Comic book Family of the Decade: The Flintstones
Back in 2016, DC launched a couple of comics with Hanna-Barbera’s classic characters. One of those books was The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh and it was awesome. It took the classic stone-age setting we all know and love and gave it a modern spin, making it a relevant social commentary once again. One of my favourite instances is the Flintstones being shunned and protested for their filthy, unnatural ways – living in a monogamous household!
Honorable mentions: The Visions, the Batfamily
Superhero Cop of the Decade: Thor, God Cop in King Thor #4 (2019)
There was an abundance of superhero cops this decade, but the best one was introduced only days ago – Thor, God Cop. Thor spends his days dealing with Pantheon-on-Pantheon violence, illegal use of plagues and the biggest police-force enemy – paperwork!
The God Cop is the culmination of Jason Aaron’s fantastic seven-year stint as the writer of Thor. He brought us a young, Viking Thor. We saw Jane Foster take on the role of Thor, Goddess of Thunder. We saw regular Thor go from worthy, to unworthy, to All-Father and we also saw him fight Gorr, the Necro Universe at the end of times. But none of those is as good as Thor Odinson, Officer of the Universal God Police. The wild, outlaw Gods can no longer evade his Justice!
Honorable: Jim Gordon as Batman, all the Green Lanterns
The Gorge Award: Silver Surfer by Dan Slott and Michale Allred
This was a tough one, as there was an abundance of outright gorgeous books. But in the end, the choice fell on Michael Allred’s work on Silver Surfer. The pulpy adventures of Norrin Radd, his board Toomie and Dawn Greenwood in the crazy, volatile cosmos were perfectly encapsulated in Allred’s panels. The book oozes with style and trippy, wanton craziness. It’s also one of the best series’ of the decade.
Honorable mentions: Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja, Green Lantern by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp, Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
The Best Moment: All Hail God Emperor Doom
Hickman’s run on the Avengers and New Avengers was fantastic, full of great character moments and bigger-than-life plotlines. One of the bigger shockers was the identity of one Rabum Alal. The mysterious figure was one of the key players at the centre of multiversal destruction, standing with his Black Swans in opposition of the Ivory Kings and their Mapmakers. The revelation that this was, in fact, Doctor Doom of Earth-616 was quite the shocker. The fact that we ended up becoming the de-facto God of the newly established universe in Secret Wars was the perfect resolution of Hickman’s years of setup and the basis for the best event of the decade.
Honorable mentions: Matt Murdock admits that he is Daredevil and starts wearing a fancy red suit in court, Silver Surfer takes out Dawn Greenwood’s tonsils, Jim Gordon becomes the best Batman
The Best Batman Story: Batman: Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla
Dunno if you ever heard of him, but Batman is a somewhat popular character from DC Comics. Due to his stable (albeit small) following, DC Comics has kept him on the roaster pretty much forever. Not only that, but each year they actually put out quite a number of Batman-related books. Why? No one knows. But the best one this decade was definitely Batman: Black Mirror – the last Batman book before the New 52 relaunch. The book features Dick Grayson as the titular hero, dealing with a series of gruesome crimes.
Compared to most of the Batman stories from this decade, Black Mirror stands out with its focus on the detective aspect of the character. Batman isn’t saving the world from an alien invasion or trying to prevent a hostile takeover of Gotham. Instead, he is solving seemingly unrelated crimes. It also puts a really large emphasis on James Gordon, positioning him as the secondary protagonist of the story.
In a decade where Scott Snyder reigned supreme at DC Comics, his first Batman story is still the best one.
Honorable mentions: Batman: Superheavy, Batman: Court of Owls, Batman: Double Date
The Introspective Superhero Award: Daredevil by Mark Waid
There were a lot of these in this decade and a lot of them were fantastic, but Daredevil stood out to me as the best of the bunch. Matt Murdock decided to do what every sensible human would do – swallow his sadness and hide his emotional pain behind a smile. Easy! The villains and situations became wackier, the art became brighter and the smile became bigger, but Matt’s inner demons didn’t go away. Sadly, this development was ultimately ignored and thrown away by Charles Soule in his run. It took us four years and another creative team change to see the repercussions of such smart and adult behavior. But we did. And it’s a testament to how good and influential Waid’s run was.
Honorable mentions: Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, Vision by Tom King, Mister Miracle by Tom King
The ‘Surprisingly Great’ Award: Loki: Journey Into Mystery by Kieron Gillen
Gillen’s run on Loki should have never worked. It tied in to a total of three(!!) different events. It relied heavily on a book that changed two writers and it had completely inconsistent art, constantly changing artists. Some of the issues weren’t even written by Gillen. Yet, somehow, it works. It just works. Kieron Gillen – with the use of blood magic, presumably – manages to tell a consistently good story despite all of the shortcomings. It’s wholesome, it’s funny and it will break your heart by the end. I highly recommend getting the omnibus as it collects the complete story in chronological order.
Honorable mentions: Multiversity by Grant Morrison, Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
The Best: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Was there any doubt about this one?
If you still haven’t read it, go grab the compendium and be ready when Vaughan and Staples finally decide to continue the book.
The Literal GOAT: Toothgnasher
Toothgnasher is, without a doubt, the literal GOAT. May he find endless sustenance on the mountains of Valhalla.
Honorable mentions: Toothgrinder
The Best Car Chase: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max. Fury Road is all car chase and it’s all awesome. The cast is perfect, the aesthetics are wonderful and the action is breathtaking. Four Fast and Furious movies, probably 20 superhero movies and dozens of others have come out in the meantime, but Fury Road is still the best action movie of the decade. And it has the best car chase.
Honorable mentions: Baby Driver, Knives Out, Drive
The Best Documentary: What We Do in the Shadows
Taika Waititi’s 2014 vampire documentary is fantastic. It follows four vampires, showing us a typical day in their lives. From their interactions and relationships with humans and werewolves to their management of various house chores – the movie has it all. It’s a wonderfully close look at this interesting and mysterious minority. I never thought about what a problem dressing up might be for vampires.
A very informative documentary.
Honorable mentions: The Martian
The Best Motion Comic: Avengers: Infinity War
Motion comics have been kind of a big deal this decade, with Marvel’s productions leading the charge. Their decade-long series’ culminated in this year’s Avengers: Endgame, but it was actually its predecessor that was the ultimate entry. It had breakneck pacing, with tons of great character moments and fantastic setups and payoffs, before ultimately ending with a depressing bang. Endgame might have been the culmination of the series. It might have had the most epic moments and some wonderful (and heartbreaking) sendoffs, but it faltered in the middle. Infinity War was all excitement from the first minute, all the way to the last.
Honorable mentions: Logan, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Black Panther
It’s basically Star Wars: Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy follows a rag-tag team of unlikely heroes as they take on a galactic-scale threat. We have space cowboys and loveable space monsters. We have princesses and memorable ships. There’s even a really helpful fur-ball. It’s basically Star Wars. It’s more Star Wars than all the Star Wars movies since 1983. That says something about society.
Honorable mentions: Thor: Ragnarok
The Best: The Martian
Matt Damon is a botanist stuck on Mars and has to survive for a couple of years until another Mars mission comes to save him. He does so by growing potatoes with the help of his colleague’s feces’.
God, I love that movie.
Really close second: Mad Max: Fury Road
The High Point of a Series: Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect was a great game that kickstarted a universe with massive potential. But, it still felt like a classic BioWare game, containing all of the company’s well-known tropes. Then, at the start of the decade, in January 2010, they released Mass Effect 2 and we rejoiced. The gameplay was overhauled into a more action-oriented experience, while still holding on to the RPG elements at the core of the franchise. The simplified dialogue system from its predecessor was expanded a bit, adding in the option to interrupt various interactions. And then there was the meat and bone of the game – the expanded party of misfits and their respective loyalty missions. All of this was wrapped up in a race against time, with the player and his party members rushing head-on into a suicide mission. In short, the game was perfect.
Unfortunately, this was the high point of the series. BioWare lost all the goodwill it had accumulated with gamers(TM) with various awful decisions made for Mass Effect 3. And the less is said about 2017’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, the better.
The Soft Reboot of the Decade: God of War (Dad of Boy)
2009’s God of War saw all the Gods falling to Kratos’ wrath. Well, the Greek Gods, at least. The joke was that there are plenty of pantheons left for Kratos to slay. And lo and behold, we were right! In 2018, Kratos returned, now with a beard and a son, hanging around somewhere in Scandinavia. But this wasn’t the old Kratos we all knew and (not really) loved. This was a much more reserved Kratos, one constantly fighting with his inner rage. The God of War has become the Dad of Boy.
The change in character – the personal growth of Kratos – didn’t have just a story element to it, however. It affected the gameplay as well. The perceived restraint made the combat feel more technical and brutal. Coupled with Kratos’ Leviathan Axe, the simple RPG elements, the new setting and semi-open-world game design, God of War (2018) was one of the best soft-reboots of the decade.
Honorable mentions: Doom, Ratchet and Clank
The Best Item Descriptions: Dark Souls
2009’s Demon’s Souls introduced the world to what is referred to as item-description storytelling. But it wasn’t until 2011’s Multiplatform release, Dark Souls, that the genre gained real traction. The game spawned two more sequels and a spiritual successor and is mostly revered for its brutal difficulty. In reality, the difficulty is not that high, but the game does require some patience and relies on trial and error. But the real change it brought to the industry is showing us how you can build an intricate world full of secret paths and complicated history, and tell its story through, uhhhh, item descriptions.
A masterpiece of story telling.
Honorable mentions: Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3
The ‘Rip and Tear’ Award: Doom (2016)
Developer id Software took the classic Doom formula, gave it a fresh coat of paint and delivered one of the best FPS single-player experiences in years. It’s fast, it’s brutal and it has a surprisingly intricate story, no matter how simple it may seem. Everything about this game just makes you want to rip and tear demons. Especially that goddamn soundtrack. A rollercoaster of demon-slaying, from start to finish.
Honorable mentions: Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Diablo 3
The Best Jumping Simulator: Super Mario Odyssey
There are three game mechanics in this game: running, jumping and throwing your hat. And it’s perfect. The game is split into differently themed, big (really big) levels full of secrets to find and moons to collect. You spend most of your time throwing your hat at stuff, transforming into said stuff and then jumping as the stuff. My favourite stuff to play are an onion, a pole, a tree, and a boulder.
Honorable mentions: Celeste, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, Rayman: Legends
The Addictive One: Overwatch
The Overwatch Open Beta took place just as I got my platinum trophy in Dark Souls 3, and right before Uncharted 4 launched. I played the hell out of it and suffered serious withdrawal after it was over. The next two weeks felt like forever, made a tad easier to handle by the release of Uncharted 4.
The release finally came and I proceeded to regularly (and exclusively) play Overwatch for the next eight months. My PlayStation became the OverwatchStation. It was intense, it was exhilarating and damn was it frustrating. Sliding on walls in the game’s competitive mode was a source of great joy and even greater outbursts of anger. That is actually the reason I had to quit. I still think about it and I come back to it now and then, just to quit after a day or two.
Overwatch is a helluva drug.
Honorable mentions: Tetris 99
Better Than Hollywood: The Last of Us
Great advances were made with storytelling in video games this decade, but none come close to The Last of Us. Naughty Dog managed to craft such a perfect experience, with each element of the game complimenting the other. The setting gave a perfect excuse for all the violence and the game made it perfectly clear that the protagonist is not someone you would call ‘a hero’. The level design was immaculate, allowing you some freedom to explore, yet never letting you get lost and without direction. And not only that, but it also told little stories of its own. And the music was beautifully haunting.
And then, there were the characters. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson lifted the game up to another level. They breathed so much life in their respective characters, made possible by their perfect chemistry. Watching Joel and Ellie grow together and eventually warm to each other was a joy, full of cheerful moments, as well as heartbreaking ones.
Honorable mentions: God of War, Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 4
The ‘Feel Smart’ Award: Portal 2
Continuing their tradition of counting only to two, and after utilising a weird, meta-game marketing campaign, Valve released Portal 2 in 2011. I remember that day vividly – I came back from university, had an evening nap, started playing around 11 PM… and I finished it around 6 AM. The game, which supposedly takes place hundreds of years after the first installment, took the idea behind its predecessor’s last level and ran with it, designing huge levels full of fantastic puzzles. And solving those puzzles made you feel really, really smart… until you saw the global achievement stats. Turns out, a lot of other people realised you could fire a portal to the moon.
Also, the co-op mode was awesome. Nothing sweeter than removing the bridge under your friend and watching him plummet into lava.
Honorable mentions: Civilization V, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Best: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The 2010s could be easily called the Decade of Open Worlds, especially after the latest generation of consoles launched. For better or worse, everyone was rushing to make a huge open-world game with tons of stuff players could do. Most of these relied on a model that cluttered the map with pointless icons and grueling activities. Ubisoft led the charge with this model, slowly transforming all of their IPs into a single genre of their own.
Some tried to do things a bit differently. Marvel’s Spider-Man had a bit smaller world, focusing a lot more on the pitch-perfect traversal. The Witcher 3 relied heavily on long, well-written chains of quests that were hardly distinguishable from the main story.
And then there was Breath of the Wild. It spends the first hour showing you the basics, gives you the main quest and basically tells you “you do you, boo”. You won’t take on the boss right away, with no power-ups? Go ahead. Do you want to experiment with the game’s physics, do some wacky stuff? Sure, why not. Or do you want to solve and collect EVERYTHING? Yeah, okay, go ahead.
The amount of hand-holding and gameplay interruptions is minimal, as Breath of the Wild takes a sandbox approach to open-world games and lets the player explore every nook and cranny in Hyrule. It’s the pinnacle of open-world game design and it managed to get me quite invested in it. Really looking forward to the (direct) sequel.
Almost first, but it isn’t because I finished Zelda just recently: Dark Souls