In a very, very late Friday Flashback, I bring you, dear readers, my Year in Review for 2013!
Music: Because of course I’d start out with one of my favorite categories, let’s take a look at some of the best music of the year.
ReAniMate 2.0: The CoVeRs eP — Halestorm’s second EP of cover songs dropped this year, back in October, with an eclectic mix of classic rock, classic metal, and… Daft Punk? Yep, America’s hardest rockers covered the dance-music duo’s massive hit “Get Lucky,” and pretty spectacularly at that. I’d go as far as to say it may be the best track on the EP. High praise, considering they also covered “Shoot to Thrill” by AC/DC and “Hell is for Children” by Pat Benatar.
NEW — After a spate of poorly-received albums, Paul McCartney is finally back and better than ever. While there are some pretty standard (but great) rock tracks, such as the opening “Save Us,” and “Everybody Out There,” the tracks which really shine are the title track, “New,” and the soft, stripped down “Early Days.” Both songs seem, lyrically, to look back on McCartney’s life and career, and are some of the most lyrically powerful and beautiful on the album.
“High Hopes” — Bruce Springsteen’s new album won’t drop until next year, but he released one of the tracks off of it in November. It’s a re-recording of a cover from 1995 of a song by Tim Scott McConnell, and features Tom Morello on guitar. It’s a pretty amazing track, and definitely worth a listen or twelve.
Love Lust Faith + Dreams — This is 30 Seconds to Mars’ fourth studio album, and it’s absolutely fantastic; in my opinion, it outstrips This Is War, which was a brilliant album in and of itself. From the hard-rocking “Conquistador” to the heartfelt “City of Angels” or the soft-but-powerful “Bright Lights,” there’s a lot of perfection on this album. The tracks flow perfectly together and follow a mostly obvious progression. It’s a shame the album didn’t get a single Grammy nomination, as it more than deserves it.
This year also saw the return of Fall Out Boy and Black Sabbath, the break-up of My Chemical Romance, and new albums from Paramore, David Bowie, Stone Sour, Elton John, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga among dozens upon dozens of other artists and albums.
Movies: Though not the blockbuster year 2012 was, this year still saw some pretty great releases. Of note:
Man of Steel
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Despicable Me 2
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Much Ado About Nothing
Kill Your Darlings
The Fifth Estate
The Book Thief
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
And, of course, dozens of others, including sequels to The Hunger Games, The Smurfs, and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, to name a few.
Comics: I’m sure most readers of this blog know by now that I’m a big comic fan; I mean, I’ve reviewed enough of them by now. Here’re some of the best and most important comics that I’ve seen this year.
Batman Incorporated, Vol. 2, #8 — This world-shaking issue in the final act of Grant Morrison’s Batman epic saw the death of Damian Wayne and the addition of a fresh, raw wound to Bruce Wayne’s already fragile psyche.
Death of the Family: Batman again, but this time a Bat-family-wide crossover arc with issues in Batman, Batman & Robin, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Batgirl, Teen Titans, Catwoman, Batman: Detective Comics, Suicide Squad, and Nightwing. The story saw the first appearance of the Joker since the start of the New 52, way back in Detective Comics #1. And boy was this story worth the wait. This is pure Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime at his finest — and his most terrifying.
Speaking of Batman villains, this year also saw the release of the quintessential Mad Hatter tale in Detective Comics.
Reality Check: I imagine that the inclusion of this mini-series is self-explanatory to anyone who’s read my review of #1.
The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story: Presented in a beautifully bound fully color hardcover edition, this original graphic novel chronicles the story of Brian Epstein, from the days when he first discovered the Beatles as a record store owner until his tragic death at the height of their career. From the poignant writing to the stunning art, the book is a worthy tribute to the man who may be the most important in Beatles history, while at the same time also the most overlooked.
Comics fans have also been treated to a number of other events this year. DC’s “Villains Month” included 52 comics focused on the biggest and baddest villains, with special edition 3-D covers; this all led into the start of the first universe-wide event since the New 52 began, Forever Evil. While we’re on the topic of DC, this year was also the 75th Anniversary of Superman, a year which included the start of Superman Unchained, a new series with fan-favorite Jim Lee providing the artwork. Meanwhile, Marvel put out a third Deadpool mini-series to complete their Deadpool Kills trilogy: Deadpool Kills Deadpool. Spider-Man is still “Superior,” but fans were treated to the brief return of Peter in the one year anniversary specials commemorating the end of The Amazing Spider-Man. Additionally, there was a bit of a bait-and-switch in the crossover special The Arms of Doctor Octopus, which hinted at the return of Doctor Otto Octavius — but you have to read The Superior Spider-Man Special #1, All-New X-Men Special #1, and The Indestructible Hulk Special #1 to find out the truth. Needless to say, the status quo has yet to be restored, and as a Spidey purist myself, I’m looking forward to Peter’s inevitable return — which has been confirmed for April 2014, so look forward to a review of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 around then. Speaking of returns, Superior also brought fans a much-requested treat in the long awaited return of Spider-Man 2099, in a three issue arc from #17-#19. In fact, 2099‘s Miguel O’Hara currently resides in the present Marvel Universe, displaced from his own time. More importantly, Superior #27 as well as various press events have revealed plans for a new Spider-Man 2099 series later in 2014. Also of note is the return of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and the start of Image’s rather off-beat but successful Sex Criminals — trust me, it’s not what it sounds like!
This is nowhere near a comprehensive list; a whole ton of important things have happened in comics this year, but I’m only one man and can only read so much.
Not gonna lie, I’m way out of touch with book releases from this past year. But as I’m sure many of you know, 2013 brought the release of the long awaited sequel to The Shining, Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. I’m sure there are plenty of other releases that I’m not aware of or not remembering, but I honestly wasn’t keeping up with book releases last year. So, readers, if you have a favorite book released in 2013, put it in the comments!!
2013 was a MASSIVE year for gaming. Pokemon X and Y released, and as all Pokemon games, were instant successes. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was re-released in HD, and the much anticipated A Link Between Worlds was released on the 3DS. The newest game in the Animal Crossing series, New Leaf, was also released this year; while the series has always sold well, New Leaf seems, in my experience, to have been a bit of a breakout hit, reaching across gaming demographics in a way that isn’t often seen these days. Nintendo released their 2DS, an unusually-shaped handheld with no clam-shell design, a feature which has been on every Nintendo handheld since the Gameboy Advance SP (excluding the very short-lived Gameboy Micro). The idea behind the 2DS was to provide a more cost-effective alternative for players who want to play the newest games but don’t care for the 3D features — such as older players who might experience more eye-strain, or children, for whom 3D is not recommended in the first place. Microsoft released the Xbox One, the hotly debated follow-up to the 360, and Sony released their more well-received PlayStation 4. Batman: Arkham Origins, the third game in the critically acclaimed series, was released to much fanfare. To be quite honest, I’m not as up to date on gaming as I used to be, but as I see it, those are the biggest landmarks this past year.
In the last category I’d like to discuss, I can say for sure that I’ve got plenty to add. This year was pretty fantastic for TV, providing viewers with such spectacles as:
Doctor Who: 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the British Sci-Fi series, and fans were treated to two brilliantly written specials. The Day of the Doctor was a movie-length feature in honor of the anniversary, uniting David Tennant and Matt Smith with the newly introduced War Doctor (John Hurt) to tell the story of what really happened during the Time War. The Time of the Doctor followed the path laid out a month before and brought Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor to a heartbreaking but fitting close, introducing Peter Capaldi as the newest Doctor.
Hannibal: The spectacularly gory show sparked the rise of a fandom overnight and became a big cult success — and given that the show got a second season due in large part to the very vocal fanbase, it seems it has a good deal of viewer support behind it. The new season starts tonight, by the way, in case you’re looking for something to watch.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: I know there’s been a lot of disappointment expressed with regards to Joss Whedon’s latest television outing, but I stand by my review posted months ago, back when the series started. It’s still one of the best things on television
Arrow: Season 2 kicked off a month or so after the events at the end of last season, and so far shows no signs of slowing down. The power dynamics have certainly changed, and a number of new players have been brought into the picture. Some old faces have resurfaced, as well, but I’ll say nothing else; I don’t want to spoil the surprises (and trust me, there are some BIG surprises).
Sean Saves the World: Sean Hayes of Will & Grace fame stars in this comedy about a single gay father trying to balance work (with a crazy boss), his teenage daughter, and his spiteful but loving mother. It’s easily one of the funniest shows on television this season… or, it was, until it got unceremoniously cancelled. Alas, it seems another show has fallen down the path of other masterpieces such as Firefly…
I’m absolutely positive there’s more — such as Season 4 of Haven, or the first season of Under the Dome. Mom is another spectacular comedy, and that one’s still on the air — I suppose it’s a bit more mainstream than Sean Saves the World, though, what with dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, single mothers, uproariously dysfunctional families… yeah, you know what, I love it, but I don’t know why this one hasn’t been cut just on the basis of content.
So that’s that, at least as far as I can think of. Anything to add, readers? What struck you as particularly good or important last year? Or, what did you think was a spectacular fail? There are no wrong answers here!
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