Dave’s Best of 2018

All-new, slightly different site; all-new, slightly different year-end list!

A more accurate title for this post would have been “My Favorite Things from 2018 Out of the Limited Range of Available Things I Was Able to Experience”, but that’s a bit unwieldy.

Obviously I didn’t see every movie, watch every TV show, or read every comic. I’ve got stuff to do, man! But I can still make a pretty darn good list of things that were my personal favorites. Maybe my list lines up with yours, maybe not. If not, perhaps it’ll compel you to give something another look or even try a movie or TV show you missed. Please head on over to the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group and share your own favorites when you’re done here!

As I start this thing I’m not sure what format I’m going to use. I scrapped last year’s list rather than using it as a template because I want to see how this unfolds in the more economical style I’ve been using lately. Some categories are easier than others; some I already know exactly what my choice will be.

So read on and find out what excited me the most and earned my fandom and respect in 2018!

Spider-Verse

Best Movie – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – This is the best film I saw this year by a fairly wide margin.

The runners-up were all very good in my opinion and the race for a number two slot – if there was one – would be much tighter. But Spider-Verse stands out as such a brilliant and unique accomplishment that nothing else from 2018 touches it. Heck, it may well be the best thing I’ve seen this decade.

Check out my review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse!

Honorable MentionPaddington 2, Mandy, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Bumblebee, Avengers: Infinity War

Prequelle

Best Album – Prequelle by Ghost – I didn’t even like Ghost prior to hearing the debut single from this album, a retro-feeling rocker called “Rats”. But I loved that one song so much that I preordered the album on vinyl sight unseen.

Er, sound unheard.

My faith paid off. Prequelle is an absolutely fantastic journey through a weird world of metal, prog rock, almost-ballads, and a Pet Shop Boys cover. I’ve listened to it countless times already and just sitting here thinking about it makes me want to listen to it again on the way home. Every track is excellent; I listen to the entire album every time.

Check out the Needless Things Podcast review of Prequelle!

Honorable MentionReturn to Planet Wolfton by The Casket Creatures, I Like Fun by They Might Be Giants

DuckTales

Best Family Cartoon – DuckTales – Man, I really disliked this show at first.

The character designs were fine, but the animation looked very low quality; not an uncommon thing in cartoons nowadays.

But my son loved it, so I kept watching. And the stories and excellent voice work drew me in. I also feel like the animation improved somewhat, but I have yet to revisit the first few episodes to verify this.

Whatever the case, this new DuckTales won me over by being smart and funny and by freshening up existing elements of the original show in very interesting ways. As with many reboots/reimaginings, this show has much more emotional and narrative depth than the show that inspired it.

Don’t get me wrong – the original is still a standout of 80s animation and I truly wish we could have just gotten an upgraded version of that style because it is still superior. But storytelling and character-wise this new DuckTales is top notch.

Out of all of the cartoons that we watch, this is the one that we’re sure to catch every episode and watch together.

Honorable MentionStar Wars: Rebels

Bobs Burgers

Best 13+ Cartoon – Bob’s Burgers – This was a tough call to make with a new season of Venture Bros. out this year, but unless I want to start splitting categories up even more, I have to be honest and say that overall Bob’s Burgers brings me more joy.

I love every aspect of the show, from the Belcher’s genuine love for one another and their friends to the pacing of the jokes. For a sitcom cartoon, this show is surprisingly brilliant at giving the laughs time to breathe.

The animation is some of the highest quality and consistency on TV and the cast is made up of the funniest humans on the planet.

Honorable MentionThe Venture Bros.

Gotham

Best TV Show – Gotham – Look, I know that this show is bonkers trash that takes everything you know about Batman’s mythology and throws it into a blender and then throws the blender out the window.

But for the last three (or so) years, this is THE show that I most look forward to watching every week. It’s the one that I watch as soon as possible, whether it’s live or as soon as I can after it airs. It boasts a phenomenal cast who are beyond a shadow of a doubt the best they are at what they do, and what they do is chew scenery and kick ass. And unfortunately after the upcoming season they’re all out of scenery.

After embracing the potential insanity of the show years ago, Bruno Heller and company have managed to create the fastest-paced, most insane Elseworlds scenario ever. A plotline that might simmer for ten episodes or an entire season might be resolved before the opening break of an episode of Gotham. Characters that have a massive impact on not just the season, but the entire landscape of the show might come and go in just a couple of episodes.

Main characters die. All the time. But they always come back, usually even sexier and more baffling (by which I mean utterly entertaining).

I totally understand that some people can’t stomach the nitro-burning madness that is Gotham. But I delight in every single episode, often expressing myself quite vocally and usually feeling spent to some degree or other after the credits roll. And always dying to see what comes next.

Honorable MentionLegends of Tomorrow, Ash vs. Evil Dead, The Good Place, Better Call Saul

shrug

Best New TV Show – N/A – Nada. Zip. Zero. There was nothing added to the DVR this year that got me excited enough to want to write about it.

Sharp Objects

Best TV Miniseries/ Event – Sharp Objects – Now I understand the contingent of people who were upset about Amy Adams being in the DC Extended Universe movies.

Some were upset by her mere presence, others just felt like she should have more to do with her Lois Lane character. And now I get it.

I have never seen a character like Camille Preaker before; on television or anywhere else. Adams’ portrayal is fiercely independent, often to the point of being obnoxious, but the character is still sympathetic and relatable. Preaker suffers from a unique kind of damage that is only revealed over the course of the show. We see her physical scars early on, but the depths of her spiritual and psychological wounds take time to be revealed.

Beyond Adams’ – and the rest of the casts’ – incredible work, the cinematography and music are incredible. The characters are enthralling, but their visual and aural surroundings make their journeys even more fascinating. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen sound used in quite the way it was in Sharp Objects, with noises seemingly from the background being used to emphasize the tone and emotional composition of certain scenes.

Every second of this show was an experience, and one I look forward to revisiting on Blu-ray soon.

GLOW

Best Streaming Show – GLOW – This is my favorite Netflix Original. I think GLOW has the best cast on television, from its leads to its supporting characters. And even the supporting cast got to enjoy growth and storyline focus this year. I loved every episode and burned through all ten in a day.

Honorable MentionDaredevil, Ozark, Jessica Jones

Titans

Best New Streaming Show – Titans – I’ve seen so much negativity about this show from people who have not watched it. How about shutting up and actually giving it a shot so you’ll know what you’re talking about?

Or, if you – understandably – don’t want to shell out for DC’s streaming service, just shut up?

Me and the missus absolutely adore this show and its take on the Titans. Each and every week since Titans debuted it has been THE destination viewing for us. It’s obviously different, but it’s amazingly true to the characters; possibly one of the best adaptations I’ve seen. If you’ve only watched the trailers you do not understand what’s going on. This is a complex show devoted to character work and comic book action like I’ve never seen before. It’s a satisfying middle ground between Nolan’s too-real Gotham and… uh… Heller’s insane, over-the-top Gotham.

The people making this show know the DC Universe and know it well. Their respect for 70+ years of storytelling is evident, while their desire to do something new and innovative is as well.

Honorable MentionCastle Rock, The Haunting of Hill House

910x350-Smackdown-LIVE-2019-1377580b5f

SmackDown vs. RAW – SmackDown – Not even close.

RAW is obviously handicapped by their USA Network-mandated three hour runtime, as well as the loss of Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and maybe a couple of other talents I’m not remembering. On top of that you have absentee Universal Champ Brock Lesnar holding any potential excitement surrounding that title – as well as any possible advancement of lower-tier Superstars like Braun Strowman – hostage.

Granted, the powers that be are allowing it, so I can’t blame Brock.

But beyond that the booking has been the opposite of exciting. There has been exactly one Superstar who has had strong, compelling stories all year and that’s Ronda Rousey. It’s very clear that great care is being taken with her, but credit has to go to Rousey and her opponents, as well, for pulling everything off so amazingly well on the mic and in the ring. Because of that, the RAW Women’s Championship is easily the most prestigious title on the program.

SmackDown Live, on the other hand, has the best roster of talent in pro wrestling today. Featuring the likes of AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, New Day, the Usos, Andrade Almas, Samoa Joe, The Miz, and the list goes on.

That’s not even mentioning the strong SmackDown Women’s division, which might be even better than RAW’s excellent roster of females.

Beyond the on-screen talent, SmackDown simply takes better care of storyline business. While I’ll admit that Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev have been shamefully underutilized in the past year, overall the Tuesday show does a much better job of keeping stories and talent fresh and interesting.

I typically rate wrestling on a different level from other televised entertainment, but for most of 2018 I’ve been just as excited about watching SmackDown as I have any other TV show, while RAW is often an afterthought and even a chore to get through.

The Man

Best Wrestler – Becky Lynch – You can ask the Commentary Team, who also double as the WWE pay-per-view/Sunday event/whatever the heck they call them now Team – I have been claiming that Becky Lynch is the most talented and underutilized person on the WWE roster for a few years now.

FINALLY in 2018 the powers that be took their collective heads out of their collective asses and let Lynch do what she does best – run her mouth and have great matches. And the WWE Universe (ugh – I hate that designation, but I’ll begrudgingly use it) ate it up. Because she’s great and she knows exactly what she’s doing.

Lynch didn’t finish the year as WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion, but she did finish as the most over person in the company and poised to reach even greater heights in 2019.

Honorable Mention – Ronda Rousey, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Braun Strowman, Ruby Riott

DSC_0024

Best Action Figure – One:12 Collective Punisher: Special Ops Edition from Mezco – Out of all of the overpriced nonsense I bought in 2018, this is the figure that I keep going back to.

It’s a great Mezco-ization of Frank Castle’s classic look and it came with a ridiculous amount of accessories. It’s still on my desk as of this writing because I just can’t seem to put it on the One:12 shelf.

Check out my review of this One:12 Collective Punisher!

Honorable Mention – One:12 Collective Joker: Deluxe Edition from Mezco, Marvel Legends Magik from Hasbro, Ultimate Friday the 13th Part V Dream Jason from NECA, Star Wars Black Series 4-LOM from Hasbro

DSC_0408

Best Toy – Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Imperial Combat Assault Tank from Hasbro – I’ve got a review coming on Wednesday, but for now I’ll just say that this vehicle showed me that Hasbro has still got what it takes to make a fantastic toy that appeals to collectors as well as kids. Unfortunately it takes an $80 price tag to make it happen, so we’re unlikely to see anything like it again, but I am absolutely in love with this thing.

It’s so great that even after getting the new Funko DC Primal Age Batcave for Christmas – a great playset at a great price – this tank still wins Toy of the Year. Yes, the Batcave has tons more play value and is bigger and if I was a kid would be way more useful than a single tank. But the effort put into this tank is remarkable.

Honorable Mention – DC Primal Age Batcave from Funko, Jurassic Park Jeep from Mattel, Jurassic World Deep Dive Submarine from Mattel, Batman 1989 RC Batmobile from Jada Toys

NECA-Toys-Logo

Best Toy Company – NECA – In 2018 NECA released more toys that I was excited for than any other company. On top of that, what they released delivered. Every NECA figure I bought was for the most part satisfying.

For reference, here’s a list purely off the top of my head of great releases from 2018:

  • SDCC Exclusive 1990 TMNT movie figures w/diorama
  • Ultimate Nightmare 2 Freddy
  • Ultimate Part V Dream Jason
  • Ultimate Part 2 Jason
  • Machiko Predator
  • Broken Tusk Predator
  • Predator Throne
  • Ultimate Fugitive Predator
  • Ultimate 1990 Pennywise
  • Ultimate 2017 Pennywise
  • God of War Kratos
  • Retro Hitchhiker and Nubbins 2-pack
  • Retro Herbert West

That is a crazy list of great action figures!

Honorable Mention – Hasbro, Mattel

Best Toy Line – Jurassic World from Mattel – I never would have expected that the best toy line of the year would come from Mattel. Or that it would be from a license that Hasbro had previously (and relatively recently) held and had utterly failed with. Or that that license would be Jurassic Park.

My son and I have had a great time collecting this line because of the huge selection of well-designed dinosaurs and the right amount of equally well done humans. Not to mention a few vehicles that on their own stand out.

Every aspect of the line feels carefully crafted and curated. I fully believe that whoever is running this show loves dinosaurs in general and the Jurassic Park franchise specifically. There have been steady waves of releases since the line launched earlier in the year – enough to keep fans happy, but not so much that we’ve felt overwhelmed. Plus, distribution has been consistent.

Honorable Mention – Reel Toys from NECA, Marvel Legends from Hasbro, One:12 Collective from Mezco

TMBG

Best Live Show – They Might Be Giants 1/20/2018 – They Might Be Giants have consistently been my favorite live band since 1992. They’re fun, energetic, and may well be the only band that it doesn’t matter what they play because I love everything they do so much.

As great as every They Might Be Giants show has been, this one stands out. They played two sets, or as John Linnell claimed, “opened for themselves”, and each set was fantastic. Two and a half hours of favorites mixed with oddities and deep cuts.

Despite some stiff competition, this was my favorite live show of the year, but possibly ever.

Honorable Mention – The Casket Creatures 10/13/2018, Nine Inch Nails 9/27/2018

SoE30

Best Vinyl Release – State of Euphoria 30th Anniversary by Anthrax – I got a lot of great records in 2018, but by far the one that delighted me the most was the 30th anniversary release of State of Euphoria.

It’s a remastered release on 180g vinyl (of course) and it sounds fantastic. Now, I don’t identify as an audiophile and I would never claim to be able to discern quality between releases. But I can confidently say I’ve never been as engrossed while listening to this album as I was the first time I put this record on.

Naturally a lot of that has to do with the more intimate, interactive process of listening to a record.

This release includes the full album, plus the tracks from the Penikufesin EP, so it really is like a time capsule of 1988 Anthrax.

Note: Because Anthrax is my favorite metal band and I want to own everything, I bought the CD release as well. It includes takes from Charlie Benante’s personal archives. It’s worth it.

Honorable MentionTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990 movie score, Big Trouble in Little China movie score, Rats EP from Ghost

TK Batman

Best Ongoing Comic Book – Batman – Tom King’s run on Batman has been dynamite.

His themes of family and identity have made for some of my favorite Batman stories of the modern era. Every once in a while his style gets a bit tiresome, but the consistency and brilliance of his narratives and characterizations make these comics almost addictive – I can’t wait to see where things will go next.

As much as I love superhero comics, it’s not very often that one is my “Top of the Stack” pick. But every week that Batman shows up, it goes straight to the top.

I, for one, was not disappointed by the non-wedding issue. I’ve been reading comics for a few years now, so I had zero expectation that Bruce and Selena would get hitched. Furthermore, I thought that the story leading up to the event and the resolution (and fallout) were well worth the journey. Bruce and Batman’s life was changed drastically, even though the status quo technically remained the same. It’s this kind of thoughtful storytelling that makes a mark to me – not a gimmicky “they’re married now, but how long before it’s undone?” type of thing.

Nothing lasts forever in comics except for the impact stories can have on us personally and I think Tom King is a master of those kinds of powerful, lasting tales.

Honorable MentionSaga, The Walking Dead, Peter Parker – Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

White Knight

Best Comic Book Miniseries/Event – Batman: White Knight – This is one of the most successful non-main-continuity stories I have ever read.

Writer and artist Sean Gordon Murphy took elements from many different versions of the Batman mythology and wove a story about the improbably possibility that the Joker could reform and become the hero Gotham needs.

What’s so impressive about White Knight is that it’s a two-fisted, action packed tale that works at a very intellectual level – carefully examining Batman’s effect on the people of Gotham, as well as hero worship, the media, and mass manipulation in the real world. The Dark Knight’s precarious public image is fine subject matter, and Murphy explores it like nobody else has. This is the kind of story that I’ll buy in every iteration I see released because I am hungry for more of this particular version of Gotham. There’s a sequel coming sometime this year, but I want an animated adaptation, toys; anything I can get.

Honorable MentionMister Miracle, Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe

And that wraps up all of my favorite things from 2018!

Check back in January for a special Year in Review episode of the Needless Things Podcast and of course, stay tuned to the site for more reviews, news, and dorkery!

Be sure to join the discussion in the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group!

You can follow Dave as Phantom Troublemaker on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all the best pop culture commentary!

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