Category: Comics & Books


Loot Crate Comic Con Box display

Ever thought about checking out what is in those monthly surprise boxes that have become more and more popular in the past few years?  Some of our friends have been buying Loot Crate and Nerd Block for several months, and when our friends at Wizard World dropped us a note about their new Comic Con Box we decided it was time to check these out.  We got in on the first three Wizard World Comic Con Boxes and three boxes from Loot Crate (we haven’t checked out any other companies’ boxes yet).  So what did we learn?

Loot Crates run about $20 including shipping per month per box, and Comic Con Boxes roughly $37 including shipping.  Each contain coupon opportunities, some with downloads, app opportunities, and similar items in addition to the main draw of the boxes–the shirts, comics, and collectibles.  You can sign up for one or multiple months and can terminate membership so long as you do so before the next box ships.  Customer service for these is very easy-going and helpful to explain if you think you messed up your ordering.  Themes are pre-announced, so you can skip months with themes that don’t interest you.

Cyber Loot Crate skull

The companies each insert random bonus items in boxes and have a deluxe box opportunity worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars that some lucky subscriber will get.  And if you film your “unboxing” and upload it to YouTube you can be eligible for other prizes, and other contests are also available throughout the year.  We didn’t get the big prize pack in our three months of boxes but did get a good bonus item in one box and in another we got a 1 of 2 variant that ended up being a rare insert.  The bonus item came with a Comic Con Box, and it was an authenticated, personally autographed photo of actress Karen Gillan in her Nebula garb from Guardians of the Galaxy.  Her autograph can sell for $70-$85 so this was the big win of all the boxes.  A close second was a Greg Horn rare variant cover for the recent issue of Wolverine #1 also in a Comic Con Box.  It also was selling online for around $70-$85.

Of the regular boxes we were most impressed with Loot Crate’s “Cyber” theme box.  The exclusive Terminator Genisys half-scale skull was just dead-on for our love of sci-fi and borg tech.  And that’s the thing about these boxes:  The broader your interest in pop culture, the more value you’ll get for your dollar because each company varies the licenses/franchises in each box.  You can easily add up the price of each item and tally more than the price of the box but ultimately it is your own taste that will be the judge of value.  If you have a spouse or friends or kids to share with or friends to trade items with, or if you’re accustomed to selling on eBay, then it can be easy to make these boxes a “win”.  Expect to see plenty of “trinkets” and the kind of swag you might find at San Diego Comic-Con plus a few higher valued items in each box.

So what exactly can you expect to find in the boxes?

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Ant-Man and Antony

Review by C.J. Bunce

Good movies often ride on the backs of their earlier incarnations.  The Incredible Shrinking Man.  The Greatest American Hero.  Beetlejuice.  Innerspace.  Memoirs of the Invisible Man.  Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  The classic original Tron.  Sources you might not first think of like Wallace & Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers. Even Thoreau’s Walden (who hasn’t marveled at the coordinated work of ants, or fantasized about being very small?).  Marvel’s new hit Ant-Man borrows bits and pieces from all of these and more.  Yet it also adds something new to those, such as improved special effects, including make-up, CGI, and many action sequences.  It mirrors our place in the big world.  Throw in a hero battling a giant spider with a nail for a sword and I’m sold.

Ant-Man is a rollercoaster ride.  All fun and not too serious like the steadfast captain America arguing with the cocky Tony Stark over the roll of the disinterested Bruce Banner that we all have now seen too many times on screen.  Paul Rudd’s heroic Scott Lang has one motivation, yet he lacks the typical superhero ingeniousness to accomplish his goal.  That element endears the character to everyone and is the gateway to an ensemble cast effort that pushes the story forward.  You just know Lang is like Rudd, that same guy we cheer along with at Kansas City Royals games.

Michael Douglas looking 25 years younger in Ant-Man

Equal to Rudd’s role is a surprisingly strong performance by Michael Douglas.  Looking like the twin of his father Kirk these days, as Dr. Hank Pym he anchors the film with gravitas.  His role in the story is substantial and should require sharing top billing as co-lead.  His work here rivals all his prior best work in The Game, The Ghost and the Darkness, The American President, Falling Down, Wall Street, Romancing the Stone, The China Syndrome, and Coma.  An Academy Award nod is warranted for both Douglas as well as the CGI team that provided the single best use of facial modification to replicate his younger self (done in part by firm Lola VFX who made skinny Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger).  Tron: Legacy made a good attempt at what Ant-Man has perfected in its opening scene–we’re now ready for an entire film using this approach, an entire film starring a 40-year-old Wall Street era Douglas, for example, relying on the acting prowess of the veteran actor today.

Lang and Pym Ant-man

Evangeline Lilly’s role as Pym’s daughter is secondary, yet her role supports enough of the backstory that it makes us anxious for Ant-Man 2, previewed in two of the film’s end-credit codas.  Michael Peña portrays what could be an over-used stock Latino criminal by bringing some humanity and humor to the role.  Even the villain, played by Law & Order: LA’s Corey Stoll, is interesting although more loathsome than needed for the part.

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The Renaissance of movie and TV tie-in action figures arrived in 2013 with Funko’s classic Kenner-style ReAction figure line.  Other companies focus on single licensed figures and getting the likenesses spot-on, but Funko’s diversification of lines meant everyone could find something that fit their personal niche at an affordable price point.  A true throwback series, one of the overlooked features of the line is the incredible variety of no-names-taken, classic kick-ass heroines represented.

In fact you can find here the top of the world’s best, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners, genre heroines.  Buy them for yourself, for your friends, or get your favorite as a totem to inspire you each day from your desktop.  And where the early sculpts in Funko’s line admittedly looked nothing like the actresses that made the roles famous, the new lines have only improved.  And nobody has better packaging designs than the ReAction line.

Zoe Washburne scene

Who would you add to the Funko roster of heroines?  Compare your list to our more than 85 suggestions for future kick-ass women action figures below.

First, check out this Baker’s Dozen of our favorites in the current Funko pantheon:

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X-Men Days of Future Past Rogue Cut

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you agree last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is among the best superhero films of all time, and probably the single best film in the Marvel Universe, then you’ll want to see a new director’s cut released this month: X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Rogue Cut Especially if you haven’t picked up a copy of the 2014 version on Blu-Ray, this new edition brings together the original theatrical release and The Rogue Cut, plus a disc full of new features, making this the definitive edition for most fans.

It’s the lack of a 3D edition that is the only miss with the new release.  For most people that won’t be a problem.  But if you have embraced 3D television technology like us, you’re just going to be buying a new Blu-Ray to add to last year’s superb Ultimate Edition so you can watch each version from time to time–because you just can’t miss this new edit of the film.

If you’re not aware of the quality of this movie by ace director Bryan Singer, check out our review from last year here at borg.com.  On repeat viewings X-Men: Days of Future Past proves its worthiness as a superhero flick future superhero films will be compared to.  This expanded edition certainly does nothing to diminish the original.  It instead provides 17 minutes of additional scenes that explain plot elements skipped over in the original cut and it provides a better character study of nearly every major player: Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, Mystique, Trask, Beast, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, and of course, Rogue.  More Quicksilver (Evan Peters) would have been fun, but you can’t have everything.  But we do learn more from Singer on his audio commentary about that character’s role, and that of Mystique, Beast, Magneto, and the rest of the mutants in next year’s sequel X-Men: Apocalypse.

Rogue Cut Wolverine Rogue

The features disc includes a nine-part “making of” series and a 30-minute roundtable featuring Singer and most of the show’s stars.  The audio track features Singer and editor/composer John Ottman.  Both provide an excellent look at the storytelling process as adapted to the filmmaker’s role.

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ST-GL01-covREU-DiamondA ST-GL01-covREV-DiamondB

Who doesn’t like a good crossover series? 

This month IDW Publishing, the licensee holder for Star Trek comics, and DC Comics teamed up to release the first issue of Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War.  The burden of any crossover is successfully combining two well-known worlds in a way that is true to them both, while forging ahead on a combined path that makes them better together.  It’s a tall order with Star Trek and Green Lantern.  Yet, writer Mike Johnson and artists Angel Hernandez get this new series not only off on a good start, they created a fun read true to their source material that will keep readers around for Issue #2.

First, they made an interesting choice of players.  They combined the new, Star Trek reboot crew with the classic, original lantern, Hal Jordan.  We don’t get a big dose of Hal in issue #1, but the mannerisms of the crew from the 2009 movie and Star Trek Into Darkness are spot on.  With Hernandez’s renderings of the actors behind each character the result is a seamless believable blend of worlds.  Even better, they select one of the top five all-time best Star Trek villains for their first bad encounter.

IDW+DC+Star+Trek+Green+Lantern+The+Spectrum+War+%231+Emerald+City+Comics+exclusive+cover  GL ST #1 var  2mwgtgj

The story begins with a Watcher from the DC Universe and a quick fantasy set-up as true to the classic Hal stories as you’d find anywhere.  Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk and Karl Urban’s Doctor McCoy couldn’t be better–both as their new incarnations and in their play on the original 1960s versions of themselves.  That sounds strange, but read it, it really works and it’s really well done.  A villainous vessel, and a handful of power rings, and BAM!  We have the set up for a solid series here.

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new Fantastic Four

With 20th Century Fox’s own Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse previews released this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, the studio will be hard-pressed to gin up significant support for its efforts to reboot the Fantastic Four brand with next month’s release of the third film to feature the classic Marvel team.  But the studio at least has put the final trailer for the movie into the fans of the masses with this release, after giving an early look to panel attendees at Comic-Con.

The new team of “kids” as the preview calls them also will be up against the buzz generated this weekend for other 2015 and 2016 films, including superhero flicks Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad.

Check out this new trailer for Fantastic Four:

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Suicide Squad crew

Now that you’ve watched it at a 45 degree angle through the lens of a fuzzy cell phone camera in the dark, it’s time to see what you missed.  It’s the motley band of DC Comics’ own Dirty Dozen (give or take), the Suicide Squad.  The trailer premiered at the DC Entertainment/Warner panel this past weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, and millions watched it before Warner Bros. & Co. decided to go ahead and release the real thing Monday.

If a little make-up throws you off a bit, here’s the line-up:  Jai Courtney (Terminator Genisys) is Captain Boomerang, Cara Delevingne (Anna Karenina) is Enchantress, Will Smith (Men in Black, Independence Day) is Deadshot, Joel Kinnaman (RoboCop) is Flagg, Margot Robbie (Pan Am) is Harley Quinn, Jay Hernandez (Grindhouse) is El Diablo, Adam Beach (Cowboys & Aliens) is Slipknot, Karen Fukuhara is Katana, and our favorite, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost, G.I. Joe, Thor: The Dark World), is Killer Croc.  Oh, right, and Jared Leto (Urban Legend, My So-Called Life) is The Joker.

Suicide Squad clip

A pretty diverse group for a superhero universe hive of scum and villainy.

Here’s the trailer for Suicide Squad:

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Beasts of Burden cover

Another banner year for comic books has come and gone.  You can find something for anyone and everyone at your local comic book shop, and the diverse selection of winners of this year’s Eisner Awards illustrates that better than ever.  The latest round of winners were announced this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con.

What’s better than to see winners that you would have selected yourself were you on the judging panel?  Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson can’t publish enough of their Beasts of Burden stories, and we previewed this year’s winner for Best Single Issue, Beasts of Burden: Hunters and Gatherers, last year here at borg.com.  We couldn’t agree more with this win.  Are you listening, Hollywood?  It’s time for an animated movie from this series.

We also like to be in sync with the critics.  Remember when we picked Greg Smallwood as our Breakout Artist of the Year here at borg.com back in 2013?  Greg was given the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award at this year’s Eisners.  We’re glad others want to see more of his work, too.

It’s also fun to see the rare repeat winners.  Our own borg.com writer Elizabeth C. Bunce shared a panel at Comic-Con with Raina Telgemeier, winner this year as Best Writer/Artist, when she won her first Eisner Award back at SDCC 2011.  Raina won this year for her book Sisters.

Lumberjanes_005_coverA

And our own local comic book shop couldn’t seem to keep the new Lumberjanes series on the shelves this past year.  Lumberjanes was a multiple winner this year, scoring Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens.

Here is the full slate of 2015 Eisner Award winners:

Best Short Story: “When the Darkness Presses,” by Emily Carroll

Best Continuing Series: Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)

Best Limited Series: Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, by Eric Shanower & Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

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Walking Dead clip season 6

People are scared.

Five seasons in the can and AMC’s The Walking Dead shows no signs of letting up, if the four-minute sneak look at Season 6 previewed at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend is any indication.

As we recently saw with Star Wars Rebels, The Walking Dead will have an insert episode outside the regular season.  AMC announced in the Hall H Comic-Con panel that the series will return Sunday, Oct. 11 with a special 90-minute episode.  The second half will be aired in February 2016.

Walking Dead season 6

Here’s the preview from SDCC 2015:

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Green Arrow Stephen Amell SDCC 2015

DC Entertainment and the CW released a first look at the new costume for Oliver Queen’s superhero incarnation the Arrow at the DC panel at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday night.  This suit was crafted by Maya Mani, who also crafted supersuits for Arsenal (Colton Haynes), Black Canary (Katie Cassidy), Speedy (Willa Holland), and Ray Palmer’s Atom.  The original costumes for the series had been designed by Academy Award winning costumer Colleen Atwood.

The new look seems to pull more from the New 52 look at the Smallville supersuit more than any classic look for the character.  Those football pad shoulder pieces are going to take a bit to grow accustomed to.

Sunday the cast appeared again, this time with Amell in the new garb claiming the “Green” in the Green Arrow title, and mentioning the change from Starling City to the classic Star City.

New Arrow costume from Stephen Amell

The panel showed a video (below) recapping the series highlights from 2015 so far.  What it really does is emphasize that Ra’s Al Ghul has the worst name in comicdom and that no one at Warner Bros. must have any idea how it is intended to be pronounced (your guess is as good as ours, but just look at each cast member to see how many different ways it can be said).

Neal McDonough joins CW’s Arrow this season as villain Damien Darhk (sometimes DC Comics seems like it attended the George Lucas school of character naming, doesn’t it?).  McDonough crosses the divide from the Marvel universe, formerly playing the awesome Dum Dum Dugan in Captain America: The First Avenger, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Agent Carter.  We’ve also been fans of his work in everything from Quantum Leap to Star Trek: First Contact, from The X-Files to Timeline, and Walking Tall to RED 2.

Oliver Queen Arrow new supersuit SDCC 2015 costume panel shot

Here’s the video montage from the panel at Comic-Con:

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