It’s that time of the year again where we look at the pop culture emerges of 2016 and make a biased opinion about which one was the best. There’s three categorizes that I have in mind, it’s a contest with no prizes except for the reader to nod in agreement or claim outrage at my discerning taste in the mediums being presented.
Still here? Well, let’s get started after the bump
While there’s been some hot titles that have came out this year that were a thrill to blast through such as mowing down demons from hell in DOOM, there’s one game that I constantly play at least more than once a week.
That is Overwatch, the spiritual sequel to the fps staple as Team Fortress 2.
While many people claim that it owes quite a bit to the fore mentioned battling of Team Red vs Team Blue, there’s a few tweaks in gameplay and the detail to lore with it’s characters/setting set it apart.
It’s only short sight is that it’s aimed directly at being multiplayer shooter, there’s no single player features aside from a target practice session and the community of other players can be madly frustrating at times but the investment that Blizzard is making in this new IP has been reflected through this year with seasonal theme updates with new game modes, new character customization that keep me grinding to earn more mystery boxes for me to open.
A follow up to solid remake of tactic turn based strategy game, the stakes are more dire as this time around, you’re playing in a world where the aliens won and have taken over humanity.
Changes made to the game emphasis the tone of the story as at the start, it’s a real struggle to gain a foot hold of resistance against the overwhelming alien threat and I feel like there’s a better handling of the support staff characters as I generally cared about Shen joining in on a mission to find a relic left behind her deceased father.
Not to mention that each soldier has more options for their skill sets, expanding your tactics to use in the battlefield.
THE NICE GUYS
In a year full of franchises of all sorts, I’ve watched this film more often than anything else this year. What’s not to love about Shane Black doing a flick about some detectives that riff well of each other as Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling work so well of each other.
Set in the sleazy 70’s of LA, the tough guy for hire crosses path with half witted detective as they team up to figure out a murder mystery that escalates into a conspiracy with the automotive industry of Detroit. It was a refreshing vibe that felt like a genuine effort from the cast and Shane Black without any studio mandates even when it hedges along some tropes.
There’s plenty of quips but they have a real sense to them as just being part of the conversation. It’s funny in a sense how much the comic medium tries to convey the same sense of timing but usually, it just falls short of their goal.
My only dismay with this movie is that it didn’t do too well in theaters and if the flick isn’t part of some giant corporate franchise tent pole machine, good luck trying to get anything else greenlit.
It seems like this year had a running theme based on solving mysteries as this flick had plenty of charm as Judy Hopps, a bunny meter maid with big ambitions teams up with a sly fox con man named Nick Wilde.
Surprisingly, there was quite a bit of depth in story and character arcs as I never felt that it was aiming too low to keep the youth to pay attention. A lot of the usual Disney tropes like mandatory musical numbers were kept to a minimum, it got a bit dark at some points more often than not and there were some more “mature” jokes thrown in once or twice.
This pick was so hard to nail down. There’s been so many great series this year from all kinds such as Flintstones hitting some dark notes while being a generally funny update to stone age family. There’s Black Hammer, a nice pulp hero story with a focus on weight of superhero origins that become tragic and the relaunch of Doom Patrol with Young Animals line up, not to mention Shade, Cave Carson & Mother Panic.
Vision manages to edge out the usual cape picks and even manages to outdo all of Marvel as a whole. In a climate of comics that feels so narrow yet hailing itself as commerically progressive, the Vision turned out to be popular pick for the like minded media as it offers a spotlight on this longstanding member of the Avengers.
It’s interesting that I can’t really name a strong solo entry for this character as even Doctor Strange has managed to put out an interesting single series such as The Oath. You’d assume that at some point, someone would have given us an insight into this character.
Another interesting aspect about this series is the fate of the writer himself, Tom King. While making a strong debut both in DC main universe with Omega Men and in Vertigo side with Sheriff of Babylon, each title didn’t fare that well in terms of sales as Omega Men was going to get the cancel chop until the outrage machine declared it to be saved.
Vision in it’s floppy single monthly run didn’t fare that well either and Marvel missed a chance on getting any more material out of him as Tom King signed an exclusive contract with DC, getting a chance to helm Batman on twice monthly basis. This time around, the Bat drew in the sales numbers but I still feel like Vision stands as one of his best works so far.
The plot itself examines the modern family concept from Vision’s detached view of how it should be as he makes an idealized version of a family with two kids and a wife that live in the burbs outside of Washington, DC.
From there, it begins to unravel as the plot riffs fairly close to Civil War 2 as a prophetic warning is given to Avengers – The Vision will cause chaos and something must be done. It’s how the situation begins to unfold that is played in a darkly clever way and the perspective feels accurate to the point of view as told by Vision and his family members but also the sense of reclusive observe before taking action measures of the Avengers.
While I feel like Tom King has hit a peak with Vision, Lemire manages to put out a surprise here and there.
This time around it’s a series focused on pulp heroes that are left with a lot of time on their hands to reflect about the nature of their powers and the toil it’s taken on their lives as they live in a quiet exile in a farm town in the middle of nowhere.
Each character draws from aspects of certain popular characters but manages to put a twist on them such as Golden Gail that feels similar to Mary Marvel in a sense but her attitude of having to deal with the downside of being an adult trapped in the body of a magical powered nine year old girl makes the character feel fresh.
While this series is still fairly new, the origins are still being told and more we learn about the cast, the hints of where it’s leading to with the big mystery of why they’re in exile should be an interesting payoff.
That’s it for now as there’s some flicks that I still haven’t seen such as Arrival, some games that I still need to get around to on my giant library on Steam and always more comics to read so quick mention to The Fix, Reborn, Ether and Death of Hawkman for being rad as well.