As the hours tick by and the fact that it’s 2015 begins to finally set in, I can’t help but reflect upon all of the great things that happened over the course of this past year. This article began as a list I was just making for myself, but I figured what better way to share a ton of my interests with all of you? It’s a good way to get to know each other better.
Forgive me if this just becomes an excuse to talk about a whole bunch of things that I love. I tried my best to place these in order, but some are hard to arrange. We’ll see how it goes. Let me know what some of your favorite things from 2014 in the comments below!
Runner up goes to Wildstar
A space western MMO that mixed elements of Firefly with the zaniness of Jak and Daxter and the style of Treasure Planet? Sign me up, right? This game had outstanding potential, but ultimately fell short for me. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it has a lot of issues. What it gets right is character customization, housing and combat. Man, if this game did everything as well as it does this things, I would be playing that right now instead of writing a blog. Unfortunately, the game systems demands a lot of social contact to be used well, and the game itself just doesn’t have the numbers. 40 man raids and 40 vs 40 PVP? I’d be lucky if there were 40 people in my main city, total. Also PVP was kind of broken early on and I from what I hear it still hasn’t been fixed. No one was more excited for this game than me. I have to include it purely because waiting for this game to come out in 2014 was a huge part of my life that I’ve filled entirely with new Star Wars.
Still so pretty, though.
16. Freelancer by Martin Kirby
Freelancer is a sci-fi webcomic about a girl named Elena Daniels who is trying to discover her place in the universe as a Freelancer. What this means for her is that she works on a ship with a crew of badass artifact hunters, and is often left out of their adventures. This, of course, doesn’t stop her from getting involved anyway. This comic had me from the first pages where Elena imagines herself in position of respect and power as a mighty space hero, only to be snapped out of her daydream by her captain’s orders to scrub the engine ports. Kirby’s world reminds me of a somewhat more fantasy inspired Firefly, which I will never say no to. Check it out!
15. Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
Now I have to admit, I didn’t think I was going to like Capaldi going in. I can’t even tell you why, because it wasn’t like he was replacing “my Doctor”, Matt Smith had already done that by replacing David Tennant. “My Doctor” was never even a thing that really got to me, either. I found Smith had his own charms that I truly did love. Capaldi, however, has really surprised me with his edginess and his bitter, cynical realism. He brought the show something I hadn’t known it had been missing, which was this weird detachment from events that encouraged his companion, Clara, to become a bigger part of the story. You may notice, however, that Peter Capaldi made my list, but Season 8 of Doctor Who as a whole didn’t. I still don’t care for Moffat as showrunner, and I believe his style of beating me over the head with information I’ve already figured out on my own can waste a lot of screen time. Capaldi himself, though? Perfect.
14. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
This movie was basically more than I could have asked for from a finale to the second trilogy of Middle Earth movies. I loved just about every minute of the final film (save for all of the slow motion Thorin scenes) and I don’t care what anyone says, I will always defend Legolas. Not that he needs it; the guy can certainly take care of himself. After seeing all three films, I could probably argue that two movies could have worked fine instead of three. I actually liked all of the extra stuff from the appendices of Return of the King, but there was only so much story left to fill the third act. I liked this film much better when considering it the second part of a really long movie that began with The Desolation of Smaug, but I still absolutely loved it.
13. Guardians of the Galaxy
The second major blockbuster on my list was of course Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie did a ton of stuff right, including its compelling female characters, incorporation into the larger Marvel Universe, and its ability to not take itself too seriously. This was the first major space opera to be successful since Star Wars, and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Riding right between the lull in Marvel’s Phase 2 and the release of The Force Awakens in 2015, the world has never been more ready for epic space fantasy, and the box office numbers back that up. While I really believe that Ronan, the films rather generic antagonist, could have been more compelling (seriously, picture Hades from Disney’s Hercules in that role and tell me it’s not amazing) the movie’s strength was the strong character development of the Guardians themselves. I cannot wait until the sequel in 2017.
12. Big Hero 6
Last movie on the list, I swear. Big Hero 6 really surprised me. Going in I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was blown away by the heart this film had. I expected a movie about cute, squishy robots, but what I got was something much deeper. BH6 dealt with loss in a way I haven’t seen done in an animated film. Shows, sure, but a story like this is hard to pull off in a single sitting. The most interesting thing to me was the parallels between Hiro’s loss and the villain’s. The film showed how easy it would be for Hiro to give into his hate and become a villain in his own right and in doing so we saw the importance friends and loved ones play in the lives of those dealing with loss. Big Hero 6 was touching, and thought provoking while still being a downright blast to watch. Also who wouldn’t want to live in San Fransokyo?
11. Buffy Season 10: New Rules
It may come as a shock to some of you, but I really enjoy comics. When I first found out Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be continued in comic form, I was ecstatic. It took about a season to come into its own, but by season 9, the Buffy team had it down. Season 10 so far has perfected the formula. The art has taken a huge spike up in quality, and the writing feels more true to the characters than it ever has. We also find our favorite slayer in situations that feel more like the show- over the top monsters but set in a fictional town in southern California. What’s more is that this season of Buffy seems to be much more focused on the characters and their relationships, which is also in the spirit of the television show. If you’re a Buffy fan but not reading these comics, then you’re missing out. Definitely go back and read the others seasons though because you’ll be really confused.
10. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
I recently got pulled back into Warcraft after being clean for about 3 years, and I have to say, they’ve improved a LOT. Buying the expansion allows you to boost a character straight to level 90 and get right to the good stuff. Quests are a lot more streamlined than they used to be, and involve deep world stories that have a fair amount of voice acting these days. The main story so far has been building and fortifying a garrison, which gives kind of a real time strategy element to the classic MMO formula. This garrison also serves as a base for your character and the major story characters as you build your resources to fight the Iron Horde. I’ve always liked Warcraft Lore, but didn’t like having to play Warcraft to get it. I have to say I’m deeply impressed with the updates to the game so far- though I do really wish my Blood Elf character model was as pretty as all of the other ones. We’ll get there one day.
9. Ms. Marvel
This comic is a really unique take on a genre that I’m honestly not too invested in. Super heroes have never quite done much for me in comic form (though I really enjoy their movies) and I wouldn’t think any of them would have made my monthly shopping list when I go to pick up issues. Ms. Marvel is my exception. Nevermind the fact that Kamala Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own book- no wait, actually don’t nevermind that, because that’s pretty amazing in itself. The thing that I found most interesting though was that Kamala is a total geek. Not in that “Peter Parker made his own webshooters” kind of way, but in a way where she writes her own Avengers fanfiction and takes selfies with Wolverine. Kamala Khan is one of us. The book is also amazingly written, each arc so far has been compelling and driven, and it’s an absolute blast to watch Kamala act how most of us would act if we were just randomly given superpowers. If you’re not reading this, you should be.
I honestly don’t even know where to begin in reviewing this comic. It’s such a unique and interesting story, that there’s not even much I can say. The book follows photographer Kate Kristopher in a magic alternate version of the earth we know. Once the most famous explorer in the world, Kate is dragged out of retirement to solve the riddle of her equally famous father’s other mysterious children. It’s kind of a trip. Putting aside the Irish lion mobsters, the ghost ninjas and the police in UFO’s, Shutter also explores the idea of Kate trying to get out from beneath the shadow of her father by giving up everything and living on her own. With her transgender roommate and her talking robot-alarm-clock-cat.
7. Serenity: Leaves on the Wind
I’ve been waiting for this comic for a long time. Firefly has had a few books come out since Serenity hit theatres, but they were all either short story collections or Shepherd’s Tale. Leaves on the Wind is the first true and direct sequel to Serenity. We are tossed into the direct aftermath of the events of the movie, and find out that both the Alliance and the scattered remnants of the Browncoats are looking for Mal and his crew. The most important thing about this book is that it looks and feels like Firefly, the dialogue, the pacing and the imagery are all spot on. We even get to see a few old faces, and a few surprises, too. Can’t stop the signal.
6. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Shadow of Revan
Before I even get into talking about this expansion, I have to talk about the game on the whole. Old Republic sadly doesn’t do much that I would consider extraordinary. Many have called it a WoW clone, and they aren’t entirely wrong. Sure it has some unique elements, like companions and it’s really involved Bioware-style story-telling system, but the meat of the game is nothing special. But it is Star Wars. Leading up to the expansion, SWTOR offered those who preordered the ability to level 1-50 with 12X class quest experience. What this did was effectively cut all of the wow-clone quest grinding out of the game, and give each character class around 20 uninterrupted hours of pure, uncut, fully voice acted story. While the expansion itself was pretty good (particularly the emphasis on solo-play as a viable end game option), these two months of pure story were some of the best gaming months I’ve ever had. Let’s hope this option opens up again sometime in the future.
5. Guild Wars 2: Living Story Season 2
Guild Wars 2 handles end game much differently from other MMOs. Rather than have the game abruptly end only to be replaced with daily quests and raids involving 10-40 players, depending on the game, GW2 has always focused on doing more of what you did while leveling. Fully explore each map, max out each trade skill, unlock every gear set. When Arenanet first announced Living World story, their intent was to allow you to continue your character’s story through time gated mini content releases that would effectively alter the world. This was largely successful, but the buildup was so slow that many players left the game before reaching the part where the story got really good. I was unfortunately part of this crowd. Luckily, the bulk of the story can be recapped pretty well on youtube, and I was able to find everything I needed to dive into season 2. This second season plays much differently, as you have a full cast of recurring, fully voiced and animated NPCs that act out the story alongside the player character. You are effectively the boss, and they are your team. What’s more interesting is the composition of this team. Marjory Delaqua is a necromancer and private eye who begins to unravel the mysteries of the world alongside the player. Her partner and romantic love interest is Kasmeer Meade, a former noble who lost everything and now devotes herself to helping others. Their relationship is strong and beautiful, and most importantly isn’t viewed by anyone in the game universe as unusual. In Tyria, love is love. Your team also has Rox, a Charr who gives up her warband for her new found family; Braham, a Norn who once lived in the shadow of his hero mother who has now come into his own; and Taimi, an Asuran child who has a degenerative disease that keeps her from walking long distances, though she makes up for it with her vastly superior intellect and Scruffy, the golem she build to ride around on. Guild Wars 2 is not afraid to delve into non-standard approaches to character design, and on top of everything, the story, voice acting and gameplay are all phenomenal.
4. Star Wars: Rebels / A New Dawn
I’ve included the Disney XD show and the novel by John Jackson Miller in the same listing because of how interconnected the two are. As the prequel to Rebels, A New Dawn really gives us insight into two of the shows main characters, and does so with style. As discussed previously, Miller really knows his way around a Jedi on his own, and does not disappoint with Kanan. There’s also be something to be said about the new Star Wars canon coming out of the gate so strong, this book’s acceptance was crucial to the reception of the new canon on the whole, and when it was amazing, many people were quite relieved as they seemed to be in good hands. I wrote my last article on Rebels so far, so I won’t get too into it, but my main point warrants repeating. This show feels like Star Wars. The music, the visuals, the characters, the dialogue, it’s all there. Rebels is exactly what we need moving into the year of The Force Awakens.
3. Emma Watson- HeForShe
Let’s get real for a second. I talk about a lot of nerdy stuff over here. Actually I talk about a lot of nerdy stuff everywhere. Fictional stories are what interest me. I never get too involved with politics or civil rights issues because honestly, I think I have more of a mind for knowing people through fiction, and I generally stick to that, especially in public forums. Then along comes Emma Watson. Although best known for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, Watson has become one of the foremost celebrity faces in feminism in the world. Named a Goodwill Ambassador by UN Women, she promoted her new campaign, HeForShe, at the UN headquarters.
HeForShe is a worldwide feminist campaign launched by the U.N. Women with an aim to promote gender equality by encouraging men to openly speak out against sexism in solidarity with the women’s rights movement. As Emma Watson said on Twitter, “Gender equality not only liberates women but also men from prescribed gender stereotypes.” Now I personally have always considered myself to be a feminist. I think all people should be treated as people, and I am definitely aware of the struggle that women have faced and continue to face even now. I have not, however, always completely related to the traditional view of how a man should think or feel, so I am well aware of the other side of this issue. As Watson says, “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.” It’s definitely true that I have felt the societal pressure to “be a man”. What’s more so is that often times I would feel that my opinion on issues of feminism wouldn’t count for as much because of my gender. “How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” says Watson. When she delivered her speech, I felt its effects on a very personal level, and the central message was one of great importance to me.
2. Legend of Korra: Books 3 & 4
Both Avatar shows have been some of the strongest television I’ve ever seen. Earlier I talked a little bit about Big Hero 6 dealing with loss, but I had to amend myself and add “in film” because both The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra have broken that mold time and time again. Korra, however, takes this to a whole new level. Each book of LOK at its core was about Korra having something that she considers a fundamental part of her being torn away from her, only to have to reclaim it after it’s been broken.
All Korra ever wants to be is the Avatar, and it is the only identity she has. In book one, she lives in fear of Amon for a whole season before he eventually does take her bending from her. Fortunately, she is able to get it back by finally establishing her spiritual connection to the past Avatars.
In book two, Korra tries to deepen this connection, and learns that her Avatar Spirit comes from the Light Spirit Raava. When Unalaq and Vaatu merge, they forcefully rip Raava from Korra’s body, severing her connection to the past Avatars that she only just gained. Korra is able to find Raava again, but has lost her past lives forever.
In book three, Korra isn’t scared and she is spiritually strong as she tries to rebuild the Air Nomads, but even though Zaheer fails in his attempt to kill Korra while she is in the Avatar state, eliminating the Avatar once and for all, he succeeds in destroying her body, which is the biggest personal violation she has suffered thus far. This is the first finale in the series that does not end with Korra regaining what was lost. She is left broken.
Book four begins with everyone having moved on after three years without Korra. Meanwhile, Korra is trying to get her body to work again, and even after she regains movement, she seems to have all of these torn pieces of her identity, her bending, her spiritual connection and her body, but they are out of balance. They don’t all fit together right anymore. This season, more than anything, is about Korra finding that balance within herself, and putting the pieces back together to become something stronger.
This overarching message alone is enough for me to say that Korra is one of my favorite characters, in anything, of all time. She is so well developed that she feels more like a real person than a character. On top of this, The Legend of Korra deals with some really important ideals, and what people can become of they take those ideals too far. Each villain in Korra represented a fundamental aspect of everything the Avatar represents; Equality, Spirituality, Freedom, and Unity. When taken too far, each of these enemies threatened the state of the entire world.
I would be kidding myself if I didn’t also include the fact that the show ended with Korra walking hand and hand into the spirit world with Asami, another strong-willed, independent woman with whom Korra had been subtly building a deeper bond with over the course of the third and fourth books of the show. If there was any ambiguity, the creators of the show Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko cleared up on tumblr a few days later that Korra and Asami were in fact romantically involved, and that they entered the spirit world as a couple. This is huge for a western animated series, and many thought that this pairing would never happen, despite the strong hints throughout the last two seasons. I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve seen who were positively blown away by this decision, and to many people this was an emotional moment that felt like victory. For the first time in my life, I watched reaction videos to an episode of a show, and I was so moved by how emotional Korra made everyone. I could go on for ages about how well done this relationship was in its subtlety and its realism, but I think I’ve rattled on enough about Legend of Korra.
These last two books of this show had a major impact on my year, and even though it’s ended, I’ll continue to enjoy it for years to come.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer
I don’t think I have to tell anyone why this was such a huge deal. Not only was this the first trailer for a new Star Wars movie since 2005, it marked the first glimpses into the new post-ROTJ canon. When the title for this movie came out, the internet went mad with speculation. I’ve never seen such a reaction for so little information in my lifetime. My fiancé and I were in that group of people who stayed up until 3am on the night of Thanksgiving, hoping that the trailer would drop at midnight on the west coast. The Star Wars community that night was out in full force, and even though we didn’t see the footage until the next morning, the anticipation was strong amongst everyone that night. It felt like Star Wars had taken over the internet, if only for a night. I remember watching it for the first time and then sitting in silence for a solid 20 seconds before turning to Annie and simply saying “Again“. Every new bit of information that pops out inspires pages and pages worth of discussion on the internet, and hours of speculation amongst friends. BB-8 had multiple twitter accounts before even having a name. John Jackson Miller said it best in a quote that I’ll repeat a thousand times, “It really is 1977”.
This year meant a lot to me personally, as well. Annie and I got engaged in San Francisco on the same day we got to take a full tour of Lucasfilm. I got a promotion and she got a new job. Annie and I did our first couples cosplay (as Kanan and Hera) at NYCC and in doing so made a whole new group of amazing friends, many of whom rang in the New Year with us as we watched the Death Star blow up in place of the ball dropping. The last thing we did in 2014 was watch classic Star Wars, and the first thing we did in 2015 was watch the trailer for The Force Awakens.
This is the year of new Star Wars, but it will hold many other things for all of us as well. Let’s make it count.
Happy New Year! And may the Force be with you!