finale does a fabulous job of wrapping up several plot threads, while leaving just enough dangling to keep the audience excited for more (who is Skye’s father? What state if Fitz in? What was Coulson really writing on that wall?). The whole season gets a B from me, but these final episodes are all straight As.

Castle– Now why’d you have to do that Castle? I was so on board with your penultimate episode. To finally see Beckett achieve some justice for her mother’s murder, a plot line that’s been going on for SIX SEASONS now, was just so satisfying. And then, you throw us the finale. Not only did the episode feel kind of throwaway-ish, but to delay the wedding you’ve been setting up all season!? Gah. Just, gah! At least Beckett got a nicer wedding dress. B for the whole season.

Everything I Watched In April 2014

A little late, but here’s what I watched in April of 2014! All around a very satisfying month for visual entertainment.


In Theaters
Captain America: The Winter Solider– After two divisive (but still profitable) entries into Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel really hits it out of the park with the second Captain America movie. Here, our “man out of time” comes to the realization that the America he fought for in World War II has changed, and not for the better. There is so much that works about this film. The most notable one for me was on a character level. Marvel has established some attention grabbing characters and really uses this film as an opportunity to develop them further, while at the same time, bringing in some new ones (the Falcon, for example was one of my favorite parts of the movie). The chemistry between the cast is fabulous and every actor, including lead Chris Evans, really brings their A-game. It’s also daringly relevant to today’s world, putting the costumes on hold for a while to dig into the complex issue of preemptive strikes. And on top of that, it’s a damn exciting action movie, filled with fight scenes and explosions galore. Oh, and Cap in those tight shirts. Damn. A

On Demand
In Your Eyes– Confession: until recently, I’ve never seen the point of watching a movie on demand. But this was the only way to view Joss Whedon’s newest film, and I found it to be a surprisingly pleasant experience (at least for a microbudget project like this. Big blockbusters are best viewed on larger screens). The film itself caught me off guard at first. A love story about two people who can see out of each others eyes, it’s very different from previous Joss projects (and, since he didn’t direct it, it looks different too). But the deeper I dove into their relationship, the more involved I became with the film. I found myself really enjoying it and will probably buy a copy when it comes out on Blu-Ray. It’s not Joss’s strongest work, but he does relationships (romantic or not) very well. B+

On DVD

Gravity– I’ve finally seen it! Now, I can see what everyone was so excited about, as Gravity is really an exceptional movie. One thing that surprised me about it is how simple it is. It’s basically a survival story in space, with a miniscule cast of characters with very little back story. But Alfonso Curaon (who’s becoming of my of favorite directors) manages to deliver the best survival-in-space-story possible by producing top of the line visuals, a pitch perfect soundtrack, and the best actors possible for the job. I really and enjoyed this short but effective suspense tale, and would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. A-

On Netflix
Archer (Season 4)– I’m officially out of Archer to watch on Netflix! Season 4 was probably the weakest season so far. I wasn’t fond of the premiere, and it didn’t have as many stand out episodes over all. Fortunately, the show certainly had its moments, making good use of recurring characters, a strong guest cast, and featuring an aspect rarely seen in adult cartoons, character development. I was particularly fond of the two-part finale. I’m ready for season 5. Please come to Netflix soon! B

On TV
Agents of SHIELD– What the hell? How has the show I once thought would never truly live up to it’s potential become the highlight of my week? In April, I watched a grand total of four SHIELD episodes (End of the Beginning; Turn, Turn, Turn; Providence; and The Only Light in the Darkness. Nothing Personal doesn’t hit Hulu until next week), and all of them were just fantastic. By building off of the events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, SHIELD not only did a better job of bonding the series to the MCU as a whole, but has shown us different sides of our characters. Agent Ward, which I found to be the weak point of the show, has become its most compelling element. What do you mean I only have three episodes left?

Castle– Okay! I’m finally caught up with Castle, at least the episodes that are available on hulu. This month I watched The Way of the Ninja, The Greater Good, and That 70s Show. I found all three to be enjoyable, although not exceptional episodes. It was nice to get a little more on Gates’s background in The Greater Good, although it took them long enough to get to it. She’s been around for three seasons now! That 70s Show on the other hand, was completely ridiculous and over the top, yet somehow touching at the same time. Three more episodes left, and we’re done for the year.

Everything I Watched in March 2014

Don’t see myself as watching much of anything tomorrow, so here are my reviews for all of the movies and TV shows I watched in March. Much like February, apparently the only movies I saw fit for seeing in the theaters were made for children. What does that say about me? Or Hollywood?

In Theaters

Mr. Peabody and Sherman- A charming animated film that is about a dog and his boy traveling through time, as well as a surprisingly touching story about fathers and sons. Although it’s not without its flaws (it’s main female character, Penny, goes through some dramatic character changes in a very short amount of time, which seems rushed), Mr. Peabody and Sherman manages to succeed based on it’s lovable characters, zippy time travel narrative, and well casted voice acting. History buffs will find plenty to giggle about in this one. B


Muppets Most Wanted– Honestly, I’m a bit of a let down after the brilliant Jason Segal led film that came out back in 2011. The heist-driven storyline, musical numbers, and even the jokes are noticeably weaker this time around. Also, there’s some really bad green screen moments at the end that makes me wonder if the film was rushed out. Still, there are plenty of cute Muppet moments, and the celebrity cameos come fast and furious. Worth a rental. C+

On Netflix (not counting incomplete TV seasons)
Archer (Season 1-3)– This may sound like a lot of TV watching, but when you consider that each season has 13 episodes (or less), and they’re only 20 minutes a pop, it’s not as much. If you’re looking for an adult cartoon that will have you rolling on the floor with laughter, you could do a lot worse then this spy-spoof. I think what makes this show work so well is the fantastic chemistry between it’s cast members, which you don’t see on a lot of cartoons. Similarly, you seen plot and character progression between episodes, which is  also unusual for the genre. Warning though, this show isn’t afraid to venture into some pretty offensive material, so it’s not for everyone. But if you like humor that’s edgy and absurd, this should work well for you. B+ 

On TV
Agents of SHIELD– Only one episode this March, but damn if it’s not the strongest episode the SHIELD team has produced yet. Yes Men delivers a fast past and exciting episode. It also manages to balance the movie elements and TV show elements very, resulting in a story that develops relationships and furthers Coulson’s quest for truth while giving us a deeper look at the character of Sif. This is the level of quality that I’ve been expecting from SHIELD, and I think a lot of people agree with me.

Castle– Gah! I’m behind again. How did that happen? Anyway, the episodes I did watch this month (Room 147 and In the Belly of the Beast) were surprisingly top notch. For a show that can occasionally feel pretty paint by the numbers, these two episodes explored very different types of cases, and it really paid off.  The suspense in In the Belly of the Beast was particularly strong. Very curious to see how certain plot developments raised in this episode will be resolved.

Other
We’re The Millers (on DVD)- Yeah, I’m not sure why this one got such poor reviews, as I found this R-rated comedy to be a lot of fun, filled with a talented cast and tons of laughs. One criticism that should be made? Um, it can be a little racist in its portrayal of Mexicans. Granted, no one looks all that great in this movie, but it still stuck out to me. Still, if you’re looking for something that will make you laugh, you could do much worse than We’re The Millers. B

Thor: The Dark World (on DVD)- Already reviewed this one here, and my opinions haven’t changed. Thor 2 is a fun and energetic movie. Watching this made me excited to see Captain America on Friday. B+

My Pull List

For those not in the know, a pull list typically consists of the comics you request to have held for you at the comic book store. This is a great way to make sure that you don’t miss an issue. Now, I cheated a bit with my list below, as a few of the Marvel ones are titles that my fiance buys digitally, and I just read his copies. Still, these are all the comics that I read each month, plus a few I’m considering adding to the list. This, of course, doesn’t count the titles that I’m following with the trades, like Fables, or Captain Marvel.

MarvelAllnewXmen
All New X-men
Black Widow
Guardians of the Galaxy
Mighty Avengers
Ultimate Spider-Man (on hiatus)

Dark Horse
Angel and Faith (on hiatus)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Serenity

Image
Lazarus
Pretty DeadlySerenity2
Rocket Girl
Saga (on hiatus)
Velvet

Vertigo
Trillium
The Wake

Recently Dropped
X-men

Considering Adding
Ms. Marvel
She Hulk
Wolverine
Veil

Putting this list together has got me thinking about the type of thing I typically look for in a comic book saga_007_coverseries. There’s the predictable things of course, such as a comic starring a favorite character, or created by a favorite writer or artist. When it comes to genre, I’m pretty open minded. I’ve read superhero stories, sci-fi, horror, fantasy and espionage just to list to a few. What I really need are characters that intrigue me. I love comics that feature complex female characters, either in a lead or supporting role. I enjoy ensemble books that feature great character relationships. A comic book that makes an effort to include more diversity, or otherwise break out of the typical “white straight guy stories” is likely to grab my attention, but they need to have quality writing to keep it (hence when I dropped the all female X-men line recently). A comic that ties into a favorite intellectual property of mine might get me excited, but only if the end result consists of character development and story progression. Useless filler just feels like a cash grab.

thewake7As for artwork, I guess what’s important for me is it needs to suit the story. So while Emma Rios’s style didn’t work well for me on Captain Marvel, I love everything about her work on Pretty Deadly. I find myself drawn to vibrant, expressive art, and love artists that can be depended upon to covey characterizations just with facial expressions. At the same time, I’ve also enjoyed gritter, darker art styles. I have nothing against sexy female characters in comics, but get annoyed at comics where all of the female characters have seemingly identical bodies dressed in impractical outfits. Nothing says “we’re not marketing this comic to you” louder then a scantily clad heroine on the cover, twisting her body so all of the sexy bits are front and center.

On a less creatively-focused note, I also like comics with consistent release schedules. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with comics like Saga Veil1that take a hiatus every six issues, because they’re pretty consistent about it. I know that I’ll have a new Saga comic to read for six months, and then a break for a little bit. Comics where I never know when the next issue is going to be out leave be frustrated and occasionally confused with what was going on in the story.

I feel like buying comics are my one big indulgence. I know that flying through an issue in a manner of minutes is not worth the 2.99-3.99 I spent on it, but there are few things more relaxing to me then getting to sit down with a big stack of comics at the end of a long, stressful day.

Some ladies like to unwind with tabloids. I just prefer kickass spies, superheriones, and sci-fi epics. There’s nothing wrong with that I think.

Any suggestions?