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Category: Comics & Books


Gillian Anderson signs books at Simon via Twitter

Review by C.J. Bunce

In novels by the late Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton, the authors tended to start with a smattering of disparate events and a group of experts in different areas, political, scientific, whatever was needed to twist in new plot threads colliding into some unlikely confluence by novel’s end.  In Gillian Anderson’s first novel A Vision of Fire, Book One of the “Earthend Saga” and the inaugural work from Simon and Schuster’s new Simon451 imprint, she and Clancy-universe author Jeff Rovin build a similar framework.  But instead of following several characters we are introduced to one, a psychiatrist named Caitlin O’Hara, a doctor focused on mental issues of young people and single mother of a deaf son.  Using the advantages of modern communications technology, Caitlin must develop expertise in other fields, pulling together bits and pieces needed to attempt to connect what is behind a storm of seemingly unrelated bizarre events.

The novel’s contemporary New York setting is witness to a conflict similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis–two warring factions: India and Pakistan, are on the brink of nuclear war.  The international community is closely watching a negotiation between the countries, and the Indian ambassador to the United Nations is thought to be the one person who can calm tensions.  After an assassination attempt on the ambassador is witnessed by his teenaged daughter, she begins acting as if she is possessed, making strange movements and speaking in what could be ancient tongues.  Caitlin’s long-time friend pulls her into the girl’s case and she begins treating the girl, and soon notices other youths experiencing similar traumas across the globe.  Animals in proximity to the teens are also acting in unusual ways.  A coincidence?

A Vision of Fire Gillian Anderson   A Vision of Fire British cover

Elsewhere a team uncovers a metal artifact in an underwater expedition.  The artifact carries some unknown energy with it, and soon death begins to follow, something like the curse of King Tut’s tomb.  With mysticism like that found in The Fifth Element, body possessions similar to that of Skeleton Key and The Intruders, and acts of the long dead affecting lives in the present as in The Fog and The Others, Anderson’s world is part science fiction, part supernatural thriller.

Gillian Anderson began the project as a possible springboard to a TV or film vehicle for herself, and fans of her role as Scully on The X-Files will find a familiar character with Caitlin, who is intentionally similar in look and age to the actress.  Like Scully, Caitlin is grounded in the scientific process, yet unlike Scully she is pretty quick to explore supernatural explanations for what she is seeing.  Anderson’s character delves into a broad array of cultural encounters not surprising to come from the mind of the star of the recent TV series Bleak House, Moby Dick, and Great Expectations.  Caitlin is not just a doctor along for the ride to debunk all things fantastical.

A Vision of Fire audio

Where the novel brings together many interesting dimensions, its focus on a single character’s pursuit means Anderson and Rovin must pull together a lot of things that feel like coincidences, or at least connections that seem a little tenuous or contrived to move the story forward.   Some time is given to a romantic relationship between Caitlin and United Nations friend Ben, but their relationship seems a tad forced.  The story also repeatedly dips back to Caitlin in working mom role, which tends to slow down the action.  By the end of this first book in a series, we know what Caitlin knows with respect to her profession, but little about what really makes her tick.

A good first effort for Anderson, A Vision of Fire blends elements of a TV mystery with several genre tropes, cover-up conspiracies, visions of ancient civilizations, psychic interconnections, telepathy, voodoo.  Anderson cannot escape the influence of The X-Files, having lived the character for 10 years plus two follow-on big-screen movies.  The otherworldly elements of several episodes are infused within the pages of this novel, intentionally or not.  Like the seemingly unrelated global events that result in the alien landing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (shared visions of Devil’s Tower, a returned lost fleet of planes, musical notes appearing across the globe, etc.), readers will be enticed to attempt to predict which elements will ultimately be behind all the novel’s conflicts in coming books.

A Vision of Fire is now available here from Amazon.com and an audio version read by Anderson is available here.  You can listen to a preview of the audio version at the Simon451 website here.

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ST-CEF03-coverSUB    star-trek-city-edge-forever-ellison-idw-cover-juan-ortiz

The background of the making of the classic Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever has been discussed over and over among Star Trek insiders and fandom.  Harlan Ellison wrote the screenplay, which was carved up so much in Ellison’s view, that over the past four decades Ellison was vocal in rejecting Gene Roddenberry’s final version that first made it to television screens on April 6, 1967.

What would the original version have looked like had Roddenberry stuck closer to the original script?  It’s the kind of thing you would have thought fan film creators would have jumped at before now, but–even better–Star Trek fans can now see The City on the Edge of Forever visually portrayed in its originally conceived form.

Woodward Edith Keeler IDW

IDW Publishing partnered the Star Trek writing team of Scott Tipton and David Tipton with the best Star Trek artist around, J.K. Woodward, and this year they adapted Ellison’s original screenplay into a five-issue comic book series that wraps this month, and will soon be released in a hardcover and trade edition.  If you think that a comic book cannot convey everything you’d want to see from the original Star Trek, then you haven’t seen the photo-real artistry of J.K. Woodward.

In fact the single biggest reason to read The City on the Edge of Forever is J.K. Woodward’s panel after panel of beautiful paintings– renderings of not just the characters but William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Joan Collins, and Grace Lee Whitney–that will have your mind’s eye believing you just watched an actual episode of the original series.

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DjangoZorro010-Cov-A-Lee

Last year long-time comic book fan Quentin Tarentino used the original version of his Academy Award winning screenplay to create an unprecedented eight-issue limited series from Dynamite Comics of his acclaimed film Django Unchained.  Tomorrow Tarentino teams up with writer/artist Matt Wagner and artist Esteve Polls to release the first ever sequel to one of his films with the Dynamite crossover series Django/Zorro.

Django returns years after the events of the film as a bounty hunter out in the Old West.  He has settled his wife safely in Chicago, and meets up with the legendary Diego de la Vega, that masked man with the sword known as Zorro.

DjangoZorro010-Cov-B-Francavilla

Django joins up as a bodyguard for the tough de la Vega and begins their first adventure together protecting the interests of the innocent.  It all begins tomorrow.

Courtesy of Dynamite Comics, check out this preview of Django/ Zorro, Issue #1:

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Simpsons Family History    Adventure Time The Art of Ooo

Two new deluxe edition books for fans of two of the biggest animated franchises around are now available.  Abrams Books has just released Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo, by Chris McDonnell, and The Simpsons Family History, by Matt Groening.

Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo is a look at the creative process behind the hit Cartoon Network television series.  Full of storyboards and concept art, the Art of Ooo  traces the evolution of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog as they traverse the dense fantasy land of Ooo.

Fantasy and horror director Guillermo de Toro provides the introduction to this lavish, full color, coffee table-style volume.  Fans of the series will appreciate access to the show bible and decisions behind the unusual artwork and character designs.  Why do they look this way (eyes with dots and eyes without dots–it’s all for a reason)?  You’ll find out here.

Art of Ooo excerpt b    Art of Ooo excerpt

Lovers of the animation process will appreciate original notes, sketches and planning materials used throughout the series.  What fans of any series wouldn’t love this kind of look behind the scenes? Great interviews with artists, music composers, and voice actors will make this a read fans won’t want to pass up.

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Mark Wahlberg track suit Six Billion Dollar Man running

Finally Steve Austin will make it to the big screen 42 years after Martin Caidin first created the man who was barely alive, rebuilt, better, stronger and faster than he was before in his novel Cyborg.  And it’s been 36 years since the 1970s popular TV series went off the air.

And the best part?  Mark Wahlberg has been tapped by the Weinstein Co. to play not the Six Million Dollar Man, but the Six Billion Dollar Man in The Six Billion Dollar Man.  We at borg.com couldn’t be happier with the selection of Wahlberg if we were allowed to hand pick the actor to play the Bionic Man ourselves.  Wahlberg is an actor cranking out some of the most enjoyable films around for the past 15 years, from The Italian Job to The Departed to Shooter to The Happening to Ted to the latest Transformers.

Thankfully, the parody film rumored to be “in the works” supposedly to star Jim Carrey then Robert Downey, Jr. then Leonardo DiCaprio, is now off the table.  The original Bionic Man, Lee Majors, expressed concern about a parody earlier this year at Planet Comicon.  No worries now!

Wahlberg sported a similar white track suit in Pain and Gain.  Will he don the red track suit for Steve Austin?

The Six Billion Dollar Man is expected to start production in 2015 with a 2016 release.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

 

SW teaser

So what evil lies behind that door?

Can you remember the first comic book that ever landed in your hands?  More than a decade ago I first met one of my comic book creator heroes, Howard Chaykin.  Chaykin created the very first Star Wars movie poster, a stylized, action-filled cover in his unique style:

Star Wars original Chaykin poster

Chaykin was visiting town at a local Con and luckily for me most of the visitors at the show were in line for the newest young comic artist, and didn’t realize all Mr. Chaykin had done in his long career in comics and television, so I got plenty of time to chat with him, and have him autograph my first comic book: Star Wars, Issue #8, featuring a story called “Eight for Aduba-3,” influenced by The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai story.  I’ve bragged up Chaykin before here at borg.com.  He’s one of the most interesting guys in the comics business.

Star Wars issue 8 Marvel Comics

“Eight for Aduba-3″ came out when Marvel Comics first had the license to create the Star Wars movie adaptation, drawn by Chaykin and written by Chaykin and the great Roy Thomas, after a quick look at materials from the film and conversation with George Lucas.  They were tapped to take the characters from the new phenomenon in a new direction following the events in Episode IV: A New Hope.  “Eight for Aduba-3″ included more than one tough recruited mercenary, much like its source material, but the big standout was Jaxxon, a giant, angry green rabbit-man.

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LTPC_Volume_3_Cover    superman_ga_sundays_2_pr

Philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and so revisiting history via its primary sources should be no less important in studying the history of comics and animation.  And with the benefit of our own personal wayback machines (spelled WABAC for you Mr. Peabody fans) sometimes our looks to the past are full of imagery and stories that make us squirm as our sensibilities have improved over time.

We visited this concept here at borg.com with our review of the even-too-sexist-for-a-Bond-novel The Spy Who Loved Me and racism-heavy Live and Let Die.  Can you still enjoy these works knowing how skewed the world view was?  I think the answer can be yes, as long as you maintain your critical eye and acknowledge the improvements we have made.  Ignoring or dismissing these works outright would be worse.

Thanks to the folks at Warner Bros. we previewed a copy of Looney Tunes–Platinum Collection, Volume 3, on Blu-ray, and courtesy of IDW Publishing we have a preview for you of Superman: The Golden Age Sundays (1946-1949), after the break.

Gossamer and Bugs

Who doesn’t remember and cherish the great Looney Tunes cartoons of the mid-20th century, recycled decades after their creation for a 1970s and 1980s cable viewing audience thanks to Saturday morning cartoons?  But, like many comic books and superhero movies today, you might use discretion before sharing with young audiences.  Even the originals were intended for adult movie audiences and it’s amazing networks thought these were once appropriate for kids each Saturday.  And where you may think you watched these cartoons and turned out fine and bigot-free, what about that guy across the street?

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Green Arrow Volume 2 Here There be Dragons trade cover

At long last DC Comics has released a trade edition of the 1980s Green Arrow monthly comic book series.  The series that sprang out of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is some of the best storytelling work by Grell on the relationship between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance.  We previously reviewed the first trade edition re-released by DC, Green Arrow: Hunter’s Moon, last December here at borg.com.  When borg.com readers have requested recommendations for the best of Green Arrow, I’ve pointed them to back issues of this series along with the classic O’Neill/Adams “Hard-Travelling Heroes” books as a starting point.

Unlike the events of Volume 1, which piled on heavy issues ranging from sexual assault, to child abuse, to gay-bashing, prostitution, armed robbery, and biogenic weapons, Volume 2 is a more intimate look at Green Arrow and Black Canary behind the scenes, very similar to the approach taken by writer Matt Fraction in the successful modern Hawkeye series from Marvel Comics.

Green Arrow 9 cover

Green Arrow Volume 2: Here There Be Dragons, which reprints Green Arrow, Issues #7-12 from 1988, finds Dinah continuing to try to forge ahead on her own and move beyond her violent attack in The Longbow Hunters.  She and Oliver have issues to work out, Dinah with determining what she wants from life and Oliver being haunted by his past.  Together they make the perfect team, like any couple living in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying their town, Oliver perfecting his chili recipe, both commenting on the fact that PNW residents don’t use umbrellas despite the seemingly constant rain.  Dinah is focused on her business at the floral shop, Oliver uses his resources to ward off criminals in Seattle one thug at a time.

This period of the Green Arrow series hit its stride without your typical superheroism, and although Oliver dons his costume a few times, finely crafted storytelling without the over-the-top action is why Green Arrow’s stories are unique among the medium.  Oliver heads to Alaska to pursue a lead and inadvertently tracks a drug smuggling and car theft ring.  Dinah, much like Laurel Lance in the current Arrow TV series, is feeling the pull to help others in the city outside the law.

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Black Panther

In a press briefing in Los Angeles today, Marvel Studios laid out the release dates and titles for the next eleven movies in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” what they are referring to as Phase 3.  While rumors continue to circulate that Benedict Cumberbatch will be tapped to play Doctor Strange, the studio introduced the actor who will play Black Panther on the big screen, Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in last year’s film 42.  We’ll see Boseman first don the Panther suit in the third Captain America movie, Captain America: Civil War, coming in 2016.

And in the past hour Marvel released a new scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron, previewed below after the break.

The studio also revealed the costume design for Black Panther (above) in a poster released at the press event, attended by Boseman, Iron Man Robert Downey, Jr. and Captain America Chris Evans.

Iron Man Black Panther Cap

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Dead Mans Hand cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Who would have thought we’d be discussing a book in the second decade of the 21st century featuring new stories of the Old West?  Titan Books has released such a work with Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West, bringing together short stories from 23 authors that mash-up the Old West with science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and horror.

The Dead Man’s Hand is of course the legendary card hand last held by Wild Bill Hickok when he was shot down by Jack McCall in Deadwood, South Dakota back in 1876.  The superstitions carried forward by those cards–believed to be black aces and eights–fuels the magic and “weird” behind the stories in this compilation.

Fans of Louis L’Amour who may have open minds for the extremes of what might qualify as an Old West story should find at least a few good tales in Dead Man’s Hand.  Like Mike Resnick’s story “The Hell-bound Stagecoach,” set in Arizona Territory circa 1885, it chronicles riders in a stagecoach who don’t quite remember how they ended up on the road bound for somewhere, as they encounter a proper lady who happens to be a good cook along the way.  Resnick’s story is steeped in classic lore of the Old West era.

Jeff Bridges as Wild Bill Hickok

Editor John Joseph Adams attempts to summarize the genre in his introduction as having its roots in the works of Robert E. Howard, Gene Autry’s serial The Phantom Empire, and the 1970s series The Wild, Wild, West, but Adams could look back farther to cowboy lore–stories created and shared by those stranded in desert storms, creations of the lost, hungry and thirsty, like those seeing mirages.  Like the story that would become Ghost Riders in the Sky, written by Stan Jones in 1948.  Jones recalled the story was first told to him back around 1926, and certainly that story was among many Old West tomes of the oral tradition circulating back to even before the Civil War.  Regardless of the earliest sources for such stories, they still entertain audiences in a world of cell phones, space travel, and the Internet.

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