Top Ten Badass Heroes of 2014

Now that we’ve hit 2015, I feel the urge to do a ‘best of 2014’. One entry on this list may even come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog, as the character comes from a work I haven’t reviewed this year. Without further ado, happy New Year and goodbye to 2014.

10. Captain America (The Winter Soldier)

Apart from starring in the best superhero movie I’d seen in a while, Steve Rogers is such a well-rounded hero. He’s the straight up action guy, a soldier, but he also reaches out to people and forms connections with them. Black Widow isn’t necessarily the easiest person for him to reach out to–he’s a straight hero where she’s definitely an anti-hero–and yet he does it anyway. Sure Steve’s got his training, and his super-soldier status, and a very serious outlook. But what really defines him is his compassion.

9. Vella (Broken Age)

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A co-protagonist of this point-and-click adventure game, Vella is the more heroic of the two (her co-lead, Shay, wants to be heroic, but so far has faced no real risk to do so–it remains to be seen what happens in Act II). She starts out as a sacrifice who’s been raised to be accepting of the idea. Then she calmly decides that, no, that isn’t for her. After escaping her own fate, she decides to save everyone else for an encore. She’s also a fun character. I really like how calm and soft-spoken she is, even as she decides to take a stand to save not only herself, but also others like her. She’s too busy walking the walk to talk the talk, and that’s refreshing.

8. Charles Xavier and Raven Darkholme (X-Men: Days of Future Past)

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Yes, Wolverine was there doing the action-y things, but Charles and Raven were the ones with the character development, the ones who pushed the story forward, and the ones whose motivations mattered. Charles started out as a wreck, at one of his life’s low points, and we see him learn to use his influence to guide people instead of using them. Raven really comes into her own in this movie, with her own ideas about what needs to happen and how to get there. The story may be about stopping her, but ultimately, she’s the one who has to choose to stop herself. And she takes a huge step in a heroic direction, even starting out as kind of an anti-villain/anti-hero.

7. Korra (Legend of Korra)

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Korra’s story concluded this year, and she’s come far from a brash, aggressive teenager to a more empathic person. Her initial strengths were generally physical, and over the course of the series, she’s learned to temper that. She’s learned more about herself, she’s struggled with her fears. And her decisions have absolutely transformed the world that she lives in.

6. Melinda May (Agents of SHIELD)

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The action hero of Agents of SHIELD, the show deservedly hands her all the best fight scenes. May’s a professional and one of the most experienced agents in the series. It all shows.

5. Marcel (The Originals)

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A character helped along greatly by the charisma of the actor, Marcel stands along side the rest of the cast as a complex, badass character. But he’s a leader in a way his mentor isn’t. He manages simultaneously to be ruthless to his enemies and caring to his friends. In a series populated with anti-heroes, he not only hold his own, he manages to stand out. There’s a reason other characters on the show flock to him–his charisma, yes, but his loyalty to his people, too. Pretty much every character other than Marcel will use and discard whatever faction allies with their best interests. But Marcel always sticks by his people.

4. Akane Tsunemori (Psycho-Pass 2)

One of the few capable, professional heroes who prefers to solve her problems through compassion instead of violence, Akane stands out because of how she manages to remain true to herself no matter how bad things get–even when outside forces are actively conspiring to push her over the edge. It hasn’t always been the easiest road, but her focus has always been on helping or saving people. And through her, the show always reminds us that approaching people with compassion, instead of the desire to punish them, makes a difference in who we are.

3. Cassandra Pentaghast (Dragon Age: Inquisition)

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If Dragon Age wasn’t an RPG, Cassandra would be the main character. The story is as much hers as it is the player character’s, and she shines as someone who’s seen and experienced enough to start questioning her world. She always strives for a better future, and approaches the institutions she wants to change with a deep respect for their pasts.

And she’s already a hero before the game even starts–twenty years later people are still talking about how she saved the seat of the faith from a dragon attack, though Cassandra might rather they stopped. Even when the current crises passes, she’s off to reform one major organization or another, constantly working towards a better future.

2. Bigby Wolf (The Wolf Among Us)

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Otherwise known as the Big Bad Wolf, Bigby is the star of The Wolf Among Us and a major character in the ongoing comic series off of which the game is based, Fables. In the stories, he is, of course, a villain. But he’s turning over a new leaf now that all the fairy tale characters have been exiled from their world into ours. They live in Fabletown, a neighborhood in Manhattan, and Bigby works there as the sheriff.

Interestingly, even though the game is choice-based, all of the choices do fit into the overall scheme of Bigby’s character–this is because the story is set during a time when Bigby is transitioning from villain to anti-hero to hero. He’s trying to be a better person, but not always succeeding. Certainly, the rest of the town remembers his past, and thinks of him as a brutal thug. With cause. And yet, Bigby’s trying. How successful he is at this particular point in his life is up to the player, but he is trying. As evidenced with his odd friendship with one of the three little pigs.

1. Sarah Manning (Orphan Black)

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Sarah ended up in over her head when she stumbled upon a huge, dangerous organization that wants to control her life. But now she has an idea of what’s what, and with very few resources on her side, she is going to keep her family (especially her daughter) safe from these people. Luckily for her, she’s adaptable. She’ll need that, as she goes on infiltrating and outsmarting the organization that’s after her.

Sarah is an anti-hero. Sometimes she’s ruthless, sometimes she’s wrong. I have a hard time pegging whether she’s unlikable but sympathetic or unsympathetic but likable. It’s one of those. Either way, she’s awesome. And regardless of her methods, she’s driven by how much she cares for her family. It’s her sisters and daughter that she’s working to protect.

And that’s my heroes of 2014. Anyone else want to highlight their favorites?

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