First, a confession – I've decided against doing a Retrospekticus this year. There's a couple of reasons for this – the first is, I legitimately feel like I didn't see enough films this year to make a list that was worth a damn. The other is that I feel like pop culture really homogenized this year in a way that was...much more obvious than usual, maybe? Or maybe I'm just getting older. Movie trailers certainly don't thrill me like they used too, anyway.
So yeah, no best of movies this year. Instead, I thought I'd take a look at all the things that I thought made 2014 awesome, things that worked against the encroaching homogeneity (or even within it) to become something amazing. I know there's a lot of stuff I'm leaving off this list, either by genuine forgetful omission or because I just haven't gotten around to it yet; I still haven't read Seconds, for example, even though I adore everything Scott Pilgrim, and I skipped out on The Wrenchies because I just couldn't bring myself to read something that would break my heart, no matter how good it was. So, with those mostly pointless caveats out of the way, I give you my list of stuff I thought was awesome in 2014.
Ms. Marvel is not just the best superhero comic being published, its one of the best comics today, period. It's also one of the highest-selling comics in the digital market, which is a wonderful bitchslap to the naysayers who still believe that comics starring nontraditional superheroes won't find an audience AND proof that a thriving digital marketplace is healthy for the industry. It's also a great superhero soap opera that proves that the Spider-Man formula still has a place in modern comics. G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona have created something personal, substantial, and wonderful in Kamala Khan, and Marvel has (so far) shown a lot of faith in the book by staying out of their way. Easily one of my favorite new comic releases of the year, and one that surpassed my already high expectations.
The Wicked and the Divine feels like reading Sandman again. I'll be straight with you – I've never really dug on Kieron Gillen. Phonogram did nothing for me, and I've always found his various and sundry superhero work to be underwhelming. I picked up W&D more or less on a lark, because Twitter was blowing up about it and Jamie McKelvie's art is always worth looking at. So imagine my surprise that Wicked and the Divine – the Gillen-est Gillen comic ever, and that's according to its author – gave me the same thrill and sense of wonder I used to get from reading Sandman. There's that same attention to characters and characterization that were the hallmark of that series; the feeling that, with all the crazy, unknowable immensity of the primary cast and their function in our reality, the very human perspectives of that divinity keep the book grounded. And the big plot twist in issue five was a not only actually surprising, it cemented the idea that anything could happen in this world – and just might. Not a lot of comics can do that anymore, and even fewer try.
The Pixies put out a new album, and its really pretty good. I mean, Indie Cindie is no Doolittle, but it's better than Trumpe la Monde. I miss Kim Deal, but “Greens and Blues” is already a new favorite, and I really do like “Bagboy”. Come to think of it, a lot of artists came back and putout material that was way better than anyone was expecting – Weezer's new album is the best thing they've done in years, and the new Smashing Pumpkins has at least one good song on it.
Comic Book-inspired movies this year were pretty exceptional, or at the very least entertaining. This year saw three tremendous films based on comic characters – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. All three films were engaging, smart, and tautly constructed cinematic gems that pushed the storytelling envelopes traditionally associated with the superhero narrative: Cap was a seventies spy thriller at heart; Guardians was this generation's Star Wars; and Days of Future Past was a science fiction dystopia with a time travel MacGuffin. And hell, even the movies that swung and missed this year had something of merit: Peter and Gwen's relationship in Amazing Spider-Man 2 was beautiful and perfect; A Dame to Kill For was such a train wreck that it came back around to visually arresting; and the personalities of the four titular Turtles were so spot on that even that garbage movie was some of the most fun I've had this year. But speaking of fun movies...
The Raid 2 was even more batshit crazy violent than the first. Admittedly, it didn't have the same screaming, electric pace of the first one, either, but that fight in the prison mud pit? Holy shit, people.
The Batman TV Show Blu-Ray Box Set finally got released, and is fucking amazing. At some point, I'd still like to do a product review of this monster, because it really is just that fantastic, but the short version is: the transfer and clean up on these episodes is exceptional, with tremendous care and detail put into every episode. It's never been clearer that Ceasar Romero didnt shave his famous 'stache when playing the Joker, and I swear I've seen Adam West's girdle at least twice (and that's just on the first disc). Those arent disses, by the way – I'm genuinely ecstatic that this level of previously unknown detail is now visible, because its a hallmark of quality in the product – and a reminder of how different things used to be.
Speaking of television, The Flash and Arrow both knocked it out of the park. The Flash in particular wasted no time in establishing itself as the super fun, lightning quick superhero soap opera that smartly juggles its various subplots through the traditional monster-of-the-week shenanigans. Arrow's been a bit rougher this season, but a few poorly paced episodes were completely overshadowed by the finest mid-season finale cliffhanger I have ever seen. Seriously, I don't think a show's ever been that brave, even if the cliffhanger's reversal is implicit in the execution. So much fun.
2014 turned out to be the year that the lost artifacts of comics history finally saw print again...with their creator's blessing. How crazy is it that Flex Mentallo and Alan Moore's Miracleman work both got official, no bullshit releases in the same year? Miracleman seems exceptionally portentous, but it also had the best reason: Moore agreed to the terms of its re-release if he wasn't credited and all his profits go to Gary Leach, who was having financial troubles. Add to those giant the Batman '66 television rights finally being sorted, the release of Morrison's Multiversity, and the continuation of Gaiman's Sandman: Overture with what appears to be an absolutely hands-off approach from DC editorial, and you have a great year for comics history.
On a personal note, I'd also like to point out that it was late January, 2014 when my first article appeared on zeitgeeks.com. It's been a hell of a year for me, too. Thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me the opportunity.