Tag Archive: Frank Cho


Phil Noto Black Widow

The last day of the year is finally here, and with that the last of our reviews of the best content of 2014.

We’ve previewed comic books each month thanks to publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and Image.  We sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics has to offer, too, and although we don’t have enough time to review everything we review those titles we think our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro angle.  And we read plenty of books–sci-fi and fantasy, pulp and spy novels, movie and TV tie-ins, even Westerns and steampunk, as well as non-fiction books about movies, TV, and other genre topics.  This past month we have looked again at these titles, as we narrowed our selections to what we think are the very best.  So here are our picks for Best in Print for 2014.

Black-Widow-5

Best Comic Book Series — Black Widow, Marvel Comics.  We were wondering early on what would take the place of Fraction and Hollingsworth’s Hawkeye series for the most satisfying superhero fix.  It didn’t take long to see this other Marvel series looking at another superhero in a similarly personal–but very different–way.  It was a standout in a great year of comics.  Phil Noto’s art and colors were incredible and Nathan Edmondson’s story didn’t let up once.  Full of action, espionage, and intrigue.  A great series to catch-up on in a trade edition.  See our reviews of the series here and here.

AfterlifeWithArchie_07-0

Best Comic Book Mini-Series — Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics.  Who would have guessed someone could make Archie and friends so accessible to any demographic in the 2010s?  And whose brilliant idea was doing it via a horror genre story of zombies taking over Riverdale?  Smart writing by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and spooky atmospheric illustrations by Francesco Francavilla made for a sumptuous series like no other.  Not technically a mini-series, it feels like one because of its staggered release.  See our earlier raves about the series here.

Wilds End issue 1

Best Comic Book Writing – Dan Abnett, Wild’s End, BOOM! Studios.  Abnett’s Wild’s End really caught us by surprise.  An incredible fantasy read that is truly unique from BOOM! Studios.  Anthropomorphic characters with incredible archaic dialogue that’s witty and smart.  A crazy mash-up of War of the Worlds, Christopher Robin’s neighborhood, and the dark edge and high stakes of Revival.  We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this series.  Check out our earlier review here.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Annual 1

On the comic books shelves this month is Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1–one of those rare issues that matches a stellar cover artist with a stellar interior artist.  In this case both of those people are Frank Cho.  When Frank Cho creates a complete end-to-end book, he always provides something to attract readers, both with his stunning characters, action-packed panels, and subtle visual humor.  We saw this last year with his exciting run on the Savage Wolverine series.  That same quality of artwork is matched here with the comparable writing prowess of Marvel’s Guardians scribe, Brian Michael Bendis.  And the result is a fun, powerhouse read, and a darned-near perfect book.

Often annuals are quick stories that don’t offer much memorable.  They’re gimmicky efforts to sell another issue behind a monthly series.  The Guardians’ first annual is not like that.  It will stick with you as a story you want to know more about, with ramifications you would love to see play out in future books.

Guardians Annual 1 excerpt

The standard Guardians of The Galaxy team is here.  It’s a team both readers of the series and film fans will be familiar with, both in look and via their dialogue and mannerisms: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot.  Added here for great fun is Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers and Spidey-verse superhero Venom.  They encounter a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier in space, which prompts them to meet up with the likes of the classic Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, and a team of other familiar heroes, who introduce a dark menace to the Guardians team.

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SWIsh 1 E Midtown Comics by Mark Brooks    SWIsh 1 P Comixposure by John Tyler Christopher

It hasn’t been released yet, and it is already the #1 best selling comic of 2015.  Forecasted with advance sale numbers at more than one million copies already, Marvel Comics is re-entering the world of Star Wars comics like it’s 1977 all over again.  Written by our friend Jason Aaron with artwork by John Cassaday and colorist Laura Martin, the story continues the adventures of Luke Skywalker after the end of the original Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope. 

Marvel Comics is pulling out all the stops with the variety of cover variants readers can choose from.  Most comic book stores will get one of a half dozen basic covers, but those who dig around on the Web will find plenty more available.  More than 30 basic full-color covers will be released in January 2015, plus black and white versions and sketch variants of many of those covers.  And that’s not all, several collectible comic book websites will be releasing signature editions signed by everyone up to Stan Lee, and sketch covers by several artists including Dynamite Comics’ Chris Caniano.  And you can get a logo-only cover to take to your next Con and commission an artist of your choice to sketch you a character.

star-wars-1

Alex Ross, John Cassaday, Mike Mayhew, Frank Cho, David Petersen, Jenny Frison, Stephanie Han, Amanda Connor, Alex Maleev… everyone but Dave Dorman seems to have been pulled into this project.  Click on each image to see the artist and whether the book is only available at a special store.  A few variant images have not yet been released.

SWIsh 1 Y Heroes Haven by Mike Perkins      SWIsh1 R Heroes and Fantasies Daniel Acuna

So check out even more great covers to Marvel’s Star Wars, Issue #1, after the break:

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Ryan Sook Futures End cover 1    Ryan Sook Futures End 14 cover August 2014 release

We’ve delved into some great cover artists at borg.com in the past three years, from Alex Ross to Mauro Cascioli to Frank Cho and Mike Mayhew.  With his cover run on the DC Comics New 52 series Futures End, Ryan Sook is the artist you just can’t miss these days.  His cover for Issue #14 (above right) of Futures End is being solicited for August 2014 already, and it showcases several styles.  If you take a look back over the past few years you can see one of the best artists around developing his style and craft, putting his mark on the covers of some great comic book series.

You can see Sook as the cover artist of choice to start up several new series with the number one issue out of the gates, for series including Robotika (2005), Giant-Size Hulk (2006), Friday the 13th (2007), Batman and the Outsiders (2007), Death of the New Gods (2007), Countdown Specials, Countdown Presents and DC Universe Specials (2008 and 2011), Broken Trinity: Aftermath (2009), Blackest Night: Wonder Woman (2010), JSA All Stars (2010), The Magdalena (2010), B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth series (2011-2013), Victorian Undead II (2011), DC Universe Online: Legends (2011), Kirby: Genesis (2011), Justice League Dark (2011), Lord of the Jungle (2011), Rose & Thorn (2012), Sword of Sorcery (2012), and The New 52 Futures End (2014).

Sook is able to render men and women superheroes equally well, yet his women really stand out.  Here’s his Wonder Woman, showcased in the Blackest Night series:

Ryan Sook  Blackest Night Wonder Woman 1 cover    Ryan Sook Blackest Night Wonder Woman 2 cover

Less stylized than Cliff Chiang’s current angular Wonder Woman look, Sook may have created a modern twist on the definitive look of the classic character for other artists to emulate.

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BigTrouble_01_coverA   Frank Cho color Big Trouble cover

Who would have thought that a sequel to Big Trouble in Little China would look a lot like Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose?  Actually it makes sense.  Eastwood’s Philo Beddoe had his big rig and his trusty companion orangutan Clyde.  Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton also has his own big rig, and in Issue #1 of BOOM! Studios new monthly comic book series Big Trouble in Little China, he brings along his own slobbery companion for John Carpenter’s 1980s trip back through Chinatown.

BigTrouble_01_coverC   Qk.Template90.Cvr.rev

Or maybe this is more like Han Solo and Chewbacca?  Or the 1980s Flash Gordon movie?  Whatever it is, it’s crazy fun, and Kurt Russell hasn’t looked this good since, well, since his Big Trouble in Little China.  Will Kim Cattrall’s Gracie Law make an appearance?  James Hong’s Lo Pan make a visit from the other side?

You’ll just have to check out the series to find out.  And keep an eye out for a whopping FOURTEEN cover variants for this issue, including covers by Frank Cho and Adam Hughes.

Gabriel Hardman Big Trouble part 2Gabriel Hardman Big Trouble cover

After the break check out a preview of Issue #1 courtesy of BOOM! Studios:

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Black-Widow-5-by-Phil-Noto

In the same way that Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye series took us by surprise as the best new series of 2012 (and hasn’t let up in 2014), Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow monthly comic book series is proving to be at the top of the 2014 titles.  Strange that the duo of Hawkeye and Black Widow is well-known to be a second tier partnership within the Avengers, yet they are the stars of some of the best monthlies the Marvel universe has to offer.

The Black Widow series follows Natasha Romanova and her attempt to atone for her past sins as a mercenary, assassin, general all-around “bad guy.”  She selects missions these days very carefully.  Her goal is making money but not hurting anyone in the process.  And that money goes into trust funds and pays off her web of back-up operatives around the world—nothing in her plans is about profit-taking.

blackwidow001018

That doesn’t mean she won’t be tapped for S.H.I.E.L.D. or Avengers projects from time to time.  Former agent and now director Maria Hill (who you’ll recall is played by Cobie Smulders in the live-action Marvel universe) brings her in on a few missions.  They make a great team.  Edmondson has a great feel for Romanova.  In the same way Fraction was able to show the personal side of Hawkeye, Edmondson scratches the surface of what makes this lethal heroine tick, but her character shows great depth.  Yet as she says at the beginning of her series “my full story will never be told”.

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Savage-Wolverine_1

If someone gave you the brass ring, let you write and draw your own comic book series, including combining your favorite characters and places, and heck, even an image of yourself and your college roommate, what would you do?  If you were that lucky you might put something together like Savage Wolverine So many components of Issue #1-5 of this year’s new series screamed “win” that it’s no wonder Marvel kept charging ahead with the monthly series after Frank Cho’s initial story arc.

Frank Cho is of course the biggest reason to check out the new hardcover and trade paperback edition now on newsstands.  Cho is simply the best at rendering women and dinosaurs and guns and bringing them all together.  And while we’re all still anxiously awaiting the long-delayed Guns & Dinos series that was supposed to land in 2011 (where the heck is that anyway?), Cho is forgiven as this is the next best thing.

Savage Wolverine Cho art

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Ghost 1 cover

If you’ve read Dark Horse Presents or past mini-series featuring Elisa Cameron aka the Ghost, then you’ll likely say “it’s about time”.  We thought Ghost deserved her own monthly series months ago when we reviewed here at borg.com Issue #1 of last year’s Ghost limited series back in October 2012.  Now previous Ghost writer (not ghost writer) Kelly Sue DeConnick, who has proven she knows this character well, is partnering with writer Chris Sebela, and they are teaming up with the awesome artistry of Ryan Sook to carry Elisa’s story forward.

Elisa is back with her two male investigator friends as she tries to learn more about her past, before she became part of the spirit world.  Dr. October will return to the series, too.  DeConnick wastes no time plunging Elisa into battle with the demon world.  Will she reclaim her memory?  DeConnick creates an easy-going story that will allow readers old and new easy access to the three main characters, mixing the light-hearted with the dramatic.

Like Phil Noto’s beautiful renderings in the mini-series, Ryan Sook’s equally lush characters and landscapes will make the new series a must-read for fans of his work.  Where Noto’s pencil work leaned toward the Adam Hughes camp, Sook’s Ghost could be interchangeable with Frank Cho’s pencil work.  This means that along with DeConnick’s compelling story telling, as with the mini-series you’re in for an equally great looking book.

Check out this preview of Ghost Issue #1 courtesy of Dark Horse Comics:

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borg dot com benchmark logo tape

We kicked off borg.com as a way to catch up on entertainment news, books and movies back on June 10, 2011.  We’ve posted what’s new each day to provide “your daily science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment fix” for two years now and continue to forge ahead as we tick past our 800,000th view by readers today.

We want to say thanks to you for reading.  It’s a lot of fun (and hard work) keeping up on all the great genre entertainment out there, be it on TV, in theaters, in books, or comics.  We also want to thank all the comic book publishers out there that provide us with preview review copies, as well as book publishers and TV and movie studios and collectible companies that allow us to give you first available previews and reviews.  We cover only what we’re interested in and excited about–we figure that if we like it, so might you.

bionic borg meter

Some of the most fun we’ve had is meeting new people as we keep up on the coolest happenings in the genre realm, some at conventions, some are friends we are grateful to chat with each week of the year.  And lucky for us, borg.com has allowed us to meet some of our own favorite celebrities over the past two years, sci-fi stars like Mark Hamill, Joss Whedon, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Anthony Stewart Head, Scott Bakula, Adam Baldwin, Lindsay Wagner, Saul Rubinek, Zachary Levi, Eddie McClintock, Wil Wheaton, and Mark Sheppard.  Sci-fi and fantasy writers like Peter S. Beagle, Connie Willis, James Blaylock, and Sharon Shinn.  And comic book creators like Frank Cho, Jim Lee, Sergio Aragones, Neal Adams, and Howard Chaykin, and scores of other great comics creators like Mike Mayhew, Mike Norton, Michael Golden and Mikel Janin (and several not named Mike).

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Cho Savage Wolverine Banner

Marvel Comics, under its new Marvel NOW! brand, released Savage Wolverine #1 Wednesday, Frank Cho’s new writer/artist project.  And it’s everything you want it to be.  Better yet, it might as well be titled Shanna and Wolverine.

My wager is that, if there were enough artists that drew Shanna like Cho, you could have as many Shanna titles at Marvel as DC Comics has Batman titles.  Savage Wolverine definitely is a Wolverine book, but it wouldn’t be a Frank Cho series without one or more beautiful, spirited women, and of course, dinosaurs.  And it has all that.  So even though it isn’t the long-overdue, eagerly-awaited Guns & Dinos, it might as well be, sans guns and armored tanks.

Savage Wolverine 1 cover

As for the Wolverine angle, because issue #1 was also written by Cho, we get to see some of Cho’s humor come through in Logan/Wolverine’s dialogue, humor we haven’t been able to see in a Cho series in a while.  And this humor includes an appearance, albeit short-lived, by none other than Cho’s old pal Mike McSwiggin, well-known to avid Frank Cho fans, this time as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.  What I would do to be mentioned in a Frank Cho book…

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