Yes, we're very late. What can we tell you, we're a High Street Retailer, and it's the week before Christmas. And believe us, we are so very very grateful to be so busy! Anyway, this is it. Another year over - how was it for you?
Not gonna lie - for us it's been challenging. It's a tough time to be on the High Street, but with the support of you lot - our loyal and valued customers, and some other wonderful people (Everyman Cinema - we're looking at you!) we're still swinging!
It's been a year of very high highs, and very low lows. The shop moved out of the Westminster Arcade, where it had been since Darren founded the place in 2005 and started Pottering about* under the stairs at the Everyman Cinema. We miss our old home, but we love our new one. For the first time in a long time we're accessible to people who have wheelchairs and pushchairs, and far more people find us now, which really helps.
It has, generally speaking been a good year for comics - and comics related media. On the big screen we've had a Black Panther, an Infinity War, and Aquaman and we've gone Into the Spiderverse.
That's four - four! comic book movies in one year! And they were even good!** This is astonishing to me - if you'd told me back when I was a kid that we'd have four comic book movies in one year, and not only would none of them be embarrassing, they'd be fantastic and that non-geeks would go and see them? I honestly wouldn't have believed you.
Indeed - I can scarcely believe it now! And there's more to come in 2019!
We've had trailers drop recently for Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel and Hellboy in recent weeks - and it isn't just the big screen where our comics characters have made an impact.
Over on Netflix Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist all had new seasons, and all were great - even Iron Fist! Sadly we know that Daredevil, Cage and Iron Fist will not be back, and it seems likely that once their next seasons are done Jessica Jones and Punisher will go the same way - killed not by low ratings but by inter-company politics as Disney moves to take more control over its intellectual property.
Still, the Marvel shows aren't the only game in TV town - even at Netflix. 2018 also gave us the wonderfully inappropriate adaptation of Grant Morrison's wonderful Happy!, a heartwarming tale of a debauched, degenerate hitman and his relationship with Happy!, the six inch high blue flying unicorn who is the imaginary friend of a little girl who has been kidnapped by a very bad Santa indeed.
Not a show to watch if you're easily offended (or offended by anything at all, really...) but it's a masterpiece of adaptation. We loved the original four issue comics series, but genuinely thought it was unfilmable.
We are very happy to be wrong.
It's bonkers, brilliant, shocking and relentless, building well on the source material and not shrinking from any of the madness that Morrison likes to inflict on his readers - and there's more to come in 2019! That said, although it's set at Christmas it's possibly not the most Christmassy viewing - if you haven't seen it yet, maybe leave until the New Year - the horrific bits are genuinely horrifying and while there are deep laughs, this is a show that really will make you uncomfortable...
Then there was Black Lightning.
Not as strong as the Marvel/Netflix shows to be sure, but your grumpy dad as a superhero is a fun trope, and it has lots of passable special effects and characters you can sort of care about. I do wish they'd turn the lights on occasionally, but it's not as grimdark as Arrow - so maybe I'll let them off.
The unexpected highlights though were the debut of Cloak and Dagger over on Amazon Prime. If you haven't seen it, we can't recommend it highly enough.
True, they did avoid putting either character into proper costumes (although they did an excellent job of giving Cloak his cloak in a way that felt meaningful) but that's OK - Dagger's comics accurate costume features a dagger shaped hole down the front and would have been a nightmare to make and wear in real life.
The show does an excellent job of showing the flaws in the characters - and sort of tips a lot of audience expectations on their head - which is always fun. Even better, Cloak and Dagger has already begun filming a second season, which means it's escaped the cancellation massacre that over ran Netflix - at least for now!
So yes - what an amazing year for comics related movies and TV! But we're not a movies and TV shop, we're a comics shop - so what's been good on the rack this year?
Well. Where do I even start? Not everything was good news of course - Kate Kane fought her last (for now) battle as Batwoman for a start, which is never a good thing. DC also dropped the hammer on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, New Superman and the Super Sons which we were also moderately gutted about - although the Super Sons is back as a limited series now.
Over the street at Marvel it was a year of re-invention. Deadpool and The Amazing Spider-Man both rebooted themselves under new creative teams. All kinds of things happened (and are still happening) to the X-Men and the Inhumans and several characters made a bit of a comeback.
Stand out titles from Marvel's roster of characters returning to their own comics after some time away included the very welcome return of Nadia Van-Dyne (formerly Nadia Pym but she changed her name at the end of the first run of her book) in The Unstoppable Wasp. If you read our picks of the week over on our Facebook page you already know that we're big fans of Nadia here at Desties. We were gutted when her original run was cancelled after eight issues, and very pleased that this run has essentially picked up where the last one left off.
We feel much the same about Kate Bishop aka Hawkeye ("No, not the dude, the other one...) who also had her book cancelled way to soon for our liking, but who is now back as the leader of the new West Coast Avengers with the same creative team.
WCA is a wonderful breath of fresh air. A dysfunctional team of not quite A list heroes, in Los Angeles, funded by a company using them as the stars of a reality TV show. Kate has already fielded several calls from an unhappy Steve Rogers who doesn't like the Avengers name and reputation being used in such a way. Kate isn't all that happy either, to be fair...
Marvel's stand out reinvention of 2018, however, simply has to be the Immortal Hulk. Taking the character back to his horror roots has been a stroke of genius, and there's been no retconning either. Bruce Banner is dead. He was killed by Clint Barton who was acting on Banner's instructions.
Veteran writer Al Ewing has taken these circumstances and run with them. Banner did indeed die. But Hulk cannot die. Which means that come the night, the Hulk comes back - and he brings Banner back with him.
This simple concept takes the Hulk back to his Jekyll and Hyde roots. Banner is tormented by the thing "the other guy" does and is desperate to believe that he is a "good man". For himself, Hulk cares nothing for such things, but does have a keen sense of retributive justice. Let's just say you don't want to be on the wrong side of this Hulk. This is no raving monster. This is an intelligent, powerful, amoral Hulk. And he is terrifying.
Elsewhere in comics publishers like Dark Horse, Image, Aftershock, BOOM!, Vault, and Black Mask have continued to expand their range.
Image, of course, celebrated its 25th Anniversary last year, and has long been a power in the industry. This year they've hit us with a relentless cavalcade of brilliance - series like Maneaters, a concept that really should be laughably offensive (because of a mutation in the toxoplasmosis virus young girls turn into man eating big cats when they get their periods) - but which is not only a brilliant satire on gender politics but is also thought provoking, funny and fun.
Throw in Farmhand - a story about a farm that grows human body parts for transplant, Murder Falcon - a story about an anthropomorphic Falcon and his guitar shredding human friend who destroy monsters with the power of METAL!!!!! and a couple of dozen other great series and you have a company which genuinely forms the backbone of the Anglophone comics industry.
In short, comics have had an amazing year. We could go on about it at length, but we're more than 1500 words in to a 1000 word article, we're five days late posting (forgive us - it's a busy time of year) and we could go on forever.
So. We'll be back on Boxing Day, Wednesday 26th December, with the results of the 2018 Saucer Awards, as voted for by you!
For now, please note that Destination Venus is closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Thursday 27th December. We re-open on Friday 28th December and 10am.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, from everyone at Destination Venus.
*See what we did there?
**OK, we haven't seen Aquaman yet, but Black Panther and Infinity War were utterly blockbuster-tastic, and Into the Spiderverse might well be our favourite comic book movie of all time. Not kidding. Check out what we made of it on the mildly sweary Geeks at the Gates Podcast...