Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Favorites from 2016--Books, Comics, and Music

 Photo by kerl. on Flickr  Some rights reserved
As per tradition(ish), it's that time for a post where I talk about my favorite things from the previous year. So here's a few lists of my favorite movies, comics, books, and music that I consumed in 2016.

A reminder that these are things I consumed, not things that necessarily came out in 2016.

The movies list went longer than I thought, so it got it's own post. Here's the comics, books, and music list.

Books

I didn't read a lot of books in 2016, something I'm a little ashamed of. But Let me give you my top 5 that I read, anyway--in no particular order.


1. Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig was a great book. I've never been much an "extended universe"  kind of guy, but I love Chuck Wendig's books, and I love Star Wars, so it was an easy choice. I highly, highly recommend the audiobook from Audible as it was almost more like an audio play--Star Wars theme, laser fire sound effects, dramatic music. The narrator made distinct voices for every character--so highly recommend. The book itself is also great, and I'm stoked to start on Book 2.

2. The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle was something I picked up when I was looking for a spooky read. I don't know that I'd call it spooky. It was beautifully written, a heartbreaking look at the abysmal state of mental health care. It was very One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest with a supernatural bent. This was my first Victor LaValle book, but I will definitely be picking up more.

3. The Guild Conspiracy is FULL DISCLOSURE by my good friend Brooke Johnson. It's also a great book about a kick-ass girl using her position and knowledge to try to stop a conspiracy and prevent a war. It's a little less kissing than the first book, but I'm expecting there will be quite a fair amount in the follow up--you know as everything spins even more and more out of control. Fun, tense, and steampunky.

4. Ratf**ked: the True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy by David Daley is nightmarish and dismaying look at how Republicans have lied, cheated, and stolen their way using technology, subterfuge, and careful planning to steal local and state governments away, bit my bit. Using census data and advanced mapmaking, Republicans figured out which districts needed to be cracked, weakening Democrat footholds and strengthening Republican numbers, and which districts needed to be shoved together to ensure that all democrats were kept in one area. Disctricts were drawn in serpentine and ridiculous ways. They hired young Republican college students to pose as regular citizens and submit maps they "drew" that were passed to them by professional map makers. The book only pays passing lip service to how race factors into this, but the tactics on display are horrifying, but absolutley not surprising, especially in light of the 2016 election.

5. Buffering by Hannah Hart is not what I expected. Hannah Hart is known for being a very funny YouTube personality, especially for her series My Drunk Kitchen--which is gut-bustingly funny and you should check it out. This book is funny at times in a wry sort of way. But more often than not, it's poignant. She tackles coming to terms with the fact that she's gay and sorting through her feelings after being raised by an extremely religious man. It deals with her own struggles with mental health--anxiety, depression, ADHD--and being raised by a mentally ill mother with only 1 foot in reality more often than not. Powerful, moving, beautiful, and absolutely worth a read.



Comics

1. Deadpool Book 1 by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn is very funny. Deadpool is a character that has to walk a fine line. Humor is dangerous in how it can help and hurt. This book does a good job of being very funny while avoiding being hateful. As opposed to the Deadpool videogame which was a misogynist pile of trash from what I've seen in playthroughs.

2. Ms. Marvel being on this list is a bit of a cheat. I don't care the talk about specific books about Ms. Marvel. Each book is fantastic. Even when crossover events peak into the books, this book manages to keep its stories relatively untouched and enjoyable. G. Willow Wilson has a firm grasp of this character, and each time we get another outing with Kamala, it's a blessing.

3. Superman: Up, Up, and Away is a bit of a throwback. I went about buying up all of Kurt Busiek's run on Superman and Action Comics post Infinite Crisis. This book is the first after that event--Superman has lost his power in the event and has been living a full year as Clark Kent. Most of this book is Clark being Clark--which I would argue is the true Superman. He puts himself in danger, his life on the line, to help people because with our without powers, Clark is still Superman.

4. The Omac Project is one of the many lead up books to Infinite Crisis. But if you like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, and if you like the Keith Giffen and his era of the Justice League, you will like The Omac Project. Admittedly, the book starts strongest with the great Countdown to Infinite Crisis, but there are some great follow ups with Batman and the rest of the former Justice League that are worth a read, too. Plus - crazed robots taking over the world and heroes acting like heroes.

5. Justice League International Vol 1. by Keith Giffen et al is, as it is known, bwahahaha funny. While at times the humor can get just a little too silly for me and start to grate, the camaraderie of the group (and the oh-so-80sness of it all) makes it a fun read. Plus, Batman is funny for maybe the last time ever thanks to the likes of Zack Snyder and Frank Miller.

6. Superman: Redemption is another book from the post-Infinite Crisis Kurt Busiek run on Superman/Action Comics. This trade is one that's very personal for me in that it focuses on 3 biblically tinged stories. The last one is probably the weakest and goes a little up its own ass, but the stories of Superman dealing with his impact on the community and people's lives--some think he's a literal angel--is moving, sweet, and exactly my favorite type of Superman story.

7. Impulse: Reckless Youth by Mark Waid is, as I mentioned before, one of the first times I've felt myself really identify with a character. I know he's a speedster, but his need to constantly push faster and faster and keep himself stimulated is similar to how I feel, and I love his intelligence and cool confidence. Plus, grumpy grandpa Jay Garrick is fun.

8. Superman: Last Son of Krypton is another Superman book--did I mention I read a lot of Superman? My favorite type of Superman--other than "always does the right thing and saves people" is "SuperDad." Superman is most interesting to me when he's trying to impart his wisdom to someone else. SuperMentor is nice, but SuperDad summons ninjas to chop onions nearby. This is done very well, and feels like a spiritual successor to Superman I and Superman II from the 70s. They're doing SuperDad again in DC Rebirth and I am HERE FOR IT. But this can hold you over until those come out.

9. Superman: Escape from Bizarro World is the last Superman on this liste, I promise. But listen, this book is great because 1) Geoff Johns writes a hilarious and fun take on Bizarro, and 2) the back up stories--a sampling "best of" Bizarro from other eras in DC Comics--is also worth the price of the book. Seriously, this book is worth it for the appearance by the Bizarro Justice League.

10. Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash is not a book I can recommend easily. It's a fantastic book, don't get me wrong. Do you love Ash? You will love this book. Did you like Freddy vs. Jason and/or are you  fan of Nightmare on Elm Street? You will love this book. It has very Elm-Street twisted visuals, very Friday the 13th gore, and very Ash Williams snark. So funny. Also ungodly expensive, but if you can find the issues or the trade, it's absolutely worth a read.

Music

1. Coloring Book - Chance the Rapper

This is my 2nd favorite album I listened to in 2016. "Blessings" is my favorite song on the album, absolutely beautiful and heartfelt, with clever wordplay and references. "Same Drugs" is an interesting diddy that chooses to use drugs a metaphor for people growing apart--a risk that might not have landed for me, but folding in a Peter Pan extended metaphor means I find myself tearing up frequently throughout the song. SUCH a good album. If you like hip hop, pick this up.

2. Hamilton - Lin Manuel-Miranda and the Broadway Cast

I've listened to this more than anything else this year. It gives me courage when I need it--both when I need the motivation to pursue my own creative endeavors, and when I need to feel powerful and inspired to stand up against the tyranny I'm witnessing bloom in my own country. This musical means so much that I got one of it's lyrics tattooed on my wrist--"Rise Up." And that's what I plan to do in many ways in 2017--politically, personally, creatively. Let's all rise up.

3. The Hamilton Mixtape - Various

If you love Hamilton, there are some great bonus features included here--cut songs like Cabinet Battle 3 that tackles slavery, Angelica's tragically cut song following the Reynold's Pamphlet, and Hamilton's response to John Adams. It also features glorious re-imaginings of songs, or beautiful covers. Chance the Rapper's "Dear Theodosia" is raw and beautiful, Jill Scott's "Say Yes to This" is sexy as hell, "My Shot" gets me pumped every time I hear it, and "Immigrants, We Get the Job Done" makes me want to learn Spanish in a bad way.

4. Lemonade - Beyonce

Have you not listened to this already? C'mon. It's Beyonce. And more than that, it's Beyonce tackling every major music genre--country, alt-indie-rock, hip hop. It's a powerful album, a gorgeous album. It's Beyonce at the most raw, emotional, and human I've ever heard her--the humor, the sarcasm, the bitterness, the hurt, the love, and the joy on display will leave you speechless.

5. Death of a Bachelor - Panic! At the Disco

Panic! At the Disco is a goofy band. They mash up modern pop sensibilities and classic genres--frequently swing or big band music--and it always comes out a rip-roaring, fun time. "Death of a Bachelor" has a very Sinatra-esque croon, "Don't Threaten Me with a Good Time" is like the Hangover distilled into a song, and "Emperor's New Clothes" is exactly my type of weird, dark fun. Brendon Urie is very glam rock and having a blast wailing like a loon, and I love it.