Thursday, December 31, 2015

Devlin's Domain - My Only Friend, The End ( 2015 Year In Review)



Of course I have waited until the last minute to throw together my review of 2015. While 2015 was a personal disaster for me, I have managed to find some pleasant distractions from the perils of this hollow existence. I'm not going to do a top ten list or declare anything the best. There's so many things I've managed to enjoy and it would be difficult to assign one thing a better position than another. What I will do is talk about different categories of entertainment, for better or worse, that I have an opinion of. So enter the Domain and see what has been brought to us in this foul year of the Dark Lord, 2015.



Comics

I've loved the comic book medium since I was a wee lad, but somewhere down the line I lost interest and motivation to keep up with them. For uncertain reasons that interest was revived towards the end of 2014 and I have read more comics in 2015 than I have my entire life. I've finally finished stories I had started years ago like Preacher and Sandman. I've started reading classics like Transmetropolitan, From Hell, Swamp Thing, and Grant Morrison's runs on Batman and JLA. Of course these are from the past and you're interested in what 2015 brought in, so let's look at this year's offerings.

One of the biggest releases of this year has been Marvel's Star Wars related comic series. The main series fills the gap between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. It has delivered some insane moments that fans may or may not have wanted. I have been enjoying the series thoroughly along with the Darth Vader series which runs parallel in the same timeline as the main Star Wars title and crosses over occasionally. Marvel has also released mini series within the Star Wars Universe such as Princess Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, and Journey to the Force Awakens: Shattered Empire. While they have all been decent reads, none of them have been quite as interesting as the two main ongoing series.



Before this year I hadn't kept up with the superhero books of the big two companies. But with the hype of each company's big events that promised big changes to their titles, I was drawn in. In preparation for DC's Convergence event I stocked up on back issues of Future's End and Earth 2 which were supposed to be the main titles feeding into the event. While Future's End was a colossal clusterfuck of time traveling nonsense, Earth 2 turned out to be a compelling title. The only problem with Earth 2 was that it played out like a season of Dragonball Z, where the world was ending in every issue and it took months to culminate into any actual destruction. Convergence kicks off right after Earth 2's destruction. It becomes apparent in the first issue that the entire purpose of the event is to provide Earth 2's heroes with a new planet, thus rebooting their series. The event turned out to be a lackluster endeavor. The tie-ins which seemed to advertise big battles between heroes from different timelines and dimensions offered very little in terms of action. The main Convergence title had it's interesting moments, but was kind of boring and ridiculous overall. What the event did accomplish, however, was the revival of the multivariate. This would allow writers to play within different realities and release independent stories outside of the main continuity.

Despite being disappointed by the Convergence event I hung in there a bit longer to see what the new DC was going to deliver. At first I had low expectations after seeing the remodeled versions of Batman and Superman. Superman now being a shadow of his former self and donning a costume that was basically a t-shirt and jeans. Batman now being Commisioner Gordon in a robotic bat suit didn't seem very appealing either. The writers managed to pull it off though and these became my favorite series of the new DC. Suicide Squad, Justice League, Green Lantern, Omega Men, Constantine, Dr. Fate, and Midnighter were a few quality titles to come out as well. Sadly one of my favorites of this year, Gotham By Midnight, didn't catch on and is being cancelled. Grant Morrison's mindfuck, Multiversity, was probably my favorite DC hero book this year.



The next big event was Secret Wars from Marvel, which has turned out to be leaps and bounds better than Convergence. Alex Ross's cover art has been gorgeous as always. Jonathan Hickman's writing has been astounding and Esad Ribic's artwork is mind bogglingly detailed. Of course the quality of the books has caused some delays and they haven't been able to finish the series before the launch of Marvel's new #1s. I'm not complaining because I personally prefer higher quality books and I am patient enough to wait to start reading the new series. I'm honestly more of a DC guy, but the quality of the Secret Wars book and it's tie-ins really puts Convergence to shame. Due to the delays of Secret Wars I have no opinions on the new Marvel titles, because I don't want to risk being spoiled. So far the only title I am really looking forward to is Jason Aaron's Doctor Strange.




Finally there's the Indy books from Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, and Avatar Press. I usually read more Indies than anything else, but the big events this year consumed most of my reading time. I was able to hit a few quality books from the lesser known publishers though. Alan Moore finished up his run on Crossed+100, further pushing the boundaries of decency in comics. Definitely written for mature readers, this book was chick full of frontal nudity, profanity, and intense violence. That happens to be my cup o' tea. After finishing up there he started on the limited series, Providence, which explores the world of H.P. Lovercraft. The old man is showing off that he still has it, and I can't wait to see what he does next.

Image was steadily kicking out the hits this year. Scott Snyder's Wytches took a new spin on witches and made us afraid of the woods. The blatantly feminist, Grindhouse-style, women-behind-bars-in-space tale, Bitch Planet has made waves for female writers in comics. Jason Aaron continues to deliver the goods with Southern Bastards. Being from Alabama, I can really identify with the psychotically religious, football obsessed culture he portrays in this book. Invisible Republic offers up a political thriller in a dystopian future. The Walking Dead continues to draw in readers with it's post-apocalyptic mayhem. Finally, Grant Morrison's Nameless begs you to question, "what the fuck did I just read?".

I haven't visited much of Dark Horse or Valiant this year. Dark Horse has put out an interesting tale called Harrow County, which I've heard may be making it's way to television. Brian Wood's Revolutionary War tale, Rebels, has been pretty good so far. Valiant is making some noise with it's Book of Death event. I have all collected all the issue for the event, but have yet to read them. Hopefully it's as good as I've heard.

Television

What a year it's been for television. It's been nerd heaven this year. Marvel and DC are making their mark in the television market. Premium channels, Netflix, and Amazon are cranking out quality original series. There's more to consume than possible at the moment. Due to time constraints, I've had to pick and choose what to watch. So here's a rundown of things I've managed to enjoy.



CW has defied my previous expectations with their brand of DC superhero shows. Arrow being the weaker of the two is trying to reinvent itself with this latest season. They've renamed The Arrow as Green Arrow to be more comic accurate and renamed Starling City to Star City. There's a lot of haters for the show, but it's grown on me since the overly teeny-bopper first season. Flash has been bringing way more than anticipated to the table. It has successfully brought us characters that could've easily been too campy and made them work. We now have the multivariate in the DC T.V. Universe, which will bring more possibilities for the series to experiment with. Not to mention both the series are feeding into next year's Legends of Tomorrow, which looks to be fantastic. Then there is Gotham and Supergirl competing against each other on their respective networks. I've enjoyed Gotham aside from some nitpicky complaints. Not the best show out, but I've seen worse. Supergirl seems to be in a better place than where it started. The last few episodes have hooked me right when I was about to give up on it. Let's hope it gets even better.



DC isn't without competition though, because Marvel is putting out some quality television as well. While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter were probably my least favorite comic related shows, they were still pretty enjoyable. I liked how they tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. Then there are Marvel's Netflix Original Series that debuted this year. First there was Daredevil, which took a darker tone and raised the bar of what a comic book show could be. Then the relatively unknown character of Jessica Jones shows up and raises the bar even higher. It's hard to pick which of the two I prefer. I like both for different reasons. Overall these were my two favorite comic related shows of the year and I can't wait for what Marvel and Netflix bring us in 2016.

Netflix has been putting out quality series pretty regularly. I haven't kept up with all of them, but I have enjoyed the villainous Frances Underwood in House of Cards. Kevin Spacey brilliantly portrays the bad guy you love to root for, or maybe that's just me. I've always been a fan of villains. Then the Wachowski's put out Sense8 which is loaded with social commentary about race, religion, sexuality, and gender. I enjoyed this one more than I expected and hope we get a second season soon. Last but not least, Netflix released a short Revival of one of my favorite shows from yesteryear, Mr. Show. This series is called W/Bob &David, named after the two lead actors. These guys were hilarious on Mr. Show and it's great to see that their still hilarious 2 decades later. Gawd I feel old.



Now on to the premium shows. HBO has made a reputation on the quality of it's original series. This year is no different as Game of Thrones leads the pack. This show is so great and I kind of hope it never ends. But of course a proper ending would be better than having it go on until everyone loses interest. True Detective fell off a bit since the first season, but still managed to make a show about cops interesting. Cinemax has brought us the chaotic, unrealistic, bloodbath called Banshee, which is fueled by excessive sex and violence. It's been a fun ride but sadly the next season will be it's last. I've recently started watching Ray Donovan on Showtime and ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Still on Season 1 so I can't say how it was this year, but I'll get to it eventually. Starz somehow managed to put out the show I've been hoping for for years, Ash vs. Evil Dead. I couldn't be happier with this one. It keeps the tone of the previous movies while improving on special effects. Plus Bruce Campbell reprises the role of Ash and kills it as usual.



AMC is still rolling with the Walking Dead and even released the spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead. While Fear isn't quite as good as the main series, it's still a decent show and shows a different angle of the zombie apocalypse. Some people are getting impatient with The Walking Dead's slow pacing and how it drags out the story to fill it's episodic quota. I don't share that opinion and appreciate how they build the suspense every episode. I've been known to have more patience than most people though. I haven't had a chance to check out Better Call Saul, but it's on my shortlist. I'm also anxiously awaiting AMC's take on Preacher. It's one of my favorite comics and I hope they manage to do it justice.

Movies


I've seen some list already for the best films of 2015. I think some films may have been forgotten since they came out earlier in the year and didn't make some lists. A few of those are Chappie, Ex Machina, and Kingsman. Kingman was based on a comic by Mark Millar and ended up better than expected. The previews didn't reel me in but I'm glad I gave this one a chance. Chappie was neglected at the box office and it may be because of ignorant preconceptions. I heard a lot of people comparing it to Hugh Jackman's other robot movie, Real Steel. Of course these people never saw Chappie, because they couldn't be more different. While Real Steel was a live action version of Rock'em Sock'em Robots, Chappie was an intellectual film that explored the pros and cons of artificial intelligence and questioned what life and consciousness were. Ex Machina entered the same territory, but in a different, darker way.



Marvel continued to set the standard for comic films this year with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. While Avengers had more star power, higher budget, and a bigger scale, I think Ant-Man's presentation may have been better. It was able to focus on one character and tell a humorous, action-packed story, while Avengers was so crowded and all over the place that it felt rushed. I thoroughly enjoyed both films so they were neck and neck for me.



Mad Max: Fury Road busted out out of nowhere and redefined what an action movie could be. This was one of the best films of the year in my opinion. There wasn't a lot of dialogue and there wasn't much of a plot. But it turns out none of that really mattered, as the story was told with intense, insane action sequences that I will never get tired of watching.



Two franchises were renewed this year. One being the Jurassic Park franchise, with the release of Jurassic World. I enjoyed the original Jurassic Park a lot more, but I did like seeing the park presented as a fully functional tourist attraction. It was a pretty good revival for the film series, but I can see the sequels getting repetitive very fast. The second and most exciting franchise to be renewed is of course Star Wars. After 30 years longtime fans finally get to see the original cast reprise their roles in what looks to be one of the biggest film releases ever. Besides being a clone of A New Hope, the film managed to blend equal parts nostalgia and new material. Old characters helped establish new characters for a new generation of fans. It's looking like we'll have plenty of Star Wars movies for years to come.

I didn't make it out to the theaters much this year so I don't have a huge list of movies to ramble about. There were disappointments like Fantastic Four, Man From U.N.C.L.E., Terminator Genisys, Poltergeist, Jupiter Ascending and Self/Less. Hidden gems like The Gift, Knock Knock, Green Inferno, Child 44, and Dark Places Plus there are movies I have yet to see like Crimson Peak and The Martian. I'm hitting up Hateful Eight this weekend so that's going to have to go on next year's rundown.

Wrestling

The last category for the 2015 rundown is wrestling. This may be the only redeeming thing for me in this scrappy year. My tag team partner, Johnny Danger, and myself formed the Danger City Demons team late last year and have spent all of 2015 trying to carve a place for ourselves. Through a lot of hard work we managed to become the 2015 Tag Team Season Champions at our home base of Platinum Championship Wrestling. We're not planning on slowing down and we're going to hit 2016 with guns blazing. So if you want to come check us out sometime you can catch us every first and third Saturday at 2001 Main St. Porterdale, GA 6pm.

Enough about us and on to the guys who actually make money. I'm a huge fan of the Ring of Honor and New Japan products. Unfortunately I don't have cable and can't keep up with those two or TNA. I have attended two ROH shows this year though and they were both awesome. So since I can't fairly comment on the other promotions I'll have to stick to the McMahon monster since I do have Hulu and the WWE Network.



It hasn't been the best year for WWE. The roster has been plagued with injuries so a lot of guys who could potentially be up top have been sidelined. Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Goldust, Sami Zayn, and Hideo Otami are just a few who have been put out of action. Cesaro was just starting to get a lot of attention and could've been a potential headliner. Seth Rollins had to forfeit the World Title as a result of injury. Sami Zayn was just called up to main roster when he suffered an injury while competing with John Cena. Hideous Otami had just established himself as a major player on NXT before he was injured. This leaves a he company in it's current state with Roman Reigns as a champion the audience has to settle for because they hate him less tha Sheamus.



There have been some great moments this year despite all the nonsense. Brock Lesnar continues to destroy everyone on a part time basis. Wrestlemania turned out to be a pretty good event, with the finale crowning Seth Rollins as a surprise winner of the World Title. John Cena's U.S. Title Open Challenge delivered some excellent matches and helped establish a lot of younger talents, most notably Kevin Owens. We got to see Sting finally compete in a WWE ring, even if it wasn't the best of circumstances. The Undertaker returned for a short run with great matches against Lesnar and a not so great match against the Wyatt Family. Then there was Seth Rollins title reign that presented him as a beatable champion who had great quality matches and always managed to come out on top.



Also under the WWE umbrella is their developmental brand, NXT. It's ironically a better show for a number of reasons. It's presented like a glorified Indy promotion and consists of wrestlers who have made a name for themselves on the Indy's and wrestlers who are fresh out of training. The storytelling in NXT is more old school and less sports entertainment. NXT is also the place where what is now known as the Diva's Revolution was started. The female wrestlers were often performing better than the men in NXT, thus the Diva's Revolution was born. Unfortunately the attempt to maintain that momentum on WWE's main roster with the signing of Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch has failed. A lot of talent from NXT that moves to the main roster tend to get lost in the shuffle regardless of their previous popularity.

With a one hour show every week and a big two hour event every couple months, NXT is consistently putting out a better product than it's big brother. Hopefully the stars in the making like Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Asuka, Bayley, Jordan&Gable, Baron Corbin, and Apollo Crews don't suffer the same fate as their predecessors. The Ascension were the longest reigning Tag Team Champions on NXT and are now doing jobs as Stardust's lackeys on the main roster. I'm hoping WWE can tap into what is making NXT so successful and improve their own product. Otherwise wrestling fans may start tuning out if they haven't already. If WWE can't recover than one can only hope this opens the door for other promotions to gain some fans and maybe give the McMahon empire a little competition for once.

Fin


Well that was terribly exhausting. This year was longer than I previously thought. Despite my own grievances with 2015 it doesn't seem all that bad as a whole. Plenty of good stuff happened in the entertainment realm, regardless of the shitstorm that's happening in the rest of the world. There's plenty of good shit to look forward to next year. It's going to be the biggest year yet for sci-fi and comic fans with Batman v. Superman, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Star Wars: Rogue One, Star Trek: Beyond, and plenty more just ahead of us. It's never been a better time to be a geek.

I'll get back to movie reviews next time in Devlin's Domain. I'm so ready for this year to kiss my ass. This is Devlin signing out for 2015. Live long and prosper.


About Me: I have a couple of different aliases, but for this column I will use my middle name. I am Devlin and I currently reside in Atlanta, GA. 32 years of age and still feeling immortal. Former Rockstar, current Pro Wrestler and hell, I'm still a Rockstar at heart. I got my first taste of obscure cinema when I was about 8 years old. My Dad would take us to the video store every weekend to stock up on classic horror films to watch on his projector. They were mostly harmless, PG-rated horror films like the great Universal monster movies. Then one night he rented a movie for himself to watch after we had gone to bed. I was so intrigued by this film that I wasn't allowed to see. I begged and begged and he eventually caved. That night I was exposed to a film unlike anything I had seen before. Ever since that night I wanted to find more films that gave me that same sensation. I wanted to feel shock and disgust. I found my place in the Horror aisle. The film I watched was Faces of Death. Thanks Dad.
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