Well, it’s officially New Years Eve, as it’s after midnight as I’m writing this, which I realized while I was working on the final piece of my Green Day review series. So due to timing I’m going to have to delay the finalization and release of that post for a couple of days, because it’s time for my annual year in review post!
As always, remember that this is just a guide to things that I’m remembering that happened and were important or noteworthy to me. Feel free to add your own memories of the things that happened this year by using our fantastic comments section!
I know for many people, myself included, 2014 was a tough year. Aside from things that may have happened in our personal lives, we’ve had some pretty big social and political issues, the most noteworthy, of course, being the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson. Many great and talented people were lost from the world this year, including Robin Williams, Joe Cocker, Christine Cavanaugh (better known as the voice of Chuckie on Rugrats, Dexter on Dexter’s Lab, and many, many others), Joan Rivers, Richard Attenborough, Carol Ann Susi (Mrs. Wallowitz on The Big Bang Theory), Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Elaine Stritch, Johnny Winter, Tommy Ramone (who was the last surviving member of The Ramones), Casey Kasem, Mickey Rooney, Maria Von Trapp (the last surviving member of the real life Von Trapp family, who inspired the classic musical The Sound of Music), Shirley Temple Black, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and the legendary Pete Seeger. This is nowhere near an extensive list, but just some of the tragic losses the world has faced this year.
However, while there has been much hardship and loss, there have been a lot of good things too! Let’s move away from tragedy and take a look at some of the best things 2014 has given us:
It’s been a pretty solid year for movies. Early on this year we were treated to The Lego Movie, easily one of the best animated features in recent memory — a film that starts out fairly silly but by the end has gained a more serious tone, and features one of the best twists I’ve seen in a long time — M. Night Shyamalan wishes he could write a plot twist as good as this one. In the spring, superhero fans were treated to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, hailed at the time as the best Marvel film to date — and given the impact it had on the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, including some huge repercussions for television’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it was certainly praise it deserved. Until August, when Guardians of the Galaxy came out and was praised with the same phrase — again for good reason. After the spectacular failure of Batman & Robin in the ’90s, it didn’t seem as though anything could bring camp back to superhero films successfully, but Marvel and the Guardians team proved that notion to be very wrong. Other superhero films include X-Men: Days of Future Past, which received a mixed-to-positive reception, certainly better than The Wolverine received a year or two ago. Michael Keaton and Edward Norton’s Birdman was released to much acclaim, as well; though not technically a superhero film, it features related themes, so I’m mentioning it here. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was released, and though I thought it was quite good and handled some important plot details very well, it performed poorly both with critics and at the box office; rumors abound lately that Andrew Garfield has been ousted as Spider-Man, and that Sony’s alleged dealings with Marvel to work out a joint copyright is a desperate attempt to recover from their “failure” with ASM2.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies came out in December to much fanfare and sadness, as it marks the end of the saga, both for the trilogy and for MIddle Earth as a whole, unless Peter Jackson surprises us all in a few years and decides to adapt the Silmarillion or some lesser-know Middle Earth-related book. In a somewhat related note (as the next film also stars Benedict Cumberbatch), The Imitation Game, a fictionalized film about Alan Turing, was also released, and though I’ve only seen the trailer I have heard positive things about it. Gillian Flynn’s phenomenal, mind-bending novel Gone Girl was adapted into a very well received film starring Ben Affleck. Transformers: Age of Extinction was released, finally bringing the franchise back to the big screen after three years; though film critics seemed particularly harsh on it, as a fan of the franchise (both film and otherwise) I can say it was excellent, and a huge step up from Michael Bay’s previous two forays. Despite low critical appeal the film performed well at the box office and to the best of my knowledge a fifth movie is in the works.
Other films this year include the surprisingly good Maleficent, featuring a chillingly accurate portrayal of the titular character by Angelina Jolie; teen/tween hits The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and The Fault in Our Stars; Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Lucy, which I would have wanted to see if not for the fact that it perpetuates the stupidest myth in the history of myths (that we only use 10% of our brains); and RoboCop, a tamed-down reboot of the ultraviolent ’80s classic.
Oh, where do I even begin? Most recently, Slipknot finally returned with .5: The Grey Chapter, a stellar new album dedicated to the late Paul Grey, longtime bassist for the band (my review of this album is forthcoming, after I finish up with Green Day!). Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 1 was released, and the title is certainly appropriate; it’s also quite unique in that the soundtrack is incredibly important to the film in a way you often only see in musicals. While movie scores are pivotal, they aren’t usually iconic, not these days anyway; Awesome Mix is not only a great mix of classic tracks but it actually drives parts of the plot and was so carefully selected and intertwined with the film that it’s impossible to imagine it with different tracks — or without them at all.
Bruce Springsteen released High Hopes, which, in my opinion, may be his best album in a long time — not that he was ever bad, of course, but his recent albums pale in comparison to this one, for me. Seether released Isolate and Medicate, which is a pretty solid album following their usual style. Ingrid Michaelson released Lights Out, featuring the hit single “Girls Chase Boys.” This is another album I have set for review at some point in the future, in case you were curious (I know you were). Gerard Way, former front man for My Chemical Romance (please get back together, guys…) released his first solo album, Hesitant Alien, which I really need to listen to…
And, of course, I’d be committing a grave sin if I forgot to mention Taylor Swift’s 1989, which certainly has my endorsement for album of the year (and, incidentally, is yet another album I plan to review). As usual with Swift, critics found plenty of things to complain about — things I plan to address and show why they’re ridiculous. Regardless, though, “haters gonna hate (hate, hate, hate, hate),” and their naysaying doesn’t change the fact that the album is, for lack of a better way of putting it, pretty motherfucking phenomenal.
All of this and so much more happened in music this year; it was just a really good year. I’m looking forward to seeing how 2015 will top it — or if it can.
Not gonna lie, I’ve been really out of touch this year with books, but I do know that Brent Weeks released The Broken Eye, which you’ll all be shocked to hear I have yet to purchase and read. J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst created and wrote, respectively, a novel called S. which I’m only about a chapter into and which can only be described accurately as an experience, rather than a book. Honestly, I’m not even going to try to explain the premise, so I’ll just link you (here). Stephen King released Mr. Mercedes early this year, which was excellent, and more recently he released Revival, which I don’t have yet. J. K. Rowling released another novel as Robert Galbraith, The Silkworm. And just a couple of days ago, on Monday, I came across The Anatomy of Zur-En-Arrh: Understanding Grant Morrison’s Batman, by Cody Walker, just released this year — which, if you know me and my taste in Batman comics, you can guess I was ecstatic to see on the shelf, and bought on the spot. There has certainly been a lot more going on in the realm of books, but, as I said, I’ve been out of touch with releases and such, and indeed have probably been catching up on older books more than reading newer ones lately, so I’m not the best source here.
It’s been a busy year in television. Community was cancelled and then quickly picked up by Yahoo. Doctor Who returned for a stellar 8th season; Sherlock finally returned for its third season. Arrow is still going strong in its third season, Flash spun out of it very successfully, and Gotham has been taking viewers on a dark journey through the city’s pre-Batman days. And on the occult side of DC, Constantine has started as well; from what I’ve heard, it has a similar tone to Supernatural (which has been having a successful 10th season this year, if tumblr is any indicator — and let’s face it, for this show, of course it is). Four promising sitcoms started and were soon cancelled — Bad Judge, Manhattan Love Story, A to Z, and Selfie. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came back for its second season, and while I’ve loved it rom the start, many people are only just now deciding it’s a great series — to thee I say the following: “Welcome!” “Better late than never!” and “I TOLD YOU SO!” How I Met Your Mother ended — horribly, I might add, in one of the worst botched series endings ever. Psych ended as well, though with a satisfying, if bittersweet, finale. And, certainly, a lot of other things have been happening too, but since I’m behind on all of my current shows and tend to stream most of my television at some point after it’s aired — anywhere from days to years after — this is another area where I’m a bit out of touch.
Of all the categories I’m choosing to cover here, this is probably the one I’m least familiar with these days; I don’t own any current gen systems aside from the 3DS, and gaming is such an expensive hobby that I’m not really as into it as I used to be. But I can tell you that this year has been wildly successful for Nintendo, who released long-awaited Super Smash Brothers 4 on both the 3DS and Wii U, as well as the much-demanded remakes of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire Versions on the 3DS. Along with SSB4 Nintendo released their Amiibo line of NFC (near-field communication) figures, which function similarly to the popular Skylanders and Disney Infinity figures — and some specific models of which are going for exorbitant amounts on the secondary market due to being short stocked. Nintendo also released The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS and Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U, as well as finally confirming a 3D remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Beyond this, there’s not really a lot of information I can give you, though; I’ve been very out of touch with gaming these last few years and even before that I’ve always been more interested in Nintendo. Your best source for information I’m not, but I thought I should at least mention what I did know.
If I’m weak in gaming knowledge, it’s partly because I devote a lot more time to comics these days. And this year has been spectacular for comics fans. On the indie track, Image has given us such fantastic titles as Shutter, the edgy and hilarious Sex Criminals, the indescribable-but-phenomenal The Wicked + The Divine, sci-fi western Copperhead, and the highly-anticipated and critically acclaimed Bitch Planet by none other than Kelly Sue DeConnick. All this in addition to the continuation of hit series like Morning Glories and Saga. Titan Comics started three Doctor Who series, one for each of the last three Doctors (Ten, Eleven, and Twelve), all of which are very good. Walt Simonson of Thor fame started a new Norse mythology series, Ragnarök, available through IDW. And there’s certainly many others, but though I’ve been turning more toward the indie/creator-owned scene, the vast majority of my reading list still consists of comics from the Big Two.
As for DC, we’ve gotten some great new content. John Romita, Jr. is currently providing art for Superman; it’s always a pleasure to see work from Romita, and doubly so with such a huge property as Superman. A new graphic novel was finally released for the Earth One series — Teen Titans: Earth One, Volume 1, and while it may be the weakest of the four Earth One titles currently in print, that isn’t saying much; it’s still pretty damn good. Next year promises at least two more in the line — Batman, Vol. 2 and Superman, Vol. 3, and while I don’t recall seeing anything official, I’ve heard that we may also finally get the long awaited Wonder Woman: Earth One, penned by Grant Morrison with art by Yanick Paquette. So next year should be quite exciting if you’re like me and love the Earth One books.
But I digress. This year we also got Batman Eternal, a pretty stellar weekly series. Batgirl got a new creative team and a badass new costume and aesthetic. Harley Quinn has her own (awesome) self-titled ongoing — the first issue actually dropped December 2013, but all that really means is that most of the series to date has been released this year. Honestly, though, although DC has been putting out a lot of strong content, I think I’ve started to lean more toward trade-waiting a lot of stuff from them. Additionally they have been putting a huge focus on universe wide events, doing things like taking a month off from regular storylines to have every series do a tie-in issue for some event they’re pushing. I’ve started to become a bit jaded where DC is concerned because of this; it feels like they’re more interested in sales than in telling good stories. But this brings us, then, to…
Marvel comics. Ah, Marvel, you’ve made 2014 an absolute joy for a comic fan like me. The Superior Spider-Man came to an end this year, bringing with it, at long last, the return of Peter Parker. A few months later we finally got a brand new Spider-Man 2099 series. There’s a new Spider-Woman comic, with the first issue featuring an alternate cover that caused quite a bit of controversy. Of course, the Spider-Man area of the Marvel Universe is particularly busy at the moment due to the awesome Spider-Verse (“Every Spider-Man ever!) event going on right now.
Other new series include the light-hearted and (so far) consistently great Silver Surfer, another wonderful DeConnick comic in Captain Marvel, and the breakout hit of the year, Ms. Marvel, starring Kamala Khan who can only be described as “adorkable.” We were treated to the most bizarre event in Marvel history, when Deadpool got married. Marvel also put out a pretty cool collection of stories for the company’s 75th Anniversary this year.
Now I’d like to take a second here and note that Marvel has had a lot of universe wide events this year as well — in particular I’m looking at Original Sin and Axis. But unlike DC, they manage to do tie-in issues that are actually part of the series they belong to, in addition to adding to the story of the main event. Here’s to hoping that they continue this pattern into 2015, a year that’s already looking promising for Marvel given that in just a few weeks they drop one of the most hotly anticipated titles of all time — Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!
Whew, that’s a lot of text. I guess that about covers all the important areas. Did I miss anything? What stood out for you and made 2014 special? Let us know in the comments, and of course, have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year’s, with best wishes for the year, from all of us here at 13/31.