December 22. 2012 10:20PM

Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club: A look back at a great year for pop culture

New Hampshire Union Leader

It's hard to believe, but another year is almost gone.

And if you're reading this, it means those Mayan calendar "problems" were about as troublesome as the Y2K bugs we worried about so long ago.

The year 2012 was a great one for pop culture, with plenty of great entertainment. Here's my year-end look at my top picks.

-- Best movie: There were some strong contenders this year, but nothing came close to "The Avengers." Director Joss Whedon took all of the excellent Marvel Comics movies that had come before and showed everyone just how good a "team-up" movie could be.

"Avengers" had everything you could ask for - great action to comedy and top-notch acting. It hit that sweet spot between making comic book geeks such as myself happy - with lots of action and insider tidbits straight from the comics - while also being accessible to mainstream audiences, all to the tune of more than $1.5 billion worldwide.

Honorable mentions: "The Dark Knight Rises" was a solid ending to the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman franchise, but it has some flaws. "The Amazing Spider-Man" was a surprisingly good reboot to the wall-crawler on the big screen.

I also really enjoyed "Looper," but I should point out I haven't seen many of the mainstream films that are getting good buzz now, such as "Lincoln."

-- Best TV show: Season 3 of "The Walking Dead" gets my nod here. Once again, the show goes to dark places and keeps you guessing because no character is safe and nothing is off limits, just like the comic book upon which it's based. Few shows had people talking about it the day after such as this one.

Honorable mentions: HBO's outstanding "Game of Thrones" delivered a superb second season, and boasts one of the strongest casts anywhere on television. I have been really enjoying "Arrow" on the CW thus far, but it has a long ways to go to reach the levels of the other two.

-- Best comic book: I'm tempted to give this one to The Walking Dead (which has been my pick each year), but writer Brian K. Vaughn is crafting something special in Saga, his new ongoing series. Narrated by a character who is just a newborn when the comic opens, we know this story is going someplace and might live up to its title.

Honorable mentions: The previously mentioned Walking Dead is always a top-of-the-pile read and the Batman books (Batman, Detective Comics and Legends of the Dark Knight) are all excellent.

-- Best new board or miniatures game: Let's go with one board game and one minis game here. Spartacus came out of nowhere and made a big splash with its mix of intrigue, backstabbing and gladiator combat. And Star Wars: X-Wing is a great entry level minis game that you can pick up and be playing in a just a few minutes, with excellent components to boot.

-- Best video game: Even though Skyrim was the game I logged the most hours on this year, it came out late in 2011. But a close second for couch time for me was XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

The update of the classic strategic game was a home run with a great story, excellent game play and addictive "one more turn" magnetism.

If you missed out on any of these cool pop culture pieces from the past year, definitely do seek them out. You'll be glad you did. Next week, we'll take a look at all the cool stuff to look forward to in 2013.

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Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Check out his podcast "Nerdherders" on iTunes or at His e-mail address is