Best of the Year 2016 – James Lovegrove
Top-notch science fiction scribe and comics fan and reviewer James Lovegrove has been a regular contributor to our annual guest Best Of the Year picks, and I am delighted he took the time once more to select a few of his faves from 2016 for us, despite being busy with his new Holmes/Cthulhu mashup for Titan Books. Let’s see what James has been enjoying these last twelve months:
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?
This was the year I finally stopped buying “floppies” and wholeheartedly embraced the philosophy of Wait for the Trade. It’s the economics of it – trade paperbacks are better value, especially the way Image price theirs, plus they don’t have adverts – combined with the fact that I no longer enjoy reading stories in serial format; I want the entire arc in one sitting. Also, keeping track of multiple storylines in different comics over the course of several months was starting to do my head in.
My picks for ’16 are Brian K. Vaughan’s retro-tastic Paper Girls; Slott and Allred’s Silver Surfer, which is charming and deliriously inventive (though I don’t they’ll ever top last year’s single-issue strip in the form of a Möbius-strip!)…
Honourable mentions go to the second volume of Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank’s superlative Stone Age saga MeZolith and the Humanoids English-language edition of Carthago by Christophe Bec, Eric Henninot and Milan Jovanovic, a cool, slick, cinematic mega-shark thriller.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
I very much enjoyed Daniel Godfrey’s Michael-Crichton-esque New Pompeii, putting a new spin on the theme-park-goes-wrong subgenre; Peter Tieryas’s United States of Japan, all the best bits of Japanese pop culture rolled into one, with a Dickian twist; and Kim Newman’s latest gleeful ransacking of public domain genre fiction, Angels of Music.
Honourable mentions: Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, a book which demands that you dive into it and, once you’re swimming, do your best to stay afloat; Bracken MacLeod’s eerie, Arctic-chilly Stranded; Chuck Wendig’s itch-inducing killer-ant thriller Invasive; and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s propulsive Beyond the Ice Limit, which is both the latest instalment in their ongoing Gideon Crew series and – bonus – ties up loose plot threads from a previous novel, The Ice Limit.
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?
It’s been an especially disappointing year at the movies. The two big DC offerings – Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad – were brash, loud, undisciplined and ultimately pointless, pure Goth-poseur tripe. Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder need to take a long, hard look at themselves and then an even longer, harder look at Marvel Studios, who have yet to put a foot wrong. Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange were both excellent: witty, humane, artfully poised between pleasing diehard comics fans and the general movie-going public, and written, directed and acted by people who clearly give a shit. Deadpool was also wonderful. Star Trek Beyond pleased me more than either of its immediate predecessors, since it was truest in tone and spirit to the Original Series, but I think my film of the year has to be 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was tense, claustrophobic and populated by a (small) cast of interesting characters responding in logical (to them) ways to an intolerable pressure-cooker situation.
As for TV, I am beginning to lose patience with the decompressed storytelling that infects many series, especially those from Netflix and HBO. It feels as though the programme makers have a certain number of hours to fill but not necessarily enough plot to fill them with, so they pad and stuff and prevaricate until they start to induce boredom in the viewer. I’ve all but given up on Luke Cage, for all that I like its neo-Blaxploitation vibe, and the second season of Daredevil had its moments, but they were mostly in the early episodes when John Bernthal as the Punisher was involved. The Elektra arc fizzled out (not least because the actress playing her, although she has the nifty kung fu moves, is otherwise wooden). Westworld started well but is already getting bogged down, taking its sweet time getting the plot mechanism into gear and being far too oblique and opaque for its own good.
The new season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a distinct improvement on the previous and has done a good job of rescuing the Ghost Rider from those two Nicolas Cage movie abominations. Which is nice.
One of the two real gems this year was from Amazon: Brain Dead, a political satire with a dash of science-fiction from the minds behind the excellent (and no longer extant) legal drama The Good Wife. Brain Dead didn’t get the audience ratings it deserved, perhaps due in some degree to its terrible title, and there won’t be a second season, but while it lasted this tale of space bugs corrupting Washington politicians was timely and funny.
The other real gem was, of course, Stranger Things. I watched it with my 13-year-old son, who loved it, and I get that people think it’s all ’eighties nostalgia, but there’s substance to it, and heart, and it filled its running time with a proper amount of story, trimmed of any fat. It made me feel 13 again. Yay.
FPI: How did 2016 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
This year I’ve been insanely busy as usual, finishing one novel (Age of Heroes), writing the first draft of another (Sherlock Holmes: The Labyrinth of Death), and commencing a third (Cthulhu Casebooks #2: The Miskatonic Monstrosities) which I am now nearly halfway into. My modus operandi is not to look back, just keep going forward, but I am fairly pleased with the way all these books have turned out or are turning out.
Two of the aforementioned books – Labyrinth and Miskatonic – are out next year, and I am also in the throes of developing a number of boardgames and card games. I hope to have at least one of the latter in production and available by the end of 2017.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Donald Trump. Keep an eye on him. I have a feeling he’s going to be playing a big part in all our lives, and not necessarily a beneficial one.