Best of the Year 2013: James Lovegrove
Second of December and the second in our traditional guest series of Best of the Year posts that we run each year, with a different guest picking out some of their favourite comics, books and other faves from the last twelve months, running every day through December (follow this link to see all the posts from this year’s BoY so far). Today’s choices come from top science fiction and YA author and regular comics reviewer James Lovegrove:
FPI: Can you pick three comics/webcomics/graphic novels which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
James: While I’ve been finding myself a bit perplexed by Jonathan Hickman’s take on Avengers, his creator-owned titles are always fresh and innovative. Of these it’s the bizarro mash-up of retro-science and aliens in The Manhattan Projects that I enjoy the most, but his crazy post-apocalyptic cowboy tale East Of West is also fun.
The Mysterious Strangers by Chris Roberson and Scott Kowalchuk is a sixties-tastic hoot, a loving pastiche of and homage to the old affluent-adventurer TV shows like The Avengers, The Protectors and The Champions.
While my favourite straightforward superhero comics continue to be Mark Waid’s Daredevil and Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, several of the Marvel NOW! relaunches have been impressive, including Avengers Arena, Nova, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Thor: God Of Thunder and Captain America. Without doubt, though, the best of the bunch is the witty, romping FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
James: I didn’t have high hopes for Stephen King’s The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep, and for the first hundred pages my doubts seemed confirmed. The adult Daniel Torrance’s struggles with alcohol addiction make for turgid reading. But then King’s masterly storytelling powers kick in, and the novel becomes a thrilling, chilling, spilling study of regret and redemption, justifying its existence as an excellent novel in its own right as well as a follow-up to an acknowledged modern classic.
Kim Newman’s fourth Anno Dracula volume, Johnny Alucard, betrays its origins as a series of linked novellas, but is a superlative vampire effort, full of spot-the-fictional-and-real-character-cameo fun. That it’s set mostly in the world of movies, which Newman of course knows well, is a definite bonus.
Tony Ballantyne’s Dream London is a superb piece of urban fantasy, intelligent and incendiary, dark and dizzying. An honourable mention must go to The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, Neil Gaiman’s reimagining of his own boyhood in magical terms. It avoids Gaimanesque whimsy, for the most part, and shimmers with a simple, understated power.
FPI: Can you pick three TV shows and/or movies which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
James: Haters be hating Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but anything Joss Whedon is involved in is always worth a punt. The problem, as I see it, is that the show’s creators are hamstrung: they don’t have much of the Marvel universe to play in, since rights to trademarked characters are tied up in various different places. Yet, in the confined space, they do well with what they have. This is an all-ages show, and if you remember what it was like watching The Professionals or The A-Team when you were a kid, that’s the spirit in which it should be approached.
Hannibal is a very stylish piece of work, with some great acting and striking visuals. The cat-and-mouse game between Lecter and Will Graham is a little irksome, in as much as we know already how it’s going to end and it’s a bit frustrating that the FBI can’t see that their consultant psychologist is also a anthropophagous psycho when it’s SO BLEEDIN’ OBVIOUS. But still, the show is tense and sometimes downright scary TV.
Finally, the third season of The Walking Dead is easily the best yet, and a marked improvement on the second, which was basically just a bunch of people sitting around talking in a farmhouse. In the honourable mention stakes, just about the funniest programme on TV these days is Phineas And Ferb on the Disney XD channel. It’s so damn good, it’s wasted on kids. The extra-long episode co-starring various Marvel superheroes wasn’t vintage P&F, but it was a treat nonetheless. Oh, and Iron Man 3. A noir comedy which happens to have a superhero in it. Genius!
FPI: How did 2013 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
James: I nailed my first Sherlock Holmes novel, The Stuff Of Nightmares, in under eight weeks, which I’m proud of. It’s a fast-paced, steampunk-superhero adventure but also, I believe, a thoroughly traditional Holmes story. I completed my sixth Pantheon novel, Age Of Shiva, which allowed me to indulge my superhero inclinations to the hilt – it features of a team of super-powered ass-kickers based on the Ten Avatars of Vishnu. I squeezed in a novella as well, Age Of Gaia, which completed a trio that has been collected as Age Of Godpunk, plus I knocked off a short story or two and loads and loads of journalism. In all, I’ve worked my backside off this year, and am pretty pleased with the results.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
James: I’m busy with the follow-up to The Stuff Of Nightmares, Gods Of War, which is set in Eastbourne, where I live, during the Edwardian era, where I don’t live. That’s out next summer, as is Shiva. I’ve also got a new project in the pipeline, a series combining space opera with James Bond. The first volume of that is to be published in the autumn. So there’s that.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
James: I’m mentoring a young man called James Getgood on the Adventures In Fiction programme for aspiring authors. He’s written a YA steampunk novel called Firedamp which I reckon is rather good, and I’d like to see him get a publishing deal.