In fall of 2012, one of the most awaited films of recent years debuted to audiences all over the world. Following on seventeen years since the Sylvester Stallone-starrer Judge Dredd, which was a massive disappointment, audiences finally had a Judge Dredd movie which actually looked cool from all the promos and which seemed to correct the mistakes of the past. Sadly, nothing worked out as intended. Whereas the previous film had at least made back some of its money and more besides, the new one failed to recoup its investment in the first place, and the budget was even half of what it had been before.
No doubt, several mistakes were made with the new movie, and they all contributed to what was eventually a box office flop. But since then, Dredd has gained a significant cult following. Whereas the theatrical release was a flop affair, the DVD/Blu-ray sales were highly encouraging. Stores, whether physical or digital, were constantly out of product. This was unexpected and on some level, this helped change perspectives. Now, there are talks of a sequel happening at some point, which is quite significant in and of itself. I can only hope that there is a sequel, because I enjoyed the movie. I pretty much loved it. Watch it with my highest recommendation.
In recent years, there has been a big shift in Hollywood productions. Slowly but surely, we are getting more movies featuring female protagonists. Many people would point to the Twilight franchise as an abomination and what not, but can you really argue with the results? The industry is in a situation where even such “bad” films can still do their part to raise the point clearly and with distinction that female-led movies can do well at the box office. But the kicker is the quality of such a heroine of course, and that’s where the movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ first The Hunger Games novel comes in.
The Hunger Games followed the Twilight trend of adapting young adult novels featuring female protagonists for the big screen, a trend that hasn’t worked out for some other recent adaptations unfortunately. It features a very awesome female lead who kicks all kinds of ass and who is strong by her own merits, by her own doings. She isn’t defined by the people around her. She defines them. Of course, it also helped that the story itself was quite good. I’ve seen the movie a number of times since watching the theatrical release, and it has held up pretty well. The sequel, Catching Fire, released a few months ago, went a few steps further and was equally good at the least.
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.
After yet another break, one of Image’s newest titles returned to shelves this past week with its sixth issue. Across the five issues we’ve had previously, writer Greg Rucka and artists Michael Lark and Santi Arcas built up a well-defined post-apocalyptic (of sorts) world around the protagonist Forever Carlyle, a genetically engineered and conditioned woman who acts as her family’s ambassador and head of security. Its been a fairly good series thus far, and I’ve enjoyed what the creators have done. This isn’t the type of story that would ever be told at the Big 2 and Image is a perfect fit for this title.
In the new issue, we continue to get a wider perspective of the world and the setting itself. We are able to see just how the world works and how the Serfs and Wastes are treated by the Families. This is by no means a happy setting, bleak in the extreme actually, and this issue shows that off nicely. In fact, it highlights how ruthless this world is. And the art is quite decent. No big scenes here this time, and everything is more or less a subtle play on the larger themes.
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!
As far as me experimenting with non-superhero comics is concerned, Image has been my go-to publisher of choice. They have an incredible diverse array of books out right now and they continue to add more each month. One of the new properties they added this year is Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus, a post-apocalyptic series featuring a female protagonist. With its 4-issue first arc, the creators set up a really great setting with some great characters and despite the extra one-month break in-between the last issue and the new one, my interest in the series has not dimmed at all.
The first arc ended rather explosively, with quite a few things going down and the new issue picks up where #4 left off so that we see what kind of a fallout those events have had and how the characters themselves have changed and adapted to suit the new status quo. Apart from everything else, Rucka and Lark take us back in to the past with a great flashback, and we get to see even more of the world as it has come to be. Particularly, we see what kind of events have shaped Forever as she is. And that’s a huge part of the fun of the new issue.
In an action-oriented anime like Arpeggio of Blue Steel or any of the Gundam series, it is always vital that the anime deliver on that promise and that the action scenes always be tense affairs with a fair sprinkling of tactics and strategy. This lends an air of realism to the anime and enhances the viewing experience, at least for me. In its pilot episode, Arpeggio delivered on that promise quite handsomely, more so for the fact that it featured extensive naval combat, which isn’t something that’s all that common really. And it did a fair job of introducing all the characters and the premise itself, so I was definitely interested in sticking with the anime for a while.
I saw the second episode last night and while it was a bit thin on character progression and even on story progression, it did satisfy some of my urges and held my interest from start to finish. The very fact that the anime features so much naval combat, on the same level as Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED: Destiny means that I’m liking it for the most part despite some of its flaws in the animation department. The anime looks visually appealing, quite a bit, but there are times the CGI fails to impress despite all the great little quirks.
Earlier this year Top Cow relaunched its Aphrodite series, giving the character a new spin by putting her in a post-apocalyptic future where mankind has mostly destroyed itself and is now divided into two factions, one that holds genetic engineering supreme and the other that holds machines supreme. The first arc was an absolute cracker and as a fan of the character from her appearances in Ron Marz’s Artifacts series, I thoroughly enjoyed the new take.
With the newly-released #6, Matt Hawkins and artist Stjepan Sejic begin a new arc that picks up some time after the end of #5. The lead-up to this has been quite good and Matt doesn’t disappoint with the story. Aphrodite has been targeted by both sides of the ongoing conflict and a new faction has entered the mix, someone familiar and yet very different. The fun is in finding out how all the characters are continuing to develop and where they are all headed, as well as all the revelations about who and what Aphrodite really is.
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!
I’ve been a fan of anime since my college days, when a friend got me hooked on stuff like Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and Rurouni Kenshin. In all my time watching anime, the mecha anime genre has really drawn my interest, the one genre that has really drawn me in. In recent years, I’ve attempted to branch out of that and watch some other styles of anime, like Death Note and Samurai Champloo. New anime on the block, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, bridges both interests. It is military SF with a strong naval combat twist to it.
I heard about Arpeggio of Blue Steel last week through an article on Kotaku that talked about the top 5 anime series to watch out for this fall. The description really intrigued me and so I decided to get it. I saw the first episode this weekend and I have to say that it is off to an interesting start. The first episode reminds me of the opening episodes for both Gundam 00 and Gundam SEED. They started off slow and picked up in later episodes. I just had to stick with it all.