Roqoo Depot’s Best of 2013

December 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Posted in Books, Comic Books, Movies, Opinion, Reviews, Star Wars, Television | 1 Comment

It’s been a heck of a year for Star Wars fans. The cancelling of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a constant flow of rumors for Star Wars Episode VII, and the impending release for Star Wars Rebels and TCW bonus content. For Star Wars readers, there’s certainly been no shortage of books to choose from. As this year wraps up, we here at Roqoo Depot present our look back at the best of 2013, be it Star Wars books or non-Star Wars books, television or movies. Here’s the best of what saw and read.

Best Star Wars Book of 2013

Nominees…

  • Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
  • The Last of Jedi by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
  • Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void by Tim Lebbon
  • Crucible by Troy Denning
  • Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
  • Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells

This year the team at Del Rey knocked out six adult Star Wars novels and gave fans a little of everything. Scoundrels, Kenboi and Razor’s Edge all tackled the classic film characters in familiar time periods. Scoundrels presented an Ocean’s Eleven style heist book starring Han and Lando. Razor’s Edge took on an adventure starring Leia as she deals with pirate problems out on the Rim. Kenobi, on the other head, provided a brief glimpse of Obi-Wan’s exile on Tatooine, the people he meets, and the trouble he gets into.

Books like The Last Jedi, Crucible and Into the Void all plowed into new territory. The Last Jedi continued the adventures of Jax Pavan and I-FIVE from the Coruscant Nights series as they deat with Inquisitors, Vader and the Rebellion. Crucible starred some of our favorite characters, Han, Luke, Leia and Lando, but on the edge of the time period, far past the time of the films and deep into their careers and legacies. Into the Void leaped into the opposite direction, going all the way to the beginning of the very idea of a Jedi Order and telling the story of a Je’daii hunting down a criminal threatening the Tythan system.

Of all these books, some certainly stood out amongst the others. While they were all fun to read, Tim Lebbon really did an impressive job with Into the Void. His debut Star Wars novel not only delivered a great story, but it tackled a completely unexplored time period for the books. Even with the handicap of not being able to use lightsabers, the story was entertaining and engaging. But then there was John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi. Kenobi had a ton of pressure riding on it as expectations were sky high. Readers were all expecting a Darth Plagueis style book centering on Obi-Wan. Even though Kenobi did not follow the Plagueis mold, it still proved to be a terrific story. The smaller sized scope of the book, focusing merely on a few weeks rather than dozens of years, created a much more personal journey. Furthermore, seeing Obi-Wan mostly through the eyes of others gave readers a reason to care about more than just Kenobi.

Both Kenobi and Into the Void truly deserve sequels.

Yet, looking back at all of the Star Wars books of 2013, neither Kenobi or Into the Void is my favorite. The best Star Wars book this year in my opinion is Crucible. Now I know there are many leading members of the Star Wars community that will disagree with that choice, but one thing Star Wars fans are is a diverse group. For me, none of the books this year could match the sheer crazy fun of Crucible. Troy Denning pulled out all the stops as he took Han, Luke and Leia on one last ride. They battled super genius aliens, Mandalorians, cyborg lizards, psychotic clones and what can be best described as Force demons. Stories in the Expanded Universe are all about fun. Crucible delivered fun by the buckets full with it’s completely unpredictable twists and turns and villains. While it’s unknown where the books will head from here on out with the looming story changes that the sequel movies will bring, Crucible provided a last hurrah of wild adventure.

Best Star Wars Book of 2013

Best Star Wars Comic of 2013

Nominees…

  • Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets
  • Dark Times: A Spark Remains
  • Dark Times: Fire Carrier
  • Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin
  • Dawn of the Jedi: Prisoner of Bogan
  • Ewoks: Shadows of Endor
  • Legacy Volume 2: Prisoner of the Floating World
  • Legacy Volume 2: Outcasts of the Broken Ring
  • Purge: The Tyrant’s Fist
  • Star Wars: In the Shadow of Yavin
  • Star Wars: From the Ruins of Alderaan
  • The Star Wars

Like Del Rey, Dark Horse Comics delivered on a variety of stories. From Darth Vader to Ewoks, from thousands of years before the movies to hundreds of years after them. Of all the ongoing series, miniseries and graphic novels this year, my favorite was Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin. While it told a story we’ve seen over and over, that of Darth Vader being challenged by a rival and the Dark Lord ruthlessly eliminating the challenger, it made some non-standard detours on the way there. The series opened with the viewpoint of a corrupt, wealthy man obsessed with killing Vader in order to avenge the death of his son and willing to make any sacrifice necessary to achieve those ends. We see Vader dutifully defending the Emperor and launching a mission to seek out a mysterious cult behind an assassination attempt. Midway through the story, the words take a backseat as the imagery does the storytelling as Vader and the Royal Guards explore a strange world. The whole story takes risks, unexpected turns, delves into mystery, and while the assassin’s tale is predictable, Vader’s journey is anything but. Coupled with some amazing artwork, and Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin stands out as one of the most memorable comics of the year.

That said, I have to give a notable mention to Ewoks: Shadows of Endor. While it is tailored to be approachable by younger audiences, it’s a story adults can still enjoy, so don’t skip it if you think it’s just a kid’s comic. The artwork is fun and a perfect match for the story. It manages to combine together elements from the movies, the Ewoks animated television show and even the Ewok movies. While this is a must read for Ewok fans, it might be just the tale to sooth the most jaded of Ewok hearts.

Best Star Wars Comic of 2013

Best Star Wars Book Miscellaneous Category 2013

Nominees…

  • Death Star Owner’s Technical Manual by Ryder Windham, Chris Reiff and Chris Trevas
  • Fan Phenomena – Star Wars
  • Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
  • Star Wars Art: Concept
  • Star Wars: The Blueprints by J.W. Rinzler
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode Guide by Jason Fry
  • The Making of Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler
  • Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown
  • William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

Normally I’d have a category for Star Wars guides, but this year there was a large amount of books that just don’t fit into that category, and rather than making a bunch of mini-categories, I’m just going to lump them all together. First up, I’d like to give a notable mention to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars for it’s long stretch on the New York Times Best Sellers list. The book opened at #12 on the list back on July 21st, rose to #10 the next week, and spent a total of eleven weeks on the Best Sellers List for hardcover fiction. It’ll actually be popping up again as Christmas sales have bumped it back into the extended list.

Regardless of the wide selection of Star Wars books in the miscellaneous category, there’s a clear winner that stands way above it’s peers and that’s J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Return of the Jedi. I haven’t read any of the other making of books, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this one. To put it quite simply, I was blown away. Not only did Rinzler pull back the curtain to show what all went into making the film, from securing funding to pulling off cutting edge special effects, he kept the whole account engaging. The quotes from various creators and actors were all seamlessly intertwined into the narrative. From cover to cover, there is tons of fun anecdotes, behind the scenes pictures, concept artwork and even transcripts of the various drafts of the script. Fans can not only see what George’s early vision of the film was, but how that vision changed and who played a part it changing it. The book was an eye opening experience and easily one of the best Star Wars books of the year.

Best Star Wars Book Miscellaneous Category 2013

Best Book of 2013

Nominees…

  • Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
  • A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp
  • The Adversary by Erin M. Evans
  • Carniepunk (anthology)
  • Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn
  • The Companions by R.A. Salvatore
  • The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett
  • Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells
  • Five by Five 2: No Surrender (anthology)
  • The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp
  • Hair Raising by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Hellhole Awakening by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Hunted by Kevin Hearne
  • Mysterious Ways by Michael A. Stackpole
  • Overdraft: The Orion Offensive by John Jackson Miller
  • Vol’Jin: Shadows of the Horde by Michael A. Stackpole

There were some really great sci-fi and fantasy books this year. In fact, it’s really hard to choose a favorite. Hellhole Awakening managed to supercede the first book in the series as an even more fun and wild adventure. And while Abaddon’s Gate had a slow start, it ended great. Kemp wove a tantalizing dark tale in The Godborn and swashbuckling fun adventure in A Discourse in Steel. Perhaps the biggest surprise this year is how Michael A. Stackpole managed to tell a story about a panda and a troll that was not only fun, but seriously engaging (Vol’Jin: Shadows of the Horde). Then there is Peter V. Brett’s epic addition to the Demon Cycle series. Brett deals out some terrifically deep character stories and truly immersive storytelling. This one would be the best book of the year…but I’m going to hold it against him for leaving the tale on a sinister cliffhanger. Oh, I won’t say it was a bad ending, but it was definitely a cruel way to leave readers hanging for the next book. Deliciously cruel.

Thus, it is with no small amount of thought and diligence that I’m a left with one book that narrowly edges out in front of the competition. The best book of 2013 is Drew Karpyshyn’s Children of Fire. Drew kickstarted his new original series with a tale that takes some of the in-depth character attention from the likes of Peter V. Brett, combines it with a touch of horror very much like Kemp, and just knocks out an amazing story. In fact it’s my go-to book for Christmas gifts this year. Children of Fire is filled with memorable characters and events that will stick with you. Even now, I can still remember the thrill I felt as Rexol geared up for battle. I’ve never seen a wizard prepare for war, and with Karpyshyn’s take on the scene, I may never forget. In retrospect, it’s an odd scene to have stuck with me, as it wasn’t really pivotal to the story. Yet the imagery and emotion Karpyshyn conveyed captured my imagination completely. If you haven’t checked it out, be sure to add it to your list.

Best Book of 2013

Best Comic of 2013

Nominees…

  • Aquaman #20
  • The Cheetah
  • Earth 2
  • Forever Evil
  • Forever Evil: Arkham War
  • Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • Jinnrise
  • The Other Dead
  • Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #6
  • Simpsons Summer Shindig #17
  • Transformers: Monstrosity

My comic reading habits can be kind of erratic when it comes to non-Star Wars titles. This year I branched out a bit more and tried some new series. Some were good, some where great, but only one can be the best of the year. Reviewing all of the comics I read this year, there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, and that’s Transformers: Monstrosity by IDW. Don’t let the subpar Michael Bay films fool you, some Transformers comics aren’t just good, they’re great. Monstrosity delivered some of the best artwork around with a style that matched beautifully with the subject matter. Livio Ramondelli knows how to draw robots, and his artwork of the Transformers is without equal. Unlike many artists, he not only does the pencils and inks, but the coloring too. His lighting effects and choice of colors brings the artwork to vivid life. The stories by Chris Metzen and Flint Dille complement the artwork with their richness and depth. They find a way to make you care about talking machines that transform into absurd objects. In Monstrosity, there’s an extra special focus on Megatron, and the character arc they create for him is must read material. If you like comics and you haven’t read Transformers: Monstrosity, then you should give it a try. Whether you consider yourself a Transformers fan or not, Monstrosity is worth your attention.

I’d also like to give a notable mention to Injustice: Gods Among Us. If I had to pick a single issue as the best comic of the year, it would come down to Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 or the Injustice: Gods Among Us Annual #1. Both issues were superb and did wonders with the DC superheroes. Written by the talented Tom Taylor, and with help from some gifted artists, this series brought action and drama to some of the most iconic superheroes out there. There have been a lot of Batman and Superman comics, and I’ll admit, I haven’t read very many of them. But as a new reader to the genre, this series captured my interest.

Best Comic of 2013

Best Television Show of 2013

Nominees…

  • Breaking Bad
  • Defiance
  • Falling Skies
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • The Walking Dead

I don’t watch much tv, but when I do, it’s usually a sci-fi show or something with gripping characters. This year there was some really good shows on tv, and a couple of them came to dramatic ends. As a Star Wars fan, it would be easy to pick The Clone Wars as the winner since season five really was great. Then again, Breaking Bad is probably the best television show ever made (though I think last season was better than this one). The Walking Dead is certainly enjoyable, but I wouldn’t actually rate it as high as the others. Of the shows I watched, Falling Skies would be my least favorite. That leaves just one show: Defiance.

In my opinion, Defiance is the new Firefly. It has a gritty, lived in sci-fi feel like Firefly with the same assortment of seedy, fun characters. It balances fun, action and drama for a thoroughly entertaining show. My expectations were pretty low when I watched the first episode. Sci-fi tv shows can have pretty cheesy special effects and one dimensional characters. But Defiance defied my expectations by rolling out a show that I fell in love with. When I saw there were Defiance panels at New York Comic Con, I found myself wanting to make the trip just for that. It’s not often a franchise can rival my love for Star Wars. Thus I declare Defiance the best television show of 2013, at least in my opinion.

Best Television Show 2013

Best Film of 2013

Nominees…

  • Escape Plan
  • Gangster Squad
  • Gravity
  • Iron Man 3
  • The Last Stand
  • The Lone Ranger
  • Machete Kills
  • Man of Steel
  • Pacific Rim
  • Star Trek Into Darkness

I didn’t get out to the movie theater much this year, so the list of movies I saw is somewhat short. When I started going through the list and eliminating films, I realized that my favorite movie of the year was an odd choice. Heck, I surprised myself. Keep in mind, I actually enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3, but neither of those films are ones I’m eager to watch again. Some films were just entertaining: Gravity, Machete Kills, Pacific Rim. Others I made sure to add to my dvd collection, such as The Last Stand and Gangster Squad (Escape Plan will also be joining the collection). What it really comes down to is that I’m a sucker for westerns. Yes, one of the critically shamed movies of the year is the one film I would say is the best of the year: The Lone Ranger.

I’m not sure people like westerns anymore, at least the newer generations of filmgoers. Yet I’m not old enough to really remember what the tv show was like. Regardless, I loved westerns as a kid, and it’s one thing I never grew out of. Hollywood doesn’t make too many westerns anymore. We typically only get one big budget western a year (3:10 to Yuma, Appaloosa, Django Unchained). One thing The Lone Ranger didn’t lack was bad press. You didn’t have to go far to hear someone say how bad the movie was. People complained about Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto, the budget of the movie and the length of the film. I certainly didn’t care about the budget, and while the film was long, I was entertained throughout. I even liked Johnny Depp’s performance. Plus I thought the villains in the film did a great job. As a fan of westerns, I thought The Lone Ranger was entertaining and well done. It might not be worthy of an Academy Award but it was on par with the sort of atmosphere and fun that a western should have.

Best Film of 2013

Alright, I’ve had my say and I’m certainly looking forward to what next year brings. You can check out our reviews of almost everything mentioned above over on our Reviews Page. If you’d like to weigh in with what books, comics, tv shows and films you liked best this year, be sure to leave a comment.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.
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1 Comment »

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  1. Would have gone with Gravity or Man of Steel as best movie in that lineup.


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