Thursday, January 6, 2011

My favorite things about 2010

As I begin a new year I want to take a quick look back at some of the things I enjoyed last year.

Comic Books

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8
Season 8 took a strange turn when Buffy and Angel created a new world, abandoned it, squared off with the Master (again), and Angel killed Giles. With one more season 8 issue due out next year, it will be VERY interesting to see what the fallout on this will be going into season 9. Hey – at least Dawn didn’t die (according to the cover of #38 that looked like a real possibility).

New Mutants
The year kicked off with Cypher returning and the team not only got a big ole’ piece of the awesome Second Coming storyline, Dani got a solo issue that sees her temporarily restored to valkyrie during the Siege storyline, and there’s sexual tension between Sam and Dani. The New Mutants was one of my favorite titles when it first came out and throughout its run (at least until Fall of the Mutants and beyond). Dani losing her powers during House of M was disappointing because she’s one of my favorite characters and my favorite member of the team (and her power was awesome), but the book has done a great job showcasing what an asset she is. Even though the new story arc is titled “Fall of the New Mutants,” I hope that the title will go strong into 2011 and not get canceled (as most of my favorite titles do).

Action Comics #894
I was never a Sandman fan but I did pick up “Death: The High Cost of Living” when it came out and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the character. I couldn’t believe it when I saw her staring out at me from the cover of Action Comics. Lex Luthor and Death hanging out together – one of the strangest concepts to reward readers with a great story in some time.

Daken: Dark Wolverine #4
I only knew the character from the beginning of Dark Reign. I knew he was Wolverine’s son (btw, sick of kids dropping into characters lives when they’re already grown up or, in Damian’s case, old enough to be formidable). I think he’s gay (he kissed Bullseye once) and I did read a Dark Wolverine issue with the Fantastic Four and I think they were helping him with something. I don’t know if he’s good or bad. I do remember at the end of Siege, he escaped by using a US Army uniform he took off a soldier he killed – not real endearing. But I picked this book up this week because the FF were in it. I don’t know what happened before but he was supposed to be dead (killed by a demonic Wolverine or something).

It was like a great Fantastic Four story that Daken happened to be part of as we got to see light-hearted banter between Reed and Sue, Johnny grieving over the apparently dead Daken, and Ben being Ben. When Daken reappears, there’s a lot of great stuff with him, Ben, and Johnny. Once you see a new character (or a character you don’t know well) through the eyes of the Fantastic Four as you do in this issue, it can change your opinion of the character (as it has mine). This issue is a great starting point for people unfamiliar with Daken and sets up his next adventure which will take him to Madripoor to kill the man who murdered his mother: Bucky Barnes (when he was Winter Soldier).

Amazing Spider-Man
I didn’t read any of the issues at the beginning of the year. I gave “One Moment in Time” a chance but found it disappointing and came back at the beginning of “Big Time.” Big Time is the storyline I’ve been waiting for – a cool new job, action with the New Avengers, a girl friend who isn’t Mary Jane, Black Cat firmly in the supporting cast, and Peter makes a new suit to go up against a newer, more vicious Hobgoblin. Hopefully the changes in Big Time won’t be another temporary status quo change (note to Amazing Spider-Man editor – STOP FUDGING WITH THE STATUS QUO! IT MAKES US DUMP THE TITLE AND REVISIT IT EVERY SIX MONTHS TO SEE IF IT’S READABLE AGAIN…JERKWADS).

One of the many Brian Michael Bendis titles I’m reading, Scarlet is significant because it’s the only title I enjoyed this year that wasn’t based on a character or characters I already knew. I don’t know why I picked it up (I tried a lot of new titles this year because I dumped a lot of titles that weren’t very good any more) but I’m glad I did. I reviewed it back in October so I won’t dwell, but I love the way it’s written and am surprised by how invested I am in Scarlet’s life.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man
Call it “Ultimate Spider-Man,” call it “Spider-Monkey and the House of Vomit” and this title would still be the title I’ve looked forward to reading for over a decade and that didn’t change this year. Spidey almost died during Ultimatum and his new title doesn’t see his luck improving. But on top of him and Gwen living with his Aunt May, Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake move in. I love that Spidey lives with a member of the FF and the X-Men. Of course it’s even better because Kitty Pryde is a supporting cast member who takes on a new identity as The Shroud. Kitty has dated Bobby and Peter in the past and there’s no one better at mining emotionally complicated situations than Brian Michael Bendis. Next year, they’re doing a ‘death of’ storyline so that could end the run. If that happens, at least Bendis was there the whole time, creating it and tearing it down. But I hope that doesn’t happen. Hopefully Ultimate Spider-Man will still be the ultimate read 10 years from now.

X-Men: Second Coming
I’m not a regular X-Men reader. I tried reading the Messiah Complex trade paperback but it wasn’t very good (to be fair I was out of touch with the characters because I’m not a regular reader). The only reason I collected Second Coming was because I was collecting The New Mutants and wanted to understand what was going on. Second Coming was the best multipart crossover event I’ve read since The Mutant Massacre. It had a great story and there were great character moments and big losses. One of the things I usually hate about an X-crossover is that the entire world can be at stake and you never see any other heroes. In Second Coming it was great to see the X-Club working with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers to try and get through the energy dome. And Hope as Phoenix? Awesome. Of course I got a few post-Second Coming issues of Uncanny X-Men and they weren’t great but Second Coming is a rare moment of glory for an otherwise event-heavy title that has departed from the character driven stories that propelled it to the top of the charts decades ago.


Knight and Day
What can I say? This movie was fun in a way that Killers (a movie that looked similar in tone) wasn’t. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were fantastic in a well-written film that was funny, action-packed, and romantic. Oh yeah, Marc Blucas from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was in it too.

The film’s trailer was so good that I bought the trade paperbacks and read them before the movie came out. I reviewed this film back in May and stand by any glowing thing I said about it.

The Book of Eli
I was one of the three people who saw it. All joking aside, I didn’t see many of the twists coming. Denzel Washington was fantastic as always and his fight scenes were choreographed and shot beautifully (not all shaky camera and ‘who’s-hitting-who?’ quick cuts). Mila Kunis is terrific in this film. The story was great, the interaction between the characters was great, and I was pleasantly surprised (this movie was a friend’s pick – I thought it looked stupid). This flick deserves a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Edge of Darkness
I don’t care about all of Mel Gibson’s personal problems (the cast of The Hangover 2 protested his announced cameo because he’s a wife beater – didn’t you guys hang out with Mike Tyson, a CONVICTED rapist, in the first film?). There is one thing Mel Gibson does that no other action movie star in Hollywood does: he makes sure that his character has some juicy, emotional turmoil to motivate him. In this case, his character’s daughter is murdered in front of him and his quest to find who did it takes him through several emotionally charged moments where the character is back and forth between furious and devastated. Say what you want about the man but he can deliver a powerhouse performance every time.

I also reviewed this movie in May. In repeated watches, I still marvel at the scene where Big Daddy fights his way through a warehouse of mobsters and still hope that DC will make a Batman that can move like that. I read the first two issues of the comic book and hated it. I didn’t go to this movie by choice (again, it was my friend who wanted to go) and I’m glad I did. The first part of the movie is boring but sets up for the rollercoaster awesomeness that propels this movie to the top of the list for me (think of all the set up in The Watchmen before people put their costumes back on and got back into the fight).

Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Fun. Fun. Fun. That’s my fast review. I didn’t read the comic but the movie was fantastic and so much fun to watch. Get it. Get it. Get it today on blu ray. It’s awesome. Did I mention it’s awesome?

The A-Team
Yes, I love mentioning films I already reviewed (back in June), but it’s still awesome. And the extended version has almost 20 minutes of new material. Some reviewer said something like, ‘the director ignored plausibility to deliver big time thrills’ and I agreed wholeheartedly. I hope I have many sequels to look forward to.

Action figures

Galactus (photo from
The figure is proportional to the figures meaning you can recreate the cover to Fantastic Four #243 if you want. It’s enormous, has light up features, and is fully capable of stomping a mud hole in your 3 ¾” figures (it menaces Star Wars, Tron, A-Team, and Star Trek figures too).

A-Team (and Van)
My favorite show from the 80s gets the big screen treatment and some nice 3 ¾” figures to go with them. The figures are great for displaying with GI Joe, Star Wars, and Marvel Universe figures and the Van is icing on the cake. Not to mention the van recognizes which A-Team member is in the front seat and plays sound clips appropriate to that character. Unfortunately after one wave, the line was over and done. I wanted a Jessica Biel figure – maybe there’s hope if there’s a sequel.

Star Wars AT-AT
Description from Measuring more than 24 inches tall, nearly 28 inches long, and 12 inches wide, this colossal vehicle holds up to 20 Star Wars figures — 6 of which can fit in its head alone! — and includes so many play and electronic features true to its on-screen counterpart that it’s hard to believe! From the zip-line in its body and articulated legs for superb poseability, to its LED lights and authentic movie sounds and phrases, this is the must-have addition for Star Wars fans of all ages. Includes a 3.75 inch AT-AT driver action figure and a pop-out speeder bike.

That should say it all, but I’ve also got this to say – I’ve wanted an AT-AT since it first came out (back in 1980). I passed on other AT-ATs because I was kind of over it. But this is the biggest AT-AT they’ve ever put out and with all the super-cool things it does, I broke down and bought it.

Star Wars vintage figures, and send-away Boba Fett
I don’t collect Star Wars figures except R2-D2 figures (I have a display case with at least 50 different versions of the figure) but along with the AT-AT, Hasbro released a ton of Empire Strikes Back figures in vintage packaging. I had to get a gang of them (gang = 6) and then I had to send in the coupon for the Rocket-Firing Boba Fett figure (the mold sucks in comparison to the one released in the vintage line but the Trio had one on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Spike threatened to break the toy of the Trio didn’t help them)).

Megan Fox’s Jonah Hex figure
It’s a Megan Fox action figure. It’s a good likeness from a movie based on a comic book and it’s a gorgeous figure – it looks like something McFarlane Toys would have put out. I saw the figure at Toys R Us and thought that if I didn’t pick it up, I would never see it again. I picked up the figure and haven’t seen it on the shelves since.

Marvel Universe figures
This year I got hold of all the figures in the series (except for some of the two packs that had repaints of previously released figures). Kitty Pryde came complete with Lockheed (the coolest accessory ever) and though I would have preferred her in the blue costume from the 80s, she’s one of my favorite characters. Ghost Rider and Mystique are just awesome. The Sentry/Spider-Man two pack contained my favorite version of the red and blue Spider-Man figure because the lines where dark and distinct and the eyes were big. I don’t usually find any of the variant figures but this year I picked up Iron Patriot without his helmet. My only complaint about the line this year is that new figures were a complete pain to find (NOTE TO HASBRO: WHEN YOU RELEASE A NEW SERIES, DON’T PACK THE BOX WITH NEW FIGURES AND OLD FIGURES THAT NO ONE WANTS – I’M SICK OF 800 IRON MAN AND SUB-MARINER FIGURES CLOGGING THE SHELVES WHEN ALL I WANT IS A HAVOK FIGURE AND I’M SICK OF RESELLING ALL THOSE USELESS FIGURES BECAUSE I HAD TO BUY THE CASE THROUGH ENTERTAINMENT EARTH).

GI Joe Resolute figures
While I thought the cartoon movie, GI Joe: Resolute, was lame (especially the Duke-Scarlett-Snake Eyes love triangle resolution), I thought the figures were great. This year I haven’t been big on ‘stylized’ or ‘kid-like’ figures (Superhero Squad, Galactic Heroes, whatever the Batman version is called, etc.) but making these figures look like they were straight out of the cartoon

GI Joe Pursuit of Cobra figures
Great new sculpts and weapons for some of the team. Snake Eyes (all except the Tornado Kick version) rocks. Beachhead, Firefly, Snow Job, Jungle Viper, and the HISS tank are all bad ass. I can’t wait to get my hands on Low Light next year.

Iron Man 2 figures
The movie versions of all the Iron Man armors rocked. And how cool was War Machine?

As for the comic version of the figures, the Guardsman were great as army builders (you need a bunch to guard the Vault). The Iron Man from the late 80s/early 90s was the armor being worn when I was reading the title regularly.

From the concept series, I only really liked the Vibranium Armor Iron Man (aka The Captain America armor, a Kmart exclusive) and the Deep Dive armor.

After three seasons of sexual tension and near misses – Chuck and Sarah are together. I’ve watched every episode so far this year and no matter what happens, Chuck and Sarah are rock solid. Hopefully this will be the way things stay for the rest of the series. I really enjoy the series and the characters and how

At first look, this series isn’t anything I haven’t seen before – agent escapes a secret agency (Division) and tries to bring it down from the outside. The thing that separates Nikita from the other shows is Alex, a young girl who is looking for revenge and is Nikita’s eyes and ears within Division. Alex emerges as the star of this reimagining and in the mid-season finale is finally forced to kill someone. Unfortunately it’s Thom, a fellow trainee who she cares deeply for. That makes one more person to avenge so it will be interesting to see how Alex gets her revenge throughout the rest of the series.

No Ordinary Family
What if your family got superpowers? This series features two fantastic character actors (Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz) who aren’t strangers to sci-fi or to making characters believable and sympathetic. Their gifts aren’t wasted here as they and their two children are dealing with newfound powers. They do everything you would do with powers: use them to make life easier, test their limits, and decide on the moral implications of what they can do. A lot of great family stuff here with interesting uses of the powers. It’s a fun show and a great superhero show. I can’t wait for new episodes.

Another great JJ Abrams series, Undercovers features a married team of spies, the Blooms, who retired from the CIA years ago only to find themselves back in action when one of their friends needs rescuing. The Blooms are happily married so there’s no weird sexual tension where two partners are getting to know each other – they’re already a solid team. They’re great together on screen and the shows are always fun. They have a tech guy named Bill. Now despite the fact it’s a JJ Abrams show, no repeat of the Marshall character from Alias (the super-nervous guy who did the tech and stayed at the headquarters), Bill hacks, gets the information, and can kill an enemy combatant as though he’s done it before – but he’s got a bromance going with Steven Bloom where he admires everything the guy does. Like I said, the show is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the last episode aired right before the new year because the show’s been canceled. It’s the second show I’ve dug this year that got the axe. The next one is Mercy.

Veronica is a nurse who has just gotten back from Iraq and is getting back into the swing of things. The problem is that while she was in Iraq, she cheated on her husband with a doctor who followed her home and now works with her at the hospital. To make matters worse, she’s a borderline alcoholic with post traumatic stress disorder. Oh, and Michelle Tractenberg is in it and she’s fantastic in everything. This engrossing series focuses on the lives of Veronica and her two friends, Chloe and Sonia. Some of the most interesting television I’ve watched this year with the most compelling stories but, unfortunately, the series ends on a cliffhanger and wasn’t renewed for the 2010-2011 season. I don’t recommend getting into it because there isn’t an ending but I was glued to this show for its run and plan to add it to my collection when it’s released in blu ray (right now you can only get it on DVD).

Jennifer Love Hewitt on Law & Order SVU
Description from Hewitt guest stars as rape victim Vicki Sayers, who has been attacked and violated by the same man over a 15-year period, and fear of her assailant has turned her into a virtual recluse. Now, she must come face-to-face with her attacker, and overcome her greatest fear.

I saw the episode advertised and didn’t have anything else to watch. I like Jennifer Love Hewitt even if I don’t think much of her acting (keep in mind I’ve only seen a few of her movies and never watched Party of Five) but she blew me away in this episode. She reduced me to tears, made me feel her horror, and made me cheer at the end. In short – if you’re a fan of Jennifer Love Hewitt and haven’t seen this episode, or if you’re a fan of really amazing performances in general – watch it.

Nicholas Brendon on Private Practice
I happened to be flipping channels when I happened on this. I said, “Oh, cool. Xander.” It was the episode where his character, Lee, rapes Charlotte. I’ve never seen the show but Nicholas’ performance was terrifying. He’s a great actor and I hope he winds up on the cast of a television show soon.

Joss Whedon directs Glee
Joss Whedon and Neil Patrick Harris were the draw for this episode of a series I’d never seen. It was a lot of fun to see Neil singing and the episode was really good. The standout performance was Artie daydreaming that he’s singing a song while being able to dance (the character is confined to a wheelchair) with his girlfriend. I’ve seen a few random episodes since and I can see why people like it.


Creation Salutes Firefly/Serenity, Buffy/Angel, and Dollhouse
I already talked about my experience back in November but I plan to do this convention every year – next year I’m going Gold.

Wizard World Anaheim
I already talked about my experience back in April but I plan to do this convention every year – but next year I’m only going for one day (it’s pretty tiny).

Video Games

Halo: Reach
Halo continues to be my favorite game franchise. I love driving the Warthog around, sticking a plasma grenade to a baddie, and cutting through bad guys with their own laser sword.

Tron: Evolution
The game looks great, plays great, and the PlayStation Move makes it twice as fun. Running, jumping, defying gravity, derezzing programs – this game is awesome.

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