Nobody wants to read comic books.

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Because they’re for nerds. And expensive. And there’s a billion of them.

It’s not surprising that the conversion is so hard – movies present the best comic books have to offer in a nice two-hour bite, but if you want to take that further you’re thrown into forty years of comic book context, hundreds of characters, and story lines that are spread across a dozen books at a time. It’s nuts. The hardest part should’ve been getting people to think Tony Stark was a cool dude, but instead it’s figuring why he’s hanging out with the X-Men at the same time he’s supposed to be in space fighting aliens with a raccoon. It’s an intimidating hobby to want to get into, and currently requires a few good hours of reading Wikipedia histories on characters that might not even be crucial to the story you want to read.

So that’s why I think it’s lovely that Marvel’s going hard on their digital front. Things like giving away #1 issues and offering a free download code with hard copies are exactly the right way to spread the love and open up the medium to newcomers that want to take their interest to the next step. It’s fantastic and something that should’ve happened way sooner. I can’t wait to be able to recommend series like Hawkeye and Daredevil to friends and have them be able to actually follow and understand them. The more distanced DC and Marvel can get from their convolutions, the better. This is a big step.

On that note, definitely check out the #1 deal and get yourself some rad comics. Some recommendations:

Hawkeye #1 by Matt Fraction
Daredevil #1 by Mark Waid
Annihilation #1 by Keith Giffen
House Of M #1 by Brian Michael Bendis
Young Avengers #1 by Kieron Gillen

And now I’m an intern.

Since last week, I’ve been an intern. Again. Working for free and supporting it by crawling back to my old part-time job for another three shifts on top of it. It’s basically like I’ve traveled back in time to graduating three years ago except I have a girlfriend, no acne, and less money.

But I’m doing exactly the work I want to be doing in the industry I want to be in. It’s pretty much my dream internship. And I really like the feeling ‘Intern’ gives me: I’m not idle, I’m anxious about my future (in a good way), and I get to eat cheap gross food for three months. I have to work hard to prove my worth and not get stomach cramps. It’s like starting over and entering the illustrious work force again fresh, but this time I’ve got two years of working experience and skills behind me. It’s the chance to do what I want to do without the pressure of ruining my one big shot. And learning and intern-y stuff, too. So, yeah, I’m pretty happy about it. Plus they’ve got free Coke in the fridge. Now excuse me while I eat this gross two dollar sushi. Boring life update: COMPLETE.

I wish Reddit wasn’t so Reddit-y.

I feel like Reddit is something I can’t recommend to people anymore. It’s a circle-jerk of dumb memes and people interrupting their real-life to upload something from it for hits. And weird gore freaks. Seriously, front page prime-Reddit is the worst of the internet and an aggregate of in-jokers. For something that has such raw presence, it’s a real shame that the good stuff (niche subreddits, aka smaller communities of Reddit) is hidden to be sought after and stuff like the pretentious ‘Atheism’ and ‘WTF’ are automatically showcased for new users. Bah.

Mike’s Favourite Things From 2012: Comic Books

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Series: Hawkeye from Matt Fraction and David Aja
It’s fun. So goddamn fun. And the art? Holy freakin’ smokes. I’ve never really liked Hawkeye and I first picked this up on a blind-buy. From the get-go, you’re helplessly drawn into its inviting charm and art that matches; characters are visually unique and immediately characterized, it avoids the usual superhero-tropes and mostly separates itself from the Marvel community, and each issue is structurally interesting and complex to the point where I could compare it to Quinton Tarintino-light. It’s a comic book that fully accepts the ridiculousness of its context and embraces it with being weird and thrilling. I especially like that, in only half-a-dozen issues, Hawkeye’s been able to firmly establish a sense of place. With something as grand as a world where hundreds of super-powered dudes constantly watch and protect, it’s refreshing to be based in a small city block where you can recognize faces, believe the atmosphere and setting, and feel comfortable.

Single Issue: Hawkeye #6 from Matt Fraction and David Aja

Non-Superhero Series: Planetoid from Ken Garing

Character: Daredevil in Mark Waid’s ‘Daredevil’, and Alana in Brian K. Vaughn’s ‘Saga’

Panel: Probably something from Hawkeye because *wank*

Mike’s Favourite Things From 2012 – Video Games

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Tie: The Walking DeadHotline Miami, Mass Effect 3, and FTL.

Why can’t I pick four? These games, fantastically diverse as they are, gave me the highest-highs all year and I’ll be playing each again and likely again because they’re just so damn fun.

In The Walking Dead I’m managing a group of survivors. We have minimal rations that I need to distribute, and everyone’s on edge after we just lost a friend and our temporary home. The group is divided, and looking to my character, Lee, to choose and justify opposing sides. Nobody’s happy and you can feel it. Narratively-based games are tough to pull off and usually anchored by their main drive: crafting a compelling story that supports minimal gameplay and virtual human interaction. The Walking Dead, by Telltale Games, is concise in its five-chapter run and tells a complete tale that makes sense within the world it creates with the people who occupy it. You meet characters who feel like people and not just methods of forwarding the plot, decisions you make feel hard and lack the comfort of a binary ‘right and wrong’ morality gauge, succeeding doesn’t always instigate some kind of reward – these aspects play into creating the sensation of real dilemma, elevating the stakes in a way that feels more real than a rendered cut-scene or set piece. They’re small and personal, much like the experience itself. And the end result is really something special.

What’s really great about Hotline Miami is its simplicity. Focusing on only core gameplay mechanics, it gives room for the game’s incredibly visceral themes and presentation to support it in a way that’s coherent and tight. As a bad guy hired to take out other bad guys, that’s your only goal: finish everyone off efficiently and effectively. It plays very bare-bones as a top-down pixel art action game, similar to GTA 1 + 2, and the minimal approach is perfect for the games intended purpose of carrying the weight of graphic and violent interactions. Throw in a fantastically-cool 80′s vibe with matching art design and audio, and Hotline Miami becomes something special.

Mass Effect 3 is just really good. I love the other two Mass Effects, so there was probably no way for me to not like this one. Even if the ending was a virtual kick to the nuts (which it was). The franchise is a space opera where I’m a badass space cop who can woo one or multiple space alien babes – Game of the year/forever/my dreams.

And finally, FTL makes it on for successfully realizing my dream of experiencing the hellish reality that comes with being in space. In a nutshell, it’s a space ship management game that has you running from one side of the galaxy to the other, encountering enemy forces, rescue missions, space-things etc, along the way. Here’s an example of a playthrough: I’m running my ship, with four crew members each managing their respective consoles, and we’re making good progress through the galaxy. We make a jump to another system, and, surprise, it’s right beside a fucking star. Everything’s on fire and Pete is now dead. We barely make it out and jump to the neighbouring system where we can get our bearings and repair the ship that was just entirely on fire. Except nope, there’s a rebel ship that fires like thirty missiles at us before Chris can turn the ship on again. It’s over. Start again. And I’ve done that with slight variations about 400 times this year, with each one being amazing.

Mike’s Favourite Things From 2012 – Music (Album, Single, and Concert)

Album:

Be The Void – Dr. Dog

What a cool fucking album, man. Seriously, it’s something you wish you made if you were in any way talented musically. Dr Dog has always made ambitious music, but it’s often met with a lack of cohesion. They nail it here. The first three tracks, especially ‘How Long Must I Wait?’, open so strong that you’re almost grateful that the rest of the album even exists. It’s sharp, punchy rock-alternative that fits its own style and exists outside of trends or popular music. The two vocalists trade-off on tracks and it all comes together in this weird hot mess of psych-y riffs and fun lyrics. If you haven’t heard of them, think The Beach Boys meet The Beatles meet low-fi indie rock. Check ‘em out.

Wild Lines – Mike O’Neill

This is just, like, perfect pop music. Everything on here is gold. It’s full of charm and character, and breezes through twelve tracks without ever over-staying its welcome. Imagine something like The Inbreds (duh) with a full injection of Beatles-esque harmony and fun, and you’ve got Wild Lines.

Single: ‘Carry Me Home’ – Hey Rosetta! or ‘Albatross’ – Big Wreck or ‘At Transformation’ – The Tragically Hip.

Concert: Hawksley Workman at The Rio in Vancouver, November 7th.

Album Art: ‘Now For Plan A’ – The Tragically Hip

Mike’s Favourite Things From 2012 – Film

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The Raid.

With what would seem like an easy choice in The Avengers or Cloud Atlas as being total Mike-bait, I chose the film I came back to most, always more excitedly than the last time: The Raid by Gareth Evans. It is, simply, a supremely well-done action movie. Well-done to the point where I not only look forward to action sequences but points in the action and specific framing and certain sound effects; it’s made with such finesse and focus that, even as a non-fan of the genre, you’d be hard-pressed to not be impressed. It’s very bare-bones in set-up and narrative but does so with elegance and a fantastic sense of build-up: an Indonesian police force has to get to the top of an apartment building owned by a crime lord that’s filled with bad dudes. And everyone knows the martial art ‘pencak silat’, which looks to be some kind of super-karate. It’s awesome. Everything is shot incredibly, the action is superb and always exciting, acting’s good, etc etc etc. It’s fantastic. Check it out.

Honourable Mentions:

The Avengers (duh), Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, Looper, ParaNorman.

Also, I didn’t seen enough movies this year.