So the last two episodes of the show were a mixed bunch. Tracks was fairly good but TAHITI not so much. All the same, the overall story was moving forward in an easy way, with lots of breadcrumbs along the way, so that’s a saving grace at least when it comes to the show, because it hasn’t been all that good about it, to date. Whether the show’s creative team is listening or not, they seem to be getting more things right these days than otherwise, so I still remain cautiously optimistic about the show. And if every episode could be like Ep 15 “Yes Men“, then man, this should be really freaking great.
Ep 15 marks the television debut of Lady Sif, played by the ever-wonderful Jaimie Alexander, who has only starred in the two Thor movies to date. And along with her we have the first ever live-action portrayal of Lorelei, one of Thor’s greater Asgardian villains. With Lorelei escaping her cell during the events of Thor: The Dark World and arriving on Earth, Sif is sent to bring her back in what proves to be one of the absolute best episodes of the entire season, probably the best episode. Ep 16 continues the story of Coulson’s team hunting for the Clairvoyant and running into Mike Peterson as well, who has been code-named Deathlok by SHIELD. This episode was confusing on a few levels and also perpetrated some of the worst excesses of the show, combined with an absolutely confusing final five minutes.
When Marvel launched its Marvel NOW! reboot in September 2012, I tried to get on board with the new Iron Man. I love the character and I wanted to translate that into reading the comics featuring him. But, I gave up with the first issue itself. The story was incredibly complex and confusing. I understood none of it. And for more than a year and a half, I ignored the series. Then I heard that a new arc was starting soon, and that it was going to be a sort of a major deal, so I decided to ignore my frustrations and see if I could get back into the series or not.
Going by this past week’s Iron Man #23, I have to say that the signs are incredibly discouraging. Kieron Gillen was decent enough on his Young Avengers and his Dark Angel one-shot for Marvel UK’s Revolutionary War event (review) was passable too. But, this issue is nothing of the sort, not by a long mile. The art by Luke Cross and Guru-eFX is decent, but its not particularly noteworthy. All in all, Iron Man #23 is pretty mediocre. Read on to see why.
When you are a reviewer and an avid reader as I am, you always end up with a mountain of books that grows week by week. And you always have an urge to read even more books because you find something that interests you and that you think could be a fun read. This is one of the reasons why I started my “25 Series To Read In ….” reading challenges (2013, 2014), because I wanted to make a dent in that reading pile. Or try to. For this year’s challenge, one of the series I picked is J. A. Pitts’ urban fantasy trilogy Sarah Beauhall, which has some of the most awesome covers I’ve seen.
The first novel in the series, Black Blade Blues, does a great job of introducing the character and setting up the slice of the world that Pitts has created. It is full of some great characters, Norse mythology, runes, dragons, magic, and more. Quite a potent combination. The Norse mythology connection was one of the other reasons why I wanted to read this series, and the reality has borne out the expectations, because Black Blade Blues was as fantastic a read as I was hoping for. Great story, great characters, great twists.
On account of traveling to and from India this past week, my comics reading took a back-seat, as did my novel reading incidentally. Very few comics read, but most of them were good at least, a saving grace.
Its been an interesting year for the movie industry, whether we talk Hollywood or Bollywood. Big tent-pole movies were the norm at the box office, and there were both successes and flops from each region. It can’t be denied either that some of the box offices successes have proved to be quite surprising, such as the runaway hits Frozen and The Hunger Games #2: Catching Fire, which continue to tell studio executives that female-led movies, especially action movies, CAN be successful if given a chance and that hiding behind ridiculous sexist attitudes and thinking just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Or let’s talk Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim which underperformed in the US but was a big hit in international markets and the reason for the former can no doubt be laid at the feet of the subversive trend in American media of trash-talking movies that are different.
But enough of that. This post, the first such that I’m doing, is meant to celebrate the movies that I thoroughly enjoyed this year, whether Hollywood or Bollywood, and that’s what I’m going to focus on here. So let’s have at it.
A few days ago I did my best of 2013 list for the books I had read in the second half of the year. In a departure from previous such lists I divided the books and the comics into separate posts so that I didn’t have one massive post up. Massive posts are a bit tough to handle, especially when you are promoting them on social media. And with the split posts, the directions are different and there’s no unnecessary crossover.
So, with the books already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite graphic novels of the year. A post with the best single issues will follow on later.
You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
For this new seasonal list of the best SFF characters I’ve read this year, my ninth pick is the Asgardian who doubles up on Earth as a Norse god, the mighty Thor from Jason Aaron’s phenomenal Thor: God of Thunder from Marvel Comics, a new series that started last year with the Marvel NOW! initiative and has consistently been one of Marvel’s top comics of each month. I credit Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic for helping me break into Marvel’s comics full and proper with this title and its been a damn good read throughout its run till now.
Hit the break to see why I picked this character.
For this new seasonal end of year list, the fourth book cover that I pick is Brian McClellan’s debut novel for Orbit Books, Promise of Blood, the first novel in the Powder Mage gunpowder fantasy series that, for me, does some really new things with magic systems. Additionally, it describes a very rich and layered world that is driven by politics on all levels of culture and society. And finally, Brian writes some great action scenes that definitely make it easy to visualise in the mind what’s happening on the pages. That in itself is quite fantastic.
And the fourth comics cover that I pick is the seventh issue of writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder. This is the series that really got me to read Marvel comics since it was the only comic from the publisher for months that I was following regularly. The two creators together wove a wonderful space operatic tale with fantasy elements and the comic featured regularly on my end of month lists, which can be found here.
So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
Agents of SHIELD is a show that often tests my patience. One episode will be good, another not so much. And this flip flop continues in a loop every two weeks. There’s almost a regularity to it. It is one of the most uneven shows that I’ve watched, which is saying something since I’m quite a fan of Joss Whedon’s other shows and the ones I’ve seen have all been excellent, losing steam only about the time that they hit their final seasons. The show is extremely promising, but it just doesn’t capture the imagination as well as it should be.
Last week’s episode was kind of a bore. It lacked all the excitement and character drama of the episode the week before. But this week’s episode somehow turns it around. It is better than last week’s episode, primarily because it makes a strong effort to tie-in to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. And there is some interesting character development as well, with regards to Agent Ward, one character on the show who desperately needs that kind of development.
Managed to read a handful of more comics this week, since there were a lot of titles released that I was really interested in, and a couple from previous weeks that I hadn’t been able to get around to at the time. As usual, it was all a mixed reading experience, with some really good comics mixed in with some bad ones and a few that straddle the fence between the two extremes. More positive ones than negative ones.
No graphic novels this week sadly, since this week was a real slog in reading, again, and I was struggling for time in general with everything else too. Perhaps this coming week can be different!
Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder has been one of the biggest successes of Marvel’s line-wide reboot. A lot of that undoubtedly has to do with the Thor franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe being such a big breakout success as well. The second movie, Thor: The Dark World, which launched last week has so far proven to be another big hit and has broken several box office records of its predecessor already. Jason Aaron has been going all-out with the series and its an approach that has clearly worked out.
The current arc stars the long-forgotten Thor villain Malekith, one-time leader of the Dark Elves of the realm of Svartalfheim. Broken out of his prison in #13, he has been waging a guerrilla war across the Nine Realms and it has fallen to Thor and representatives of some of the other realms to hunt him down and bring him back in chains. In #14 we see the League of Realms form, an Avengers-like team-up of warriors from across the Nine Realms, and we see their first outing together. In #15, we see them a second time and this time, a lot of emphasis is placed on the character drama between the characters, rather than on the action.