Disclaimer: All of the comics reviewed in this column were either comped by the respective creators/companies, or purchased from Dr. Volts Comics in Salt Lake City.
We’ll be debating what kind of year 2013 was in terms of politics, economics, human rights and other personal and professional freedoms for years to come. But geekwise, it was a great year filled with movies, television shows, comics books and other popular media that were as just good or better as those from any year in their respective industry histories.
Big Shiny Robot’s Jerk-Bot, aka Jeff Michael Vice, offers up his best-of lists of the year’s big-screen, small-screen and small-press, independent publishers and Big Two comics releases:
1. THE WORLD'S END (2013, R, 109 mins.)
Edgar Wright’s third – and arguably, best – of his so-called “Cornetto Trilogy” turned sci-fi tropes on their ear and dealt with friendships and life relationships in a surprisingly deep, perceptive manner.
2. HER (2013, R, 126 mins.)
Touted as “A Spike Jonze Love Story,” this science-fiction romance tale features the year’s best voice performance (Scarlett Johansson) and will make you think twice about your technological dependence.
3. GRAVITY (2013, PG-13, 91 mins.)
Alfonso Cuaron returned after a years-long hiatus with this thrilling sci-fi tale that strands Sandra Bullock in space. And so far at least, there weren’t any cases of filmgoer hyperventilation.
4. THE HUNT (2012, R, 115 mins.)
An involving sometimes infuriating, innocent-man thriller from Denmark that fulfilled the initial promises that the similarly themed “Prisoners” failed to deliver.
5. BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013, R, 109 mins.)
Director Richard Linklater and collaborators/stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy re-team for the third – and, yes, best – part in their relationship comedy-drama trilogy. Hilarious and smartly observant.
6. PHILOMENA (2013, PG-13, 98 mins.)
Co-screenwriter/co-star Steve Coogan and a never-better Judi Dench turned what should have been a Lifetime TV movie into a smart, funny and moving comedy-drama about motherhood and adoption.
7. THE CRASH REEL (2013, not rated, 108 mins.)
The Sundance 2013 hit sports documentary that addressed the issue of traumatic head injury in ways that endlessly shallow sports reporting couldn’t.
8. FROZEN (2013, PG, 102 mins.)
As blatant a case of false advertising as anything released in 2013, Disney’s latest animated hit was far more musical and more enchanting than the awful TV ads and trailers would have led us to believe.
9. PACIFIC RIM (2013, PG-13, 131 mins.)/THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013, PG-13, 161 mins.)
The two most geekily satisfying movies of the year: one, a cheesy but still endlessly enjoyable thriller pitting giant robots against equally gigantic monstrous threats; the other one, a fantasy that (very loosely) adapted the beloved J.R.R. Tolkien classic and improved on its predecessor in nearly every department.
10. THE ACT OF KILLING (2012, not rated, 115 mins.)
Joshua Oppenheimer’s crafty documentary gets its clueless subjects – Indonesian death squad leaders -- to re-create their crimes and cop to their guilt in unique fashion.
1. JUSTIFIED (drama, FX)
Somehow TV’s most unheralded police thriller got even smarter in its fourth season. Better still, it completely cleared the characters’ slates to open things up to even-better story possibilities.
2. RAISING HOPE (comedy, Fox)
Though its network has done every it can to sabotage and kill this clever, human sitcom about poor white trash, the cast and creators gave their all. Catch it while you still can.
3. MOB CITY (mini-series, TNT)
Wondering what Frank Darabont and Jon Bernthal have been up to after leaving AMC’s Walking Dead? They teamed on a noir miniseries that thriller and left you wondering what they’ll do as a follow-up.
4. ALMOST HUMAN (science-fiction series, Fox)
Another show that Fox appears to want to kill, the buddy cop/sci-fi series finally gave Karl Urban a really meaty role, and paid homage to writer Phillip K. Dick with smart, sly references.
5. RAY DONOVAN (drama, Showtime)
Live Schreiber leads a terrific cast in an entertainment-business dramatic thriller with characters so unlikable that you have to watch them.
6. IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (comedy, FXX)
Yep, the Paddy’s Pub crew managed to keep things fresh with an abbreviated season of episodes that were even more messed-up than any of us could have expected/hoped for.
7. ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (drama, Netflix)
Much like HBO’s Oz, Netflix’s “original” hit series explored personal freedoms in its prison setting, using the nonfiction best-seller as its basic and launching point. Thoroughly engrossing.
8. MODERN FAMILY (comedy, ABC)
Often imitated never duplicated (see NBC’s problematic The Michael J. Fox Show as proof), the long-running family sitcom kept chugging along, with customary style, laughs and heartstring-pulling.
9. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (comedy, Netflix)
Yes, it wasn’t quite as funny and was a quite a bit meaner than the prior three seasons combined. But there were still a lot of wickedly funny moments from the beloved ensemble comedy’s return.
10. LONGMIRE (drama, A&E)
Maybe the best cop show no one is watching, the Rocky Mountain-set mystery-drama got even better in its second season. Plus, it has Katee Sackhoff in it, you nerds!
1. RICHARD STARK’S PARKER: SLAYGROUND (graphic novel, IDW Publishing)
The fourth in writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s crooks/noir-thriller adaptations was a design marvel, featuring some of his best-ever art. Unfortunately, it’ll be a long wait till 2015 for the next one.
2. DAREDEVIL (monthly comic series, Marvel Comics)
Somehow writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee (with a couple guest fill-ins) redeemed Marvel’s most mistreated hero, and made his adventures fun to read again
3. HAWKEYE (monthly comic series, Marvel Comics)
If it didn’t feature one of Marvel’s Avengers as its title character, writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja’s genre-defying title might be confused for an indie book. Without the pretentions and with more enjoyment
4. FATALE (maxi-series, Image Comics)
Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips continue to explore noirish territory and characters. However, this project infuses some creepily welcome horror trappings.
5. THOR: GOD OF THUNDER (monthly comic series, Marvel Comics)
Heavy metal Thor, as imagined by writer Jason Aaron and various artists, including Esad Ribic, on the beautiful-looking, enthralling “God Butcher” and “Godbomb” story lines.
6. 47 RONIN (mini-series, Dark Horse Publishing)
Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson and Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai adapted the Japanese folk tale with a faithful, gorgeously rendered mini-series. Skip the movie, read this instead.
7. LAZARUS (maxi-series, Image Comics)
Greg Rucka creates yet another memorable, female action hero, this one a seemingly unkillable bodyguard for one of future America’s ruling families.
8. A MATTER OF LIFE (graphic novel, Top Shelf Productions)
Indie comics creator Jeffrey Brown ruminates on life, existence and family with a full-color GN that is among his best, most touching works.
9. MIND MGMT. (maxi-series, Dark Horse Comics)
Hollywood already wants to adapt Mat Kindt’s mind-bending maxi-series, a conspiracy thriller that reveals new layers with each issue and each subsequent re-reading.
10. CARDBOARD (graphic novel, Graphix/Scholastic Books)
Another always-dependable comics creator, Doug TenNapel, returned with a touching father-son tale with more imagination that almost anything else done in the kids-fiction realm.
Jeff Michael Vice, aka Jerk-bot, can be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (www.thegeekshowpodcast.com), as well as be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (www.facebook.com/BigMovieMouthOff).