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If you thought audiences may be souring on the onslaught of television series based on superheroes and comic books, you’d be wrong.  Hollywood is fully engaged in the realm of continuing to adapt comic books to the small screen.  Along with all the current series moving into next seasons this year, like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Gotham, iZombie, Riverdale, Supergirl, and Wynonna Earp, you’ll have at least three more new series featuring superheroes to check out this Fall.  Check out previews for all three below after the break.

Black Lightning is the latest character from DC Comics coming to the CW.  Cress Williams plays the title character who is Jefferson Pierce by day.  On paper Black Lightning sounds a bit like The Incredibles, with a retired hero returning to the superhero business.  The superhero debuted in the comic book Black Lightning Issue #1 40 years ago.  Tony Isabella and Dennis O’Neil wrote the original stories, with artwork by Trevor Von Eedon.  Black Lightning also stars China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, and Christine Adams.

The Gifted hails from a pretty powerful TV combo: Bryan Singer, known for everything from House, M.D., to The X-Men movie series, is co-producing the show with series creator Matt Nix, showrunner on the successful series Burn Notice.  The series stars Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker (Angel) as parents who take their family on the run after they discover their children’s mutant abilities.  The series producers have said it will not intersect with the X-Men movies, but you’ll see familiar characters like Blink, Polaris, Thunderbird, and Eclipse.  The show co-stars Burn Notice’s Coby Bell, Sean Teale, Jamie Chung, Emma Dumont, Blair Redford, Natalie Alyn Lind, and Percy Hynes White.  The show will air on Fox.

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You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.

In the beginning there was Georges Méliès’s 1902 space fantasy/science fiction film Le Voyage dans la Lune.  It would take another 65 years before we’d get a look at what a realistic outer space could look like in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but before that we’d get glimpses from film visionaries in the likes of Forbidden Planet, TV series like Lost in Space and Star Trek, and a final, old school vision of the future in the 1976 film Logan’s Run.  Each of these has its place in the history of science fiction, but none can compare to the epic storytelling, characters, and special effects–the surprise rollercoaster ride–we walked into on May 25, 1977, as the opening crawl passed over our heads to reveal an enormous spaceship and our first breaths in a world with this phenomenon called Star Wars. 

What would we be looking back on if not for the imagination and personal interests of George Lucas, the writer?  What if Lucas hadn’t grown up a fan of Flash Gordon, classic sci-fi movies, classic fantasy lore, and Akira Kurosawa films?  What would we be talking about in 2017 to escape the challenges of the real world if not the first images of an eighth follow-on film to Star Wars?  From Star Wars sprouted changes across cinema.  Cutting edge sound improvements thanks to THX.  Cutting edge visuals thanks to Industrial Light and Magic.  Mass marketed tie-ins of every sort throughout the creative arts as a new, multi-billion dollar, international industry.

Ten times.  My brother, my sister, my mom and dad, and me, first at the old Southridge III Theater.  We saw it ten times in the theater, and a few of those screenings we just sat through over and again all day on a Saturday, and then we saw it on the giant, wide screen downtown at the River Hills theater.  I missed the premiere and opening days, but my schoolmates at the end of my first year of school couldn’t stop talking about it.  My innate stubbornness and hesitation to join the crowd was already fixed: “But Star Wars is such a boring title!”  And then I saw it.  And everything changed.  Hardly a year would go by that I, or my parents, weren’t contributing to what would be Lucas’s $4 billion dollar empire, buying tie-ins we’d never even heard of before May 1977.  But what a fun ride he provided in return!

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Is this a stand-up fight or another bug hunt?

Would Aliens–that epic sci-fi war movie sequel to the groundbreaking sci-fi horror tale Alien–have been half as great without the performance of Bill Paxton as Colonial Marine Private Hudson?  Tens of thousands of fans came out to celebrate Paxton and his performance in the film when news spread of his passing this February.  Always willing to recite a line from one of his movies for fans, you have to think he would have loved a read like Aliens: Bug Hunt, a new anthology from Titan Books.  Aliens: Bug Hunt hones in on the gritty band of spacefaring soldiers as 19 authors share 15 new short stories of the Alien universe.

The new release, just after the Aliens 30th anniversary and nicely timed to this month’s theatrical release of Alien: Covenant, provides stories before and after Aliens, some sci-fi, some horror, action and drama, or a mix of each.  One story tells the tale of Corporal Hicks before the events in Aliens, and a personal mission to locate the cause of his wife’s death.  Another story details an operation of the Marines in an encounter with a hostile alien menace unrelated to the Xenomorphs.  One story provides insight into the synthetic Bishop and how he came to be the determined and decisive crew member we met in the series.

The anthology was edited by Jonathan Maberry with new works by Maberry and a “usual suspects” list of tie-in book writers and more.  Dan Abnett, Rachel Caine, Larry Correia, Keith R.A. DeCandido, David Farland, Matt Forbeck, Ray Garton, Christopher Golden, Heather Graham, Brian Keene, Paul Kuppenberg, Tim Lebbon, Marina J. Lostetter, James A. Moore, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Mike Resnick, and Scott Sigler contributed stories.

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Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy–Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command–excited a generation of Star Wars fans when the original trilogy was in the past and no future movies were planned.  It’s greatest value was in its continuation of our favorite characters: Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and the droids.  But it also introduced two key players: Mara Jade aka the Emperor’s Hand who would one day become the object of Luke Skywalker’s affection, and a blue-skinned, white-garbed officer of the Imperial Navy called Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Thrawn became part of the post-Disney canon in the animated series Star Wars Rebels, which reflected the foreboding leader of Zahn’s original books.  This month Zahn brings Thrawn’s rise to power into Star Wars canon again in his new novel Star Wars: Thrawn.

Thrawn is a military overview of the Nazi Germany-inspired Imperial Navy, recounting an exiled, strategy-savvy “Chiss” (Thrawn’s alien race) who uses his unique abilities to climb the ladder and assume greater power as part of the growing Empire following the events of Revenge of the Sith.  Zahn includes first person narration by Thrawn in both introductory chapter paragraphs and observations inserted into the text as he keys in on descriptive details of every encounter.  Thrawn is Zahn’s attempt at a Holmesian genius, a calculating survivor who still must rely on a young cadet (his Watson) named Eli Vanto, used primarily for his ability to translate both words and culture.  Unlike Zahn’s original trilogy, Thrawn feels more enmeshed in Star Wars prequel storytelling than the original trilogy movies.  By showing Thrawn’s backstory as an exiled leader who finds his way out, Thrawn also reads as if Zahn was attempting to make Thrawn the Khan (a la Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) of the Star Wars universe.  Unfortunately we don’t really get to see Thrawn in any confrontation with a powerful foe as Khan saw in Star Trek II, although he is potentially as intelligent and crafty as Star Trek’s Khan.

   

It’s Thrawn’s backstory before the events in the Thrawn novel that appear to contain the action and intrigue missing here–Thrawn both before his exile and during his exile sound like the makings of a great book.  Instead here the focus on Thrawn’s own quirks, like a fascination for Clone Wars era technology, and Thrawn’s awkward attempts to navigate the lower ranks of the Imperial chain of command, make for a slow read.  This is in part due to an unnecessary but lengthy sideline story of the struggles of Ahrinda Pryce, who will become a governor of Lothal in Star Wars Rebels.  Pryce’s story takes over a fair chunk of this 448-page novel.  The time given to Pryce and Vanto pull away some much needed action, intrigue, and suspense.

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Beware the light.

Review by C.J. Bunce

On first viewing of Logan, this year’s most critically acclaimed superhero film, a viewer may love it or leave it.  It’s not your typical Marvel Comics adaptation, full of f-bombs and the bloodiest of action and violence.  Yet it’s also a finely crafted final chapter to the successful X-Men film saga and a tribute to Hugh Jackman’s unprecedented nine-film run as Logan.  Last week 20th Century Fox showed a limited screening arranged by the director of Logan in black and white, called Logan: Noir.  The version is also included on the Blu-ray release available everywhere tomorrow.  If you haven’t seen Logan, skip the theatrical version and go straight to Logan: Noir and if you have seen Logan prepare for a completely different experience with this special edition of the film.

Logan: Noir would be more aptly titled Logan: Black and White, as this is not so much classic noir than a modern Western tale shown in black and white.  Thankfully writer/director James Mangold (Cop Land, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine) carefully and elegantly filmed Logan with an eye for the stark contrasts that black and white film once regularly captured so well.  Parts of the film will reach into your chest and hold you breathless, revealing the full potential of a comic book based film–and more specifically a superhero film.

Its bleak, cold landscapes are evocative of a John Ford (Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Grapes of Wrath) Western.  Its slow, calculated scenic pans are something Stanley Kubrick (Lolita, Dr. Strangelove) could only have hoped to have achieved in his early work.  Inasmuch as Hugh Jackman is a classic, Western, antihero archetype in his so-far-gone, washed-up, tired and grizzled Logan–former Wolverine of the X-Men–he appears far lonelier and resigned to a dismal, unrelenting future in black and white.  The cold contrasts in this Logan somehow create a vision more true to the Old Man Logan of the comic book source material.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After reading Michael Crichton’s groundbreaking science fiction novel Jurassic Park, I was hooked, and set out to read everything else he had written before and awaited each subsequent work with excitement.  I quickly learned that you can identify his work through his character choices and his storytelling, and not only were his ideas fresh and new (Crichton passed away in 2008), he knew how to spin a good yarn.  Yet, except for the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World, each of his books is completely different from one another.  In common the books follow intelligent people who set about accomplishing something unprecedented.  Crichton’s latest (and perhaps final?) posthumous novel is Dragon Teeth, and in true form it is both a brilliant Crichton work, and also unlike anything he’d written before.  It arrives at bookstores later this week.

Shelf Dragon Teeth alongside Jurassic Park as the very best of Crichton.

Here at borg.com I’ve so far reviewed three of Crichton’s eight “lost” novels penned under pseudonyms.  In the early days of borg.com I reviewed Crichton’s Micro, a posthumously published novel Crichton hadn’t quite finished when he died, which included the technology that could shrink humans to half-an-inch tall beings.  With Dragon Teeth, there is no suspension of disbelief required as with many of his works.  This story is historical fiction, and a Western–easily one of the best Westerns I’ve read.  We meet a college student in 1876 named William Johnson.  He is an arrogant, self-absorbed son of a shipping magnate who takes on a dare and ends up accompanying a professor on a journey across the Old West in an early search for dinosaur bones–then newly-discovered proof that the planet is much older than previously thought.  The professor, one of the early paleontologists, is in a lifelong battle with another, competing paleontologist and their squabble becomes deadly as Johnson finds himself a pawn in repeated attempts at oneupsmanship.  Based on the feud of real-life 19th century professors, Dragon Teeth sucks the reader into every black and white Western movie where the heroes weren’t all that heroic, the dust was thick, the path was treacherous, and each new day could very well be your last.

Crichton stitched together all the Western spots you didn’t want to find yourself in as an outsider in 1876–Cheyenne, across the Badlands, into Montana and Wyoming territory, and the end of the line in murky Deadwood.  Dragon Teeth has all the atmosphere of Silverado, and reads with both the folklore of a Louis L’Amour novel and the peril and adventure of a Jon Krakauer true-life account.  You’ll find deceit and friendship as they existed beyond the frontier, Native American friends and enemies, and a look inside political and religious clashes that exist to this day.

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One thing missing from the latest round of Star Wars toys is the miniature catalogs that were included in playsets and vehicles back in the 1970s and 1980s.  These were not only features of Star Wars toys.  Other lines, such as LEGO brick sets, included similar booklets.  As a kid you either learned about the next round of Kenner toys from commercials tucked between Saturday morning cartoons or the big deal for all kids each year–the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs.

Along with the inserts and catalogs, kids would learn about new toys from other sources, like advertisements in comic books, magazines, and even local newspapers.  It’s these advertisements that Star Wars fan and chronicler Philip Reed has collected for his next book about toys.  Now fully funded is his latest Kickstarter campaign, A Galaxy of Action Figure Savings–a companion to last year’s Collect These Figures and Accessories–a 96-page hardcover book loaded with more newspaper ads, toy photos, commercial screenshots, and images of related marketing materials.

We’ve read Reed’s eighth of now nine books on the history of toys, last year’s Collect These Figures and Accessories, an unofficial overview interspersed with trivia and close-up photos of marketing materials and the actual trilogy tie-in toys spanning 1977 to 1986.  It’s easy to spend hours gawking at these artifacts of the past again, comparing prices, and studying those items that may or may not have made it to store shelves.  But fair warning, comparing the costs of action figures to today’s prices is a bit depressing.

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Excelsior!  Legendary comic book writer, editor, actor, producer and publisher Stan Lee will be making a special appearance at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines tonight and Saturday, May 20.  The most iconic and well-known of all comic book legends and the spark that lit up the current heyday of comic books and comic book movies, Mr. Lee has done it all–the man behind Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and hundreds of other characters, he is a member of both the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.  This weekend he will greet fans, pose for photos, sign autographs, and conduct an interactive Q&A at the Iowa Events Center as Wizard World Comic Con celebrates its third year in Des Moines.

Mr. Lee will be joining fan-favorite genre actor John Cusack, another late addition to the headliners appearing at this year’s event.  Cusack’s impact on a generation of moviegoers can’t be overstated.  Most first saw him as a kid in Sixteen Candles and Stand By Me.  He became a household name in teen flicks like The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead…, and One Crazy Summer, but it was Say Anything… that made him a star as the lovable Lloyd Dobler, the boyfriend with the boom box.  His adult drama work resulted in many cult classics, like Eight Men Out, The Grifters, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Pushing Tin.  Films like Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, and Robert Altman’s The Player proved he was the real deal, and later films High Fidelity and Hot Tub Time Machine proved he’s willing to return to his roots as the everyman good guy that audiences love.

John Cusack and Charlie Sheen in the baseball film classic Eight Men Out.

This weekend Cusack joins a big pantheon of celebrities including Eight Men Out co-star Charlie Sheen, plus Dean Cain (Lois & Clark, Supergirl), James Marsters and Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th), Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause (Charmed), Barry Bostwick (Spin City), Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), and more.

The convention will be held at the Iowa Events Center at 730 Third Street in Des Moines, beginning May 19, 2017, opening at 4 p.m. and continuing until 9 p.m., Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A full list of Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines programming is available here (subjects, guests, times and rooms subject to change).  For more on the event, visit the convention website here.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

The big news this week for sci-fi genre fans–besides that surprisingly good trailer for The Orville previewed here earlier this week–is the release of the first full trailer for CBS All Access’s new series Star Trek: Discovery.  The new subscription service network released trailers for its new series Wednesday.  Along with Star Trek: Discovery are trailers for a S.W.A.T. reboot, a SEAL series, a crime drama, and three new comedies.

Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Bones will be happy to see David Boreanaz back as the star of another drama, SEAL Team.  SNL’s hilarious comedian Bobby Moynihan stars in his own comedy, Me, Myself, and I.

Emmy and Golden Globe winner Jeremy Piven, who we last saw as an early 20th century businessman in the brilliant PBS series Mr. Selfridge, will star as a modern-day successful businessman with Richard T. Jones in a new crime series about crowdsourcing called Wisdom of the Crowd.  And fans of The Big Bang Theory will get a prequel series called Young Sheldon.

Check out all the previews for the new TV series from CBS All Access below, along with the network’s PR descriptions:

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Hollywood captures hundreds of movies each year in its talk of the Summer Blockbuster, with as many films arriving at screens before summer actually begins as after.  With Guardians of the Galaxy 2 the 2017 “summer” blockbusters are already on their way.  This week 20th Century Fox revealed the first glimpse of Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, not only the star of the new reboot of The Mummy, but said to be the lynchpin behind all the new Universal Monster movies.  The new previews reveal a lot about this new monster flick.

The final movie trailers are now out for Alien: Covenant, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.  No doubt we’ll be seeing more trailers soon for other big movies hitting the theater this year like Transformers: The Last Knight, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Spider-man: Homecoming. 

Which movies are on your much-watch list?  For now, check out these latest trailers, as Hollywood wraps the final marketing push for this year’s first summer blockbusters: View full article »

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