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Archive for June, 2012


We haven’t encountered anything like the Mayan prophecy of the world’s end since New Year’s Day 2000 and 2001, the Millenium Bug and Y2K.  The Mayan text the Popul Vuh established that, based on their linear calendar, we live in something called the “fourth world.”  The fourth world will have reached the end of its 13th b’ak’tun (a time frame of about 400 years), or Mayan date 13.0.0.0.0, on December 21, 2012.  Scholars or pseudoscientists (depending on who you believe) suggested that this will coincide with the end of the world (or alternately, the start of some new positive era).  If you haven’t read any of the discussions behind this, it is at a minimum interesting, and at worst, odd and quirky.  I read the Popul Vuh as part of an ancient Latin American history course I took in college and as ancient texts go in is very interesting, and still required reading in colleges around the globe.

So… it’s the perfect time for Dynamite Comics to have a crossover event featuring most of its properties and public domain characters that has as a story element the end of the world coming this December, courtesy of the ancient Mayans.  Called Prophecy, Issue #1 is out and it’s a lot of fun.  So far it is more of what I hoped for with Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the graphic novel mash-up of Allan Quatermain, Dorian Gray, Captain Nemo, Moriarty, Dr. Jekyll, Fu Manchu, Tom Sawyer and others.  Of course, unlike his forced change of DC characters to new made-up creations for his Watchmen series, with the League, Moore used public domain characters and avoided all that.  With Prophecy, writer Ron Marz and artist Walter Geovani use some of these vary same characters plus they add in modern characters like Red Sonja, Vampirella, and Purgatory.  Advance press from Dynamite reveals that the tale will include Pantha, Herbert West the Reanimator, Allan Quatermain, Athena, and Dorian Gray, too.

Issue #1 begins with Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson investigating a murder.  The weapon that caused the death was an ancient Mayan dagger from the year 632.  And the dagger has disappeared.  Enter Red Sonja, soon to be the next sacrifice by this ancient people.  She chases her captor through time with the aid of the dagger and to the year 2012, where she encounters Vampirella in the forest, working with Dracula himself.

One excellent two-page spread has Geovani revealing a time travel voyage of Red Sonja, including the Three Musketeers, Edgar Allan Poe, Zorro, the Lone Ranger, Abe Lincoln and a host of others who will hopefully make an appearance in this series.

If you like mash-ups, this one looks to have a lot of territory it can cover, presumably in only the short span of the next 5-6 months that we have left, or, um, before we know one way or the other where December 12, 2012 will fit into Dynamite’s crossover series.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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If you have spent much time at all chatting it up with comic book writers or editors at comic conventions, you have probably heard several mentions of the phrase “creator-owned comic” or “creator-owned project.”  The conversation usually goes like this:

Fanboy: Hey, Awesome Comic Book Creator, what are you working on?

Awesome Comic Book Creator: I am working on a big project right now featuring Huge Comic Character for [insert DC Comics or Marvel here].  [And then they look like they are pondering something deeply as they say:] I am also working on a creator-owned project that I have had in the works for several years.

It was Frank Cho last year at Comic-Con who let us in on a project he had been thinking about for years:  Guns & Dinos, a project he said he had been thinking about ever since an image came to him of an archaeologist discovering an arm with a modern gun in a dig along side a dinosaur.  Guns & Dinos (yet to be released) is a creator-owned project he was trying to generate interest in.

Hitting the stores this month was a new book with an odd title: Creator-Owned Heroes #1.  It’s a collaborative new ongoing book between writing partners Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (who are at the top of my favorite comic writers right now with their All-Star Western series), Steve Niles, Kevin Mellon, and Phil Noto.  The point?  Get away from big publishing house content and bring some diversity into comics–stories you might not see reaching readers from the big houses.

The book features two eleven page stories that will have readers easily coming back next month.  It also has several interviews with the creators in the nature of “here’s what this is all about.”  It also includes photos of the creators with fans at conventions, an interview with a cosplayer who Palmiotti asked to create the costume of one of the stories, and an interview with Neil Gaiman.

The two stories were superb.  We’ll come back to those.

For the first issue of a new type of publication I didn’t have any issue with the interviews and explanations.  That said, I’d rather have more than 11 page stories or a third story for future issues.  $3.99 is a fine price but a comic sized magazine with columnists as opposed to news is not really something I think can last too long.  And I haven’t read much new from Gaiman in the last several interviews with him I’ve seen so that didn’t add much value for me.  I am interested in what these creators think, but are most comics readers readers who just want to read new stories or do they also care about the behind-the-scenes so much?

So back to what is great about this book–two very interesting stories.  First Palmiotti, Gray and Noto take on cool muscle cars in a dismal, futuristic world of survival in American Muscle.  Great title, great idea.  The dialogue is believable, the images make the reader feel the environment.  I just hope future issues focus let us in on the cars themselves (they probably can’t specify actual makes and models because of licensing reasons from the auto dealers).   Niles and Mellon give us one part Leeloo Dallas, one part human-Cylon, one part David 8, one part la femme Nikita, and one part Ultraviolet in their Trigger Girl 6.   That actually should give you all you need to decide whether to check out this one.  I’ll just say the pacing of the story was spot-on and the dialogue and art top-notch.  I also really liked the color choices in both stories.  If this is what creator-owned is, then give us more please.

The publisher of Creator-Owned Heroes is Image Comics.  I’ve always viewed Image as sort of a “fourth network” like Dark Horse and Dynamite.  I do wonder why Creator-Owned Heroes didn’t try something like Terry Moore and his Abstract Studios publishing company.  If you don’t make it big at the major publishing houses I would think Moore has created the model to make it big on your own.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Lucasfilm intends to create the next generation of gaming with its game-in-the-works, Star Wars 1313.  Bringing together the entire Lucasfilm family, LucasArts is teaming up with Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, and Lucasfilm Animation, to render a real-time production the company expects will provide an incredibly detailed playing experience.  Lucasfilm says it is using full performance capture, mixing voice actors with full motion capture to record facial expressions and movements, so actors can fully perform what the characters are doing and this will translated to the gaming screen like never before.  This is expected to be a big step toward the convergence of movies and gaming.

Don’t expect to get Star Wars 1313 any time soon for your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.  LucasArts is designing this complex game for bigger game machines and so Star Wars 1313 will likely not be out in final form for a few years.

As for the substance of the game and story, this action adventure will veer away from the Jedi world that has monopolized Star Wars gaming, and feature a darker, more mature adventure.  From the preview this has the feel of the early Star Wars comic books that took place after the original Star Wars.  In fact the game is to take place between the first and second trilogies.  The background is the seedy underworld of the capital of the Republic, Coruscant.  Think Mos Eisley but in a dense urban area.  The game is to have interesting new weaponry and will feature a bounty hunter stalking his prey in the city.  Whether or not this will include Boba Fett has not yet been disclosed–the character in the preview is an example of a character you might find in the final game.  Supposedly there are some 5,000 levels to the city of Coruscant, and the number 1313 in the title refers to a particular underworld in the city that will serve as the center of the story.

Here is the preview footage:

I think the editing of the music is the best part, plus the explosion sequences look great.

Of course the trailer only shows some apparently spice smuggler inspired scenes in someone’s space vessel–nothing yet about how the city scenes will look.  There is no release date for Star Wars 1313 but the buzz is already building across the Web.  Check out the Star Wars 1313 website for updates as they are released.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

  

Every now and then the powers that be make changes you don’t like.  With DC Comics’ effort to keep 52 main titles going (despite the fact that they really have more ongoing series than that, adding things like Huntress and Before Watchmen) I knew it wouldn’t be long before one of my five favorite DC Comics series got nixed.  This week DC Comics announced changes coming in September, including canceling Justice League International, Resurrection Man, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E, Voodoo, and a borg.com favorite, Captain Atom. The good offshoot hopefully will be freeing up artist Freddie Williams II for bigger and better projects.

September will offer other changes for the New 52 with a month of “zero” issues.  Issue #0 for each title will be standalone stories.  “Some issues will tell the origins of a character or a team, or in some case where an origin has already been told, they will fill in the blanks in terms of questions readers may have about the New 52 DC Universe,” said Bob Harras, DC Entertainment Editor-in-Chief.

In October 1994, all of the mainstream DC Comics titles released an Issue #0 issue to coincide with the “Zero Hour” crossover event.  The purpose of the zero issue was to reveal a previously unknown aspect of the title character’s background.  The new 52 zeroes do not appear to have a single crossover event in common.

I’ve always thought “Issue #0s” an oddity you’ll only find in comic book publishing.  The strangest variation on the theme was DC Comics issuing a series of comics numbered 1,000,000.  It’s like they were daring everyone else to have a higher numbered book.  Shown above and below are several covers to the September Issue #0 titles.

But in keeping with DC’s purported attempt at maintaining 52 titles, they also announced four new titles to begin in September, including two classic titles to add to their list of recent throwbacks to the classic era like Worlds Finest, DC Comics Presents, Brave and the Bold, G.I. Combat, Dial H for Hero, and All-Star Western.

Talon – Writer Scott Snyder with co-writer James Tynion IV and artist Guillem March resurrects a concept character from 2006 that feeds into the “Night of the Owls” storyline begun in Batman but crossed into other series this past year.  Snyder wrote the New 52 story arc that fleshed out this society of criminals called the Talons, and this series focuses on one named Calvin Rose who breaks away from the rest.

Sword of Sorcery – Writer Christy Marx and artist Aaron Lopresti will attempt to rejuvenate DC Comics’ attention to the fantasy genre in this classic DC title.  Broken into two continuing stories, the first will follow Amethyst, princess of Gemworld, and the second will include a Grendel/Beowulf retelling.  With all the fantasy stories out there, you wonder if there will be enough Amethyst fans to keep this series going, vs. exploring some other classic fantasy concepts.  I have to admit, with an epic title like Sword of Sorcery I’d like to see a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-type book where Robin Hood joins forces with King Arthur and Siegfried and Sinbad and Hercules to take on Madame Xanadu and the folks from Justice League Dark.

The Phantom Stranger – Writer/editor Dan DiDio and artist Brent Anderson bring back this dark title that will focus on the titular character who recently resurfaced in the Free Comic Book Day DC Comics issue.  This is one of the classic titles being brought back to appeal to readers’ nostalgia for classic comics.  All these old titles in the past year make you think the DC lawyers are sending memos around to make sure the company is using its characters and trade names so they don’t dilute federal copyright or trademark protections.  Phantom Stranger getting to the bottom of the story of Pandora–that character that appeared in every New 52 title last year–and the Spectre, may make this an interesting read.

Team Seven – Writer Justin Jordan and artist Jesus Merino bring the Wildforce team into the DCU.  Team Seevn is a motely group of superheroes from the past, including Birds of Prey/Green Arrow character Dinah Lance (Black Canary) and Slade (Deathstroke) from Justice League Dark and Grifter’s Cole Cash.

Stay tuned to hear our thoughts as these new series debut later this year.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Burn Notice is a longtime favorite here at borg.com, and we thought last season got off to a great start.  And then… Anson Fullerton (Jere Burns), second worst villain to hit the airwaves last year (the top honor going to that weird English nobody in Chuck).  I hated the entire Anson storyline so much (Really?  He killed Michael’s father?  Seriously?) that I actually didn’t make it through the season finale, and I couldn’t think of a show whose premiere I was less looking forward to.  But, knowing readers would be expecting our review, I choked down last season’s ender and braced myself for More Anson.

And I got it.  And there will be more forthcoming, unfortunately.  But despite that, our fan favorite delivered a pretty satisfying episode, all round–enough to convince me not to delete it from my DVR season pass just yet.  “Scorched Earth” was fast-paced, nonstop action with plenty of classic Burn Notice moments and a respectable level of suspense.  Continuing last season’s plot revolving around Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) as the chief suspect in a British consulate bombing, the show picked up where last year’s (or last night’s, depending) cliffhanger left off, as Fiona turns herself in to the FBI while a helpless Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) looks on, crying “Fiona!” a la Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.  We barely have a chance to digest that storyline when the show skips on to Jesse (Coby Bell) and Agent Pearce (Lauren Stamile, Grey’s Anatomy) cleaning up the mess of the CIA op gone awry (thanks, yet again, to the absurdly  ubiquitous machinations of Anson!), followed swiftly by the news that Anson’s latest designs center on Michael’s mother, Maddie (Sharon Gless).

The show skips quickly through those key plotlines, which of course converge in a frenzy of lies, explosions, harrowing narrow escapes, occasional moments of brattiness by Michael, and a truly satisfying conclusion to Maddie’s solo adventure back at the Westen homestead.  We leave our heroes pretty much as we found them (Fiona is still in FBI custody, Sam (Bruce Campbell) and Michael still fast friends, Agent Pearce still a capable official asset, and Maddie still smoking), and we’re left with the hope that this season might be a little more fun than last year.

There are a couple of fun additions that longtime fans will have noted.  The famous show opener, “My name is Michael Westen, and I used to be a spy,” has been tweaked again–watch for a Fiona status update and the cheer-inducing addition of Jesse (Coby Bell) to the lineup, too.  And it was great to see Michael’s old CIA nemesis, Agent Jason Bly (Alex Carter, Trilogy of Terror II, X-Men video games, Life, Leverage, Haven) turn up as Fiona’s FBI interregator.  He was always a fun foil for Michael, and it will be interesting to see if he ends up kinda-sorta on “our” side.

Review by C.J. Bunce

A strange thing happened.  I was watching Dallas on TV on a Friday night in 1991, then I fell asleep and it was 2012 and nothing had happened in between.  I flipped on the TV and the Dallas logo swiped across the TV screen.  Was it all a dream?

Quick pacing, conniving characters, a well-balanced cast of new actors, and only a well-tempered dose of nostalgia made Wednesday’s pilot for the new TNT TV series Dallas appear to be a real contender for viewers, 21 years after we last saw J.R., Bobby, and Sue Ellen at Southfork.

The battle again is over control of Southfork Ranch, left to be run by Bobby Ewing by family matriarch Miss Ellie (played in the original series by the late Barbara Bel Geddes, years after she acted alongside Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo).  Bobby is sick, and doesn’t want to die and leave son Christopher to spend his life fighting cousin John Ross for the property as he and brother J.R. once did.  John Ross has defied Miss Ellie’s directive and drilled and found a lucrative oil deposit on the land.  And what is left is an all out battle in the shadows by the darker elements to outwit Bobby and Christopher.

There are times when you ask yourself “did they wait a bit too long for this continuation of the series?”  Then Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing steps out of a depression induced stupor, like Rip Van Winkle or someone who has been in suspended animation since 1991, and even at 80 years old Hagman plays Ewing as conniving and slithery as ever, and you just know continuing this series is a good move.  Instead of ignoring the age factor of the few original cast members, the series embraces this–Bobby Ewing (played solidly again by Patrick Duffy) has cancer, J.R. suffers from depression.  In a brilliant twist, the walking disaster (made that way by husband J.R.) that was Sue Ellen of 21 years ago is now an exciting and progressive new Sue Ellen (played by Linda Gray), being primed to run for Texas governor.  Brenda Strong plays an even keeled and supportive Annie, trying to let husband Bobby be stalwart while befriending her new daughter-in-law.

J.R., Bobby, and Sue Ellen are not shoved aside any by the scheming new younger set.  What could have been another show rehashing vengeance stories like ABC’s Revenge, Bobby’s son Christopher and J.R.’s son John Ross, played by Jesse Metcalfe and Josh Henderson, respectively, do seem very young for their roles as a seasoned alternate energy wonk and would-be oil baron.  But even their youth is played up against the wisdom of the Ewing brothers with Bobby as the good mentor and J.R. as the old pro who has seen it all before.

And holding her own as far as scheming is concerned, new series star Jordana Brewster (formerly Chuck’s ex-girlfriend Jill on the TV series Chuck) plays Elena Ramos, a former girlfriend to Christopher who left him at the altar in a bit of a a misunderstanding right out of BBC’s As Time Goes By.  Elena is smart and carefully weighing her options as subplots unfold.  Her role is a bit of an archetype for revenge stories, the Cinderella, or daughter of the maid who sat by and wished she were one of the members of the family who owns the estate she grew up on.  Christopher’s new wife Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) at first appeared a weak throwaway character, but by the second hour of the series premiere night we learned she will be another force to be reckoned with in the series, as part of a con game with her brother.

And then there’s the big double cross–the element that made the original series survive 14 seasons, between 1978 and 1991.  J.R. is plotting with a friend’s daughter to take back Southfork when Bobby puts it up for sale.  Meanwhile son John Ross is making the same play.  And all the young women have their own plans for taking the Ewing wealth.

Can the new generation of good folk (Christopher) and bad (John Ross & Co.) outwit the hardened, tried and true original series characters to take over the billions in wealth at stake?  Will one of the Bushes make an appearance?  Will we see any Saudi oil baron plots?  The world in 2012 is very different than 1978, yet much is shared–bad economy, international strife, battles over cheaper energy–you could envision several concepts Dallas’s writers can explore.  Will we get to see Ken Kerchival reprise his role as Cliff Barnes?  Victoria Principal as Pamela Barnes?  Priscilla Presley as Jenna Wade?  Audrey Landers?  Jenilee Harrison?  How about cast from the spin-off Knot’s Landing, like Joan Van Ark or Ted Shackleford?  Recall one of the best episode arcs on that series featured a young Alec Baldwin.  Of course, he was killed, but if the original Dallas was known for anything it was that year that Bobby died, that ended up being just a dream.  So bring on Alec Baldwin!

The negatives of the series opener are few.  John Ross’s strange dialogue seems odd for a modern rich kid in Dallas, even one who worked the ranch.  Everyone must say the name aloud of the person they are speaking with in every scene.  Real people don’t do this.  Try it.  Walk around the office or your home all day and count how many times people call you by name other than when they are trying to get your attention.  I can’t decide if I like the grandiose gesture at the end of the pilot episode–John Ross meets his conspirator on the 50 yard line at the Dallas Cowboys football stadium.  It certainly illustrates that Dallas has designs to be as big as Texas.  Do you need to have seen the original series to jump into this new series?  I don’t think so, although the characters’ motivations probably make more sense if you had seen the original.  Things like the fact that J.R. was once shot by Kristin Shepard (yes, the answer to the big question “Who shot J.R.?”), Shepard was played by Bing Crosby’s daughter Mary, and is the real mother of Bobby’s adopted son Christopher.

One more thing.  The original Dallas theme song is a great tune with powerful brass, but the new arrangement feels somewhat lackluster in comparison (I actually had to crank up the volume to get the right vibe).  It’s incredible how such a song gets stuck in your head so many years later.

But these “negatives” amount to nothing.  Episodes 1 and 2 were engaging enough to add this to the ongoing watch list.  Bobby and J.R.’s dialogue is pretty much perfect and consistent with their characters of decades ago.  Keep an eye out for an appearance by Charlene Tilton, reprising her role as Lucy Ewing Cooper.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Writer/artist and New Frontier creator Darwyn Cooke is the visionary of Before Watchmen in the first two books released over the past 8 days, Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1, and Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1.  In Minutemen, he serves as writer and artist, and he shares writing credits on Silk Spectre with Amanda Conner, who also serves as artist on Silk Spectre.

We know Amanda Conner from her run as artist on Green Arrow/Black Canary during the duo’s attempt at marriage.  My take was that her art style was a bit too cartoony for the serious story of Oliver Queen’s doppelgänger trying to kill Dinah on their wedding night.   Here, her artistic style is perfect for Silk Spectre, and this is high praise considering I had pegged Adam Hughes as perfect for the Silk Spectre standalone mini-series (but we can look forward to his work on the coming Dr. Manhattan series).  In this retro/throwback world of Before Watchmen, when innocence reigned in America, the young Silk Spectre and her new boyfriend would easily fit into the pages of Archie Comics.  That may not sound like a good thing but it works perfectly for the story being told.  In fact, this may be Conner’s breakout project, showing her character depth as we’ve seen with Gail Simone’s complete command of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl and Oracle, and the retro portrayal skill we’ve seen from… Darwyn Cooke.

Cooke’s artwork on Minutemen reminded me over and over again of his retro look at the golden age of DC Comics in his New Frontier series.  It had to have been the easiest decision in the world to tap Cooke for the retro world circa 1939 of the Watchmen back story.

Skipping over the contrived controversy surrounding Before Watchmen, anytime you mess with people’s icons you’re going to get people who won’t even check it out (like someone I knew who loved Star Wars the original trilogy so much they completely ignored and avoided any subsequent books and movies), they’ll give it the ol’ college try, or if it’s good, flat-out embrace the nostalgia of it.  Unlike my pal Jason McClain, I don’t hold Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen with any particular reverence (see Jason and my earlier discussion here), so my hope is a story like this could stand on its own.  Presumably the entirety of this new line of mini-series will intersect according to some grand master plan, culminating with the Watchmen series itself.

  

I have read Watchmen twice across a span of time so I do not remember all the nuances, other than Gibbons’ nine panels on a page that had symbology and often contrasting images with dialogue.  I caught enough in Minutemen to know I am missing a great amount of the subtlety and symbology that I assume is present here.  For those reading Before Minutemen before trying out Watchmen (yes, I am sure those people are out there!) I won’t give up spoilers here.  But the future of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, to me, was the best part of Watchmen, and these two were my favorite characters in the movie adaptation.

As to Minutemen issue #1, Cooke excels at giving us a Justice League-worthy back story for some Captain America era characters.  The dialogue in both Minutemen and Silk Spectre is appropriate to the time period, better than I am finding in Ed Brubaker’s noir Fatale series, for example.  Minutemen #1 introduces these Minutemen superheroes through the eye of an aged Nite Owl and his tell-all book Under the Hood.  The innocence quickly fades as we meet Edward Blake, the Comedian, a seemingly well-intentioned do-gooder with serious psychological issues that forecast his ultimate downfall.  Other characters are less familiar but entirely interesting despite getting less time devoted to them: Dollar Bill, who might as well be Captain America, a very cool Space Ghost mixed with Batman-type character called Hooded Justice, Mothman Byron Lewis who seems to foreshadow a sad and brief story, the slick-looking and tough avenging angel Ursula the Silhouette, and Captain Metropolis, wealthy ex-Marine who will put together the team.

Silk Spectre #1 flashes forward to the origin of not the original Silk Spectre of the Minutemen group, but her daughter, and the elder’s priming of the daughter to take over the Silk Spectre superheroine role.  The elder’s public and disreputable past is thrown at the daughter from every angle, and we witness her breaking apart from the Kato-like training practice and peers that have casted her out of favor.  With the bits of darkness and tragedy, Conner’s pencil work also draws out plenty of humor surrounding the angst of being a teenager in 1966 (applicable to any other time period, too).

Other interesting features include a tucked in ongoing secondary story in each issue (not enough to make any judgment on yet) and a higher quality cover shiny card stock.

So far the scope of Before Watchmen is epic, and the storytelling poignant.  It makes this reader want to go watch the Watchmen movie.  Nice work so far!

Peter Jackson has released his penultimate behind the scenes feature on thehobbitblog.com, home for Jackson’s online vlog series to whet the appetites of anxious fans who just cannot wait for the December release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, part 1 of The Hobbit film adaptation.  If you haven’t seen the other production features yet, check out our earlier post here.

Instead of showing the behind the scenes people and places on the outdoor sets throughout New Zealand as Jackson revealed in early production videos, this 14 minute film, the 7th of 8 scheduled for release this year, goes to the giant stage town.  Key staff members run us through make-up, costuming, model building, all the way through the second unit directors office.

The production is careful to blur some bits and pieces, like set miniatures and production drawings, for those (like me) who freeze-framed the video to see all that rushes past us.  Still, there is more than enough cool features to make this video worth your time.  In particular, a look at the vault boxes storing the lead actors’ props, the different sizes of actors filming various sequences (there is a miniature of everyone in this film, it seems), WETA offices, and a practice street battle for the stunt men to warm-up.  And the variety of titles of the people creating the movie is amazing.  Who wouldn’t want to be a real-life sword master?  And don’t worry about spoilers–other than some great images of costumes and characters and flash-by set pieces, there’s not anything substantial given away here.

Jackson again shows here why he is a fan favorite.  Every film should take the time and effort to document the production process as he does with his films.  With seven features now released, and only one more to go, it feels like we’re almost to the finish line.

Here is the HD version of the Production Video #7:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be first released in New Zealand, and will see its U.S. release on December 14, 2012.



C.J. Bunce

Editor
borg.com

Rod Roddenberry’s website (where the son of Gene Roddenberry sells and promotes a lot of Star Trek replica merchandise, among other things) put me onto a new Internet series on gaming.  It’s not about video games.  It’s about good old-fashioned “game night” games, board games with dice and cards and tokens, and it’s called TableTop.

If you’re a fan of Wil Wheaton, it’s the show for you.  Wheaton is best known for his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation and as the young star of the Rob Reiner/Steven King film Stand By Me, but he has been quickly branching out as a stellar guest star on series like Leverage (as a superb IT villain) and Big Bang Theory (where he often plays himself), showing he’s gone beyond the kid actor thing.  And even if you’re not a Wheaton fan–like you thought Wesley Crusher should have been left on Rubicun III–give this series a try anyway.

Tsuro game in play on Tabletop.

My favorite thing about Wil Wheaton is he seems to thrive at all things geek and nerd.  He’s not apologetic in the least, and in chatting up his love for games and TV and books, he is bringing everyone along for a fun ride.  He’s a regular at San Diego Comic-Con, and I saw him at a Star Trek writers panel with Star Trek authors where he showed a great rapport with fans, and seemed to love talking about what he liked (and didn’t like) about Trek.

Wil Wheaton with authors Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward on a panel at Comic-Con in 2008.

TableTop is an online half-hour, biweekly series just beginning and in its first five episodes, which is a bit like Comic Book Men and Celebrity Poker, but far, far better than both of those shows.  In fact, the introduction, production values, and content should get some network exec to take notice.  This is the first online-only series we’ve taken note of here at borg.com that we think is worthy of another look and we think a wider audience is out there for this show.

TableTop has host Wheaton playing a few board or dice games with some friends, including explaining quickly and clearly the game’s rules, and just chatting it up around the table with people like Rod Roddenberry, Felicia Day (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Monk, House, M.D., Eureka), Colin Ferguson (Eureka),  Grant Imahara (Mythbusters), James Kyson (Heroes, Hawaii 5-0), and Neil Grayston (Eureka).  I think it would be an interesting twist to add in other celebrities, maybe genre actors or legends Wheaton himself is a fan of, but may not previously know personally.  I’d love to see someone like Billy Mumy do an episode and see what these guys would talk about while playing Apples to Apples, or pull some obscure old games out of the game closet that are long forgotten but still fun, like Bionic Crisis or the Star Wars board game.

Which brings us to the episode with Rod Roddenberry, where they covered a few games including TsuroThe episode intrigued me enough that I wandered past a game shop this weekend while hanging out with family and I bought it.  We were able to pull out the board and playing pieces and start playing at a local coffee shop in minutes.  Just as I had discovered watching the players in the episode of TableTopTsuro is a blast.  In a nutshell, you have 35 cardboard tiles that players lay out one by one, in turn, and each tile has a different set of paths, some straight, some crisscrossed, some coming back at you.  The goal is to create a path for yourself and maybe even knock others off the board and be last player on the board.  Even the barista stopped by and commented how awesome the game looks (it has the beautiful Chinese red dragon board, parchment divider page, and cool rune playing tokens) and I passed along Wheaton’s show and the game shop across the street that had one more copy in stock.

We’ve played it three times so far and I can’t wait to play Tsuro again.  Thanks, Wil Wheaton!

Update: I met Wil and his lovely wife Anne and a few friends outside the Starbucks at Comic-Con 2013. His wife graciously snapped this shot of us.

wheaton-and-bunce

(and for the record I look like this after staying up without sleep in Ballroom 20 lines at SDCC for 40 hours straight) I relayed the above and how much we enjoyed his online show.  A very nice accidental run-in and fun to be able to give him feedback on his show directly.

Review by C.J. Bunce

It really comes down to one thing.  Is the art of Ryan Sook, the superb cover artist for series like Justice League Dark, good enough to cause you to spend $7.99 for an 80-page comic book?  Let’s come back to that.

As you may know, Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics, known for stories targeted at mature readers, including elements of stepped up violence, sexuality, horror and just plain controversial subjects not easily absorbed by the mainstream audience.  Mystery in Space is a classic comic book series beginning in the 1950s, known for great sci-fi stories including stories featuring Adam Strange.  Suspense and intrigue were key to the original series, and they often had the feel of Twilight Zone stories.

Along with titles like G.I. Combat and Worlds Finest, DC has been making the best of grabbing readers through a little bit of nostalgia, and the title and classic cover of the one-shot anthology Mystery in Space #1, in the style of the original 1950s series, is step one in reeling new readers in.  As with short story anthologies, the challenge is whether a writer can really put together a narrative with a beginning, middle and end that can be compelling, exciting, and original, in just a few pages.

The new Mystery in Space is good.  Good enough that it leaves the reader wanting more.  Sure, not every entry in an anthology will be great or even good.  That’s the beauty of an anthology–if it’s good there will be something for everyone.  But there is no reason DC cannot continue churning out anthologies like this of classic themed sci-fi stories.

The book starts out with a bang, and the first story “Verbinksy Doesn’t Appreciate It” is a great story about a cyborg with an unwanted cybernetic arm and a classic storytelling session among typical guys in a bar.  Written by Duane Swierczynski and illustrated by Ramon Bachs, the story blends alien abduction and The Matrix.   Smart and dark, at 8 pages, Bachs conveys panic and emotion nicely.

Green Arrow: Year One and Adam Strange writer Andy Diggle joined forced with artist Davide Gianfelice on “Transmission.”  Billions of lives are at stake in a Star Trek Voyager “Year of Hell” throwback, with a female ambassador taking on a computer that rules all like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Quick plot movement and a satisfying resolution highlight this as one of the best stories in the set, although it ends off the mark a bit.  I’d love to see more books drawn by Bachs and Gianfelice.  Gianfelice’s giant star map room is evocative of Data’s star room in Star Trek Generations.

Writer/artist Ming Doyle serves double duty on “Asleep to See You,” an account of two women pulled apart by time and space.  At one level the life and times of a flight attendant of the future, it packs a surprising amount of emotion and delivers a classic Twilight Zone resolution of the happy ever after variety.  A simple story, written in a simple style, Doyle proves you don’t need a lot of blatant sci-fi elements to have a successful sci-fi story.

Probably the weakest of the anthology is Ann Nocenti’s “Here Nor There,” which spends too much time with clever dialogue and not enough time with character development.  Fred Harper’s unique style didn’t work for me, at least tied up with this story.  Not awful, just one to read and then move on.

“The Elgort” is a story more fantasy than sci-fi, and I really liked the adventure story by writer Nnedi Okorafor and artist Michael Kaluta.  Like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, it follows a girl flying across a strange land with varying levels of beastie threats.  A little Avatar and a little Predator, this story has a cool feel and interesting voice.

Writer Steve Orlando provides a cool glimpse at a coming of age story for centaurs in some far away place in “Breeching.”  Artist Francesco Trifogli illustrates a tale reflecting a culture not unlike Mr. Spock’s Vulcan race, struggling with the question “am I a man, or am I a horse?”  Not a lot of resolution but themes of loyalty and conformity are well-played here.

Probably the most controversial of the bunch, “Contact High” covers a love triangle among three astronauts on a space mission, and the inevitable result when idle minds in tight quarters erupt against each other.  A psychological mini-drama, Robert Rodi and Sebastian Fiumara tell their story effectively, with Fiumara’s art and need special effects renderings the better part of the team-up.

Kevin McCarthy and Kyle Baker’s “The Dream Pool” is full of action but the over-wordy story and big-eyed girl art put this at the bottom of the anthology.  There’s probably a good story here but it feels like the creators would have been served by fleshing out the story and art better–it seems a bit rushed.

Sweeping colors, simple concepts and epic level weirdness puts Mike and Laura Allred’s “Alpha Meets Omega” among the best of Mystery in Space.   Amazingly they deal, again in only a few pages, with the most heavy of concepts in a refreshing way, that will leave readers hopeful in the face of loss.

“Verbinksy Doesn’t Appreciate It” and “Alpha Meets Omega” really perfectly bookend the anthology, illustrating some good editing thoughts went into this compilation.

So, back to the first question: Is the art of Ryan Sook good enough to cause you to spend $7.99 for an 80-page comic book? 

The answer is yes, as I hesitated before buying this issue, but Sook’s awesome blending of fantasy and science fiction with this seventeenth century Valkyrie with archaic or steampunk tools painting a star map inside the hull of her spacecraft, pushed me over the edge.  Luckily what resides inside the covers does not disappoint.

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