Help me out here. Every once in a while, the fine people at SFSignal (SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog) ask me to participate in their MindMeld feature, an ongoing series in which a ragtag group (writers, rum-runners, bureaucrats in alien ministries, etc.) is asked a genre-related question. Past topics have included: MIND MELD: What Cultures Are Neglected in Science Fiction and Fantasy?, MIND MELD: The Best Women Writers in SF/F and, just in time for the holidays – MIND MELD: Great Gift Ideas For Geeks and Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans. [Check out the archive here: Mind Meld). Anyway, for their next MindMeld, they’re asking: “What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows you consumed in 2011? Not necessarily new in 2011, but new to ‘you’ in 2011.”
Hmmm. That’s a tough one. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to check out as much genre-related fiction as I would have liked this year. In retrospect, it was time that would have been better spent checking out a few of my favorite authors or screening some SF, Fantasy, or Horror films. Ah, well. Live and learn. Anyway, I’m trying to put together a list and, frankly, having a difficult time. Looking back over my book list, I have one genre-related work I really, REALLY enjoyed. Plenty of comic books (thanks to this late reading spurt), a single t.v. series, but no movies. Did I miss something? Of course, I would know better than you but seeing as how I’m having a tough time remembering, maybe you could all help jog my memory. Help me prep! What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows I consumed in 2011?
I’m, of course, helping my cause by testing the comic book waters – and by “waters”, I mean a veritable “sea of comic books” – practically every ongoing series out there. Here the deal: I pick up at least 3 issues of each title, read ’em, and if I like ’em, I’ll continue following the series. If I don’t like ’em, I move on. So far, I’ve checked out 20 books and am sitting on a record of 11 likes and 9 not-for-me’s. A little over 500. That isn’t that surprising. What IS surprising is the titles have impressed and those which have failed to grab my interest. This long-time reader of the Avengers and X-Men has yet to find an Avengers or X-book to follow. On the other hand, titles I simply checked out for form’s sake, assuming they wouldn’t capture my interest, have impressed (Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns anyone?) But, as they say: “That’s why you play the game”.
Continuing the game play…
Hmmm. So here’s the thing: I was a huge fan of Mark Waid’s run on the Flash, so any subsequent take on the character is probably going to pale in comparison. Like this version. With all due respect to Barry Allen, I miss Wally and Linda and, while I found the book’s premise interesting, it didn’t really grab me. There were too many confusing moments in the narrative, either moments I assumed were flashbacks that actually weren’t, or strange reactions on the part of the characters. After thwarting a terrorist attack and discovering that one of the terrorists killed in said attack was an old friend, Barry is paid a surprise visit by the formerly deceased friend. Suddenly, they are on the run, being chased by a group of men. Rather than ask what the hell is going on, Barry says: “At least tell me it’s not over a woman.” and, later: “Seriously. How many angry husbands are chasing us?!”. He’s either incredibly naive or trying to lighten the mood. If it’s the latter, however, I don’t know why he’d waste time joking around when the obvious thing to do would be to ask his newly-undeceased buddy what the hell is going on? In issue #2, there’s a moment when he reveals he is able to see everything before it happens, weigh every possible outcome, and make the right choice. In the supporting visuals, it’s pretty clear that he is able to glimpse the future. If so, this is HUGE and makes one wonder how he could possibly ever make a wrong decision. A tricky development that risks undermining the tension of the series if he’s as powerful as we’re led to believe.
Verdict: Despite the nifty shock ending to issue #3, it’s not a series I’ll be continuing.
AVENGERS ORIGINS: VISION, LUKE CAGE, ANT-MAN & THE WASP, SCARLET WITCH & QUICKSILVER
I think these stories would appeal more to new readers who could use a primer on the origins of these various Avengers. For my part, I already know their backstories (with the possible exception of Luke Cage which, I suppose, is why I found his dedicated issue the most interesting of the bunch) so I found it hard to emotionally invest in the narrative. Having said that, I think that some of these one-shots (Vision) work better than others (Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver) in delivering a engaging and nuanced narratives.
Verdict: Covers familiar ground for me. As such, not a series I’ll continue reading.
My thoughts about the Flash’s newfound abilities (see above) remind me of the problems I (and many others) have with the Superman. He’s just too gosh darn powerful. Outside of some handy kryptonite, how are you going to stop the guy? Well, as it turns out, this latest version of the Man of Steel is a little more vulnerable, a little more human, and a lot more interesting. Still, I had mixed feelings about Action Comics. I liked this new scaled-down Superman, the younger/goofier Clark, his budding friendship with Jimmy Olsen, the annoyingly petulant Lex Luthor, and the art by Rags Morales (whose work I enjoyed immensely on Hourman). I didn’t like the elements involving Lois’s father, General Lane. Yes, I know it’s not new, that this version of the character was introduced back in the late 80’s, but it feels like ground already trodden by Marvel with The Incredible Hulk. Also, not a fan of Big Blue’s short-sleeved look.
Verdict: There’s enough here to keep me onboard for the time being.
I join the X-Men’s adventure already in progress as they are trapped on a hostile world in another dimension. Again, some of the characters feel slightly different here than they do in other X-titles. Emma Frost, for instance, feels more haughty and erudite than other versions, a true ice queen while Magneto comes across as – well – dreamy. I preferred the ensuing story involving an oppressed nation’s attempts to secure an army of sentinels for their national defense but still experienced a few bumps with certain developments, chiefly the ones involving Domino. Why would the bad guys assume she’s dead? Not only do they not bother checking her vitals (which surely would have revealed she was very much alive), but they fast-track her to the autopsy room from where she makes her escape. Felt like a bit of a cheat.
Verdict: Still looking for an X-book to follow.
Overall record: 12-12
28 thoughts on “December 1, 2011: Help me out with this upcoming Mind Meld! The comic book report!”
Wow a post before I fall asleep!
“What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows you consumed in 2011? Not necessarily new in 2011, but new to ‘you’ in 2011.”
Would Game of Thrones fit? Dragons, magic– seems right. 🙂 Certainly superb.
“What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows I consumed in 2011?”
“Falling Skies”, particularly the introduction of John Pope (Colin Cunningham) in the second hour of the series premiere
John Scalzi’s AGENT TO THE STARS
@ PBMom – from your comment yesterday…you mentioned finding out your dog loves grapes. My dog does too, HOWEVER, grapes are on the “Do Not Feed to Dogs” list. So be careful with your beautiful baby.
Hmmm… I never picked up a new show this year. I watched an episode and a half of Once upon a Time but just couldn’t get into it. The last 2 shows I picked up were Sanctuary and Doctor Who which I started fall 2010.
And I’ve only seen the major scifi movies that came out this summer. And the Muppets. The Muppets was AWESOME!
Come to think of it, I saw Torchwood for the first time this summer. Children of Earth was amazing. But I did not enjoy Miracle Day as it was too Americanized. I enjoyed early Torchwood because it was British.
Other than that all I do is throw in a DVD of Stargate and watch them over and over again 🙂
@Ponytail OMG. I’ve poisoned my baby! I think that might disqualify me from adopting Joe and Tara. Call DPS on me (Doggie Protective Services). Thank you SO much for telling me this. I had no idea. I just googled it and saw that as little as 7 grapes can give a dog kidney failure. She had 3. But she was put on steroids on Tuesday for itching that hasn’t been controlled with Benadryl. I owe you, BIG TIME. I’ll keep my eye on her.
I’m headed to bed–I’ll re-read the post and comment tomorrow (after I get home from setting up the book fair–one of my volunteers is sick, so that leaves me and an elderly woman who I’m not going to allow to be on ladders–I drafted the husband because it is his day off). Night all!
Hmm, I’m curious why they gave Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver backgrounds in that comic but not Polaris. She’s my favorite. I guess she’s their half-sister and thus not as important. 😛
New to me (and kind of new in other ways): X-Men : First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger.
New only to me: American Gods.
New all around: Terra Nova. It’s got so many problems, but man, I love that show nearly as much as Stargate.
Go for it! And good luck!
Thanks for the link! 🙂
No, I haven’t seen ‘Case Histories’ 🙁 , but I’d like to; I’ve liked Jason Isaacs since I saw him years ago in ‘Capital City.’ He’s a great actor. 🙂
(Your Italian Cream Cake sounds scrummy! :-D)
Hey, das, there’s a series coming about Morse’s younger days! Check out Tam’s link to Masterpiece Mystery! 😀
No, I don’t like scenes of torture or of violence of any kind, either, but it’s difficult to avoid them when they’re so prevalent in popular culture. I can just about tolerate them if they’re essential to the story (though I’ll have to close my eyes, cover my ears, run screaming from the room) but I hate gratuitous violence. It doesn’t add anything to the story for me, and, as you said before, can be just as effectively implied rather than shown.
I only started watching ‘Spooks’ after series one, which I think is when the infamous ‘deep fryer’ scene occurred, and I’ve never seen it (and don’t want to!).
I like the cover art for ‘Avengers Origins: Vision’ – it’s a bit Art Deco. Not sure about the grey bit in the background, though; seems to have been a bit of an after-thought, perhaps.
Putting in another plug for Patrick Rothfuss and the Kingkiller Chronicles for genre books I discovered this year. Best fantasy I’ve read since the Belgariad. The second book, Wise Man’s Fear was a 2011 release.
Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series had another stellar installment this year with Ghost Story. And Lois Bujold broke my heart with the last few pages of Cryoburn.
Movies/TV: Besides Game of Thrones? I thought Captain America was the best super hero movie since the first Iron Man. As usual most of the U.S. network genre offerings didn’t live up to their potential (or hype.) I’m finding myself strangely intrigued by Once Upon A Time.
Given how lousy the last 2 series of Project Runway were, would they qualify as horror?
I’ve tried Terra Nova, just not interested. And I really wanted to like Once Upon a Time, but it isn’t coming together for me. So close, so disappointing.
I suppose Big Bang Theory reruns don’t count.
I suggest a marathon movie viewing session! There were a few sci-fi movies that came out recently and should be available on pay-per-view or from your local video place.
Super 8 (excellent!)
X-Men: First Class
Thor (hey, I liked it – call it a guilty pleasure ;))
Cowboys and Aliens
Can’t help you on the sci-fi literature side – I’ve been reading mostly fantasy lately.
@fsmn36 – I could have wrote your post. I just read American Gods a few months ago, and I also like Terra Nova.
Also been doing a lot of Space Operas this year. I went back read Peter F. Hamilton’s first books this year of the Commonwealth saga,Pandora’s Star and Judas unchained. I read the Void Trilogy last year. Reading Ian Douglas’s Inheritance trilogy right now. Can’t beat a good Space Marine Story.
Also speaking of Scalzi, his Fuzzy Nation take was pretty good.
On the movie front this year, the best semi sci fi related movie I had the pleasure of watching was a gem from 2007. It’s called The Man from Earth. The plot focuses on John Oldman, a departing university professor who claims to be a Cro-Magnon (or Magdalenian caveman) who has somehow survived for over 14,000 years. The only setting is in and around Oldman’s house during his farewell party, with the plot advancing through intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty.
Worth a watch, and I think you’ll come away enjoying it highly. Hope this helps Joe! Have a wonderful day!
I completely agree on the Flash. Something just seems of on it.
I can’t remember who it was who was trying a ZMOG SMELLS perfume called “That Dream Where Your Naked”. How did you like it?
I ordered a (mini) Girl Genius collection from for my daughter and picked up a couple of scents with interesting names for myself! I tried one called “Snail Fur” – how could anyone pass that up? I love it. And my dog went crazy when she got a whiff of it and started rubbing her face all over my wrists to pick up the scent!
@ Zed and Tam – Yes! I saw there was going to be a young Morse coming on. Looking forward to it very much. 🙂
In a bit of a hurry, so I’ll have to leave it at that.
@ Joey – You’re on your own on this one, son. Uncanny X-Force has been great, but you didn’t seem to agree. I started reading Mann’s Ghosts of War and really like it – just haven’t had time to finish it up so can’t say how it is overall. I love Pendergast, and some of his stories have a sci fi twist, but I’m also thinking those aren’t your cuppa. I really enjoyed Moorcock’s stab at the Doctor, with Coming Of The Terraphiles, but again, I doubt it’s to your finicky tastes. Doctor Who will always have my vote for tv shows, and as far as movies go, the only two I’ve seen in the theaters this year is the last Pirates movie (okay, but nothing has come close to the first), and Cowboys and Aliens, which I enjoyed very much for it’s popcornishness, but that’s about it. I’ve also seen Thor, and Rango on tv, and liked both. Old movie-wise I did watch The Gorgon all the way through for the first time and really liked it, but you would probably get your knickers in a bunch over the special effects, or something. 🙂
Yeah, I’m no help at all. If I have time I’ll try to think about it some more, but I’m pretty busy today.
@MikeP I’m so glad someone else likes Terra Nova! No one I know (in person) even knows about it, sadly (unless I’m telling them, lol).
I also enjoyed Thor a lot more than I expected and thought that Chris Hemsworth had a touch of that Jason Momoa roguish charm.
Joe – like you, I have fond memories of Wally and Linda West, so while I’m a huge Flash fan, I think Barry had his time in the spotlight decades ago and all this stuff being done with him now (at the expense of Wally and company) pisses me off. Also, Wally had similar powers in that time slowed down for him when his superspeed kicked in to overdrive so none of this is really new, except perhaps for how it is being shown on the page.
BTW, the short-sleeve shirt for Superman is only temporary. The opening arc of Action Comics takes place 5 years before the events in the current Superman title and just before the events in Justice League (which is currently in the middle of it’s origin tale, after issue 5 or so it jumps in to present day, much like Action Comics will do).
Joecito! I found a game that even you can play!
This year I enjoyed Game of Thrones, and I’m liking Once Upon A Time more and more. Falling Skies was pretty good, too. Started off liking The Walking Dead, but I have to admit I’ve been losing interest in it this season.
At the movies, I really liked Super 8. Thor was fun, although I can’t really call it a great movie.
I know this wasn’t new this year, but I read Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog for the first time this year–not sure how I’d missed that before. Loved it! I also really liked Robopocalypse.
@Alexander–I love The Man From Earth! Definitely worth watching.
Joe, how about these Stargate comics: http://www.dynamite.net/htmlfiles/search2.html?0=19&next0=&KMPZ=stargate&Submit46=%3E
Honestly, they look so unlike the orig characters, I don’t think I’d be able to read through them.
I’m watching Grimm and Once Upon A Time, first shows I’ve actually enjoyed since SGA went off the air.
It’s snowing again! 🙂
Holy crap batman, its sn**ing on Joes blog,,hah!!
Love ‘Doctor Who’ – espesh enjoying Grand Moff Steven’s seasons. 😀 Was not sure initially about Matt Smith but he has been brilliant. Love Amy & Rory, and River Song (in small doses 🙂 ).
Hammer Horror, Harryhausen, old b/w horror films = 😀
@ Zed – Love old Hammer horror flicks! I cannot stomach modern horror, but love the old ‘gothic’ stuff. Just watched The Mummy the other day – somehow Christopher Lee made that heap of rags seem sexy. 🙂
As far as Doctors go, I like Matt Smith a lot, but – oddly enough -the one I really loved was Christopher Eccleston. There is just something about that man…mmmmm…
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection (with Basil Rathbone) arrived in the mail today, and I’m off to watch The Hound of the Baskervilles. Very excited about this! 12 of the 14 films have been totally restored, and they look GREAT! Between Charlie and Sherlock, I’m set for the winter! 🙂
@SiSi: I can’t believe I was forgetting Super 8 considering it was filmed nearish by and it just came in it’s little red envelope; I missed the first few minutes in the theater so I’m looking forward to seeing it again.
Limitless is the smartest sci-fi movie I’ve seen in a long time and from a writers POV I love how the screenwriter created a growing mountain of obstacles for her hero to overcome. I also liked Source Code and Adjustment Bureau but they didn’t have as tight a plot as Limitless.
My favorite show this year was Misfits, it blew me away, the writing was just so good, I’m so glad I found it uncensored on Hulu. I’m also really liking Spy, another amazing UK show. Though Homeland and American Horror Story are kick ass.
Holy *&#@, how did this year blow by so darn fast?
P.S. can I add Stephen Lang as the Single Best Living Genre Entity of 2011? I went from booing and hissing him in Avatar to worshiping at his feet in Terra Nova. He’s just amazing, so much fun to watch; yes Terra Nova isn’t perfect but it’s such a throwback to the shows I grew up loving that I really like it, it’s square and goofy and fun. It brought back all the dino love we had as kids, our endless burying of my mom’s jewelry just so we could create maps that would lead us to the treasure and inching around the edges of the driveway clinging to the fence for fear of falling into quick sand; apparently our house was surrounded by tons of the stuff.
After reading your blog for quite a while now and drawing inspiration on things entertaining and culinary I might as well give my opinion on this one:
Some of my favourite scifi/fantasy books this year were Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. After reading the first volume around the beginning of the year I was quite delighted a second volume containing the third part of the story, which I was unaware of until then, was published here in Germany this october.