Archive for December, 2016


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In the latest ads for CW’s new teen series Riverdale, the live-action series looks even more like an updated Twin Peaks than in the initial teaser trailer.  CW’s television adaptation of the 75-year-old Archie Comics characters and hometown is only weeks away.  More and more we’re thinking the series has the look and feel of the Archie Comics’ recent successful expanded universe in its Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series.  Let’s face it–if the new television series really were to look like the monthly comic book, which has run relatively unchanged for its 75-year span, it would basically be a remake of Happy Days. 

However CW’s Riverdale turns out, our fingers remain crossed that we’ll see the infamous Sabrina drop in as a guest star or that the writers will find a way to incorporate at least a good Halloween episode.  Zombies, anyone?  Another classic franchise family, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, are getting their own update next year when Dynamite Comics releases a new monthly series adaptation with a noir, true crime twist: Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie.  The common theme seems to be bringing back the classics, but trying to spin them in a way to make them appeal to current audiences, which is nothing really new as adaptations go.

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The first full-length trailer and a second teaser for Riverdale were both released this week. Every classic property should get the CW teen soap opera treatment like Riverdale and Smallville and all the great DC Comics series currently running.  The shows may not be entirely loyal to the source materials, but you can bank on some interesting characters and well-told stories ahead.

Check out this first extended trailer for Riverdale:

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In so many ways, Dark Horse Comics’ Dept.H is everything we look for at borg.com.  Science fiction, action, adventure, retro, mystery, noir.  And it’s all in one comic book series.  Writer/artist Matt Kindt has said his series Dept.H was inspired by 1970s G.I. Joes, Fisher Price Adventure People toys, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Jacques Cousteau, and you can feel all of that come through in its first nine issues this year.  From the patch on the underwater crew outfits that evokes the classic 1960s/1970s G.I. Joe Adventure Team patch to the SP-350 diving saucer from the famed Calypso in the craft that takes the series lead to the depths of the ocean floor in the opening pages, to the setting and Department H Headquarters based on the ocean floor that screams H.G. Wells, Dept.H is at the top of this year’s comic book series.

Best known for his run on his Mind MGMT series, Eisner Award nominee Kindt wrote and illustrated the story, with coloring supplied by wife Sharlene.  The series is an Agatha Christie-inspired closed room case.  We meet Mia Hardy, who has been asked to find the mole in the undersea lab, a mole who is believed to have sabotaged the base and murdered her father.  Mia has worked with the suspects before, providing the opportunity for the writer to hold back information and share with us bits and pieces when necessary.  Who killed Mia’s father?  Was it Q, the head of Dept. H security?  Her father’s business partner Roger?  The frenetic head of research Jerome?  Demolition expert Bob?  Her childhood friend turned enemy Lily?  Her own brother Raj?  Or Aaron, the research assistant?  Or was it somehow, someone topside?

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Readers feel the pressure of undersea operations as Mia is plunged into her own peril, as the facility again is sabotaged before she can work her way though all the suspects.  How long can Kindt take us for this suffocating adventure before letting us come up for air?  The page design even features a graduated flood gauge at the pages’ right edges that slowly “fills up” with water issue after issue.

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The fifth season of Grimm was simply fantastic, full of gripping writing and a change-up of character roles in a way we’ve not seen on television.  Who knew a horror series full of fantasy, magic, and monsters could fare so well?  Grimm is still going strong after so many competing shows dropped by the wayside: Constantine, Hannibal, Dracula, and more.  In just two weeks a bittersweet sixth season begins, but based on the fifth season finale we’re thinking this show will barrel through to the final episode like the action-filled freight train of fun we’ve come to love.

Grimm’s completely new universe of storytelling surprised us year after year.  In season five we saw the best action, twists and turns, and flat-out excitement of any series in 2016.  So many factors make this a standout series that will stand the test of time.  It’s not another New York or Los Angeles or even a Vancouver-based series.  It is another “save the city” series like The Flash and Arrow, but it uses the lavishly dark, forest-trimmed Portland, Oregon as its background for an all-out war over the supernatural world.  No matter how the series wraps, there will always be room for a reboot.

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Everything about Grimm has been unique.  Local supporting acting roles were filled with the local theater community, providing a look of realism and familiarity for the show.  The main cast proved their range and revealed that each individual–from David Giuntoli to Claire Coffee to Russell Hornsby, Bitsie Tulloch, Silas Weir Mitchell, Reggie Lee, Bree Turner and Sasha Roiz–will likely go on to even bigger roles in 2017.  CGI and make-up monsters provided us that “monster of the week” series we’ve missed since classic episodes of The X-Files.  But Grimm proved to be even better than that classic series.

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Ridley Scott’s neo-noir, sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner is one of science fiction’s classic films.  Released in 1982 Blade Runner, a loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? revealed a world of life-like borgs called Replicants hiding among us in the year 2019.  That dark future thankfully hasn’t happened yet.  Scott is back, this time as an executive producer, for the surprise sequel Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival).

Top billing this time goes to Ryan Gosling, who wasn’t born yet when the original was in production.  Harrison Ford will return, and the first teaser trailer was released by Sony and Columbia Pictures this week.  Blade Runner was known for its brilliantly realized future city, and the teaser includes no indication of whether it will be set in the giant wonder of technology that was the city where Harrison Ford’s Deckard hunted Replicants and befriended one in Sean Young’s beautiful damsel in distress, Rachael.  Young appeared in last year’s Western Bone Tomahawk.  Will she have a surprise cameo in Blade Runner 2049?

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Other actors expected to appear in the film include Suicide Squad’s Jared Leto, The Princess Bride’s Robin Wright, and Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre’s Dave Bautista.  Here’s the first teaser trailer for Blade Runner 2049:

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During the same years that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was bringing a unique take on the teen horror genre, from 1998 through 2006 the “Charmed Ones” and the “Power of Three” connected TV viewers to a different realm of stories of the supernatural in the WB’s series Charmed.  Before the series Supernatural would take over the genre spot for the next decade, the three Halliwell sisters, Prue (Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs) and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) provided a similar weekly fix of the paranormal, the mythic, the magical, and the Wiccan.  Following the death of Prue in the finale of Season 3, their long-lost half sister Paige Matthews (Rose McGowan) assumed Prue’s role within the “Power of Three” and a new comic book series will continue the story of these three sisters from the show.

The second longest running hour-long television series featuring all female leads, Charmed aired 178 episodes over eight seasons.  The next episodes will take the form of a Charmed, monthly comic featuring writer Erica Schultz (Swords of Sorrow: Masquerade & Kato, Swords of Sorrow: Black Sparrow & Lady Zorro, Revenge) and artist Maria Sanapo (Grimm, DC Comics Bombshells).  Zenescope previously published a Season 9 and Season 10 comic book series and 43 tie-in novels further expanded the series into 2008.  In 2015 a reboot novel series beginning with the Paul Ruditis book The War on Witches was set between the two comic book seasons.

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Publisher Dynamite Comics describes the first story of the new series: A dark force has set its sights on the art world of San Francisco and the only ones who can stop it are Phoebe, Paige, and Piper!  Continue reading

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There’s an app even for that.

In the past few years the Marvel Comics line-up of secondary superheroes really kicked into gear in the publisher’s solo titles.  We’ve previously raved here at borg.com about Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye and Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow.  Another popular secondary Marvel superhero is the current Ant-Man, Scott Lang.  In comicbookdom there’s probably no superhero more put-upon than Lang’s Ant-Man.  His crazy backstory, the origin of his powers, and his inability to catch a break makes him instantly appealing, so much so that he’s the one that got his own Marvel Cinematic Universe movie last year.

Actor Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man was one of the highlights of this year’s Captain America: Civil War, and that same Ant-Man has headlined his own series this year with Marvel’s monthly The Astonishing Ant-Man.  And the entire year has been about Lang trying to explain to the reader how he ended up in prison.  Again.  Series writer Nick Spencer provided this year’s best humor in his choice of situations he dropped Lang into, his choice of team-ups and sidekicks, and loads and loads of superhero inner-monologuing and witty banter.

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Whether it’s a single issue team-up with Captain America aka Sam Wilson or Ms. Thing aka Darla Deering, The Astonishing Ant-Man has been a fun read in a year full of drama-focused fiction and non-fiction.  Spencer plants Lang in today’s world with not a lot of situations that are grave in the way other comic book series are grave–Lang is plagued with plenty of First World Problems (although saving Miami from a Giganto is probably important to the locals).  But every month in different ways The Astonishing Ant-Man is full of the comic book fun you liked as a kid.  Artist Ramon Rosanas consistently created a visual treat full of Ant-Man doing everything we love–the little guy that saves the day, whether or not he gets recognized for it.  Then there are those personal issues–struggling between his ex-wife Peggy, his ex-girlfriend Darla, his ex-whatever Janice aka Beetle, and She-Hulk even makes an appearance.  Above all else is his efforts to stay a hero in the eyes of Cassie, his daughter-turned-criminal via the amazing new “Hench” app.

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Topps’ new series of trading cards for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story scream out “These are the cards you’re looking for” with an array of insert “chaser” cards that trading card collectors and general fans of the series will want to check out.  The term “sketch” cards almost trivializes the variety of forms of media used to create these one-of-a-kind cards.  These aren’t prints or copies of the cards–they are the one-and-only originals the artist created.  Collecting a set is nearly impossible, and if collectors don’t plan to buy boxes and boxes of cards to only get a small number of the cards (if they’re lucky) then the last resort is eBay, where cards can fetch hundreds of dollars or more for a single card.

This weekend Topps releases its new trading card set – Topps Rogue One Series 1 trading cards.  This set features 90 base cards of characters and scenes from the film plus 6 insert sets to collect plus the second set of five Darth Vader continuity cards (the first 5 cards were available in Topps Rogue One: Mission Briefing).  Topps Rogue One also includes autographs, medallion cards, and printing plates, in addition to the possibility of nabbing a sketch card.  Inserts include character stickers, montages, “character icon” cards, propaganda poster cards, vehicle blueprints, and a set each of hero and villain cards.

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Autograph cards include signatures from Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Genevieve O’Reilly (Mon Mothma), Paul Kasey (Edrio Two Tubes and Admiral Raddus) and Nick Kellington (Bistan).

You can purchase a box set of card packs here now at Amazon.com.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finally answers the question of what kind of movie you would get if Hollywood would only, finally, let a diehard fan direct a major franchise film.  For all the great cast of actors and heroic characters in this unique tie-in film that falls outside the episodic trilogies, the real hero turns out to be director Gareth Edwards.  Edwards does so many things right with Rogue One you’ll lose count, and the best of this is surprise after surprise of what is at the next turn.  And if you watched all the trailers that seemed to reveal all too much, surprise again, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  This is, without exception, the most fun movie in the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back, despite its equally dark tone, and it has all the action of the original Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans immediately jumped at the chance of finding its place in the list of the best and worst of the prior six films.  Is Rogue One better than The Force Awakens?  In many ways, yes.  In other ways, such as the use of too many jumps between geographic road marker titles along the way and tightness of story plotting, Rogue One is probably a bit behind.  What fans really want to do is compare Rogue One to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.  So how does it compare?  It really is too soon to tell.  The hype and excitement of any new blockbuster in a franchise you love makes you want to heap on the high praise.  Is The Force Awakens as good as we thought a year ago?  Fans will never agree.  But the fact Rogue One is worthy of the comparison to Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back should be praise enough.

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The best thing about Rogue One is CGI and motion capture technology improvements.  The best kept film secret in several years should be kept for all to experience, and later we can all chat about it once everyone has had a chance to see the film.  Prepare to be impressed.  Technology is finally catching up with Connie Willis’s future Hollywood novel Remake.  Rogue One also has great writing–an issue that haunted the prequels.  The dialogue is smarter than probably all the past episodes.  The space battles aren’t superfluous like in Return of the Jedi and all of the prequels.  Every step in the film is in furtherance of the goal–find the plans to destroy the Death Star.  This is not a mere MacGuffin, this mission has gravity for everyone.  Delivered like an epic World War II era film, Rogue One is the best war movie of the franchise.

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The National Film Registry has grown to include 700 films this year with the addition this week of 25 films.  In accordance with the National Film Preservation Act, a film is eligible to be preserved under the registry if it is at least a decade old and recognized in the National Film Preservation Board’s view as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The Librarian of Congress makes the final determination, considering public nominations in the analysis.

The new list includes Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, possibly the most beloved of all live-action fantasy films.  The Howard Hawks/Billy Wilder classic, Snow White-inspired comedy Ball of Fire, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper also made the cut.  Robert Zemeckis’s live action/animated caper Who Framed Roger Rabbit is on this list, along with the John Hughes coming of age film The Breakfast Club. 

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Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds increases the famous director’s horror film count on the preservation list along with the likes of Rear Window, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho.  And Elia Kazan’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s coming of age story East of Eden, starring James Dean, joins the list.  Now all three of the films Dean is known for are on the list, adding to prior registry films Rebel Without a Cause and Giant.

Below is the full list of films named to the registry for 2016:

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Above all else, James Luceno’s new novel, Star Wars: Catalyst, A Rogue One Novel, is a sequel to Luceno’s well-crafted novel Tarkin (previously reviewed here at borg.com), another account of the Empire as it grew from the ashes left behind by the Clone Wars.  Surprisingly, Governor Tarkin is a major player in this novel, a prequel to this week’s worldwide theatrical release, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  As in Tarkin, Luceno adds another chapter in the detailed political and economic sphere of how various races are able to harness the energy necessary to power not only Star Destroyers, but this newly conceived idea of a planetoid battle station that becomes the first Death Star.

The corporate nature of the Empire, the scientists and power source behind the creation of the first of what would be three Death Stars in the Star Wars universe is laid out here, perhaps in more detail than the average fan would require.  Key to preparing for the movie, we meet four players of note.  Galen and Lyra Erso are scientists attempting to study and work on energy research outside the world of the military, but their refusal to choose sides lands them in prison and leaves them as pawns to be manipulated by rising officials in competing sects.  Galen’s longtime friend Orson Krennic is an opportunist and master manipulator, often at odds with Tarkin.  Rarely seen in Catalyst, but important because of her legacy as part of the Erso family, is young Jyn, a girl who will grow up to be the leading player in Rogue One.

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Orson Krennic and Galen Erso from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Catalyst serves as a useful bridge between two trilogies: Episodes I-III and Episodes IV-VI.  You’ll find numerous references to characters from the prequels like Emperor Palpatine, Mas Amedda, and Count Dooku.  Geonosis, the planet that factored into the Jedi battle in Attack of the Clones, also plays a key role in Catalyst.  And a secondary story about a smuggler named Has Obitt ushers in a new character called Saw Gerrera, a warrior who will be played by Forest Whitaker in the new film.

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