Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Top Ten Best Comics/Graphic Novels of 2014

Seeing as the video game blog was a rousing success (at least as far as views on my blog go...), I am continuing the trend with comic books and graphic novels this time! What I love about top comic lists from people each year is that they are almost always completely different from one another. This post will contain both new series and continuing series (as this would be much more difficult to grade otherwise). As per the last blog, I'll give my selections with summaries to briefly explain. And we're off!!!

10. Usagi Yojimbo: Senso (Dark Horse)

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More Usagi Yojimbo is never a bad thing, as Stan Sakai continues to impress even after all of these years with the title. This is meant to be the final battle of our main characters and it shows. The story even follows with a sci-fi twist to stir things up! Good for both old and new readers alike, this is sure to be a finale for the ages.

9. Sex Criminals (Image)

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This one was quite unexpected, as the premise hinders on ridiculous. And yet somehow it all seems to work. Suzie and Jon have a unique ability in that whenever they have sex, time literally stops. They begin to use this ability to rob a bank. It's when they discover others with this ability who are trying to arrest them for their "misuse" of power that things really get interesting. Worth reading if you're looking for something different in your comics.

8. Seconds (Ballantine Books)

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Brian Lee O'Malley of Scott Pilgrim fame returns with a new graphic novel focusing on a girl named Katie, with dreams of starting her own restaurant. Things begin to slowly prevent her goals from becoming a reality and she wishes for a second chance. She gets that in the form of a mysterious girl who grants her the ability to do so with some magic mushrooms, but it is not without its limits. With humor, emotion, and just the right level of heart, this graphic novel delivers.

7. Captain Marvel (Marvel)

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Carol Danvers has become a very inspirational Marvel character, especially over the last few years since she first took the helm as Captain Marvel. What I love most about the writing of this book is that it doesn't make any kind of stereotypical plays on Carol being a female (like so many comics have before it). It's simply GOOD writing all-around, and that's what books like this should be. If you want a respectable female superhero to look up to, then look no further.

6. Edge of the Spider-Verse (Marvel)

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While this five-issue mini-series was merely meant to be a major introduction to the currently-ongoing Spider-Verse storyline, they ended up being excellent stories on their own. From fun to horror, these tales pulled you in like nothing we've seen from the main Amazing Spider-Man book in years. Come in for the Spider-Man Noir, stay for the Spider-Gwen.

5. Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream (Locust Moon Press)

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Over 100 illustrators and cartoonists worked together to pay proper tribute to Winsor McCay, with new Little Nemo comic strips done in the same style as the classic serial. This massive tone borderlines on overwhelming, and is a real demonstration of what kind of power Kickstarter can have on major industries. Just as beautiful as the original stories, and well worth visiting Dreamland for once again.

4. The Wicked + The Divine (Image)

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This one came out of left field and really impresses. The notion that gods are resurrected every 90 years for a two-year lifespan on Earth is interesting enough, but making those characters rock/pop/rap stars makes things even better. Part murder mystery, part fantasy, this was the dark horse of the list.

3. Saga (Image)

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As per previous issues, this series continues to be on the top of everyone's pull lists and for good reason. The story has maintained the same level of quality throughout its run so far, impressing you with both its unique visuals, and completely unpredictable story. If you are not reading this, then you are missing out on something truly special.

2. Multiversity (DC)

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Years ago, you would have never believed this story would ever show its face, and yet here it is in all its complexity. Grant Morrison originally planned this project for 2010, so the level of hype was certainly there once it finally surfaced. What we were given does not disappoint. Each issue works as a new #1 within its own part of the DC multiverse, which with you could continue the stories of later on. The scale is so massive, that a map was actually created to explain all of the different realms these stories will take place in. As with any Morrison story (love or hate the guy), you'll need to come into this one with your brain ready.

1. Ms. Marvel (Marvel)

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This was almost no contest at all. Not only is this book an absolute joy to read, but I can also see this completely changing the impact of comic books for the young women demographic (yes, it's THAT important). Kamala Khan is a young Pakistani American girl who inherits the Ms. Marvel title after Carol Danvers inherits the role of Captain Marvel. Kamala chose to go by the name Ms. Marvel because of the way she idolized Carol. Even if it was only about the superheroics, we'd still have an awesome title on our hands, but the fact that the story goes the extra mile and gives us Kamala struggling with her faith and her family just brings this to a whole other level of relatability for many. If continually done right, this book could have the same power over young girls as Spider-Man had on young boys for the past 75 years. It doesn't come much more ground-breaking than this, people!

Honorable Mentions

Hip-Hop Family Tree
Rat Queens
Moon Knight

Hope you enjoyed this list, like the one before it! Happy to hear your thoughts as well. Thanks for reading as always!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Top 10 Best Video Games Of 2014

I was debating whether I should bother making a list with summaries this year, but some outright disgust at some other websites' choices has caused me to take the plunge. My one rule is that I don't list any remakes or ports of something from previous years. Here are my top 10 Video Games of 2014!

(Also note, I haven't gotten to play Dragon Age: Inquisition, so I can't comment on it yet. I have no doubt in my mind that it would have been part of this list had I played it already though.)

10. Transistor (PC, PS4, Mac, Linux)

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The creators of Bastion brought this wonderful project to life. Another awesome action-RPG that pulls you in with it's simple, but fluid gameplay, and a welcome strong female protagonist to boot!

9. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

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If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Some may try to call this a rehash, but I doubt those people have actually played the game. This entry takes many of the best features from past Mario Kart titles and turns it into one of the best sequels yet. You can always count on Nintendo for fun factor.

8. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC, PS4, XBOX One, PS3, Xbox 360)

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This is easily one of, if not the best game set in Middle Earth to date. Combining some of the best elements of RPGs the Batman Arkham games, with a little Assassin's Creed thrown into the mix, you've got yourself one beast of a game. If Assassin's Creed Unity left you with a bad taste in your mouth, this will do quite nicely.

7. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (3DS)

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How do you make an already great game even better? Add more of everything! More music, more characters, and more goodies make this the perfect sequel. Rhythm-based games aren't going anywhere, and this is a great sign of that.

6. Dark Souls 2 (PC, PS4, XBOX One, PS3, Xbox 360)

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While not quite as polished as the original Dark Souls, this is still an amazing sequel. You'll die a lot, curse a lot, and still keep playing until you hit that next big bossfight... which you'll curse at even more.

5. Five Nights at Freddy's 1 & 2 (PC, Android, iOS, Windows Phone)

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Sometimes less can be more, and these games prove that in spades. A point-and-click survival horror series in this day and age? Absolutely! Between the absolute feeling of dread you get despite such a simple setup, and engaging backstory hidden within the lines, these are the must play horror games of the year.

4. Super Smash Bros. (3DS, Wii U)

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What even needs to be said about this one? The game causes more people to buy Nintendo systems than any other these days, and is a vast improvement over the last entry on the Wii. This game (just like the others) will hook you in for life with its great mechanics and awesome gameplay modes (multiplayer obviously being the biggest).

3. Bravely Default (3DS)

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If you've been having any doubts about the future of JRPGs as of late, your savior is here! Keeping everything you ever loved about classic titles from the RPG "glory days," while also removing all of the conventions that you hate, make this an absolute joy to experience. You'll actually feel spoiled by the time you go back to other JRPGs and realize how much work was put into this game. I for one can't wait for the sequel.

2. Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

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My issues with the blatant sexism in the series aside, this is without a doubt one of the greatest games to come out this year, especially for fans of action titles like Devil May Cry, God of War, and Ninja Gaiden. It has some of the smoothest controls and combat mechanics in any game of its type, and blows just about any other 3D action game out of the water. Every stage and boss fight will leave you feeling like you just climbed a mountain with ease, that's how pumped the action will make you.

1. Shovel Knight (PC, 3DS, Wii U, OSX, Linux)

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In an age where a lot of independent games are usually rehashes of classic titles with little bits of personality thrown in (for better or worse), Shovel Knight does just about everything perfectly. From the nostalgic 8-bit music to the odes of gaming's past (Mega Man, Castlevania, Ducktales, etc.), you will not want to stop. Even after you've explored everything and vanquished all foes, there's a New Game + mode just waiting for you jump back into the fray with. If you had an NES in your childhood then this game belongs in your collection without a doubt.

Honorable Mentions:

Wasteland 2
Wolfenstein: The New Order
inFamous: Second Son
Resogun: Heroes
The Banner Saga
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Azure Striker Gunvolt

So what were your thoughts on gaming this year? Agree or disagree? Thanks for reading either way!