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Category: Comics & Books


Star Wars A New Dawn cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

How did the Empire power all those Star Destroyers anyway?

The new, Disney era of Star Wars story continuity begins today with the release of the novel Star Wars: A New Dawn.  Fans of the Star Wars tie-in novels shouldn’t be disappointed with this new story and completely new characters living in that galaxy, far, far away between the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  Its primary draw for those fans willing to give the new Star Wars a chance is the introduction of a trained Jedi named Kanan Jarrus and a mysterious Twi’lek named Hera.  But its best success is in author John Jackson Miller’s world building (or galaxy building)–one with more lead female characters than male.

In the galaxy that George Lucas built, the rarest creature to be found was a woman, whether a human, a rebel, an Imperial, or an alien.  Miller does not skip a beat to redefine Star Wars from chapter one.  We meet a black female captain of a Star Destroyer named Captain Rae Sloane, a character who could be on her way to be the next Mara Jade.  She’s young but smart, and exactly the kind of leader a government led by Emperor Palpatine would need to conquer so many systems.  Unlike even the original trilogy, including its often bumbling stormtroopers and officers that fail to follow their Dark Lord’s orders, the personnel building the Empire in A New Dawn don’t make the same mistakes.

Sloane works for a typical Star Wars villain, Count Demetrius Vidian, a cyborg like Darth Vader and General Grievous, which would lend us all to believe a defining piece of Star Wars is a dark cloaked bad guy who has already been blown apart a few times.  The word survivor does fit Vidian.  He is a decisive imperialist, precise, unyielding and villainous–everything you want from your Star Wars bad guy.

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2011-10-22_17-12-13_374

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I just finished my third book written by Cormac McCarthy.  The first was Blood Meridian, the second was No Country for Old Men, and the third was The Road.  Reading McCarthy is unlike any other literary journey I’ve taken.  What will I remember from reading The Road?  Bleakness.  Emptiness.  How man can become a monster.  Not that different from the others I suppose, but it led me to a question – where does hope come from?

In all fantasy, science fiction and apocalyptic tales generally a hero emerges.  A man or a being similar to man steps to the fore and as a reader I can pin my hopes upon him (or rarely her as even coming up with female sidekicks was a chore in the series that popped off the top of my mind.  Amy Pond.  Leia.  Gamora.  Uhura.)  Superman.  Wonder Woman.  The Doctor.  Sheriff Rick Grimes.  Tasslehoff Burrfoot (or the more heroic but less fun Tanis Half-Elven.)  Frodo Baggins.  Luke Skywalker.  Rick Deckard.  Groot.  Mr. Spock.

Through these characters and many more like them we can find the possibility of averting crises.  We can see a proverbial light at the end of the darkening and constricting tunnel.  Survival, though bleak, has a chance.

Movie clip The Road

I think McCarthy likes to explore the world where there are no heroes.  There is only survival and to survive, horrendous choices must be made because after the apocalypse, scarcity rules.  A person cannot go back in time.  A person cannot till the earth by himself, trying to bring non-irradiated soil to the surface.  A ring, a starship, a building or an artifact cannot be destroyed through the hero’s quest.  There is only the earth.  There are only Homo sapiens.  If something happens, powerful heroes won’t emerge, instead it will just be the basest urges within us all that come forth.

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The Fall of GI Joe 1 cover   The Fall of GI Joe 1 cover b

Is there something not quite right about a new G.I. Joe series that features a Joe team finally headed up by Scarlett, that is also titled “The Fall of G.I. Joe”?  We’re guessing the juxtaposition of these two elements wasn’t intended to be some kind of causal thing.  Instead we’re focused on plenty of cool covers released by IDW Publishing for the series, which is expected to ship its first issue in September.

G.I. Joe: The Fall of G.I. Joe will be written by Karen Traviss with interior art by Steve Kurth.  Several covers will be available, from artists including Cliff Chiang and Jeffery Veregge.

Check out these covers from the new monthly.  The cover style from Veregge makes us wish Phil Noto or Kevin Dart was also working on this series, and maybe provide some variant covers.  Still, they do look like something we might have seen back in 1972 on the box covers for large-sized G.I. Joe action figures.

IDW Fall of GI Joe alt cover   New GI Joe

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Prometheus_fire_and_stone1   Grendel vs The Shadow Matt Wagner

We have a variety of previews today, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Comics.  New series include a monthly based on the TV series, Bob’s Burgers.  Another features a tie-in to the Alien universe, with Prometheus: Fire and Stone.  A third series based on NBC’s Grimm begins this week with Grimm: Portland, Wu.  And Matt Wagner’s anti-hero Grendel finds his way to 1930s New York in Grendel vs The Shadow.

Tomorrow, Dynamite is publishing the first Bob’s Burgers comic book series.  Based on the animated show, it will be written by Rachel Hastings, Mike Olsen, Justin Hook, and Jeff Drake, with art by Frank Forte, Brad Rader, Bernard Derriman, and Tony Gennaro.  And Grimm: Portland, Wu is a one-shot written by Marc Gaffen and Kyle McVey, with art by Daniel Govar.

GrimmPortland-Cover   D.E. Comic Page Template.eps

From Dark Horse, Grendel vs. The Shadow features a story and art by Matt Wagner.  Grendel will find its way to store shelves September 3, 2014.  Also from Dark Horse, Prometheus: Fire and Stone, with a story by Paul Tobin and art by Juan Ferreyra, hits comic book stores September 10, 2014.

Check out the four previews, after the break.

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TMNT elevator

Review by C.J. Bunce

Somewhere around the halfway mark of the new movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a fun action flick comes together.  If you can get to that point without falling asleep.  With the modern special effects this movie should not have needed to have been compared to the original 1990 film version.  Unfortunately the slow start and less-than-appealing villains keep this one from the top tier of this summer’s would-be franchise blockbusters.

So what’s worth the admission price?  First off, Megan Fox.  Not for a second does she flinch from a strong portrayal of April, the well-known friend of the Turtles.  She delivers even the silliest lines as if she’s playing serious drama.  And the film is better for it.  Although the perpetually young looking actress may be typecasting herself with films like the original Transformers and this similar action genre entry, she may also be simply carving out a niche she’s darned good at.

The biggest failing of Iron Man 2 was the “annoying guy” played over and over in movies by Sam Rockwell.  That same caricature is in TMNT, but played by Will Arnett, who I have not seen before simply because I don’t watch his admittedly popular series including 30 Rock and Arrested Development.  Here he offers what seems like an impersonation of the Night Shift and Batman era Michael Keaton, and it’s some funny stuff.

tmnt-2014-michelangelo-mind-blown

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BSG1880-01-Cov-Syaf  SMDMSeasonSix05-Cov-Ross

Battlestar Galactica in 1880?  As a graphic steampunk story?  Steampunk Cylons?  You bet.  Today, Dynamite Comics launches its new series Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880, taking an alternate universe look at the popular 1978 and 2004 sci-fi television series characters.  And for even more sci-fi fun, our favorite borg is back this month in a new issue of The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six–with some familiar “faces”.

If classic pulp noir reads are your thing, you’ll want to check out our preview of the new Dynamite Comics series Justice, Inc.  The Shadow is back, this time with The Avenger and Doc Savage.

JusticeInc01-Cov-Francavilla   JusticeInc01-Cov-Ross

After the break, take a look at previews for each of these new books, courtesy of Dynamite Comics, available at comic book shops everywhere today.

Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880, Issue #1, features a story by Tony Lee with art by Aneke.  The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six, Issue #5, is written by James Kuhoric and art by Juan Antonio Ramirez.  Justice, Inc., Issue #1, has a story by Michael Uslan and artwork by Giovanni Timpano.

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Red Handed by Matt Kindt

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I finished Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt yesterday morning.  I immediately wanted to start at the beginning again.  If not for the rest of the day’s distractions, I probably would have.  I know I’m looking forward to it tonight.  I know that I’m looking at it over there at the foot of my bed as I type.  At some point during my writing, Kindt’s story will entice me away from the keyboard, call to me to stretch out from my toes to my head and curl up with its tale again.  You, as the reader will never know when that point comes.

Of course, before I read, I may head out on the streets of Los Angeles and turn my phone into its driver mode and start my moonlighting gig as a Lyft driver.  I’ll either crank my car’s engines and start the cool AC blowing over me and the rest of the car so that the first rider will feel their maximum level of comfort, or I’ll just turn on the electric system, roll down the windows and just wait for the first alarm to let me know I’m summoned before I start the gas coursing through the car’s internal system.  Either way, I’ll sit and listen to a podcast, a conversation recorded maybe not so far away and maybe not too long ago, but then again, it could be years and hundreds of miles.  The voices reach out to me and let my mind drift and my mouth smile, the best friends to combat sitting still in Los Angeles while in your car.

Matt Kindt Red Handed The Fine Art of Strange Crimes

Along the way, I’ll meet new people, give them a fist bump and take them to their destination at the Hollywood Bowl, a club, a neighborhood bar or a barbecue.  We’ll talk about life in Los Angeles and for a moment, we’ll connect before we disappear back into the faceless crowd of 10 million souls.

Kindt asks, what if they didn’t disappear?  What if the person in the backseat knows a person who sold me some pluots at the farmers market?  What if the driver of the car that cut in front of me motors to the same club where I’m taking my fare and they meet and fall in love?  What if all of our pattern-seeking monkey brains just haven’t figured out how to see the invisible threads piercing our skin and linking us with trees, metal, sand and the upright piles of water that say, “Hello” each morning?  Is it a natural linking, a mystic connection created by some higher power far above us or from some hidden store of power deep within the earth, or is it a scheme plotted by a nefarious or well-meaning visionary to make the world a worse or better place?

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The Bionic Man Volume Three End of Everything Gillespie Tadeo Mayhew Villegas Dynamite

Dynamite Comics’ The Bionic Man series, especially Issues #17-26, was among the best comic book reading of 2013.  They are now available in a trade paperback: The Bionic Man Volume Three: End of Everything.  Featuring a story by Aaron Gillespie, with art by Ed Tadeo and Rey Villegas, colors by Thiago Ribeiro, letters by Simon Bowland, and covers by Mike Mayhew with other regular edition covers and variants by prolific Dynamite Comics artists Jonathan Lau and Ed Tadeo.

The Bionic Man is a great read and recommended for comic book fans.  It features Aaron Gillespie’s storytelling, which we lauded on our borg.com Best of 2013 list last year.  It also has the whole package from cover to cover–story, art, covers, humor, action, and fun.  We won’t re-state what we said in our review last year–you can read that here.  Enough of the origin stories that bogs down superhero books, this Steve Austin was able to get out there and do something.

Bionic Man Issue 20 cover by Mayhew   JF Kennedy bread card 1976

The series featured some of our all-time favorite cover art, with a cover run on Issues #17-22 by The Star Wars artist Mike Mayhew.  Mayhew created a new, cool, young look for Steve Austin, who sported the classic track suit updated for a modern audience and fashion sense.  His Issue #19 cover has Steve holding a car over his head, and you get to really see the strength.  Probably his best cover is for Issue #20, an inspiring cover which reminds me of one of my favorite paintings of President Kennedy.

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Hawkeye issue 11   Afterlife with Archie main cover

The annual Harvey Award nominations close tomorrow.  The nominees for best works in the comic book industry are being voted on by comic book creators, with the final award ceremony to be held at Baltimore Comic-Con on September 6, 2014.  The recently combined publisher BOOM! Studios and imprint Archaia lead this year out of the gates with 30 nominations.  Independent publisher IDW Publishing received no nominations and the biggest, DC Comics, received only one.  Probably not surprisingly one of our favorite books, Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye, is a top contender, along with David Petersen’s latest Mouse Guard work.

More of our favorites are recognized again this year: Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife With Archie is up for Best New Series and Mike Norton’s Battlepug for best online comic.  Here are the 2014 nominations for 2013 works, followed by this year’s Eisner Award winners for those that may have missed their announcement during the busy weekend of SDCC 2014.

2014 Harvey Award Nominees

Best Writer

James Asmus, Quantum and Woody, Valiant Entertainment
Matt Fraction, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Brian K. Vaughn, Saga, Image Comics
Mark Waid, Daredevil, Marvel Comics

Best Artist

David Aja, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
Nate Powell, March: Book One, Top Shelf Production
Chris Samnee, Daredevil, Marvel Comics
Fiona Staples, Saga, Image Comics
Jeff Stokely, Six Gun Gorilla, BOOM! Studios

Best Cartoonist

Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Comfort Love and Adam Withers, Rainbow in the Dark, uniquescomic.com
Terry Moore, Rachel Rising, Abstract Studios
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
David Petersen, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, BOOM! Studios/Archaia
Paul Pope, Battling Boy, First Second

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The Star Wars hardcover version Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse bestseller

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last week Dark Horse Comics released the trade paperback and hardcover of The Star Wars—the eight-issue comic book series adapting George Lucas’s original screenplay for Star Wars from 1973, including its original three-word title.  Writer J.W. Rinzler, artist Mike Mayhew, and colorist Rain Beredo created a parallel universe for Star Wars that stands by itself as the single best Star Wars universe graphic novel ever produced.  It’s now hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for Paperback Graphic Books and #3 for Hardcover Graphic Books.  If you dodge Times bestsellers because they are usually trite, banal and over-hyped, The Star Wars is certainly commercial, but it’s the exception to the rule.  You will not have read a Star Wars comic book this much fun and so brilliantly and vividly illustrated since the classic Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back

Lucas’s giant story, fleshed out over six movies via his Episodes I-VI, was concise in its infancy, and greatly right-sized and polished by Rinzler for this adaptation.  Its genius is in its essential Kurosawa-inspired story elements: last of their breed wizard-warriors versus a suffocating empire led by heartless dictators, a broken royal family saved by a band of rogues, a mix of disparate races and conflicts, and an unlikely pair of androids.

The planets and systems are not the same, yet they are entirely familiar: the desert planet Aquilae for Tatooine, a wookie battle on Yavin for Ewoks on Endor.  Some of the occupants of the story are familiar, like Han Solo and Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  Yet here they are very different.  Annikin (not Anakin) Starkiller and brother Deak would later become the impetuous Luke Skywalker.  Obi-Wan Kenobi was far more energetic and a hands-on warrior when he was the bearded and military garbed Jedi-Bendu General Luke Skywalker.  Han Solo by every appearance was a cousin of Swamp Thing.  Princess Leia would become more dynamic and tough in the movies, but was originally more like Padme Amidala in her infatuation with her young love, Annikin Starkiller.

Deluxe The Star Wars Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse Bestseller

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