Top 20 Films of 2016

It’s been a long time coming, but here are the Top 20 Films of 2016! This year has served up some truly great cinematic treats, whilst others may have left a sour taste for days, if not weeks. Blockbusters have yet again seen a boom, and Warner Bros still haven’t managed to find their footing since Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Still, plenty of people paid money to be disappointed, as both Suicide Squad and Batman Vs. Superman displayed.

Disney really took over the box-office this year, with at least five of the top ten box-office earners all being Disney titles. Also, a staggeringly large amount of people paid to see The Secret Lives of Pets. Some cinemagoers even praised it. There’s a strong possibility they walked into a screening of Zootropolis and assumed that was the same film.

Regardless of box-office numbers, a lot of films flew under the radar for many. A few films in this list had terribly limited releases, so they suffered from a lack of exposure. If anything, this list is here to help that. Also, all films listed are based on UK theatrical releases alone. No exceptions are made to festival screenings, or even films that somehow weren’t even released in the UK. Here’s looking at you, Anno’s Godzilla (do check it out, it’s great).

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the list.

20: Welcome to Leith

Directed by Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker, this documentary focuses on the small North Dakota town of Leith and its unwelcome guests. With a population of roughly 16 people, the small community is threatened by the appearance of white supremacist Craig Cobb, who attempts to build his very own Neo-Nazi community within Leith.

A truly uncomfortable watch, Welcome to Leith provides a fascinating insight into an ugly part of society, which is highlighted with some extremely close interactions with everyone involved. It’s raw, attention-grabbing some truly captivating and scary viewing.

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19: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Directed by David Yates, Fantastic Beasts is the first of many spin-offs from the Harry Potter franchise. Set in the 1920s, British ‘magizoologist’ Newt Scamander finds himself stuck in New York, right in the midst of the secret wizarding world. As it turns out, not all is right behind the scenes of New York’s cobbled streets, as Newt befriends part of the community to help thwart the looming dark presence of evil.

Fantastic Beasts is a pleasant return to the wizarding world, as David Yates manages to recapture some of the wondrous visuals and charismatic characters that the franchise is renowned for. It really comes as no surprise,  as Yates filmography does already consist of four of the Harry Potter films.

It’s a telling sign that this is J.K. Rowling’s first foray into screenwriting also, as the script still feels like it is part of the same universe. The story may be a little straightforward, but the performances from Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell are truly exceptional. It’s a real pleasure to see Colin Farrell in such a role, which we deserve to see more of.

One of the reveals in the film may leave a sour taste for some viewers, as will the proposition of four more sequels, but David Yates Fantastic Beasts feels like a warm, welcome return to a home that many have missed for some while now.

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18: Deadpool

It’s a weird feeling, but for the first time in years, Fox Studios surprised cinemagoers this year by producing an R-rated, enjoyable superhero film that was nothing like their back catalogue of tired mutant movies.

Deadpool had been stuck in developmental hell for years, but with the help of Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller, the film was finally released in spring to a roaring response. It quickly became the highest grossing R-rated film of all time (when unadjusted for inflation), receiving critical acclaim from almost all major critics.

The plot is simple enough. Hired mercenary Wade Wilson attempts to cure his body of cancer with the aid of an experimental procedure, which leaves him disfigured and without the love of his life. Swearing revenge on who ruined his life, Deadpool tries to put together the missing pieces of his personal puzzle.

Thanks to constant pushing from Ryan Reynolds, his role as Deadpool is now synonymous with the actor. Deadpool is hysterical, tightly put together and is unfortunately now set to possibly disappoint cinemagoers with its countless sequels and spin-offs, because that’s the Fox Studios way.

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17: Kubo and the Two Strings

Possibly one of the greatest achievements in 3D stop-motion capture, Kubo and the Two Strings is the tale of a young, gifted boy who attempts to locate a mystical piece of armour to aid his fight against vengeful spirits.

It’s the fourth film from Laika, who have cemented themselves as one of the best animation studios specialising in cinema today. Kubo and the Two Strings features the voices of Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and Ralph Fiennes, to name a few. McConaughey is one of the stand-out voices in the film, whose work as the comical beetle provides some of the funniest scenes throughout.

Kubo and the Two Strings’ script might not necessarily be its strongest suit, but the sheer amount of talent showcased with the animation means the film truly needs to be seen to be believed, as scenes are exquisitely brought to life. The storyline is typically dark in places, but then that’s part of Laika’s traditional storytelling appeal.

Unfortunately, the film fell under the radar for some this year, with the lowest opening yet for a Laika production. However, it is still one of the most critically acclaimed animated films of the year, and it’s never too late to seek out this magical tale of mystery, action and drama.

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16: Zootropolis/Zootopia

Renamed Zootropolis for a UK wide release, Disney’s 55th animated feature was a surprising entry this year. Directed by both Byron Howard and Rich Moore, Zootropolis focuses on the young Judy Hopps, a young, optimistic police officer who starts her career in an urban utopia.

During the first days of her career as a member of the force, she finds herself in an unlikely partnership with the con artist Nick Wilde, as they both try to uncover the disappearance of several animals. Disney picked the ideal voice actors for both characters too, as Jason Bateman channels Wilde perfectly, alongside Ginnifer Goodwin as Hopps.

Zootropolis managed to successfully tell a story about speciesism amongst animals themselves, whilst managing to feature memorable characters and some entertaining scenes, for all ages. Whereas other studios completely failed this year with their cutesy animals (here’s looking at you Illumination Entertainment), Zootropolis completely knocked it out of the park.

It may come as no surprise that director Rich Moore previously directed some of the best ever episodes of The Simpsons, including Marge Vs. The Monorail, Cape Feare and Homer’s Night Out, to name a few. That comedic talent is clearly witnessed in Zootropolis. Zootropolis is brimming with charm, and per the typical Disney standard nowadays, the animation is flawless.

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15: The Nice Guys

Unsurprisingly, The Nice Guys features all the trademarks of a Shane Black movie; a murder mystery, an unusual mismatched pair of protagonists and of course, attractive women. Thankfully, The Nice Guys also follows the same standard of Black’s previous films, and here his formula is perfected.

The film features Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as the two main leads, two detectives who conduct their work very differently. Somehow assigned to the same case, both detectives are in search of a missing teenager.

The script is rife with witty dialogue, and the plot takes some interesting and surprising developments, keeping viewers on their toes throughout. It’s a role that Crowe has desperately needed for some time, as it showcases a range we’ve not seen enough of.

It’s a great little movie, and the 70s setting really helps to reinforce Shane Black’s vision. Regardless of what some may think about Black’s work on Iron Man 3, it’s evident that he’s a gifted writer and director. Here’s to his next film, the sequel to Predator, where the alien has to inevitably team up with an unlikely buddy to solve the mystery of the missing porn actress.

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14: Moana

Yet another animated entry for the 2016 list, Moana is Disney’s 56th animated feature film directed by both Ron Clements and John Musker. Renowned for their work on some of Disney’s greatest films, such as Little Mermaid and Aladdin, it comes as no surprise that Moana is just as enjoyable as their previous efforts.

Moana looks absolutely beautiful, and it may possess some of the best songs from Disney in years. Starring Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson as Maui and Auli’I Cravalho as the main lead, Moana, the film follows her journey to put a stop to the curse that threatens her home and livelihood.

It’s also a breath of fresh air too, as Moana features absolutely no love interests whatsoever. The film is peppered with a wide variety of scenes, consisting of Mad Max inspired action sequences and a visually striking underwater scene featuring one-half of Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement.

The animation in Moana reminds viewers of just how far cinema has come since the days of Toy Story. It’s beautifully animated, tightly put together and it ultimately boasts some of that traditional Disney magic.

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13: The Revenant

There’s no denying it; The Revenant is a technical masterpiece. Set in 1823, director Alejandro Iñárritu based his film on Michael Punke’s novel of the same name, which describes the life of American frontiersman Hugh Glass.

Winning 3 Academy Awards earlier this year, The Revenant stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the protagonist Glass, and Tom Hardy as the main antagonist, John Fitzgerald. Left for dead after being badly mauled by a bear, Hugh Glass has to fend for himself as he undertakes the arduous task of returning home.

Filmed using natural light and under severe weather conditions, The Revenant is a testament to how skilled Iñárritu is with his craft. Scenes are stunningly composed, as the film portrays just how unforgivable life was back then. Whilst Leonardo was recognised for his performance as Hugh Glass, Tom Hardy’s role as John Fitzgerald is arguably much stronger, as Hardy truly embodies the character of Fitzgerald.

The Revenant is a remarkable piece of filmmaking, and it does deserve every accolade it’s received so far. After Birdman and now The Revenant, people are more than excited for Iñárritu’s next project.

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12: Room

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, Room boasts Brie Larson’s most captivating performance yet. Based on the book of the same name, Larson plays as Joy Newsome, who has been held captive with her 5-year old son for years. The film follows their attempts at escaping, and how they cope with the outside world.

Room is essentially split into two chapters, with each one showcasing the acting abilities of Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who has a spectacular performance as the young son, who acts completely unaware of their harrowing situation. Tremblay’s character feels real, and there’s a real sense of a relationship between mother and son here, which is a welcome surprise concerning younger actors.

The first half of the film acts a tense thriller, whereas the second provides a more sober, emotional hook. Abrahamson has provided cinemagoers with a unique story of survival of love this year, which is not to be missed.

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11:  Captain America: Civil War

It should come as no surprise to see that Civil War makes it into the top 20 this year, due to directors Joe and Anthony Russo returning to the Captain America franchise for one of the biggest events in comic book history. The second highest grossing film of the year (after Finding Dory), Civil War managed to juggle over a dozen characters, whilst presenting a thought-provoking story and phenomenal action.

There are many layers to Civil War’s story, but the main focus is the decision from the United Nations to oversee and control the Avengers, in response to their emergence correlating with major disasters. Creating a divide within the team, an international incident involving Captain America’s old friend Bucky Barnes adds tension and further division amongst close allies.

Civil War had a lot of elements that could have gone wrong; a complex idea, dozens of characters, the introduction of Spider-man, and even Ant-Man’s inevitable change into Giant Man. However, the Russo brothers accomplished all of that, therefore making comic book fans dreams come true. Characters were well balanced, Tom Holland’s performance as Spider-man was the greatest yet, and the film even ended on a surprisingly dour note.

In some ways, Civil War felt like Star Wars’ Empire Strikes Back, as it established new characters whilst developing old fan favourites. It was an incredibly put together film, providing Warner Bros yet another example of how to produce a superhero blockbuster. Maybe they’ll get it one day.

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10: Arrival

In the past few years, director Denis Villeneuve has proved his work as a skilful director. His past films, Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario have had Villeneuve tackling all sorts of genres, but Arrival is his first attempt at science fiction, and arguably his best directorial piece yet.

Based on a short story, Arrival stars Amy Adams as linguist Louise Banks, who is hired by the U.S. army to help discover why 12 extra-terrestrial ships have landed on Earth. Joined by Jeremy Renner’s Ian Donnelly, both Louise and Ian decipher the alien messages in a race against other nations who are unsure of how to act towards these possibly hostile invaders.

Arrival is a surprisingly smart and sophisticated science fiction film, and it succeeds where 2014’s Interstellar miserably failed. The film challenges the usual format of sci-fi feature films, with a strong focus on philosophy and language. It is much more reserved than typical alien invasion films, and that, in turn, makes it a welcome breath of fresh air.

Adams is at her very best here, and Villeneuve is slowly turning into a director to follow very closely, especially considering he’s at the helm of the next Blade Runner.

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9: Nocturnal Animals

Despite the unnecessary first five minutes, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is an intense, stunning and titillating piece of filmmaking. The film is interwoven into two storylines, with Amy Adams starring in one role and Jake Gyllenhaal in two. In the film, Adams is Susan Morrow, a successful art gallery owner who receives a manuscript written by her estranged ex-husband, Edward.

Devoted to her, this twisted novel she reads is brought to life with the use of several actors; Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. As she’s consumed by the book, the story is interlaced with flashbacks of her relationship with Edward.

The layered script is flawless, allowing for some great roles to be played by both Shannon and Taylor-Johnson. Jake Gyllenhaal is on form as he usually is, but the combination of personating two characters is the icing on the cake for fans of his exceptional work.

It cannot be understated how well composed some of the scenes are, but then Tom Ford has a keen eye for cinematography. His previous film, A Single Man, presented viewers with a thirst for more, and hopefully Nocturnal Animals will set a trend for the gifted filmmaker.

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8: The Hateful Eight

The second Western in a row by renowned director Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight concerns eight strangers who seek refuge at a haberdashery from a deadly blizzard. Each with their own unique background, these strangers may have their own nefarious plans that involve the bounty hunter and his prisoner.

There’s a varied selection of actors in The Hateful Eight who have appeared in Tarantino’s films before, such as Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and even Zoë Bell to name a few, and they’re all on form here.

Of course, The Hateful Eight could be considered typical Tarantino exploitation schlock, but that’s part of the appeal. Tarantino’s characters are often outrageous, especially in the case of Jackson’s character Marquis, and the script is laden with sharp, snappy dialogue. It has all of Tarantino’s staples all over it, and there’s simply nothing wrong with that.

As is the norm with Tarantino and his love for cinema, The Hateful Eight was shot on film. However, his use 70mm film caused a flurry of disagreements between UK cinemas and the distributor. Making at least half of what Django Unchained made at the box office, The Hateful Eight was surrounded by controversy, the new Star Wars, and an obscene amount of pirating. Still, it was another great addition to Tarantino’s filmography, and it’s not to be scoffed at.

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7: Swiss Army Man

Written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Swiss Army Man proved to be one of the weirdest entries in UK cinemas this year. Starring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse and Paul Dano as a suicidal misfit, Swiss Army Man

Even as a dead man, Daniel Radcliffe can still act, and his relationship with Paul Dano’s Hank is unusual and charming. Acting as a Swiss army ‘man’, Hank utilises the cadaver of Radcliffe in weird and wonderful ways to survive in the wilderness.

It’s hard to define Swiss Army Man in a specific genre of film. It’s not an action or adventure, or really a coming-of-age drama. It’s unlike any other indie film that has been showcased this year, and despite its weird content, it’s strangely delightful and full of heart. Also, it has Paul Dano recreating the Jurassic Park theme to a gawping, dead flatulent Radcliffe, so what more could cinemagoers ask for?

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6: Everybody Wants Some!!

No matter what decade it is, director Richard Linklater manages to capture it perfectly within his pictures. His latest, the 2016 comedy set the eighties, Everybody Wants Some!! follows a selection of college baseball players who are interested in two things; baseball and women.

Everybody Wants Some!! doesn’t follow standard storytelling conventions. It throws viewers straight into the eighties, as it showcases what life was like back then with a carefully put together ensemble cast. Each character feels real, as they have their own identity and background, and they’re all perfectly portrayed.

Linklater’s films are like marmite for some people but do not be mistaken as this film is the ultimate frat boy comedy, and it feels like it was ripped right out of the era it is attempting to recreate. The main character Jake Bradford, is played exceptionally well by past Glee member, Blake Jenner. His function is important, as the lead role gets a taste of what the eighties were made of.

It boasts a superb soundtrack, and one standout scene involves five of the baseball players rapping to The Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, all before attempting – and failing miserably – to pick up women outside their dorm rooms. Everybody Wants Some!! is a nuanced, appealing little picture, and we should all be so thankful to have Linklater as a director.

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5: Green Room

Visceral, suspenseful and downright sickening, director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room was one of the best horror movies of the year. Appearing out of nowhere, this horror film starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart, told the story of how one punk band becomes a target after witnessing a murder at a Neo-Nazi bar.

Trapped in the green room after witnessing a stabbing, they’re held hostage by Darcy Banker, the leader of the local group of skinheads. Played by Patrick Stewart, Darcy is a force to be reckoned with as he will stop at nothing to ensure that the police aren’t involved.

Green Room is unapologetic as the tense showdown kicks into gear, harking back to an earlier age of brutal exploitation films that always left no one unscathed. It’s taut, well-acted and surprisingly unforgivable, as the thrills keep coming.

Nobody ever expected Patrick Stewart to play such a role, and it helps add that extra layer of menace to his role. Of course, this is also one of Anton Yelchin’s last roles that he got to act before his untimely death this year. He’s one of the best parts about Green Room, and it’s a pleasure to see him star in such an unrepentant and thrilling movie. Viewers will be left in shock at the demise of some characters, and at some of the lines uttered by Stewart’s mouth.

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4: Train to Busan

Let’s be honest here. There hasn’t been a decent zombie flick since Shaun of the Dead, except for the Spanish horror films, REC and REC2. Thankfully though, that changed this year with the South Korean film, Train to Busan. Heavily pushed for an international release, Train to Busan is directed by Yeon Sang-ho, starring Gong Yoo and Ma Dong-Seok.

Gong Yoo plays the lead role as Seok-Woo, a divorced workaholic who takes his daughter to see her mother in Busan. They board the Korea Train Express, and as their train departs from the station, a convulsing, sick woman boards the train. As it turns out, she’s been infected with a zombie plague – and she’s not the only one.

Train to Busan is a pure survival horror, which takes place prominently on board a train. The confines of the train really push the survival aspect of the film, and the film is bolstered with some strong storytelling, that has a heavy reliance on relationships, selfishness and sheer horror.

There’s clearly a social commentary that is touched upon throughout the film, which is mixed into horrifying action sequences. Viewers will be left rooting for the main cast, whilst managing pure hatred for one of the minor characters. Train to Busan has some great performances, some solid zombie action and make-up, and it should come as no surprise that the film is now the highest-grossing Asian film of all time in China. It’s unique, action-packed and emotional. Not to be missed.

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3:  10 Cloverfield Lane

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg and written by Josh Campbell, 10 Cloverfield Lane sports one of John Goodman’s most captivating performances of his entire career. Alongside Goodman who plays the questionable Howard Stambler, the film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle and John Gallagher, Jr. as Emmett.

After a traumatic car crash, Michelle finds herself locked up in a cell inside Howard Stambler’s underground bunker. Despite Howard reassuring her that he’s helping her recuperate and that the US is under attack from an unknown military force, things don’t appear to be totally above-board. Is Howard who he says he is? Has there been an invasion? And who is Emmett?

Trachtenberg’s film is a tremendous, nail-biting display of tense drama and John Goodman’s jaw-dropping performance. It’s simply engrossing from start to finish, with some terrific cinematography that’s even on display in a confined bunker.

Of course, because it was a Bad Robot production, there was a strong viral marketing campaign that attracted a lot of fans. It was slightly different to the last one, but tonnes of fun whenever a new clue turned up. However, not much else can be said about the film, as spoilers need to be avoided for total enjoyment. That’s not a detriment to the film, but just a necessary precaution.

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2: The Witch

The directorial debut of Robert Eggers, The Witch follows a Puritan family who has a tragedy involving their youngest. Set in 17th century New England, the youngest child Samuel mysteriously vanishes during the eldest daughters care. What follows after that, is the emergence of a witch in the woods, who sets to dismantle the family in wicked ways.

The Witch, which is stylised as ‘The VVitch’ is inspired by old folklore and witch trials, which occurred for years in New England. It’s the most impressive debut by a writer and director this year, As Eggers has provided cinemagoers with a true horror masterpiece.

The genre relies all too often on found footage or jump-scares nowadays, but The Witch succeeds by having a genuinely creepy vibe to it, that’ll send shivers down spines. The period of time is perfectly captured, down to the authentic language, clothing and of course, the devout religiousness of families back then.

Some audiences may dislike its slow pace, but it constantly builds tension that can be felt by the viewers, as the family are torn apart by the evil that surrounds them. It closely follows the horrifying folklore it is loosely based on, as it finally ends in one of the most jaw-dropping sequences in cinema.

It’s always a pleasant change to see the genre mixed up by films like this, as it waves goodbye to tired conventions and tropes. The Witch is deeply unsettling at times, it is exquisitely shot and it will probably be greeted by a furore of horror fans which will simply dismiss it. Don’t. It’s a truly thought-provoking piece of work.

1: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ricky Baker is a bad egg. He lives the skux life, and there is no hope. That is until he is taken in by foster mother Bella and her husband, Hec. Ricky’s life is then turned around for the better, up until his foster mother suddenly passes away. After he runs away from his new home and the child welfare services, Ricky and Hec soon become part of a manhunt in the New Zealand bush.

Directed by Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is dripping with charm, humour and two solid lead performances, by the young Julian Dennison as Ricky Baker and everyone’s favourite onscreen palaeontologist, Sam Neil as the cantankerous Hec. If ever New Zealand needed an advertisement for their beautiful landscapes or even a new national anthem, they need to look no further than this flick.

Waititi was responsible for directing one of the funniest films of 2014, What We Do in the Shadows, and also has screenwriting credits for this year’s Moana, and furthermore is currently adding the finishing touches to Thor: Ragnarok. He is without a doubt, one of the most talented directors working today.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s script is simple enough, and it is littered with dialogue that will be quoted for years to come. Ricky and Hec attempt to get along with each other in the bush, whilst encountering a number of dangerous hazards and weirdos, and their relationship is a touching one that evolves during the movie.

It’s a nice treat to see Sam Neil in a lead role again, and he’s utilised properly for the first time in years. Julian Dennison’s performance as Ricky Baker is a breakout role for the young actor too, and he’s sure to stick around for some time. It’d be criminal not to have Dennison in any other film, especially with his comedic timing.

There just isn’t any other movie this year that leaves viewers with such a warm feeling, as Hunt for the Wilderpeople is set to be a poignant and hilarious classic. A solid cast, beautiful cinematography and an annoyingly catchy soundtrack make this film the best movie of the year, if not the past few years. It’s very easy to return to Hunt for the Wilderpeople, to revel in its unique characters, the scenery and touching story. But that’s enough adjectives for this review. One’s enough. It’s simply majestical.

 

Top 8 Comics of 2016

This year showcased a wide variety of original graphic novels and comics for almost everyone, as the industry witnessed some brilliant storytelling and stunning artwork. There might have been a few blunders along the way, but cynicism towards the industry waned thanks to the release of some truly remarkable titles.

This short list is comprised of some of the best publications of the year, from a number of different publishers. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out some of these comics, then please support the creators by enveloping yourself in their carefully crafted universes. It’s not too late to hop on either, as a few of these titles will are continuing into 2017.

8. JUGHEAD

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Archie Comics successfully rebooted back in 2015, and since then the publisher has seen a plethora of new talent working on their beloved characters. One of those new creative teams that have achieved something special is the dynamic duo of Ryan North and Derek Charm.

Starting off with issue nine in September, North and Charm built upon the foundations laid by Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson. To continue with a new direction for the title, North introduced everyone’s favourite teenage witch, Sabrina, into the equation.

Her first introduction into this new Riverdale, Sabrina helped take the comic to new heights. Jughead was suddenly funnier than ever before, and there was a new degree of charm to it. Falling head over heels for Sabrina, the burger-loving Jughead unsuccessfully begins to date the mysterious, quirky teen.

Of course, when Sabrina doesn’t get her way with Jughead, her dangerous magic comes into play. Jughead is a delightfully fun and hilarious read, and Charm’s artwork is the perfect choice for the story. It’s a late contender for the year, but it’s one to look out for in 2017.

7. DOOM PATROL

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Another late entry into the year, Gerard Way’s reimagining of Doom Patrol has proved to be successful, entertaining and most importantly, just as bizarre as previous entries. With splendid artwork from Nick Derington, Way has managed to create a title which is accessible to new readers, whilst welcoming the old ones back into the fold.

This new series is part of the Young Animal imprint, which is an attempt to replicate DC’s Vertigo for a new audience. So far, it’s proved to be a hit, and it doesn’t hurt that Way’s 1.5m followers on Twitter have been dedicated to following any of work post-My Chemical Romance.

Doom Patrol embraces the bizarre with fresh faces, in the form of ambulance driver Casey Brinke, and her eccentric singing roommate Terry None. Thrown into a world of weirdness, Casey gets to meet familiar Doom Patrol members, whilst discovering a mysterious past.

It’s a title that doesn’t follow standard storytelling structure, and it should be approached by those who want something wholly different to the usual superhero fare witnessed on the shelves. It’s early days yet, but Doom Patrol is set to be one hell of a ride.

6. MEGG & MOGG IN AMSTERDAM (AND OTHER STORIES)

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Written and illustrated entirely by Simon Hanselmann, Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam is the sequel to the funniest book of 2015, Megahex. However, despite being sold as a comedy to many, Hanselmann’s second graphic novel touches upon all too familiar subjects; anxiety, depression and cat’s anuses.

To escape the daily struggles of life and to fix their failing relationship, Megg and Mogg decide to travel to Amsterdam to enjoy its many vices. Of course, they can’t go anywhere without their friends, the insufferable Werewolf Jones and the empathetic Owl.

Hanselmann’s work has a beautiful, vibrant colour palette which really adds a nice dynamic to the many stories involving drug binges, sex, and mental health issues. There’s really nothing quite like Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam right now, and it’s almost criminal to miss out on one of the most unusual books of 2016.

5. DARK KNIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY

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DC has offered Batfans plenty of material to read this year, but it was this year’s original graphic novel that really took the spotlight. A True Batman Story is an autobiographical tale, written by Paul Dini with artwork from the hugely talented Eduardo Risso.

During his career as writer and producer of the hugely successful Batman: The Animated Series, Paul Dini’s life was dramatically altered after suffering a brutal assault one evening in Hollywood. This book recounts his recovery process and how his life was changed, with the visual aids of Batman and his loved villains.

A True Batman Story takes a completely different approach to telling a story which fans are used to, but that’s what makes it stand out from the rest. Dini’s narration of this horrible event in his life is an insightful look into his personality, and Risso’s art really helps bring that era of Batman back to life. For fans of the best animated series ever, this is essential reading.

4. KAIJUMAX: SEASON TWO

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The first season of Kaijumax surprised a few readers last year with its vibrant colour palette, its cutesy monsters and shockingly adult themes. Set up as a serious prison drama involving kaiju, writer and illustrator Zander Cannon continued to impress and astound his readers with Season Two.

The comic continues its focus on the main fugitive Electrogor, who is stuck in a world that doesn’t want anything to do with kaiju. After his escape from prison, Electrogor plans to the cross the Pacific rim in hope of reuniting with his children. However, during his journey, he encounters kaiju parolees, drug addicts and Lovecraftian monstrosities.

It’s a must-read for kaiju lovers, as Zander Cannon infuses his sheer wealth of kaiju knowledge into this book, whilst maintaining a fine balance of humanity within. Readers will be rooting for Electrogor to reach his kids, whilst being fascinated with some of the weird subplots supplied throughout.

Kaijumax is a grand achievement, where Cannon has managed to take a successful first season into entirely new territory. It’s action packed, dramatic and even upsetting in parts. Kaijumax is not to be missed.

3. HEAD LOPPER

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Imagine Adventure Time’s colourful visuals, mixed in with some of the elements of the Hellboy universe. Sprinkle some solid storytelling on top, with a side of beheadings, and you have Andrew MacLean’s breakout hit of 2016, Head Lopper.

Fantastical, colourful and downright entertaining from the first page, Head Lopper surprised loads of readers this year. It quickly turned into a critically acclaimed title, and within four issues, MacLean had established a universe that was here to stay.

The story follows the fearless warrior Norgal and the incessant, nagging severed head of Agatha the Blue Witch. Hired to slay the sorcerer that wreaks havoc on the Isle of Barra, Norgal faces a number of dangerous, blood-thirsty beasts.

Head Lopper is unarguably Image’s best title of the year. It’s tight, focused and enjoyable throughout. MacLean’s art is a visual treat for the eyes, all perfectly framed with every page. The graphic novel collecting the first four issues boasts a grand collection of extras, including a new story, sketches and notes from the talented creator.

2. TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

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IDW’s greatest publication to date, Transformers MTMTE wrapped up this year to reboot with the Lost Light. Written by James Roberts with artwork from series regular Alex Milne, More Than Meets the Eye is a title that has never faltered once in telling a rich, compelling and emotional story.

More Than Meets the Eye follows the crew of the Lost Light, a space vessel in search for the legendary ‘Knights of Cybertron’, a mythical group that once existed on the Transformers home planet. Led by the cocksure Rodimus, his merry team of odd, dangerous and sometimes drunk Transformers get involved in madcap adventures in space.

Writer James Roberts throws his characters of MTMTE into uncharted territory throughout, and with his innovative writing and Milne’s highly detailed artwork, the title succeeds where every other Transformers comic has failed.

For some, the prospect of reading a Transformers comic may be daunting, especially considering how meaty Roberts’ dialogue can be, but once that effort is put in, new readers are rewarded with some of the best writing seen in the industry today.

The comic tackles several themes, such as politics, relationships, religion and most importantly for the Transformers, identity. It’s given birth to the first ever gay relationship in the franchise, whilst simultaneously creating a community of fans that like to take the characters into their very own, r-rated adventure…

More Than Meets the Eye is a masterpiece within the comic book industry, and James Roberts should be applauded for his ability to craft such an interesting, thought-provoking and exciting read. Comic book readers, roll out and read it already.

1. GIANT DAYS

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Having established himself as the king of slice-of-life comic books, British creator John Allison treated his devoted readers to BOOM! Studios publication, Giant Days, way back in March 2015. Since then, alongside artists Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin, the series has evolved into one of the best comics on the shelves right now.

The setup is delightfully simple; Esther, Daisy and Susan are three women who are beginning to start the rest of their lives. During their time at university, the three main characters are faced with mystery moulds, complicated relationships, soggy festivals and a surprising amount of carpentry.

Despite not sounding like the most intriguing plot, Giant Days is brought to life with Allison’s technique for sharp, snappy dialogue and perfect characterisation. Every single character in Giant Days feels real, and they’re brought to life with some absolutely solid artwork.

Taking over from Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin has managed to perfectly match the writing talents of Allison. His style is unique, providing exaggerated expressions and dynamic posing throughout the book. Panels are carefully constructed, and it appears that Sarin improves with every issue.

Allison allows a great deal of development for Giant Days, and hopefully the series lasts for many years to come. The artistic goth Esther, the quiet Daisy and the abrasive Susan all go through the motions in the comic, and it would be absolutely criminal to leave their life story after graduation.

It’s a real treat to see a UK based comic thrive, as Giant Days appears to be amassing more readers with every new issue. If you haven’t treated yourself to 2016’s best comic of the year, then do so already. You deserve it.

DLCman: Arkham Knight

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Six years ago developers Rocksteady Studios redefined the superhero videogame genre, with their action-adventure Batman: Arkham Asylum. Borrowing a majority of the voice actors from the critically-acclaimed cartoon series of the 90s, and key writers such as Paul Dini, Rocksteady Studios provided fans with a Batman game to be proud of.

Arkham Asylum utilised Batman’s detective abilities to an impressive scale, and the game provided an incredibly fluid combat system. The game showcased a variety of favourites from Batman’s rogues gallery, and Rocksteady incorporated some of the best ideas from several different incarnations of the Bat, such as the cartoons, Tim Burton’s Batman, the comics and Nolan’s first film.

The critical success of the first game demanded a sequel, which was set to be bigger and better than the last and just two years later, fans were graced with a sequel that accomplished that feat, Arkham City. Exploring the relationship between Batman and the Joker, the game expanded on its gadgets, its villains and playability.

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Arkham City left some interesting Easter Eggs for fans after they finished the main storyline, with the heavy implication that the Scarecrow was involved in something diabolical. Fans desired to explore the streets of Gotham with the next instalment, and the idea that Rocksteady were ready to introduce Scarecrow as the main villain was titillating.

Four years later, and Rocksteady’s final outing with the Dark Knight arrived, in the form of Arkham Knight. This was the big one. Allowing Batman free roam of Gotham was an exciting idea, with the story focusing on a mysterious new villain aiding Scarecrow. All the pieces were set in place for an unforgettable Batman experience.

Upon the game’s release date, several pre-order packages provided different experiences for gamers. One package included a playable Harley Quinn add-on, with another, allowing for the use of the Red Hood. Thankfully, some select retailers were packaging both parts, but customers found this frustrating as different exclusives were everywhere. Rocksteady eventually announced that either packs would be available through purchase of the season pass though, for an additional price.

These two DLC add-ons were a telling sign of things to come, as these downloadable packages were nothing spectacular. Each segment lasted approximately 15-30 minutes (depending on player performance), and are utterly forgettable. Adding nothing to the story, both are big disappointments, and especially for fans of Harley Quinn. Despite Rocksteady providing her a unique move-set, it lasted for an appalling length of time. Of course, most pre-order content is mediocre, but let’s not forget these are pieces of the planned downloadable content.

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The main story in Arkham Knight might be the strongest of the trilogy to date, but it certainly isn’t without its faults. Any Batman veterans will guess the identity of the Arkham Knight fairly easily, and after the initial reveal, Gotham doesn’t really feel dangerous anymore. Throughout the game the ante is raised, only for it to be subsequently lowered later on.

Arkham Knight’s side missions are also a mixed bag, with some incredible additions and some truly pointless ones. The third game in the series introduces a classic character long overdue into the game, whilst introducing players to a more recent villain from the comic books. There are glaring omissions though, and for fans of Asylum and City it almost seems criminal that characters such as Mr Freeze, Clayface, Bane, Killer Croc or Ra’s/Talia do not turn up in any form throughout the game. Personally, the severe lack of Freeze is most upsetting.

A lot of villains may have had their time and space throughout the trilogy, but lets not forget that this is supposedly Rocksteady’s send-off for the caped crusader. Whilst nearing the true ending for the game (100% completion), it feels that it’s missing something. Some loose ends are tied, but it almost feels like Rocksteady have forgotten about the simple things, like Clayface’s incident with the Lazarus Pits or even Killer Croc mauling Scarecrow. It’s apparent a lot of things have been left out, and perhaps the game will then be padded with horrible DLC.

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Yes, downloadable content has been a thing for ages now, we’re all blissfully aware. But this time, it appears that it’s crippled the Arkham series, which should’ve have been clear with the absurd pre-order packages. The next pack is set to be for Batgirl, which gamers can only hope will have some saving grace. There are no doubts Azrael or any forgotten villains will be added in the future, just for some extra money.

Usually, it’s best to wait for the Game of the Year edition with some titles. Arkham City added in Harley Quinn’s Revenge and a whole bunch of other stuff, but City as a standalone game had a beginning, a middle and an end. Arkham Knight on the other hand, doesn’t have a proper ending. It goes out with a whimper, even when you’ve accomplished everything in Gotham.

It’s upsetting, because the Arkham series have been superb, but you can see where these planned DLC packs have hurt Arkham Knight. The ending is ambiguous and a huge disappointment for fans, and one villain uncharacteristically utilises a tank to defeat you, despite ranting endlessly about being an expert in hand-to-hand combat. It hardly feels like there’s any real reward to the gamer for following the Dark Knight’s adventures in Gotham for the past 6 years.

If players want to fully experience Arkham Knight, an excess of at least £70-80 has to be spent on a season pass and the game itself. The gaming industry has taken such a horrible turn in recent years, and it’s a damn shame that Rocksteady may have caught the bug too. Players shouldn’t have to fork out ridiculous amounts of cash to receive the complete experience, as it’s a blatant cash grab until the collected version comes out. Sure, you can wait a year for the collected edition, but ditch the internet or social media as a whole during that time to avoid any spoilers.

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It isn’t all bad. Rocksteady have somehow managed to improve the combat even more so, and utilising the efforts of your sidekick during a massive brawl is tons of fun. The Batmobile is well refined, but then Gotham is infested with so many unmanned tanks, that players will get sick of the sight of another heap of metal attacking Batman. Players may not like sheer extent of Batmobile missions.

The halfway point in Arkham Knight is where it all really kicks off, and it truly felt like something special. There’s a real sense of dread, and it appears that all hope is lost. Of course, Batman overcomes the odds because he’s Batman, but it all occurs in such a lacklustre manner. Also, there’s almost no thought put into the Riddler’s challenges this time round. Only a select few are fun, but there are so many locations that had Riddle material written all over them, such as Crazy Quilt and Music Meister’s respective stores.

Arkham Knight is an experience, but it is full of missed potential. It is riddled with inconsistencies, glitches, pointless missions and disappointing endings. However, it will sell plenty and then be regarded as a best-seller due to different versions, and players getting suckered into the various DLC packs. This might be Rocksteady’s last game, but be sure WB Montreal will eventually pick up Batman at some point in the near future and milk the Arkham series for all it’s worth.

Oh, and let’s not mention the PC port.

Or the treatment of Barbara or Catwoman.

Framed Recommendations – 12/11/14

This week saw the release of two new Marvel comics, Superior Iron Man and Captain America. Unsurprisingly, both comics failed to impress. Superior Iron Man came straight out of the current Marvel event that keeps giving, and Tom Taylor’s script was vastly underwhelming. There’s really no reason for Tony Stark to be written as such a reprehensible character anymore. Axis’ core concept might be switching the alignment of good and evil, but it’s just not interesting or exciting.

Captain America was also disappointing, despite Stuart Immonen being on the creative team. Rick Remender has proven he can be fantastic before, especially with Uncanny X-Force, but Captain America was fairly boring from start to finish. The final reveal wasn’t anything new, as it’s all been done before. Let’s get some new blood into Captain America’s rogues’ gallery already, Marvel.

However, it’s not all bad this week. Cameron Stewart’s Batgirl arrived on our shelves, and here’s hoping this Batgirl is here to stay. It’s such a refreshing read, and the artwork really compliments the script. How long can DC keep it up? Who knows, but here’s hoping it’s a while.

Admittedly, a guilty pleasure of the week was Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman. Sure, we’ve seen it all before. Batman conveniently has the upper hand against Superman and the Justice League every time, but it was still a bit of fun. It’s probably helped by Capullo’s artwork as well, making it the nicest looking Batman story for some time now.

Finally, Mark Millar’s MPH had it’s fourth issue this week. Duncan Fegredo’s artwork is always on form, and even though it’s a strong statement to make, his Hellboy artwork was better than Mignola’s. MPH has had a decent build up so far, and it’s strange to think it could be a film worth looking forward to. Ignoring Millar’s Kick-Ass sequels and other nonsense, titles such as MPH and Starlight make you realise he’s got a great deal of talent.

BATGIRL #36 Stewart + Fletcher / Tarr DC
BATGIRL #36
Stewart + Fletcher / Tarr
DC
BATMAN #36 Snyder / Capullo DC
BATMAN #36
Snyder / Capullo
DC
HAWKEYE VS DEADPOOL #02 Duggan / Lolli MARVEL
HAWKEYE VS DEADPOOL #02
Duggan / Lolli
MARVEL
MPH #04 Millar / Fegredo IMAGE
MPH #04
Millar / Fegredo
IMAGE

Framed Recommendations – 29/10/14

There really wasn’t anything worth reviewing last week, as the new comic releases were pretty terrible, save for the final issue of Starlight. The new Deathstroke hit, but that resulted in being typical DC fodder. Arkham Manor showed promise, but that’s about it. Marvel fared even worse last week, as they continued Axis for some reason. It is honestly the worst thing Marvel have put out in a long while, and these new miniseries seem to suffer from Axis‘ poor core concept.

This week however, we’re treated to two magnificent reads; Saga and Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye. Vaughan and Staples further their epic with a new direction, which will hopefully prove to be entertaining for the next part of this series. Vaughan’s on top form in this issue, and Staples proves to be incredible as per usual. It’s just a damn shame that they have both confirmed that we won’t see any new Saga until 2015. That’s like, 2 months away. 2 months too long.

Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye has started off with a new arc, focusing on Megatron’s life as a writer. It’s real interesting stuff, and it provides a great insight into the Decepticon cause too. There’s no need going into details with this issue though, as Roberts’ comic has some surprising moments throughout. It is easily the best comic out at the moment, and it’s so ridiculously dense. It’s rare to see a comic that is actually worth its cover price, and then some.

Finally, it appears that DC will be losing a few readers once the new creative team starts on Wonder Woman. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman was a great little treat for readers, as it managed to separate itself from DC’s dark and edgy look. Sure, we’ve had Batgirl and Gotham Academy recently, but this was the case for some time. David Finch has taken over the art duties for Wonder Woman now, and he’s already been successful in turning her into a teenager, who resembles the talentless talking airbag, Megan Fox.

Transformers: MTMTE #34 Roberts / Rojo IDW
Transformers: MTMTE #34
Roberts / Rojo
IDW
SAGA #24 Vaughan / Staples IMAGE
SAGA #24
Vaughan / Staples
IMAGE
WONDER WOMAN #35 Azzarello / Chiang DC
WONDER WOMAN #35
Azzarello / Chiang
DC

Framed Recommendations – 08/10/14

So, here’s something I’m trying to restart on Sniktbubs.com. Seeing as I read a lot of comics every single week, I’ve decided to frame certain moments from some of my most enjoyable reads of the week. You’ll see a variation of panels from different publishers, and I encourage everyone to pick up these titles (or else), because they’re brilliant. These will probably be numbered randomly in the future, but I’ll try my best to showcase my excellent taste.

This week wasn’t so bad for DC, with Stewart’s eagerly anticipated Batgirl managing to entertain, and Batman finally returned to form after the dismal Zero Year event. Capullo is on form here, and I’ll go as far as to say it’s some of his best looking work to date. With Halloween soon approaching, look no further than Snyder and Jock’s Wytches, and Archie Comics’ new Sabrina title. Snyder excels with the horror genre, and it’s a decent first read. Sabrina is fantastic and it just shows that Archie Comics have really branched out this year. If you haven’t checked out Sabrina or Afterlife with Archie yet, then do so! Horror comics done remarkably well. Oh, and Gerry Duggan shows Bunn how to do a Deadpool miniseries. About time, really.

Sex Criminals #08 Fraction / Zdarsky IMAGE
Sex Criminals #08
Fraction / Zdarsky
IMAGE
Batgirl #35 Stewart / Tarr DC
Batgirl #35
Stewart / Tarr
DC
Wytches #01 Snyder / Jock IMAGE
Wytches #01
Snyder / Jock
IMAGE
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #01 Aguirre-Sacasa / Hack ARCHIE COMICS
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #01
Aguirre-Sacasa / Hack
ARCHIE COMICS
Batman #35 Snyder / Capullo DC
Batman #35
Snyder / Capullo
DC
Hawkeye Vs. Deadpool #01 Duggan / Lolli + Camagni MARVEL
Hawkeye Vs. Deadpool #01
Duggan / Lolli + Camagni
MARVEL

 

Justice League #01 – Review

The new 52 has been heralded as being an epic selection of new exciting stories, restarting the DC universe to appeal to new readers as well as old.  Solicitations have encouraged many to seek out these new titles, promising great art and writing.  Flashpoint ended with nothing but a mere whimper, as it acted as the vehicle to get towards the new DCU.  It had some neat ideas such as Batman; Knight of Vengeance, but ultimately it was a bit of an average read.

So, it was up to the first issue of Justice League to grab that new readership.  This was a superhero team filled with DC’s best, so surely the new comic would feature them all fighting the forces of evil? Because that’s how team books work, right? Right?

Well, not exactly.  Johns opens up with Batman and Green Lantern and some shaky dialogue, as the banter between them comes off as forced and uncharacteristic. That’s no surprise there, this is one of John’s many ‘talents’ – forgetting different characters have different personalities.

There’s no summary to these events, we’re just provided with two different characters arguing for an overly long period of time.  One half of the comic focuses on this banter, which somehow seems criminal.  This is Justice League we’re reading here, not the adventures of Hal and Bruce. There shouldn’t be such a strong focus on their dispute.

This is the major problem for a first issue trying to attain new readership.  For a new audience, readers need expository dialogue.  They need a summary of events.  It’s not that hard to accomplish.  Just a few yellow boxes should do the trick.  It’s a basic requirement to get people introduced to the new team, but then that in itself is tricky when the comic only stars three superheroes.  Where is Wonder Woman?  Flash?  This is a comic about the Justice League.

Sure, Jim Lee’s pencils have improved since the good old nineties but then they are nothing spectacular.  They are standard fare for any experienced comic-book reader, but at least they can grab the attention of the new readers.  Perhaps a flashier artist could have been better, but this is DC for you.  They believe in Jim Lee.

Justice League is far from a bad issue, but then why isn’t it the spectacular opening it should have been?  It suffers horribly thanks to stale methods which have been used in comics for decades.  So, it seems like one superhero wants to willingly brawl with a potential ally? Haven’t seen that before!  The potential enemy is also someone that other variations of the team have fought countless times before.  Tired, worn out elements should be shaken up for a brand new DC universe.  They shouldn’t be the same old nonsense.

It’s a shame really, to see that the comic lacks the punch which it requires.  Sure, it’s been flying off the shelves – but that’s because it’s the first issue.  Johns should have known better.  Justice League #01 shouldn’t be an average, tiring read.  Let’s hope there are some better newcomers later this month.

Such as Suicide Squad.