It's only June, and it feels like we've already had a year or two's worth of big news stories in the sci-fi and genre space. Some were expected — but a lot of them were total shockers.
The first six months of the year has been stocked with surprise box-office hits, surprise box-office bombs, some TV shake-ups, and some groundbreaking changes in the comics industry. We're in a major year for geekdom, and it's only halfway over.
So what have been some of the biggest surprises of 2018 (thus far)?
Black Panther shredded the box office
Okay, to be fair — it's not much of a surprise for a Marvel movie to do well at the box office. The studio has had a pretty good run the past decade. But few people expected Black Panther to blow the doors off The Avengers (and even stay ahead of Avengers: Infinity War domestically). Black Panther ended its theatrical run with a worldwide haul of $1.3 billion and is the most successful MCU film ever released in the U.S., slightly ahead of Infinity War (though to be fair, Infinity War went on to crack $2 billion worldwide).
Critics also adored Black Panther, with the film garnering a mind-boggling 97 percent 'Fresh' rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The film was Marvel's first big swing with a hero of color, and it showed audiences are absolutely starved for more diverse fare in the geek space.
Brian Michael Bendis' jump from Marvel to DC
We actually found out comic juggernaut Brian Michael Bendis would be leaving Marvel for DC Comics back in 2017, but he made the jump in earnest this year. So 2018 brought his final farewell to his myriad Marvel series', and the first look at what his revamp of DC Comics will look like. Bendis brought his runs on Jessica Jones and Miles Morales’ Spider-Man (two characters he created) to thrilling, touching ends — then most recently launched one of the most ambitious Superman comics in years. What made it so surprising? Bendis' first story is changing everything we thought we knew about the destruction of Krypton and rewriting key pieces of the Man of Steel's origin story. Not bad for his first outing at DC, right?
Coba Kai was awesome
It might not be one of the biggest releases of 2018, but there’s no denying YouTube Red’s mysterious Karate Kid revival was one of the year’s greatest surprises. Cobra Kai isn't just good. It's great — and so much better than it really has any business being. The series picks up with the characters of Karate Kid a full 30 years later, with Johnny (William Zabka) a loser trying to start his own dojo, and Daniel (Ralph Macchio) a rich guy running his own car dealership.
The real trick to getting this right is that there isn’t a good guy or bad guy, they’re both just men who have made plenty of mistakes, trying their best to do what’s right. The fact that a Karate Kid revival is one of the most nuanced takes on adulthood is mind-boggling in and of itself, but as YouTube looks to establish itself as a streaming competitor, Cobra Kai has become a true shot across the bow.
Solo underperformed (and then some) at the box office
As Disney maps out its profits for the year ahead, there are few things as "sure" as a Marvel movie or a Star Wars movie. But, Solo: A Star Wars Story proved to be the exception to the rule. The troubled production did the film no favors in regards to buzz, and there's no denying Disney ramped up the marketing campaign a bit on the late side. Regardless, red flags or not, no one expected a Star Wars film to perform so poorly.
Though the film itself was actually pretty good, not a whole lot of fans bothered to actually find out. The film opened to a mere $84 million in the U.S. and is currently at around $193 million — about as much as a typical Star Wars film would take in during its opening weekend. Blame a crowded summer release schedule, the production issues, or a bit of both — either way, Solo's failure was certainly a shock.
Everybody died in Avengers: Infinity War
Comic fans likely weren't too shocked by the big twist at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, but for viewers who weren't familiar with the comic storyline, seeing the vast majority of Marvel's A-listers dusted into oblivion must've been a jaw-dropper. Infinity War ended with Thanos' victory, and half the known universe ceasing to exist. Though the untitled Avengers 4 will almost certainly reverse a good majority of those "deaths," the film's ending was still a true shock for a tentpole blockbuster franchise not known for wild cliffhangers. How many movies that made $2 billion globally killed half its heroes and wrapped with the bad guy walking off into the sunset? Let's just say not many.
The Expanse, Lucifer rescued from cancellation
It's no secret that streaming services have changed the game when it comes to TV cancellations, but this year saw not one but axed shows rescued from purgatory. After SYFY opted not to bring The Expanse back for a fourth season, Amazon Prime stepped in to save the series with a fourth season. Fox surprised pretty much everyone by canceling its supernatural procedural Lucifer, and following a fervent fan campaign, Netflix decided to step in and bring the series back for 10 more episodes (and possibly more). Both shows are great, and it's huge to see two shows get picked up off the cancellation block in just one season (not to mention NBC's rescue of the non-genre sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine).
A Quiet Place made a ton of noise
John Krasinski's small-scale horror thriller A Quiet Place was made for around $20 million and was projected to have a modestly successful run on the big screen. Well, it turns out A Quiet Place wasn't nearly as quiet as expected. The film turned out to be one of the biggest surprise hits of the year, riding a massive wave of great reviews and positive word of mouth to a total box office haul of $326 million. Not a bad return on investment. Buzz of a sequel is already underway, and the film also established Krasinski as a bona fide director to watch.
Everyone is leaving The Walking Dead
The ninth season of The Walking Dead doesn't actually drop until this fall (likely in October, if previous scheduling holds true), but we already know a whole lot about it. The big takeaway? Almost all the A-listers are gone. Chandler Riggs' Carl is already dead, and we know that Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes and Lauren Cohan's Maggie will both be gone by midseason. That's three of the show's biggest stars, and two of the original survivors from Season 1. The producers are looking to turn Norman Reedus' Daryl into the new leading man, but for a show that's been relatively stable for so long, 2018 looks to be dropping an undead grenade on one of TV's biggest hits.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had the perfect series finale, then was renewed anyway
It might not get as much critical buzz as Netflix cousins Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the OG MCU television series — and it's as good or better than any of the studio's other shows. The ratings have never been great, aside from its splashy premiere, but the show has grown into a critically-adored adventure that's been putting its own spin on Marvel Comics elements for years now. It's introduced new and old heroes, sent the team to the future, to space, and into a Matrix-like world ruled by HYDRA. And that's just in the past two seasons. The creative team treated Season 5 like it would be the show's last and wrapped up with a touching, hopeful and simply fantastic finale. It closed out lingering stories, and still left enough things open for fans to know Daisy and the gang would keep up the good fight for years to come.
Then, ABC pulled the trigger on a sixth season. Yes, fans are almost certainly excited to see the series come back for another go 'round. But still, the pressure is through the roof to find a way to follow-up those character moments and big goodbyes.
Incredibles 2 shattered box office records
Pixar movies are typically pretty bankable at the box office, but never to this point. The long-awaited sequel to The Incredibles made a mind-boggling $182 million in its opening weekend, becoming the most successful animated film in history. It blew out the previous record holder, Finding Dory, by almost $50 million. What’s truly shocking is that the film is a sequel to a movie released a full 14 years ago, so many of the kids who saw it then are almost adults. Regardless, the world still recognized the greatness of what Brad Bird is selling — and turned the latest adventure of the Parr family into a legendary blockbuster.