Cody’s Best Stuff of 2018

Oh boy. 2018 had some pretty awesome media to consume. So much so that it was really hard to narrow it down to just five for each medium. But I wanted to keep this somewhat brief. The lists here are in no particular order, other than that the mediums are gone through alphabetically.

Which means we start with my favorite Albums of the year.

Albums

Welcome to Bonkers by Nekrogoblikon

This was one of my first obsessions of 2018. And my god. WHY did no one tell me about this band before!!?? Nekrogoblikon has become a favorite for me just over this year and this album is basically the whole reason why. There is so much variety and expressive raw talent to behold in the absurd nonsense of their subject matter. But every song from ‘Magic Spider’ to ‘The Skin Thief’ will stay stuck in your head for weeks and weeks to come. The chorus from ‘Dragons’ still pops into my head every now and then. My only wish was that their theme of being goblins from space was actually expanded on a bit more. Like maybe incorporate more minor-key growls as orcs in some of the tracks or something like that. But for what this is it's pretty amazing.

I was lucky enough to have these guys come play in my hometown and got to see what they where like live, and I recommend their show as much as I recommend Welcome to Bonkers. There’s just no experience quite like moshing with a Goblin.

Head in The Clouds by 88rising

This the first collab album being released from the supergroup 88rising, and man did it deliver. This is a collection of some damn fine Asian American Hip-Hop. Just a super warm and mellow record with incredibly crisp production value all around. There’s of course the big ‘Midsummer Madness’ track, but ‘I want In’ and ‘History’ will blow you away both with their insanely catchy hooks and endearing soul. If you need a record to help you chill out or are into stuff like Common’s ‘Be’ album definitely make sure you grab this one.

 

Kids by The Midnight

Electronic duo The Midnight are just pure masters of creating albums that sound like soundtracks for 80s movies that never existed. But sure as hell feel like they do when you get halfway through one of their songs. Kids not only falls into said description but is the epitome of the level of talent on hand with these guys. I can’t fathom the ability to seemingly arrange compositions as elegant and powerful as these. Coupled together with thought provoking song writing that just makes you want to smile, Kids is an absolute must listen.

Room 25 by Noname

Keeping her brand and latest album release completely independent, Noname continues to... Make a name for herself... even without the money and power of a record label backing her. Which isn't just impressive in the music industry, but extremely impressive in the Hip-hop / R&B scene. Room 25 is my first exposure to the artist and she has definitely crawled to the top of indies I need to keep an ear out for. Her voice has a tactfully unique timbre that sounds as if Bessie Smith decided to be a rapper. The soulful and melodramatic nature of this record will definitely keep anyone with a open ear coming back to listen.

 

Where Owls Know my Name by Rivers of Nihil

I had a real hard picking between including this or Automata I & II on this list. But as much as I love BTBAM and that Record (those records), they don't work as well on their own as they do as one long double record. And if they had released it that way and not so far apart it would have a better shot at being here. But honestly, I’ve just spun this CD around way more. These traditionally Tech Death vets have positioned themselves in a serious position to possibly dethrone the kings of Progressive Metal. This album not only has some of the best use of the Saxophone in metal, it's used so sparingly on the record you kind of start to miss it at times.

Overall though this is an amazing piece of fairly timeless music, both technically and lyricly. As the album doesn't even require an explicit content sticker, the subject matter fits greatly with the talent and professional sounds they cut through. It's something anyone can dig into and “let it take you mind where only owls know your name.”

Comics

Venom by Cates and Stegman

If you told me a year ago that I would be putting a friggin Venom run on a best of list over a new Amazing Spider-Man run, I would think you’re clearly from another dimension. One that I have clearly fallen into because not only is it here on this list, it’s possibly one of the best re-imaginings of a character I’ve witnessed in comics. Comparable to when Geoff Johns fixed Green Lantern back in 2004, Donny Cates has not only managed to navigate the minefield of various Venom retcons, reboots, and somehow use it all to forge (literally) a new and better origin of the symbiote. One that respects what came before and expands them all equally into a narrative that creatively makes them all synomise with each other as well as explains elements of symbiote’s features that have gone unexplained all these years.

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All this is without even mention of the unmatched grotesqueness of Stegman’s art to somehow visualize what is the most expressive Venom comic ever written. If that sounds like I’m overhyping this book, I’m probably underselling it. Hopefully Marvel let’s this team stay on this book for as long as they need.

GideonFalls by Lemire and Sorrentino

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Lemire dips his toes into a lot of areas in the comics industry, but to my knowledge he has limited experience in the horror genre of this medium. Based on Gideon Falls, you would assume he is a veteran who has mastered the art of mysterious horror books. The dream team of Lemire and Sorrentino are back together (check out their Green Arrow run) and these two have such great chemistry in a very visual way. I have no doubt that Lemire being an artist as well helps this chemistry, but he and Sorrentino know how to play off each other’s strengths and weakness in some brilliantly real ways. All their talents are put on display in this eerily trippy visual splendor about a Priest who has been relocated to the town of Gideon Falls after the death of their local pastor. I dare not spoil more but let’s just say only Sorrentino could make me scared of a barn...

 

Mr.Miracle by King and Gerads

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I just. I... Read it. If you need explanation look on the internet. Everyone and their mother is going to have this on their top ten comics list. And I’m still trying to process what I read. But it’s.... Yeah. It’s Tom King. What else did you expect?

 

Green Lantern: Earth One by Gabriel Hardman

Horror Comics mastermind Gabriel Hardman has been a favorite of mine in the indy scene for a good while now. And needless to say I’m a pretty huge fan of the Green Lantern mythos in comics. So when I heard about how Hardman was going to be writing and drawing the first volume of Green Lantern: Earth One I was more than excited. For those unaware, the Earth One line of DC Comics is a re-imagining of their classic character’s origin stories as if they were created in the modern day. Usually with a more grounded than fantastical approach to modernize these characters. Having read Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman get this stellar and masterful treatment my expectations couldn’t have been higher.

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And my god. This book is easily one of my top 3 Green Lantern stories ever told.

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Instead of being in the air force, Hal Jordan is working for Ferris-Space, working on mining asteroids within our solar system. With this we learn the mythos has really only been shifted with one small change that would echo across the universe in some seriously dire ways. One such way is that it has given the Manhunters the ability to completely gain control of the universe before Hal ever got his ring. And have all but wiped out not just the Green Lantern Corp, but most of their history as well. Which makes this a mystery more than an action comic, with Hal learning about the Corp through the small stories and limited information he can find out about them. It’s a premise that is as brilliant as it is simple. It’s like Shostakovich's Piano Concerto #2, slow and beautiful. This kind of re-imagining is something that could turn any fan of Sci-fi into a die hard Lantern fan.

 

The Weatherman by LeHeup and Fox

Easily my favorite new series from the year. And in a year with two new really good Lemire titles, that’s saying A LOT. The Weatherman caught my eye simply with the cover of the first issue. Having never heard of the writer or artist I didn’t know what to expect. But what I found was nothing short of one of the most original works I’ve discovered in a long time. It’s the kind of premise and story that reminds me why I love comic books, how the limits are only bound by the ability of the artist and the imagination of the whole creative team.

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This book is set on Mars years from now, with a huge population of people living in various cities on the new world. All still stricken from grief by a past event that near instantly killed the 8 Billion people who still resided on Earth... If you think that’s a heavy idea to swallow, you have no idea... The comic stars a Weatherman on mars (a job completely unnecessary due to the artificially created climate) who is really more of a comedian with planet-wide popularity due to his insanely charismatic personality and ability to bring happiness and hope to planet in desperate need of answers as too how so many of their loved ones were killed.

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Fox’s art does an amazing job rendering the unique take on futuristic tech and cityscapes through the lens of almost vintage sci-fi art. What’s insane is that after the first issue I almost completely passed on the series. Might be a weird thing to hear about a comic that’s my favorite of the year but it’s true. The first issue ends with an emotionally manipulative cliffhanger that I’ve seen done a billion times in other media. But it felt so out of place considering how fresh and clearly skilled this writer was. So I was baffled to see what was done. Knowing this I decided to at least give the second issue a chance, hoping they would ignore that lazy and far too brutal choice they had made. But no, and too my shock I'm glad they didn't. It was almost used as warning how much more visceral they owned their decision of the first issue. A warning that basically said to me, “yeah we know what we're doing, and we're making you look at this. If you can't hang, get the fuck out. For those who can, here look at it in an even more messed up way.”

It's been emotionally draining but God damn am I glad I decided to push through it. And yeah... If you read the first issue and see what I'm talking about and decide its not for you. Then it's not. Trust me. But by the end of that second issue I had a completely different view on what I thought this story was going to be about. But man, if you don't at least check out the first issue to see if it's up your alley you are doing yourself a great disservice.

Movies

Hereditary

Easily the best horror film of the year, and maybe even the last decade. This high stakes family drama gets everything right. From the tight screenplay that makes sure it has no extraneous elements, to the beautifully constructed pacing that builds up so much dread, and of course the performances... It will be a crime if Toni Collette doesn’t get recognition from what is easily the most emotional and difficult performance I’ve seen in cinema this past year. I’ve only seen this film once and I’m not sure I want to watch it again. Simply due to how awful it made me feel. Misery Porn at it’s finest, Hereditary will stay burned in your brain for the rest of your life. Seriously, there are certain images and sounds that still make me wince when I remember them. And only one could be considered grotesque.. That’s how damn well this first time writer director uses cinematography and first class editing to build up tension. ‘A’ fucking Plus.

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Sorry to Bother you

There are two kinds of people on this world. People who will hate this movie, and people like me who love it. I knew nothing about this movie aside from the title and poster going in, and I want to keep it that way for you dear reader. All i'll say is that watching this is worth the 50/50 chance of you landing on my side or not. And there's going to be a very clear point in the film where you either give in to the movie, or tune out completely. But trust me, it's worth at least knowing what moment is regardless of where u fall.

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Spider-Man: into The Spider Verse

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations' SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.

Eat your heart out Infinity War, you don’t even come close to reaching the emotive and expressive nature of the best Comic Book movie of the year. And honestly, I may eventually top this upon the list of Spider-Man films in general. Not only does this film do a wonderful job using a simple story to create a complex screenplay, but creates a wholly unique visual style that really bridges the gap between comic and screen better than any other film. Using step key animation to mimic the frame rate and visual style of Stop-motion animation was by itself a brilliant idea, as it makes the film look like you are flipping through the pages of a comic. But there are so many more great concepts executed so well here that you can really only do in animation, and it shows an incredible understanding of both mediums.

But it’s the complete grasp on these characters that makes this film work as well as it does. Unlike Homecoming, we actually have a likeable lead character with some serious conflicts and issues with responsibility that challenge him through the movie. And unlike Homecoming, we also have an understanding of who Peter Parker is. And especially how different he would be if only a few things were changed. Both him and Miles are given spectacular character arcs that are built by each other, and celebrates their history while embracing the change that comes from the world they face. But our two leads aren’t the only ones given this kind of treatment, even the minor comedic relief characters are each given an impactful and meaningful character moment.

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It doesn’t even end there, supporting characters like Miles’ father have an interesting character arc, the villain’s motivations are super relatable, those same motivations are even what drive this outlandish premise in a way that feels natural, and more importantly, it’s all wholey Spider-Man in nature. I really hope Sony makes more films with these ALL these characters and understands why this film was successful.

Annihilation

I honestly forget this had even come out in 2018 since I saw it so long ago. Like Alex Garland’s last film Ex Machina, Annihilation is an instant Sci-fi classic. This is one of those movies you just need to see. There are so many great unique visual treats to behold. From the way light and refraction are played with, the creature design, and some insanely creative body horror, this film has something for everyone.

The story itself falls into what feels like the most avant-garde Arthur C. Clarke novel you could ever read. It definitely makes me curious to check out the actual book this screenplay was roughly based on. It’s visual and surrealist nature about self destruction, human nature, and altered perceptions are only a few of the many reasons why this film has a grip on my heart.

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Bad Times at the el Royale

Man they just don’t make movies like this anymore. Drew Goddard's first foray into taking on a project he's both writing and directing is an incredibly strong start to this new chapter in his career. Bad Times is a film that seems completely out of time, almost as if it were made in the 60s or 70s as an ode to classic mystery movies of Early Hollywood. And it's one of the best stories I've seen unravel in a long time. The sets and direction play with the visual nature of the film medium, and let the character development and plot unravel with little exposition, and instead a lot of visual storytelling. Something lost on so many films that can afford a cast this good. The stand outs for me being Dakota Johnson (yes really) and Cynthia Erivo. The later has a voice and journey through this story that will grip you to the very end.

DF-02709_2708_R_COMP – L-R: Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, and Cynthia Erivo star in Twentieth Century Fox’s BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYAL. Photo Credit: Kimberley French.

Video Games

Red Dead Redemption 2

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Well I decided to just be dumb this year and I went out and bought an Xbox One X just so I could play Red Dead 2. I wasn't even that hyped for the game. and I was just going to wait for that inevitable PC port. But when i saw the digital foundry footage of the One X, it was the first time I think i had ever seen a game truly look Next-Gen. And yeah it's a gorgeous game. With the best open world hunting system I've ever gotten to play. The story starts off strong but just doesn't stick the landing. Even still, the is one of most fun worlds to just live in and explore.

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So while I bought an Xbox One X for red dead, I fell in love with game-pass because of this. This high octane arcade racer is what makes video games so great. This is just pure fun with simple but high skill gameplay that will keep you hooked for hours on end. Easily my favorite kickback and relax game of the year. I honestly can't get enough of it, and even if there where no other games to play on GamePass, I would gladly keep paying $10 a month just for this.

 

Monster Hunter World

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This game has such an addictive and simple core gameplay loop. And once you get into the swing of it, it's hard to stop. I really wasn't too hot on the game for the first hour or so, but once I got my groove I really dug what they have done. The monster battles are long and test your fortitude as a player as much as how well your character's equiped for the battle. I had never played a Monster Hunter game before but I am officially a fan and can't wait for the next one.

Shadow of The Tomb Raider

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God I love this game. Not only is it really well optimized even on older processors like mine, so much so on a GTX 970 i could Super-Sample 1440p to my 1080 monitor at 30fps on ultra, it's also finally a Puzzle Adventure game. With some stealth sections, not the other way around like the last two games. And it being a puzzle game I would play it even with the lower frame rate most of the time so i could gape in aw at how gorgeous it was. But the devs put so much care in that if the action ever picked up, I could lower the textures and get a locked 60, without even reloading the game. You literally get to see the texture difference with the press of a button, and it's awesome. All this without even mentioning a story that rivals the first game's, and tackles some much hard questions. Asking the player to do the same. Awesome end to the series.

Omensight

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Without a doubt my favorite game of the year, and it's definitely going to sneak into my top 10 or 20 games period. The unique take on game narrative and detective style mystery solving is a truly original blend of all things great. Even if the core gameplay it's wasn't fun this would still get mad props for its creative storytelling mechanic alone, but thankfully Omensight is coupled with some of the most fun action combat you can play in an adventure game. This game's plot will unravel depending on how you decide to solve it. and just when you think you've got it figured out, it will surprise you how far the rabbit hole goes. Play this game, play it twice, and enjoy it.

So there you have it. All my favorite things from 2018. There are so many other films, Albums, and games that I loved but just didn't make a cut, so I'll bid you farewell with a quick run off sentence of my honorable mentions. Thanks for reading :)

Honorable Mentions; Revenge (amazing movie), 'You Won't get What You Want (Daughters' newest album, its sooo good), Pathfinder: Kingmaker (great Crpg), and Justice League: Dark (definately one of the best team books DC has had in a while.)

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