Friday, December 31, 2021

Absent Friends (repost)


On this night of New Year's Eve,
I do much very much believe
that we should try to make amends
and call to mind our absent friends.

A year has past and all the while
they stood with us in times of trial
and joy for what fortune sends
even though they be absent friends.

Yet pulled and torn from one another,
though loved as dear as sister, brother.
The bonds we make, life often rends,
and fills our lives with absent friends.

But friends, though distant, are always near
they live in minds and hearts most dear
in deeper ways than man comprehends
So raise a glass to our absent friends.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Film Flash: American Underdog


 15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Uplifting sports movie about perseverance and faith with some nice, heartfelt performances.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards 2021 - BEST IN TELEVISION

  With 2021 coming to a close, it is time for us to choose what the best entertainment of the year was.  And just as the Academy Awards have their "Oscars", so too the Catholic Skywalker Awards have their "Kal-El's"

To reiterate:  the reasons for choosing a Superman statue as it's award, and not something from Star Wars are 3-fold:

1.  The Catholic Skywalker Awards will cover movies, television, and comic books.  Superman is an icon for all three.
2.  The pose he has here, revealing his inner hero, is symbolic of the revelation of truth and beauty that we should find in all good art.
3.  It's a statue I actually own, so I can use this photo on my blog.

(My appreciation and judgment of a TV show should not be taken as a recommendation. Choosing to watch any of these films is the reader's responsibility)

And now we here at Catholic Skywalker would like to celebrate the best in Television this year.

There are a lot of wonderful (so I'm told) programs out there that, unfortunately, time has not permitted me to see such as  The Witcher or The Wheel of Time.

Shows we watch:


Falcoln and Winter Soldier
What If...?
Cobra Kai
Squid Game
The Rookie
The Flash
This is Us
Locke and Key
Superman and Lois
The Shrink Next Door

The Good Place
Ted Lasso
Mythic Quest
Only Murders in the Building
Girls 5Eva
Rutherford Falls
Brooklyn 99
The Crew
Mr. Mayor
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

Dancing with the Stars
The Amazing Race
The Masked Singer
Tough as Nails

Best Drama:

This first season of Superman and Lois has been the best Superman I have seen on television.  And yes, this includes Smallville, Lois and Clark, and Superman: the Animated Series

It is such a novel idea that works so perfectly: Clark and Lois raising teenagers.  As Superman stands for wholesome values usually associated with the past, it seems fitting that he fits into the father-figure role, trying to bring the new generation to virtue.  The show is a wonderful exploration of family, parenthood, and values of decency.

If it was only that the show had good themes, it would not be in this position and Best Drama.  The show does a bang-up job executing on its premise.  I don't know what the budget is, but this is one of the most cinematic-looking shows I've ever seen on the CW.  The shots of Smallville are downright beautiful.  The writing is also wonderful with nods to those who are deep in the Superman lore while being perfectly accessible to anyone.  It also plays with expectations, but in the best possible way.  It brings out what you think are going to be tired tropes, but then uses this expectation to turn things around with surprises hiding in plain sight.

The action is also surprisingly good.  In one of my favorite Superman moments, Lois is in trouble and is able to finally hit her distress transmitter.  What follows is how I always imagined Superman would break into a scene to save the day, as seen from Lois' perspective.

The performances are also excellent.  There is something raw and honest about the connections and dysfunctions of this family along with all the frustrations of raising a family.  I also have to hand it to the writers for making the main action narrative flow harmoniously with the family drama narrative.  

For me, this show became appointment television every week.  I don't know if the second season will be nearly as strong.  But I am just so grateful for how good this first season was.

-Cobra Kai
-Locke and Key
-This Is Us

Best Comedy
Mythic Quest

From my review of the series:

This show is a fantastic blend of inane workplace politics and goofy absurdity; it's almost like The Office and Community had a love child.

Mythic Quest fills their show with over-the-top personalities, but always infuses them with just enough humanity to keep them grounded.  The show takes you behind the scenes of a massive multiplayer online video game.  Rather than the show being something insular that only gamers could appreciate, the setting is a medium to explore all kinds of different human relationships.  The writing also reminds of Arrested Development in that it takes these very unlikeable characters and puts them in situations where their humor and depth can be seen.  And just when you start to sympathize with them too much, their horrible flaws come to the surface, but not enough to repel you completely.  It is such an odd and tense dance, but somehow they are able to make it work.

One of the things I really like about this show is how it handles social issues.  Rather than taking a simple side and then preaching, the show delves into the issue to mine it for comedy while making fun of all sides.  

All the while, you begin to connect to these characters and the humor becomes more pronounced once you really get to know them.  

Only Murders in the Building
The Simpsons
Mr. Mayor
Ted Lasso

Best Actor in a Drama
Tyler Hoechilin - Superman and Lois

I remember when Hoechilin made his debut as Superman in an episode of Supergirl.  I wasn't terribly impressed, but I don't think that was necessarily his fault.  He didn't have all that much to work with.  But with Superman and Lois, we see a real exploration of his character.  The thing that Hoechilin does so well that is essential to the Superman character is the way he embodies Superman's feeling of helplessness.  The horrible irony of Superman is that he has the power and the virtue of character to completely take care of everyone's problems.  But Superman knows that he has to show restraint in order to give people their freedom, even if it gets them hurt.  He has to let Lois and his kids make their own choices, no matter how dangerous and it eats him up inside.  Hoechilin shows us the in the utter restraint he shows.  He always seems like he could spring into action in a second, but he has to hold himself back from doing so all the time.  All the while he has to play all of the complicated emotional relationships he has and at the same time never losing that special heroic stature that is necessary to the character.  It is a difficult task, but Hoechilin has done a fantastic job.

William Zabka - Cobra Kai
Lee Jung-jae - Squid Game
Sterling K. Brown - This is Us
Milo Ventemiglia - This is Us

Best Actress in a Drama
Elizabeth Olsen - WandaVision

From my review: "The performances are wonderful.  The show stands or falls on Olsen's power as an actor.  She has always been someone who has shown skill beyond many of her peers and she is able to effortlessly slide into various personalities and genres with the greatest of ease and with the element to truth in her performance. "

Not only this, but beneath the exterior versatility, she was able to capture the core emotion of grief in a way that not only made her sympathetic, but dangerous.  She was simultaneously victim and victimizer and Olsen was able to garner enough of your sympathy through her performance without playing her as a saintly, misunderstood figure.  Her Wanda was someone who could believable choose either great good or great evil.

Mandy Moore - This Is Us
Elizabeth Tulloch - Superman and Lois
Jung Hoyeon - Squid Game
Emelia Jones - Locke and Key

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Paul Rudd - The Shrink Next Door

This is one of Rudd's best performances.  Like many of his previous characters, Rudd's Dr. Ike is funny and charming.  But Rudd also does a great job of letting the sinister menace float just under the surface.  Ike is a social vampire, looking to suck the life out of his victims.  But first he has to seduce them with his charm.  Rudd is able to show you flashes of that monster lurking in his soul.  But he also shows you the horrid truth that Ike doesn't see himself in any way as a monster.  He is someone who commits such horrible indecency while thinking he is a decent person.  This actually makes his Ike slightly terrifying so that you don't know what the upper limit of his avarice will make him do.

Luke Wilson - Stargirl
Alex Garfin - Superman and Lois
Eric Winter - The Rookie
Xolo Mariduena - Cobra Kai

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Katheryn Hahn - The Shrink Next Door

Hahn could have played this character a simple foil to the devious Dr. Ike.  But instead, as the sister of Ike's main victim, she has to play a very intersting tightrope.  As her brother Marty falls deeper and deeper in Ike's spell, we have to see her frustration at what is befalling her brother.  But at the same time she has to play it in a way where Ike can believably spin her concern so that Marty only sees jealousy and greed.  What Hahn does really well is that she makes sure not to eliminate the more venal elements of her relationship with Marty.  In a small way, she is a bit like Ike.  And this tiny flaw leads to so much tragedy.  If she had played her character as too virtuous, the whole tragedy of the story would not have been felt nearly as powerfully.

Darby Stanchfield - Locke and Key
Emmanuelle Chriqui - Superman and Lois
Susan Kelechi Watson - This Is Us
Mekia Cox– The Rookie

Best Actor, Comedy
Jason Sudeikis- Ted Lasso

Normally I try to avoid giving out same award to the same recipient two years in a row.  But Sudeikis did such an amazing job this year with Ted Lasso that I had to give him recognition once again.  Not only was able to do the same job of balancing his comedy and drama, but he even went to deeper depths.  What makes this so fascinating is that when you begin to realize the horrors that Ted has endured in his past, it not only gives texture to his dramatic performance, but it actually makes the comedy all the funnier.  You can see how laughter is part of his light shining out of the darkness and Sudeikis' performance brings about a wonderful lightening of the heart.

Ted Danson - Mr. Mayor
Emelio Estevez - The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers
Rob McElhenney - Mythic Quest
Steve Martin - Only Murders in the Building

Best Actress, Comedy
Lauren Graham - The Might Ducks: Game Changers

While on the surface, Graham's character here is very similar to her iconic turn as Lorelei on Gilmore Girls, those surface comparisons are all there is.  Her Alex Morrow is a woman who is more lost and unsure than Lorelei ever was.  Graham plays into that insecurity for all of the humor she can while bring about every ounce of her charisma.  Her character clearly has no idea what she is doing and Graham makes sure to use all of this to make the audience laugh.  But like all parents, she has to at least give the illusion of control for the sake of her kids and she is able to hold down that core of authority.  

Hannah Waddingham – Ted Lasso
Selena Gomez - Only Murders in the Building
Charlotte Nicdao - Mythic Quest
Sara Bareilles - Girls5Eva

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
F. Murray Abraham - Mythic Quest

One of my favorite parts of discovering Mythic Quest was F. Murray Abraham.  I really only have encountered him as a dramatic actor.  But seeing him in a comedic role has been a revelation.  His CW Longbottom makes me laugh in every scene that he is in.  He is a walking contradiction.  He seems to be a font of literary knowledge, but he is also a hack who is so insecure that he carries his major award with him wherever he goes.  He tries to act the part of the elder statesmen, but he is so perverse and petty that everything he does collapses into chaos.  Abraham understands one of the most important rules of comedy: serious is funny.  He uses the entire weight of his dramatic skills to the utter absurdity of his character and therein lies the genius of his comedy.

David Hornsby - Mythic Quest
Danny Pudi - Mythic Quest
Brett Goldstein - Ted Lasso
Michael Greyeyes - Rutherford Falls

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Amy Ryan - Only Murders in the Building

For those only familiar with Ryan's work as Holly Flax on The Office, you may be fooled into thinking that Ryan is a one-note character.  But for anyone who wants to see what she is capable of, I highly recommend checking out Only Murders in the Building.  In this show she has to keep up with comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short.  As a comedy murder/mystery, she is able to slip comfortably into any role the story needs while remaining a consistent character.  And when sharing the screen with these Hollywood heavyweights, Ryan is more than a match for them in every scene.

Juno Temple - Ted Lasso
Paula Pell - Girls5Eva
Holly Hunter - Mr. Mayor
Jessie Ennis - Mythic Quest

Stay tuned next week for the Catholic Skywalker Awards for Best Movies of 2021

Saturday, December 25, 2021

I Touched a Camel (A Christmas Reflection)

 A few weeks ago, my school hosted a Christmas event with a live nativity.  As I wanted to support the school, I stopped by to look around.  I listened to the choir sing the carols and sipped my hot cocoa.  I went to see the live nativity and saw my students dressed as the ones who were there on that first Christmas night.  I knew that they would be bringing animals to help give the stable a genuine feel.  There were donkeys and goats.  But when I looked to my right, I was not prepared for what I saw:

A camel.

I know that I have seen a real camel at some point in my life, probably at the zoo.  But here he was, just standing there in front of me with no barrier.  I stood a moment as families brought their children to the beast so they could pet him and have their pictures taken.  After I found a space where it didn't look I was taking time away from the kids, I stepped up.  The first thing that struck me was the enormity of the creature.  There was no way this could ever pass through the eye of a needle!  I then asked if I could touch the camel.

I put my hand on the creature's jawline.  I had expected it to feel rough and sinewy.  Instead, his face was delicate and soft and foamy feathers.  

When I touched him, the camel turned his head towards me, inching it closer to my own.  I tried to quickly remember if camels had a habit of biting people or not.  Because if it did, I was in real trouble.  I was powerless to defend myself at this range.  But I gently pressed my hand on his face and he remained.  I pet its plush head and looked into its eyes.

Even now, sitting here, I can remember the sensation.  I began to share pictures of the experience with my friends and family.  I called up one friend and he said to me, "This isn't like you."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I never here you get this excited over nature and God's creatures," he replied.

I thought about it, and this is true.  While I appreciate the beauty of God's world, I am very certainly and "indoorsy" type of person who revels in the creature comforts of modern home rather than the rustic life of roughing it.  My time spent out doors recreationally is very small.

But there was something special about touching that camel.

Until that moment, the creature had always been something alien to me.  It's not like I doubted their existence, but I never thought I would ever get to touch one.  But now that I have, camels are more real to me than I ever imagined.  They are no longer creatures seen in movies or read about in books.  The tactile reality that I experienced changed all of that.  And it's unexpected nature is really what threw me.  Touching a real camel served to shatter all of my illusions of what I thought a camel was.  Now whenever I think of a camel, the memory of its reality will once again fill up my senses.

That's what happens when you touch the real thing.

Of all the senses, I don't think there is anything that makes something more real than touch.  We hear words, but people can lie or we can misunderstand.  We see things, but our eyes sometimes play tricks on us.  But it is the touch, that concrete sense, that gives us confirmation that something is truly real.

I think that's why Thomas said he would not believe until he probed Christ's nail marks with his fingers and put his hand into His side.  This imagery is gross and disturbing, but it also goes to show the limit of Thomas's doubt.  Maybe Thomas believed his fellow Apostles saw something.  But he held himself to a "higher" standard.  Seeing would not be believing.  Only touch could remove all doubt.

Once you touch someone, so much of the barrier is removed.  I think of the movie Dead Man Walking, where the man is being escorted to his execution.  He had spent the movie talking to Sister Helen through a phone, through glass,  and through bars.  But in his final moments, he asked, "Can Sister Helen touch me?"  In the movie Ghost, Sam says to Molly, "I would give anything if I could touch you again."  He could see and hear her, but the touch made them present to each other in a new way.  With the touch, we become truly real to each other.

Christmas is the day that we could touch God.

God is great, He is beyond sensible reality.  Yet in His largeness, He had to power to make Himself small without losing any of His immensity.  For 9 months He remained hidden in the womb of Mary.  And then on that Christmas, He revealed Himself to the world.

And we could finally touch Him.

His tiny fingers and toes wiggled in the cold nigh air as Mary and Joseph snuggled him closely.  Did any of the shepherds get to hold him?  Did the Magi touch his little feet in homage?

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus would go out of his way to touch people.  In Mark's Gospel, a leper asks to be healed.  Christ could have simply said the words of healing.  Instead, He laid his Holy Hands upon him.  Why?  Because He came to touch us.

Christmas is the day that God gave us access to Him in a way that we never could have imagined.  

My conversion experience when I was 17-years-old centered around finally seeing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  The next day, we had mass.  The minister held up the Host and said, "Body of Christ," to which I replied "Amen."  And then he placed the Host in my hand.

And in that moment I realized that I was touching God.

Until that moment, God had always been something alien to me.  It's not like I doubted His existence, but I never thought I would ever get to touch Him.  But now that I have, God is more real to me than I ever imagined.  He is no longer Someone seen in movies or read about in books.  The tactile reality that I experienced changed all of that.  And it's unexpected nature is really what threw me.  Touching the Real God served to shatter all of my illusions of Who I thought God was.  Now whenever I think of God, the memory of its reality will once again fill up my senses.

Like Thomas, I have reached the limits of my doubt.  And all of this because I touched His Body.

And that is the greatest Christmas present I can imagine.

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Film Review: 8-Bit Christmas (HBO Max)


Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

I like movies that can surprise you.  And 8-Bit Christmas surprised me.

The story is simple enough.  A father (Neil Patrick Harris) named Jake tells his daughter (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) the story of how he got his first Nintendo.  The story is told mostly in flashback in the mid 1980's.  Young Jake (Winslow Fegley) is the most middling suburban kid imaginable.  He is not the most popular nor the most alienated.  His family is firmly middle-middle class.  His father (Steve Zahn) is constantly involved in unfinished construction projects around the house.  His mother (June Diane Raphael) is an overworked teacher.  His little sister (Bellaluna Resnick) seems to get everything she wants.  But Jake and his friends spend their weekends and afternoons trying to get invited to the rich kid's house (Chandler Dean) so that they can play the only Nintendo in town.  When that system gets destroyed, they conspire to find a way to get a Nintendo for themselves.

On the surface, this movie is merely a remake of A Christmas Story set in the 1980's.  We have: an adult narrator, a plot centered around attaining a Christmas gift,  a playground bully, and parents who don't understand the obsession.  Jake's father, in particular, tries to impart the importance of getting out into the fresh air when all Jake wants to do is play video games.

But this is a better movie than A Christmas Story.

Now, there are many people who hold up A Christmas Story as a holiday classic.  There is a reason that this movie stood out from all other Christmas films.  In that movie, Ralphie begins the film with an all-consuming, selfish desire for his Red-Rider BB-gun.  Many Christmas movies start off like this, but what makes this movie so bold is that Ralphie never learns the real meaning of Christmas.  He is selfish and materialistic at the beginning and remains so until the end, with no real lesson learned.  It is such as shocking turn that it is unique among many Christmas movies.

8-Bit Christmas seems like a similar cynical nostalgia-fest focusing on the joys of material gain at the holidays.  And to be fair, the movie leans heavily into this feeling.  It is a very childish mindset, but one that is reflective of a lot of our early Christmas experiences.  How many of us when we were young loved the presents and the candy and things like going to church and gatherings with relatives?  8-Bit Christmas lets you get caught up in the Nintendo craze as well as other insane toy fads like Cabbage Patch Kids.  

But 8-Bit Christmas has something A Christmas Story does not: heart.

I do not want to spoil anything, but there is more to 8-Bit Christmas than the silly comedy and Nintendo nostalgia.  There was something truly heartfelt about how the story progressed.  I was not expecting to find this movie so touching.

This movie will be most especially appreciated by people who grew up in this era.  Everything about this will be familiar: the gigantic student that no one quite knew, the huddling around the radio listening for snow days, the rich kid who had all the cool toys, the kid who would constantly make up stories, losing retainers, losing siblings in the mall, power gloves, and everything in between.  While everything was over-the-top, there was something authentic about how director Michael Dowse captured everything.  He keeps the movie moving at a fast, fun clip.  He gets you into the mindset of a child who gets wowed by a house with a built-in intercom system.

The performances by the child actors are perfectly acceptable as child actors.  Harris always brings his charisma to everything he does.  Raphael is a very funny actress that has been hovering around the edges of stardom.  I'm really hoping she gets a big breakthrough because she is wonderful in this and should get more recognition.  But for me the standout is Zahn.  He doesn't seemed to have aged in 20 years, but he has matured.  There is something very real and flawed about the portrayal of Jake's father that is incredibly funny and moving.  He is angry all the time without coming off as a bully or abusive.  He has that distance that a lot of us felt with our dads when we were little because his world and his worries seemed so alien to us.  But Zahn finds the heart of the character to not only elicit laughs and pull at the heartstrings.

I am going to watch this movie again next holiday season and see if it holds up.  But now, even after several weeks, I still leaves me with a smile.

Film Flash: King Richard (HBO Max)

 "Theatrical release poster": A father embraces his two daughters. Underneath them is the tagline: "Venus, Serena and a plan for greatness".

 15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Great Will Smith performance in a story with a good theme about fathers.

Monday, December 20, 2021

New Evangelizers Post: The Christmas Family



I have a new article up at  

In a few days, we will be celebrating Christmas.

For many of us this holy day is centered around our families. While God is always at the center of all things, the focus on family is absolutely appropriate. Our Lord was not just incarnated into a world, but into a family.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties.” (CCC, 2203)

The family is not some incidental accident of human culture, but something deeply ingrained in our nature. By “our nature” I do not simply mean our biology. Family is built into our very souls.

The family is so important that we look at it as the “domestic Church.” It is the place where the faith is taught and nurtured. Not only that, but “The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. The family is a privileged community called to achieve a ‘sharing of thought and common deliberation by the spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children’s upbringing.'” (CCC, 2206)

Why did God put us into families?

Because He wanted to teach us about real love.

All of us know that our families know us in a way that no one else ever will. There is an intimacy of every-day life that is almost impossible to communicate to anyone else outside of that family. They see us at our worst, our sickest, our messiest, our cringiest, our most embarrassing, and every other state. There is very little hidden when living in a family.

Growing up, I was the weirdest child. My family has got the goods on me. And I’m sure your family has got the goods on you.

And when living in close quarters, friction is inevitable. Sometimes the people who annoy us the most, who disturb us the most, and who hurt us the most are members of our family. That closeness makes every wound more painful.

But that is part of the lesson of being in a family: families forgive each other.

Now, I am not at this time referring to issues of abuse, crime, or addiction. While the underlying principles laid out in the article are still the same, these extreme problems require more nuance and expertise than I am able to offer here. This article is talking about the pain, rivalry, and drama that is common in the typical family.

As a family we are stuck with each other. People break up with their boyfriends and girlfriends. Sometimes friendships drift away and die. But forever and ever, my mom is my mom, my dad is my dad, and my siblings are my siblings. Nothing can change that. We are bound by blood.

This bond of blood is a reminder of the unity that we all share. We are connected. This permanent bond reminds us that no matter how much we hurt each other (again, abuse is a separate case), we are called to forgive. If I am in a fight with my brother or sister, they remain my brother or sister. Unlike romantic partners or friends, I can never deny the reality of my family. This concrete reality forces me to understand that if there is hurt and injury between us, then it must be reconciled or there is something unbalanced in my life.

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards 2021 - BEST IN COMICS

  With 2021 coming to a close, it is time for us to choose what the best entertainment of the year was.  And just as the Academy Awards have their "Oscars, " so too the Catholic Skywalker Awards have their "Kal-El's"

Now, if you are new to this blog you may be wondering why a blog called Catholic Skywalker would choose a Superman statue as it's award, and not something from Star Wars.   The reasons are 3-fold:

1.  The Catholic Skywalker Awards will cover movies, television, and comic books.  Superman is an icon for all three.
2.  The pose he has here, revealing his inner hero, is symbolic of the revelation of truth and beauty that we should find in all good art.
3.  It's a statue I actually own, so I can use this photo on my blog.

Catholic Skywalker: Best in Comics:

Best Series
The Flash
The Flash #770 Reviews

It has been a long time since I've enjoyed a comic book series this much.  Don't get me wrong, there have been some amazing comics that I've read in the last few years.  But very few have been able to inspire the simple joy of reading comics again.  Perhaps the word "simple" is wrong, because it implies a lack of nuance or complexity.  And that is not the case with The Flash.  By "simple" I mean that the team behind this book have a straightforward goal: to give a sense of satisfaction and joy at reading their stories.

Joshua Williamson recently finished up his significangt run on the series, introducing concepts like the Still Force and the Strength Force that have left their mark on the Flash cannon.  When the new creative team came on, I stuck around.  The thing that took me by surprise was that the stories were centered on Wally with Barry as the "man in the chair."  This is a huge departure from mainline DC, especially since Heroes in Crisis.  But it wasn't until issue 770 that I began to understand this book.

As I wrote: "Wally ends up inhabiting the body of Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick in a fight with Hitler.  The story was fun, fast-paced, well-written, and felt like a throwback to the classic stories of the DCU.  The seamless incorporation of Wally, Barry, and Jay reminded me of the way Geoff Johns was able to keep all the Flashes in balance and makes their relationships so interesting to read."

And the quality of the book has only gotten better with time.  (more on this later).

If there is only one comic series that you can read, you should definetely make it The Flash.

Superman '78

Best Mini-Series
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin: Eastman, Kevin, Laird, Peter,  Waltz, Tom: 9781684058419: Books

As I wrote in my review for issues 1:

The Last Ronin feels very much like Old Man Logan for TMNT.  That may sound like an incredibly odd fit, but it works so well.

Set in a dystopian future, one of the Turtles is infiltrating a walled-in NYC that is run by the Foot Clan.  Which Turtle?  It isn't readily apparent.  He wears a black mask and he has all of the weapons used by the four.  He is worn and weathered and he is on a mission that just might be a suicide mission.

The entire issue is pure action as he infiltrates the bad guy's headquarters.  The narration is simple, but that is a powerful plus in a book like this.  Turtles creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are in no way phoning this one in.  Their writing and art with Esau and Isaac Escorza is perfect for the book.  

The thing that struck me about our hero was how as often as not he fails.  He is full of amazing skill and pulls off fantastic feats.  But he is facing such insurmountable odds that he sometimes barely makes progress.  Or we see how age and fatigue cause him to make near fatal mistakes.  He is not Batman who has ingeniously calculated 25 moves ahead.  But he is also not some washed-up, has been shell (no pun intended) of his former self.  He is prepared, skilled, and quick to improvise.  But those improvisations don't always work out.  The fact that he is not some unstoppable, invincible ninja makes the action all the more compelling and his struggle all the more desperate.  

In fact, we get to see our hero brought to his absolute lowest and it is so heartbreaking.  This leads us to the final page that has me excited for the next issue.

I don't know if the subsequent installments will be able to keep up this quality.  But this first issue was a great and fun read from start to finish.

DC vs. Vampires
GI Joe: Snake Eyes - Dead Game
Challenge of the Super-Sons

Best One-Shot
Green Arrow - 80th Anniversary Issue

 00181 GREEN ARROW 80TH ANNIVERSARY 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR #1 CVR H Back  Issue - Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse

Most of the stories in this anthology are fine, but forgettable.

However, Larry O'Neil wrote a silent tribute to his father, the legendary writer Dennis O'Neil, who recently passed away.  Very few writers have had the influence on comics the way he has.  The story is only six pages.  But there is more emotional, humanity, and heart in those six pages than in hundreds of other pages of I have read this year.  That one story shows us this flawed and talented man who lived a simple life with ups and downs.  But he was someone who was captivated by the magic of imagination and took that magic with him to the end.

You can read the entire story here online for free.  Do yourself a favor and read it.

Best Artist
Bruno Redondo (Nightwing)

As I wrote in my review for Nightwing #78:

Artist Bruno Redondo (along with Adriano Lucas and Wes Abbott) do a wonderful job.  Unlike a typical Bat-book, most of the action here takes place in the daylight, which fits thematically with the new dawn of the character.  There is a fantastic two-page spread that I stared at for a good long while.  This creative team understands that comics are a visual medium and they can be transportive.  The double-splash page conveyed a sense of grandeur, joy, and freedom.  For a moment, you feel like Dick seemingly weightless, tumbling through the air.

Fernando Pasarin: Hawkman
Ivan Reis: Superman
Karl Mostert: DCeased: Unkillables
Raffaele Ienco: Star Wars: Darth Vader

Best Writer
Jeremy Adams (The Flash)

Jeremy Adams is currently one of my favorite writers working in comics.

This may seem a bit extreme, since I have only read less than a year's worth of his stories.  But he has given me such delight that I look forward to every week that Flash comic is released.

As a Wally West fan, I am incredibly grateful that Adams has brought him front and center back into the Flash universe.  While I love Barry as well, it felt like DC was wasting such a great character in Wally.  Adams' affection for Wally is clear and it is reflected in his work.

But Adams is not merely writing some fan-fiction in print.  He giving us some of the most entertaining Flash stories in years.  Every issues I can expect not only grand adventure but also fun character moments that make the emotional connection I've had with Wally come alive again.  Reading the Flash feels like reconnecting with an old friend.

And I have to say that Flash #776 might be the most one of the best single issues of a comic I have ever read.  As someone who has been seriously reading for over 30 years, this is no small feat.  This issue has Flash and Dr. Fate break the fourth wall and speak to the reader.  But unlike other issues that do this, Adams draws you in as an active, not passive participant in the story.  You have to help the heroes by interacting with the comic book in a physical and specific way.  This is something you can only experience with the actual book in your hand and not on a tablet or computer screen.  It is pure comic book magic.  But Adams invites you to take the action seriously: to believe that you really are a part of the story.  I decided to take that leap of faith and treat the story as if my choices mattered.  It made me work for the solutions with a seriousness I didn't think I would.  And in the end there was a wonderful satisfaction at going on the adventure.  Even if Adams never writes another story, I will remember this one forever.

But I can't wait to see what he is going to do next.

Tom Taylor: Nightwing
Peter Tomasi: Challenge of the Super-Sons
Robert Venditti: Superman '78
Greg Pak: Star Wars: Darth Vader