Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Geeky Nerfherder 4th Anniversary & My 2015 Favourites

I first posted on this blog on this day back in 2011, and now four years later, 'The Geeky Nerfherder' continues to grow. 2015 saw the blog surpass 2 million all time page views, and continues to gain followers through social media like Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter. So if you’re not already following, and want to keep up with blog posts and other ramblings, here are the links to my profiles on each of these sites:

on Twitter (@GeekyNerfherder)
on Instagram (@geekynerfherder)

Huge thanks to everyone that drops by the blog and follows me through the various social networks. Hope that you continue to enjoy my posts of cool art and pop culture geekery.

And so, it's that time of year once again, where everybody lists all their favourites of the past year.

Movies:

I've enjoyed the majority of films I've seen this year, and there are some (obvious) standout favourites. I'm a big Sci-Fi and Fantasy fan, and so that will of course reflect in my choice of favourite movies of the year.

It's a four-way tie for my favourite film of the year this year, all pretty good and making it difficult to pick just one.

'Ex_Machina' was the first film of the year for me, and what a way to start! A film that suggested, what if you couldn't tell apart an AI and a human. Great performances by Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleason and Alicia Vikander bring that premise to life and throughout the film making you wonder who is exactly testing who. A great piece of thought provoking Sci-Fi from director Alex Garland.



A bit under the radar leading up to release, but once it hit cinemas, word of mouth surrounding 'Mad Max: Fury Road' unleashed a storm of positive reviews, just like the sandstorm in the movie, blowing everything away with it's high tempo action sequences. Yes, there's not much of a story, as some detractors pointed out, but that's not the point of the movie, which is essentially just boiled down to a chase movie. It's more the story of Imperator Furiosa than of Max Rockatansky, but that doesn't lessen the impact of the film at all, it makes the film!



When I'd heard that they were making a movie of the book 'The Martian' by Andy Weir, the positive reviews inspired me to read the tale of Mark Watney and his survival on Mars last year. I really enjoyed the book and looked forward to seeing how director Ridley Scott would adapt the book to the screen. I needn't have worried, the film is really good and Matt Damon really embodies the spirit of Watney from the book. The other characters translated really well from page to screen too. Watney's humour from the book also carries over very well too and helps break the tension of the desolation of his situation on Mars. As with all book to movie adaptations, there are differences between the two mediums, but the changes helped the movie advance at a quicker pace than the book (which was essentially written as a diary and much more slower paced) but not at the expense of the story.



And 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', need I say anything else that's already been said about this film. The first direct sequel for 32 years, and it felt like it was never away! The return of favourite characters and the introduction of new ones, all held together with a story that is very familiar and also the launchpad for a new set of stories within the universe. In director JJ Abrams words, going back so they can go forward. And go forward they did, at lightspeed! Being a bit of a Star Wars geek, the film definitely hit the target for me (I couldn't wait and went to the midnight showing - mostly in an effort to beat any potential spoilers that were being spread by the spoiler trolls online) and I'm definitely looking forward to the next episode in the series, as well as the standalone 'A Star Wars Story' anthology films to fill the gap in between.



Honourable mentions to other movies I've enjoyed go to 'Kingsman: The Secret Service', 'John Wick', 'Jurassic World', 'Tomorrowland', 'Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation' and 'Spectre'.

Comics:
My favourite titles on my Pull List this year have mostly been from Image Comics, Improper Books, Dynamite Comics, and Boom! Studios. Yes, being a big fan, the new 'Star Wars' comics from Marvel would always be on my reading lists, but it's the titles from outside the 'Big Two' that have knocked it out the park this year for me! The two that have been a highlight for me this year have been . . .

'Porcelain: Bone China' from Improper Books, by Benjamin Read (w), Chris Wildgoose (a).
Set more than a decade after events in the first graphic novel, 'Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale', 'Bone China' continues the tale of Child, who has now grown into Lady, and her stewardship of the Porcelain factory that she now controls. The story mostly focuses on the relationship between Lady and the Captain, as she slowly opens up her heart and secrets to her new found love. The second half of the book descends into betrayal, turmoil and ultimately heartbreak for Lady, as the General, who has been hounding Lady to make her an army of soldiers from the porcelain, ruthlessly reveals her plan. The story is familiar, but it is very well told and held my attention all the way. It certainly pulls on the heart strings as you feel for Lady as her world crumbles around her. Chris Wildgoose's art is once again brilliant, a perfect fit. Love the attention to detail, and the characters seem to come alive on the page in an all too believable world.

I also visited the Improper Books stand at this year's Thought Bubble Comics Festival in Leeds with the intention of picking up the book, even had a quick chat with some of the different creators at the table whilst I was there. Picked up the wonderful 'Briar' episodic graphic novel, also by Benjamin and Chris, as well as the excellent second issue of 'MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun' by Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton. Can't recommend the books coming out of Improper Books enough.

'Monstress', from Image Comics, by Marjorie Liu (w), Sana Takeda (a).
It's only been two issues, at time of writing, but from when I opened the triple sized debut issue, I was hooked! First thing to fawn over about this book, is the art from Sana Takeda, the covers and the interiors, they are simply stunning, and well worth adding to your pull list just for that alone! But add the story of Maika, who risks everything to control her psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, placing her in the middle of a devastating war between human and otherworldly forces, and it's a dark fantasy story where steampunk and Asian influences collide in a bleak and unforgiving world. Well worth checking out!

Honourable mentions to series that I've really enjoyed and have been on my pull list this year go to 'Saga', Gail Simone's run on 'Red Sonja', 'Rat Queens', 'Descender', 'Roche Limit', 'Copperhead', 'Swords Of Sorrow' series and spinoffs, 'The Autumnlands', 'From Under Mountains' and 'The Spire'.

Art / Illustration:
My interest in art scene was initially through blogs like Blurppy, CromeYellow, XombieDirge, OMG Posters, seeing the awesome alternative movie posters, concert posters and comics art plus seeing art produced (albeit online) for the likes of Hero Complex Gallery, Gallery1988, Spoke Art, Bottleneck Gallery, Print Club London, Thoughtbubble Comic Arts Festival and more and on websites like Behance and Deviant Art.

2015 was the year I fell in love with the new contemporary artworks, especially those coming out of California and New York, and have discovered a lot of new favourite artists along the way - some of which I'll be featuring in my 'The Art Of . . .' series on the blog. I also managed to head out to Los Angeles this year and popped into Hero Complex Gallery, and had a great chat with Adam who runs things there! Very insightful and I appreciate the work he and his crew there does at the gallery all the more!!

Way too much awesome art out there to even attempt to make a judgement on what my favourite artwork of the year is or even who my favourite artist this year is either - very much spoilt for choice! I would just advise to follow the various galleries and blogs on social media, especially on Instagram, and The Geeky Nerfherder too of course, for a glimpse of some of the gorgeous artwork on show from the supremely talented artists from around the world. As well the ones I've already mentioned, blogs like Beautiful.Bizarre, Juxtapoz Magazine, Supersonic ArtWideWalls and Muddy Colors are all worth checking out and highlight all that is good in the world of art.

Books:
I've read through quite a few books and audiobooks this year, for me anyway. Even managed to break my GoodReads 2015 Reading Challenge! I've caught up with a few series that I'd heard great things about, such as 'The Witcher' by Andrzej Sapkowski, 'The Expanse' by James SA Corey and 'The Mistborn Saga' by Brandon Sanderson, and I've enjoyed every single one of them.

Of the new books this year, I also enjoyed 'The Empress Game' by Rhonda Mason, and the Neil Gaiman short story anthology, 'Trigger Warning'.

But my favourite for this year is 'Lost Stars' by Claudia Gray, part of the 'Journey To Star Wars The Force Awakens' series.

It's billed as a YA romance story set against the backdrop of the Star Wars Universe, and is the story of two childhood best friends, Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell, believable characters you really feel for as they become conflicted and despite being on opposite sides, discover that the only loyalty they have is with each other. 

I especially loved the different perspective of the key battles from the original Star Wars movies, seen through the eyes of newly graduated Imperial cadets and new volunteers for the Rebel Alliance. I wanted to finish the book before going to see 'The Force Awakens', just in case anything was referenced or hinted at in the movies, as well as right at the end of the book (and on the cover, so not really much of a spoiler) we learn how the Star Destroyer wreckage that was seen at the beginning of 'The Force Awakens' and in the 'Battle Of Jakku' DLC from 'Star Wars: Battlefront', became to be.

If you're a fan of the Classic Star Wars movies, I would definitely recommend this book.

Soundtracks:
The one outstanding favourite for me this year has to be 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' by John Williams. Sounding similar to his Harry Potter score to my untrained ears, especially 'Rey's Theme', personally my favourite track from the score, than one of his previous Star Wars scores. It evokes the feeling of the familiar transposed with the new. Summing up the new film perfectly.

I also loved the soundtrack score to 'The Martian' by Harry Gregson-Williams. Matches the film perfectly, quietly understated but rousing enough when it needs to be.

So there you have it, a list of some of my favourites from 2015. Thanks again to everyone who drops by the blog, and follows me on social media, making 'The Geeky Nerfherder' a lot of fun to do! Here's to 2016 and more of the same!