Hooray! Huzzah! Finally! It’s done! The year that has felt like a decade, 2018, has finally come to a close. It’s been a rough one for a lot of people and I’m not gonna lie, I’m in that particular crowd. This year hasn’t exactly been my favorite one. But it wasn’t all bad. I took the great step and started publishing my writing. It’s not a lot, but…it’s something. And in terms of the media we consume, 2018 might go down as an all time great one. The year threw books, movies, TV Shows and games at us with the force of a cannon. What’s more, a lot of it was good.
Amazon created a reboot of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series and despite some misgivings, I enjoyed the entire series. Disney put out Avengers: Infinity War, an…excessive movie to be sure. But it was also an incredibly audacious film that was confidant enough to end on a deliberately tragic note. But what was the best? What reaches the highest limits in 2018? Well, I have some opinions on the matter. I want to reiterate, the following are my opinions. I’m very much aware that these individual properties weren’t the best in their particular category but they were my favorite:
Comics – The Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman
I already spoke at length about my absolute favorite comic book this year. Mister Miracle was a self-contained story beginning last year and ending in 2018. Meanwhile, the conclusion to Jason Aaron’s run reached the absolute heights of the serialized superhero comic. Jason Aaron is the best in the business at creating stories that effortlessly blend absurd spectacle and believable humanity. Perhaps that’s why his nearly 5 year long run with Marvel’s Thor has felt like such a perfect pairing. This combination gave gave us the utterly brilliant Mighty Thor series. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman’s character in the movies) picked up the hammer of Mjolnir and became the new Thor after the Odinson was made unworthy of wielding the weapon.
From the very beginning, The Mighty Thor felt special. In addition to balancing her secret identity and her superhero persona, Jane Foster was dealing with Stage 4 cancer. Every time she became Thor, the hammer’s magic purged Jane’s body of all “poisons,” including the chemo medicine. It was a story about sacrifice, and a woman who risked her body to save Nine Realms full of living beings.
Moreover it was a story about faith and the very idea of gods and worship. Why do we keep looking for gods? Why do we pray at all? These questions added a complexity and depth to the saga that was always welcome. It was also surprisingly funny right up to the end. Aaron is still writing Thor and he’s gearing up for a massive crossover called The War of the Realms. It looks like this may wrap up his time with the character but The Mighty series will be remembered as the jewel in his crown. We may not see its like again for a very long time.
Honorable Mention.: I’m usually not a huge fan of What If stories but Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight was a great comic about obsession, and the things that drive us. Also it was about the Joker briefly becoming a good guy, and that was kinda cool.
Television – The Venture Brothers Season 7
I don’t watch a ton of television. I don’t have cable, and there’s only so many hours in the day to work through stuff online. That said, I have to give the nod to the continuing miracle that is Adult Swim’s The Venture Brothers. The Venture Brothers started out as a parody of Johnny Quest and other cartoons from the same era. But after 15 years, the series has grown so far beyond its original one joke premise as to be unrecognizable. Today, shows like Rick and Morty or Bojack Horseman emerge fully formed as cleverly written satires. In contrast, The Venture Brothers worked through seven seasons of stories to get to where it is today and it’s much better for it.
Jackson Publick and his team had already managed to create one of my favorite fictional settings. But this season they’ve added depth to it in so many ways. What’s more, since its looking like the series is starting to wind down, the writers have begun to answer questions. They’ve also chosen to advance characters in unexpected but satisfying ways. Lingering plot threads are only tantalizing for so long and this season, Publick and his writers have wrapped up so many that it’s like they were fusing a rope. (That would be a Boy Scout reference.)
Honorable Mentions: Make no mistake, this is a list of favorite things, not “the best.” Objectively, Bojack Horseman continues to be the best thing that anyone is making on TV these days. But I think my favorite experience watching TV this year was watching the second season of Castlevania on Netflix with my friends. Listening to them freak out at one particular musical drop was absolutely sublime.
Literature – The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
A couple days after starting my second draft of this blog, I read an article on Vox about a movement in fiction called “Hopepunk” that seems to have reached an apex of sorts in 2018. Hopepunk, as a genre is dedicated to militant optimism and a light, airy tone. I have some problems with this movement as an idea, particularly the poor choice of name and the Vox author’s willingness to appropriate pretty much everyone’s favorite stuff as part of this so-called genre. I’ll probably write about it more somewhere down the line, its been a while since I’ve had the chance to flex my Media Studies muscles. But if this genre is going to be a thing, then John Scalzi’s Interdependency trilogy deserves to be counted among its best examples.
The Consuming Fire is the second book in this fledgling trilogy and it was probably my overall favorite book of 2018. Like the first book in the series, it’s a story about facing the end of the world with a stiff upper lip and a can do attitude. Its also a story where the heroes are scientists, policy experts and other learned individuals dedicated to helping others. In these and so many other ways, its a thoroughly modern science fiction story. What’s more, I’ve always admired Scalzi for his efficient prose, earnest humor and clever deconstruction tendencies. This is a series where what looks like a centuries old space empire might actually be a bunch of backwater yokels with some really good PR. I can’t wait for the next book in this series which is almost certainly coming out in 2019.
Honorable Mention: I reviewed Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk earlier in the year. In terms of nonfiction I’ve read this year, it’s the one I can’t simply get out of my head. I find myself referencing it in conversation a lot too, which is always a good sign.
Film – Into the Spider-Verse
I was all set to hem and haw over what to put into this paragraph. 2018 has been a phenomenal year for movies. Black Panther is one of the best and most important pieces of genre fiction in years. Infinity War managed to somehow replicate the amazing sense of “I can’t believe they did it,” thrill of The Avengers. Mission Impossible – Fallout continued to prove the raw thrills of realistic stunt work and good old fashioned film-making. The powers that be remade A Star is Born again. In doing so, one of Golden Age Hollywood’s favorite stories was updated for a modern era. And Venom…is a movie that also exists….
But then in the last month of the year, Sony Animation released Into the Spider-Verse. Not only is Into the Spider-Verse the best animated movie of the year, it’s one of the best superhero movies in years, going back to at least the first two of the original Sam Raimi Spider-man movies.
Its a movie that revels in its source material. The very first thing on screen is a stamp confirming that this movie is compliant with the Comics Code Authority, a nod that split my face in a huge grin both times I saw it. The animation is endlessly creative and constantly jaw-dropping. The story (penned by Clone High and The Lego Movie director Phil Lord and Hollywood scribe Rodney Rothman) is equally inspiring and witty. In many ways, Spider-Verse is a perfect version of the movie it wants to be. Peter Ramsey and his fellow directors deserve all the credit in the world for making this instant masterpiece.
Honorable Mention: I took a dig at Venom a couple paragraphs back but I have to put credit where it’s due. I have never seen a display of acting so brazenly weird as Tom Hardy’s performance in that film.
Like I said, it’s been a really good year for media. Outside of traditionally popular media, I could talk about how some of my favorite YouTube content channels have had the best years of their work. In the often obscure realm of anime, Netflix’s Devilman: Crybaby was mesmerizing. It was an amazing year of wrestling too. I know not everyone cares about it, but the feud between Johnny Gargano and Tomaso Ciampa had me on the edge of my seat for literally the entire year. And if I played more video games or listened to more music, I could elaborate on those in some way. But in all seriousness the best part of my year was…well, this blog.
I am not paid to write this blog, it’s a hobby. I’ve managed to turn it into a resume bullet though. Over Thanksgiving, I received my first review copies for books, so look for those to come down the pipeline soon. But even beyond those successes, I am supremely proud of one thing. At some point in 2018 (321 times to be exact) someone said “I wonder what Tim has to say about this” and clicked a link to find out.
The pride I take in this blog has been a fuel that kept me going through the hard times this year. So I want to thank everyone who has taken a few minutes out of their lives to read the words on this page. It means more to me than you can possibly imagine. I have no intention of stopping any time soon either. 2019 is a big empty void of possibility right now and I intend to fill it up as best I can.
As always, thanks for reading.