Best TV: The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix
This show made my October like I never expected. I’ve read the book, seen the movie, and this owns all of that. Mike Flannagan is the director Hollywood gets when they want a Blumhouse horror movie to actually be good. He’s a master of turning any schlock premise into absolute gold, so when Netflix gave him the chance to adapt a classic novel, he went to town and killed it. Hill House is full of smart choices. He took that house full of strangers and made them all siblings in the same family. Instead of some experiment-in-the-house premise, he took the time to craft an IT-like story structure, where the adult characters must face the buried trauma of living in Hill House as children, as portrayed in flashbacks. It’s very clever, since it lets them compartmentalize the scares in the past, and then drip-feed them into the present day.
Hill House is full of great acting and complex characters with hidden layers. I especially like the father, who get alluded to as some jerk who practically abandoned everyone. But when he eventually shows up, he’s such a genuine dude that he makes everyone else look like assholes. If you have a chance, you should absolutely watch this. It’s not just good horror, it’s the best TV I’ve seen all year in any category.
Have You SEEN the Season Finale of Always Sunny? (Big Surprise #1)
I won’t spoil it, but you should absolutely watch that. Holy shit. Just putting it out there. I mean, it was a great season in general, but they really lobbed a grenade at the end there. I feel rewarded for being a fan.
I Can’t Believe How Much I Dug Iron Fist Season 2 (Big Surprise #2)
If I had to pinpoint my problem with the first season of Iron Fist, it’s that Danny is super dumb and the show wastes too much time and drags on. Season 2 feels surgical about addressing all that. It’s shorter, leaner, and smarter. In fact, a major theme is Danny himself getting smarter. That’s almost literally a plot point. Danny needs to get less dumb to keep himself alive. In fact, everyone gets smarter and it made for a better show. There’s better fighting, too. It’s still not an ideal Iron Fist show, but it was so much closer to becoming one just before it got canned. Too bad.
How Did I Play This Much Swords of Ditto? (Big Surprise #3)
You know, the game looked cute and appealing. I took a chance on a cute little indy game. But Swords of Ditto sucked up a huge chunk of my time in 2018. That game has layers, people. It has layers. In the early goings, the game is way too hard and it feels like a design mistake to give you so little time. But then you explore and start finding the side-missions, which you then realize are the actual key to the game. When you go from trying to rush the main quest to maximizing strategic exploration, you start to get it. When you see the interplay between your competing priorities, and start flow-charting in your head based on what you can find vs. what you do find, this game may own you for a while.
Playing Iconoclasts, Knowing Nothing About It (Big Surprise #4)
So I started playing this indy platformer, right? It’s got that retro pixel-art style I’ve seen a lot of. First up, it’s got a ton of story and dialog like a JRPG, and you can immediately get a sense of a world with some lore. Next up, it’s got puzzles. In fact, it’s mostly a series of puzzles. And the bosses have puzzle elements too. And there’s so many characters, and we can see little vignettes from the villains’ perspectives throughout. It almost feels like Grandia or something. And things keep getting a little darker and get a closer and closer look at just what’s going on in this world. This Sandberg guy went all-in on something very ambitious. The story feels so much bigger than any reasonable expectation for an indy platformer.
You should really know about the comic “Baby Teeth” from last year
There are lot of good new comics, but one I didn’t mention last year got better since, so I’m grandfathering it in. That would be “Baby Teeth” by Donnie Cates, a horror comic about a teen mother (Sadie Ritter) whose new baby is the antichrist. It does not go the way you think. Instead of going the Omen route, we stay focused on the baby and his mother Sadie, who truly loves him despite what she learns. Instead of the baby becoming the villain, Baby Teeth focuses on the trials of being this baby’s mother, like when cultists come after him or he needs to feed and can only drink blood. It goes to some really cool places, especially later on.
Best New Comic: Heavy Vinyl
When I think of the idea of calling something the best comic of the year, I immediately think it should be something complex and mature, maybe something political. But one comic stole my heart in 2018 by just being pure and cute-as-shit. What if I told you there was a comic about employees in a 90s record store? Already sold, right? Well they’re all girls with plucky attitudes and are secretly mystery-solving vigilantes who train to fight in their secret basement gym. Still with me? It’s all intensely, heart-meltingly cute and the art is gorgeous.
Best Gunpla: Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans Gusion MG 1/100
I’ve built 4 of these so far, but one stood out as by-far my favorite build. The Gusion is a weird kit that can be built 2 ways. This is story-appropriate, as our heroes kill a nasty space pirate, take his mobile suit, and rebuild the frame into something new. The kit is pretty meta, in choosing to reflect that plot point. The problem with that, is that you’ll be left with a ton of leftover plastic, whichever build you choose. But the build was incredibly fun. The armor is huge and rounded, and the pieces are relatively easy to handle, with surfaces that are heavily lined, so panel lining is fun and there’s a lot of it to do. I built the space pirate, who looks much cooler IMO, but either should look good. Either way, this kit strongly benefits from a matte top-coat. I mean, the matte on this thing looks dope.