Best of the Year 2012: Joe’s picks
And so, belatedly, after my fellow blog crew members and our traditional series of daily guest Best of the Year posts (I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who was kind enough to take the time to contribute, it’s a lot to do each year but I love running it because I don’t think anyone else has such a series and it always throws up a diverse range of choices). As usual my own selection of comics, books and film is far, far too long and rambling, but again in my defence, as in previous years, I simply read so many good works that it is very difficult to winnow down my list even to this limit (and I am sure there will be some works which have slipped my mind). And for that I make no apologies – it is brilliant to see so many good works coming out, in all sorts of styles and subjects.
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, Guy Deslisle (Drawn & Quarterly/Jonathan Cape): Delisle is one of those creators I often recommend to people who normally don’t read comics – his work is travel lit in comics form, and as he often finds himself staying in unusual spots most of us won’t visit there is a fascination to get a glimpse into another society, another culture. Delisle brings these places and the people to life, captured with an artist’s eye for little details that give a depth and air of verisimilitude to his depictions. This latest volume covers from the everyday family life (trying to find a nearby supermarket in East Jerusalem which sells the right sort of nappies for their youngest) to the serious (streets facing each other with Arab families on one side and fundamentalist Israeli settlers on the other, each loathing the other). As with his previous works Delisle rarely judges the different characters and societies he encounters, but instead presents what he sees for the reader to draw their own conclusion, and even the more extreme characters are depicted in human terms, not as stereotypes. What Delisle always captures though, isn’t just other cultures, but simply human life in all its myriad forms. Truly remarkable.
Saga, Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image): this slice of romantic science fiction adventure has featured heavily in our guest Best Of posts recently. I came late to it on the recommendation of colleagues and also curiosity driven by how often our guests were picking it out – as the first collected volume has just come out I decided to check it out and am delighted I did. It’s a lovely, touching romance – two star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of a long-running intergalactic war – but it mixes high romance with realistic touches to keep it grounded and more believable. The elements move from one of the most touching childbirth scenes in comics since that classic MiracleMan story years back and some terrific character and dialogue scenes (including a voice-over from their child) to large-scale sci-fi (organically grown starships in a forest? Wonderful). By the end of the first volume I was totally hooked and have to follow what happens next.
Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, Mary and Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape):
This husband and wife work came out way back at the start of last year, but it hit the headlines again recently, not only being one of the first comics works nominated for the major Costa literary award (in the factual category) but, at the start of this January, winning it – a brilliant achievement and one that’s made all of us who love the medium very happy (and how nice it wasn’t in a new graphic category, but in among the regular prose books, treated simply as a quality literary work). Cutting between two biographical strands, that of Lucia Joyce, daughter of the famous writer and young Mary’s life and her relationship with her noted Jocyean scholar father it’s a fascinating and warm look at family, at the expected roles of women in society in different eras and served with a good helping of history too. Engaging, emotional and very warmly human, this is also a work you can easily share with friends who don’t normally read comics – which I’ve been busily doing for the last few months. Mary and Bryan were kind enough to do one of our guest Director’s Commentary posts about Dotter last January and you can read it here; we also have a report on their talk at the world’s largest literary festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, last summer on the blog here.
Grandville: Bete Noire, Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape/Dark Horse)
My reading year was book-ended (sorry, terrible pun) by works involving Bryan Talbot, and that’s no bad thing of course. I first saw some of this third Grandville book on Bryan’s iPad during the Book Festival and had been eagerly awaiting the printed work; it did not disappoint. In fact I’d go as far as saying this is his best Grandville yet. Our tenacious badger detective is asked by an old French friend to consult on a baffling case, which soon leads them into a huge conspiracy on a national scale. It’s an absolutely cracking adventure tale with allusions to modern day concerns (the price of unbridled capitalism over humanity), while the art, as you would expect, is simply gorgeous and astonishingly detailed – seriously, I’ve been back through this book twice just to admire some of the lovely Steampunk art and layouts and pick up on details I missed on that first reading. There are references aplenty to discern in there too, from Wind in the Willows (with a dash of Danger Mouse!) to Bond to art history (“this is not a pipe”) and dashes of romance and humour laced throughout the well-paced adventure, and we even learn a little more about LeBrock’s history. Again the physical book is a lovely looking hardback, the sort of book that wouldn’t look out of place among a rack of fine Franco-Belgian bande dessinee albums, one of those books you’re just happy to have on your shelves.
Interview With the Vampire: Claudia’s Tale, adapted by Ashley Marie Witter from the novel by Anne Rice (Headline)
Anne Rice’s original mid-70s novel Interview With the Vampire is a landmark in the genre, as important and influential as Stoker’s Dracula was in 1897. I re-read it recently and although so many have borrowed from it in the last few decades the original retains its lush, erotic, decadent, enticing, sensual air. The novel was the biography of Louis during his vampiric life across two centuries, the sequel expanded on his maker, the arch vamp Lestat, but here Ashley takes the most fascinating – and tragic character – from the Vampire Chronicles, the vampire child Claudia, and instead of a comics adaptation of the novel she reworks that tale but seeing the events from the perspective of Claudia, vampirised as a small child, growing in her mind across the long decades into a mature being but her body forever locked into the form she was in when she passed from mortal to immortal. The artwork, mostly monochromatic with a sepia tint (except for some strategic splashes of blood, bright scarlet like the lurid early colour Hammer horrors) has a bit of a manga influence, and is appropriately sensual and lovely.
La Douce, François Schuiten, (Casterman): Schuiten is one of the great European artists and I often wonder why more of his backlist isn’t being translated and republished for the English language market. Our own Wim put me onto his La Douce, a tale of a train driver, dedicated to his great steam locomotive “La Douce”, facing the end of the steam era as electric trains come in. There’s a tale of obsession here, true, but also the admiration for the heavy work but huge pride the engine crews had for their steam locos, the character of the engines, each individual, almost a living thing. Scenes alternate between the gritty, smoke-blackened faces of the engine crew shovelling away to the elegant, seemingly effortless grace and speed of La Douce, a gorgeous streamlined engine (reminiscent of our own achingly beautiful, Art Deco inspired Pacific Streamliners like the Mallard). Schuiten captures small moments (the fireman oiling the rods during stops, or polishing the brass, a common practise with all steam engine crews worldwide, a pride in their machine you simply don’t see today) with huge scenes such as this elegant machine roaring across the landscape, or a coastal scene where old trains and cars lie semi-submerged, near a towering town reached only by a huge cable-car network, like some urban fantasy scene. And being Schuiten he has to add something different – in this case you log into a website, hold relevant pages up to your webcam and see animation appear! He thought the streamlined train itself suggested speed and movement, even in static pages (and indeed it does), so he decided to take it further with this ‘enhanced’ component to the physical book. My French isn’t very good, but this book just called to me and I managed to muddle through (having images to give context always helps when struggling with another language!); beautiful work and, again I think why is this not being translated?
New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett and Ian Culbard (DC/Vertigo): I like zombies, I like vampires. But ye dark gods of horror, but they have both been overcooked and overused in recent years as everyone jumps on the bandwagon. And here come Dan and Ian, gleefully taking two of the most over-used horror icons of recent years and smashing them into something new and interesting, combining horror with alt-history science fiction in a Victorian then Edwardian Britain where an undead menace saw the upper classes take ‘the cure’, becoming immortal vampires, to be strong enough to fight the zombie hordes. Now years after the main battles (glimpsed in splendid flashbacks that pay homage to classic Brit movies like Zulu) we have Scotland Yard’s last homicide detective, a former vampire army officer, now jaded and passionless (or so he thinks), investigating the murder of a vampire aristocrat. The story develops cleverly, feeding in details of this alternative Britain, making comments about class divisions, society and exploitation (like Romero they use horror to reflect real world concerns), and builds up those layers to a very satisfying conclusion. The collected edition is due this spring; I’m hoping Dan and Ian plan to return to this setting as the world they have crafted seems perfectly set up now for further stories. You can read an interview by Matt with Dan Abnett discussing New Deadwardians and other work on the blog: part one and part two here.
Blacksad: a Silent Hell, Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse): I utterly adore the Blacksad work of Canales and Guarnido (Spanish creators who made their name in the Franco-Belgian BD market, translated into English by a US company – viva the international nature of our medium!). The previous three albums (translated and collected into one edition by Dark Horse) was superb and this fourth tale is one I had been eagerly waiting on, with huge expectations. That can be a problem of course – sometimes you get too excited, expect more than anyone can realistically deliver. Not so here – it’s another hugely compelling 40s/50s style gumshoe noir, this time seeing out feline PI working down in the jazz and blues scene of the Big Easy. Engrossing, well rounded characters, gripping storyline and astonishingly detailed, beautifully painted artwork – frankly this is about as perfect as any comics work can be.
Manhattan Projects, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra (Image): Imagine that the atomic bomb was just the public cover work and that the Manhattan Projects (yes, the plural is deliberate) is really more concerned with a range of fantastical experiments and works. Throw in real historical characters such as Feynman, Einstein, General Groves and Von Braun, but here rather different to the ones we knew, have some brilliantly bonkers scenes (Japanese samurai robots beamed by portal into an attack on the base lab during the war, a cannibalistic, psychotic genius scientist who learns the plans of multi dimensional aliens by killing them and eating their brains) and you have a wild, hugely imaginative ride. And as it goes on it becomes clear there is a story arc underlying the oddball events, which is clearly building to something – and I am pleased to say so unpredictable has MP been so far that for once I have no idea where it is going, which is hugely refreshing for me as often even with a good work I guess where the later acts will take me.
Corporate Skull, Jamie Smart (online): I’m on record here previously for describing Jamie Smart’s online serial as “arse-splittingly funny”. And yes, quite far into its run now and I stand by that thoughtful and erudite analysis. But there’s a whole lot more to the casually hilarious violence, the sex and volumes of inventive swearing (which are, let’s be honest, a huge part of the pleasure). Jamie has been developing a growing story arc for both our eponymous hero and a larger conspiracy that takes in corporate-political dirty dealing secrets but also harkening right back to pre-history. And he puts it all online free, creating it for us on the side while he does his busy day work! It’s genius, and like most very clever works it looks deceptively simple and he makes it look easy, but there’s clearly a lot of thought put into what you might mistake at first glance for mostly a gag strip – and indeed it is a gag strip, but it’s so much more too. Love it. I do hope he gets around to doing a printed edition in the future.
2000AD: There are particular strips I could mention from this year’s Progs of The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, and I will, but really this is for the whole comic, it was just such a food year for 2000 AD (and in its 35th anniversary year too, no less). Brass Sun was just a beautiful piece of fantasy/SF work, for example, and the Dreddfather himself, John Wagner, sculpted a slow-burn, build the tension then explode the entire story over our characters epic for Dredd, once more shattering the Big Meg, then this was followed by a team of writers and artists who so carefully took the broken pieces of the Dredd world he left them, then created an intricate piece of plotting that saw three different strips which started off making odd references to one another before developing into one mega-narrative being told from three streams in each strip, coming together in the issue-spanning Trifecta at the end of the year. One of the most intelligent and innovative comics works I have read in a long time, a good example of the sort of clever storytelling that no other medium could have handled as effectively; my hat is off to all involved for this stupendous effort – one of the best bits of British comics works in years and another reminder that even aged 35 our beloved 2000 AD can still surprise us all and deliver something clever and new and exciting. A collected Day of Chaos volume is due very soon from Rebellion.
Honourable mentions – I’m well over on selections already and this may be a bit indulgent, but I claim editor’s privilege, so I will finish this section by giving some quick mentions for a few other works that I very much enjoyed this year. The Tale of Brin and Bent and Minno Marylebone by Ravi Thornton and Andy Hixon (Cape) – very unusual in terms of storytelling and visually fascinating, a combination of semi biographical with dark fairytale, the magical and wondrous with the perverse; new talents on the scene to watch for. Adamtine by Hannah Berry (Cape) – I loved Hannah’s debut, Britten and Brulightly and her second graphic novel, a delightfully atmospheric horror tale, created creepiness in the everyday setting. Prophet by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy et al (Image) is one of the most intriguing and highly unusual pieces of science fiction comics works I have seen in years – it starts off with our hero awakened in a weird, alien future to re-create the Earth Empire, but soon the seemingly straightforward narrative fractures into many unusual shards and angles. Unpredictable and showcasing some truly imaginative sci-fi concepts, probably one of the most out-there SF concepts since Kirby went cosmic.
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel) – I’ve never really thought much of Hawkeye, but I picked this new series up on the recommendation of Glasgow FP’s Nicola and it turned out to be one of the most fun reads I had all year; funny, adventurous, sometimes sexy, happy to take the mickey out of the genre, stylish, brilliant. Batgirl by Gail Simone et al (DC) – Gail continues to shape an intriguing series of stories while also paying as much attention to the emotional side of her characters, not least Barbara coming to terms with being out of her wheelchair, her guilt that she has been cured when others haven’t, and her desperate need to prove herself worthy of that gift. Batwoman by JH Williams III et al (DC) – very strong female characters, enticing story arcs and some of the finest artwork and kinetic layouts you’ll find in any monthly comic right now. The Silver Darlings, Will Morris (Blank Slate) – the only reason this isn’t in my main selection is simply because it only arrived in the store as I was rushing to get things finished before the Christmas holiday period, so I haven’t had time to read it properly yet, and this gorgeous looking work is one I will not rush, I want to sit down in the New Year and take my time with it. It’s also a lovely looking design, – neat, slim hardback, the sort of edition you just want on your shelves or that makes a classy present. WizzyWig by Ed Piskor (Top Shelf) – a cleverly told look back at a supposedly legendary early hacker that is also a pleasurable nostalgic trip for those of us who remember using some of the early machines that feature throughout, and how these then new technologies seemed so amazing as we started to learn what we could do with them.
And having over-indulged in picks, I need to select a top three so our own Richard can do his traditional number crunching on all of our Best of the Year posts to see what patterns emerge, so from this list, for my top three of 2012 I am choosing Jerusalem by Guy Delisle, Blacksad: a Silent Hell by Canales and Guarnido and my final choice, and indeed my top pick for the whole year, for a brilliant year of different writers, artists and strips and most especially for culminating in that astonishing, bravura piece of editing, writing and art that was three strips converging seamlessly into one gigantic Dredd epic, my favourite comics read of 2012 goes to dear old Uncle Tharg and his various droids for the mighty 2000 AD. I’ve been reading it since the very first issue and 35 years on it can still surprise and delight us all and create something daring and audacious.
Intrusion, Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
Ken is one of those authors that, when a new book of his arrives, I clear my other never-ending to-read pile to get straight into. With his last couple of books he’s been mostly working in very near-future tales and Intrusion continues this trend, drawing on our current state of the world to depict a British society that could easily be tomorrow, dealing with the rights to choose their own path for their own children for a young couple in a society where conformity to the norm (for the greater good, of course) rules, where the surveillance society of today has been taken to its logical (and worrying) extreme (again for the greater good, of course). As you’d expect from Ken he mixes a cracking tale of his characters (ordinary people simply trying to get by with their young family) with fine science fictional touches and much commentary on current hot topic subjects that concern and worry anyone who watches the news. Gripping, thought provoking and stimulating intelligent science fiction from one of our best.
Seven Wonders, Adam Christopher (Angry Robot)
In 2011’s Best of the Year I named Adam’s Empire State as a book to watch for as it was due right at the start of 2012 (Paul Cornell had also highlighted it in his guest Best of the Year). Well to be honest I’d happily include that in my 2012 selection, but since I am already over-running here with my picks, I will instead restrict myself to this, Adam’s second book to come out from Angry Robot in 2012. The world’s superheroes have long since vanquished the supervillains, save for one, the Cowl, still operating on the West Coast of America, which does make some wonder why the city’s protectors – the eponymous Seven Wonders superteam – can’t seem to bring him in. As an ordinary citizen finds himself developing superpowers the status quo will be challenged, but, just as you think you can see where Adam is taking this story he changes tack, brings in twists, new elements and blind-sides the reader to create a very satisfying piece of work that shows obvious love for the superhero genre. A cracking read, the second of his books I have read this year, the second I have enjoyed so much I’ve been recommending it to everyone who will listen. I even forgive Adam for using a title that has stuck an old Fleetwood Mac song in my head for weeks…
Heretic Land, Tim Lebbon (Orbit)
I’ve been reading Tim’s work for years and he still consistently challenges me with each new work. This book, like most of his more recent oeuvre, has been more fantasy based, but still showing some of his horror background – he can go from describing some astonishing different society or history one moment and the next plunges us into brutal acts of violence. In this tale of conflicting histories and the theologies that underpin them there are all sorts of elements from sort-of romance, a father’s quest for his lost son, a dying god, a virulent priesthood whose determination to wipe out any hint of a theology opposed to their own (with dreadful consequences). There are some truly terrifying moments and, unlike some more generic fantasy works Tim never sugar coats or romances the view of struggle and combat, but delivers the description and details in hard fashion – you won’t find anything honourable or romantic about drawing a sword and launching into battle here, you will be down in the dirt and blood and bits and that’s how it should be, while the theological society depicted draws clear analogies to those in our own world who put some religious dogma above the value of human life, instead of it being in service of humanity.
London Falling, Paul Cornell (Tor)
It’s been quite a while since Paul turned his considerable talents back to novel writing – since I first read his early (and interesting) work years ago he has been busy with script work (not least some of the most satisfying episodes of the revived Doctor Who) and has carved himself out a terrific reputation (deservedly so) with comics readers, including work with the Big Two of DC and Marvel. London Falling sees the start of a new prose series, starting with a seemingly normal undercover police operation to bring in a seemingly un-arrestable gang leader in a somewhat run-down, post economic crisis Britain. But events rapidly spiral into strange directions and our normally grounded coppers have to face the fact that there are supernatural elements behind this criminal empire and that now it has touched them, each member of the team can see shadows of the ‘other’ London. Terrifying, but slowly they decide that, dammit, they are coppers and they will adapt their normal police procedures to tackle this threat because that’s their duty… There are some terrifying concepts and quite horrific moments in here, some brilliant dialogue and characters that seem realistic and who grow throughout the tale and, as you’d expect from Paul the intriguing plot ideas are balanced with some very emotionally satisfying elements. Superb.
Exogene, T.C. McCarthy (Orbit)
With Exogene I moved on to the third of T.C. McCarthy’s utterly addictive future-war science fiction series – each of the books is set in the same near-future setting where international co-operation has vanished as nation states fight purely for control of the world’s dwindling resources; you think Iraq was a barely disguised war for oil, it’s nothing compared to this brutal future. However each book, including this one, follows different characters, so although best read together you can jump into any of them. In this one a veteran special ops soldier, close to the raw edge of burn-out, is tasked with a back-ops mission involving escaped ‘Betties’ – the US Army’s genetic warrior women, designed to serve unquestioningly for a period before ‘spoiling’ (like Replicants they may be superior to humans in some ways but they are not designed to last) – who have somehow managed to exceed their ‘best-by’ dates to establish their own culture in Asia. McCarthy again creates a brutal scenario and morally dubious characters shaped by endless war, hating combat and yet also conversely driven to it for the adrenalin rush, it captures that thousand yard stare of the combat veteran and the complexities behind war, with this volume also paying homage to the great Apocalypse Now and that voyage up river into the Heart of Darkness. If you love 2000 AD’s Rogue Trooper you should be reading these.
Also on the book front this year I combined my lifelong loves of both prose and comics by revisiting a science fictional character I have loved since I was a young boy – The Stainless Steel Rat. With the sad new of the passing of the great Harry Harrison in 2012 I had the urge to revisit the tales of Slippery Jim, the galaxy’s greatest thief, and so when back home visiting I dug out my old Rat novels from my old bedroom. Unlike so many novels today which weigh in – often unnecessarily, I think – at a vast, thick page count, these rarely go much over a couple of hundred pages. A quick and enjoyable read, but a wonderful one, just delightful adventure, inventive, funny and with some decent morals in there from our crook with a conscience. I combined this with reading Rebellion’s collected edition of the 2000 AD Stainless Steel Rat adaptations, from the comic’s early days, the strips which first pointed me to Harry’s books as a boy (another debt I have to 2000 AD). A wonderful walk down memory lane and in a year that has proved pretty hard and stressful and emotional there was a lot of comfort in going back to those works, of course, but the nostalgic aspect aside both novels and the comics still stood up well, I thought, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Really, why has no-one made a series of sci-fi films with the Rat yet, eh?
Film & TV
Moonrise Kingdom (Dir: Wes Anderson): It seems to simply and easy to throw terms like ‘quirky’ into any description of Moonrise Kingdom, nonetheless it is indeed quirky, odd and wonderfully charming. A tale of two young childhood sweethearts and the oddball companions and family around them, it could have been schmaltzy or cheesy and instead it is engaging and endearing, inventively shot and left me smiling for days after watching it.
Skyfall (Dir: Sam Mendes): What can I say about this? Bond hits the fiftieth anniversary year in suitably swaggering, hugely confident manner. Dan Craig is, for my money, our best Bond since Connery; he’s just perfect for the part, and this film managed the seemingly contradictory aims of updating Bond for the less fantastical, more hard-edged post Bourne world, while not only keeping but glorying in retaining some of those elements which are what make a Bond film Bond and not just any other superspy thriller. And seriously, just how terrific was it to see that classic Aston Martin again? And national treasure Dame Judy Dench once more showing her M to be more than a match for 007.
Eddie, the Sleepwalking Cannibal: One of my finds from the Edinburgh Film Fest, chosen, I admit freely, purely on the title alone, before I knew anything about it (come on, how could I resist such a title, really?). This Danish-Canadian oddball art-horror-black-comedy is wonderfully unusual – a famous Danish artist who hasn’t actually created new work in years agrees to teach at a remote rural art school in Canada, where he inherits looking after the developmentally challenged Eddie, nephew of the school’s sponsor. When stressed the backward but normally gentle Eddie sleepwalks though, and usually catches and kills animals, eating them raw. Our artist friend thinks this is a good way to get rid of his odious neighbour’s barking dog, but when Eddie also sleep-kills and eat the neighbour too things go further than he planned. And then he finds his artistic spark suddenly re-ignited… Is the bloody accident the cause? And if so what to do…. Still waiting on a distribution deal in the UK, I think, which is a great shame, it’s a brilliant and unusual work, if you see it getting a screening then take advantage of it.
Rust and Bone: This French film looks like it could so-easily turn into a clichéd unlikely romance between two very different but damaged people, the sort of thing we’ve all seen many time before. And indeed there is a romance here between the rough-edged bruiser who can barely look after his son or hold down a job, moving to crash at his sister’s home in the south of France and the educated marine biologist who looks after the killer whales in the aquarium. But it’s really not what you think, the path which leads to these two damaged people (he emotionally stunted, she disabled by a dreadful accident at work – some amazing prosthetic and effect work to make the wonderful Marion Cottilard look as if she has lost both legs) to come together, first as friends, later perhaps a form of romance may develop, is convoluted and unpredictable – often I really didn’t know which way it was going to go, which I enjoyed, and a couple of major scenes took me totally by surprise.
Grabbers: Another of my finds from the Edinburgh Film Fest – this Irish creature-feature revels in its love of classic B-movie horror-science fiction flicks, in a manner reminiscent of the excellent Nathan Fillion-starring Slither, but with a uniquely Irish take on things, from dialogue (heroine whacks the alien monster with cry of “shut up, ye gobshite”) to a plan to survive the monstrous attack (it involves the pub and gallons of booze). It’s enormous fun, pays homage to some classic SF and horror flicks along the way and has some memorable characters. I reviewed it back in June and called it “this year’s Troll Hunter” (which was another of my Film Fest finds the previous year) – it has been getting a limited theatrical release recently and a DVD release so you can check it out for yourself.
The Artist: a pure delight from start to finish, a charming and warm love letter to those early glory days of the silent movie era and the birth of Hollywood and the film star, another film that just had me smiling for days afterwards. And as a bonus the brilliant French live action Lucky Luke film I reviewed at the Film Festival a couple of years ago finally got a UK release on the strength of The Artist’s performance as leading man Jean Dujardin also played the comic book cowboy.
The Almighty Johnsons: I’ve actually been enjoying several series on SyFy this last year – the final season of Eureka, new Warehouse 13 and Have (both of which have developed well beyond their original fun but limited odd event of the week beginnings to become quite compelling), but this second season of telefantasy about mortal reincarnations of Norse gods living in New Zealand has just been brilliant, developing further this season from a slow start to become much more complex as Axl (mortal host to the spirit of Odin) continues his quest to find the woman who is host to his great love, Frig – their reunion should, in theory, cause he and his brothers to transcend their mortal form and regain full godlike powers. But this wonderfully quirky and unusual Kiwi work is far more than the quest it is framed around, there are some brilliant characters and a great mixture of the myth/fantasy elements with the more down to earth elements of family life. It’s odd, it’s different, it’s Kiwi and I love it.
And I can’t miss out a mention to Fringe, which continues to be one of the smartest science fiction series I’ve enjoyed in years, long since evolving past its weird-case-of-the-week beginnings into a complex, reality and time-line crossing linked narrative with characters that you become very attached to. Special mention must be made for John Noble’s incredibly nuanced portrayal of Dr Walter Bishop; that man has consistently displayed some incredible acting craft throughout the series.