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Archive for May, 2017


Fans of the television series 24 and Mr. ROBOT should check out a new series from Image Comics/Top Cow now available at newsstands: Samaritan: Veritas.  Written by Matt Hawkins with artwork by Atilio Rojo, readers are taken into a modern world of high-tech hacking and espionage.  A woman with a vendetta is about to get revenge by taking down the top tiers of government and the most successful company in the world.  Think Absolute Power (Clint Eastwood’s 1997 film about scandal in Washington) meets Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger and you’ll have a taste of the action and excitement of this new series.

Samaritan: Veritas is a good jumping-on point for Hawkins’ Edenverse series, requiring no prior knowledge of the prior books to get onboard.  As with Hawkins’ earlier works, Samantha Copeland is the protagonist, this time dead set to take down the man who killed her lover.  Hawkins pulls together characters with unclear agendas, taking readers through a shadow world of the “dark web” and underground networks as Copeland formulates her strategy.

Copeland is a tough female lead in the latest twist on a Robin Hood story, much like season one of Mr. ROBOT.  You’ll find some edgy tension and thrilling situations, thanks in part to some great environments and sequences by artist Atilio Rojo, who also supplied his own color work.

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We got a taste of the rampaging Darth Vader we always wanted to see in the finale of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  In all of the movies Darth Vader seemed to be more shadow and talk than the wrath and ferocity his enemies feared in the films and stories.  So when do we get to see Darth Vader at his peak?  Marvel Comics writer Charles Soule (Poe Dameron, Astonishing X-Men) and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli (Amazing Spider-man) will give us the first look at that side of Darth Vader this month in the newest series titled Darth Vader.

Darth Vader takes place immediately after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  So this is the Vader new to his cybernetic form, new to the armor, the breathing apparatus, and he’s alone–his wife and to his knowledge an unborn child is dead.  His only “friend” is the Emperor himself.  Vader’s first steps in the Dark Side as a Sith Lord, the acquisition of his red light saber, and his rise to power into the Imperial command structure are all ahead for readers of the series.  Check out a preview of Issue #1 below, after the break.

   

The first issue will feature several covers.  The main cover is by Jim Cheung.  Other covers will be provided by artists Adi Granov, Skottie Young, Phil Noto, an action figure variant by John Tyler Christopher, a blank sketch cover, a movie film cover, and an incredible homage to Dave Cockrum’s cover to Uncanny X-Men, Issue #145, by Mark Brooks–one of this year’s candidates for best comic book cover art.

Here’s Cockrum’s original cover and the pre-color, and pre-weathered version of the image by Brooks:

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For months Nathan Fillion was listed a cast member in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, via several sources across the Internet, along with Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone.  But if you saw the film, you learned that Fillion never had an appearance.  So what’s the story?  It turns out director James Gunn had planned for his friend Fillion to make an appearance in the movie, but the character ultimately was nixed.  So who was Fillion going to appear as in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  None other than B-level superhero Wonder Man aka Simon Williams.  Williams was not going to be an actual character appearing in the show, but a background scene was going to feature Fillion as Williams in a marquee screening of films starring Williams as B-movie actor.  So Gunn mocked up several movie posters for the scene, featuring Fillion’s familiar face.

According to Gunn,  “I decided to put a theater playing a “Simon Williams Film Festival,” with six Simon Williams movie posters outside.  Obviously, from the posters, he’s had a run of B movies.  Most of them in themselves are Easter eggs of some sort or another.  Unfortunately, the small section of the scene where they appeared slowed down the movie and I had to cut the Easter eggs from the film (along with storefronts named after comic book luminaries Starlin, Mantlos, Annett and others).  Equally a bummer was that a lot of people took photos of these posters on the day so suddenly every fan site was reporting that Nathan was playing Wonder Man in the movie.  He was even the third-billed actor on IMDB!  So that’s the full story.  Nathan’s only cameo in the movie ever were these posters.”

   

Don’t know Simon Williams?  He first appeared in 1964 in Marvel’s The Avengers, Issue #9.  And he died in the same issue.  But, as we know from comic books, dead isn’t always really dead, so he came back later.  Williams was created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby.  Williams is more familiar to many as a member of West Coast Avengers and Uncanny Avengers.  Despite his cut from Guardians 2, Gunn has said Williams may still be included in future films.

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While we’re sitting around waiting for the latest Firefly Cargo Crate, we noticed a new set of high-end but reasonably priced playing cards was sporting some of the best artwork we’ve seen on a classic card deck.  It turns out the official Firefly licensed collectible company Quantum Mechanix (QmX) has teamed up with graphic artist Ben Mund to create an exceptional new release.

Mund is known for his work on Serenity blueprints and the Serenity Atlas of the ‘Verse.  With his new deck of playing cards he has created imagery inspired from the series and film, including Jayne’s rifle Vera on the Jack of Clubs, the Serenity on the Ace of Spades, and Inara adorning the Queen of Diamonds.

Note that this isn’t the game of Tall Card, the card game with round cards played in the episode “Shindig.”  But if that’s what you’re after you can pick that up here at Amazon.  This is a traditional 54-card poker deck, good for “Earth-That-Was” card games.  These are Bicycle’s quality playing cards, the real deal from the United States Playing Card Company.  And you’ll want to keep an eye out for Easter eggs from the series throughout the deck courtesy of Ben Mund.

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Three hundred channels and nothing on television to watch this weekend?  Before John Wesley Shipp played Barry Allen on the original series The Flash, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno starred in the best superhero television series since The Six Million Dollar Man in The Incredible Hulk.  For five seasons, from 1977 to 1982, The Incredible Hulk broke new ground on television, an early step in the history of superheroes coming to life on the screen.  This weekend Robert Rodriquez’s El Rey Network is hosting a marathon of the entire series run.

Originally airing Friday nights on CBS 40 years ago, The Incredible Hulk would be nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, winning one for Mariette Hartley’s performance as Dr. David Bruce Banner’s wife.  Years before Scott Bakula’s Sam Beckett would wander the map attempting to help people in need on Quantum Leap, David Banner was doing similar good deeds, hitchhiking across the country, a lone scientist trying to find a way “to control the raging spirit that dwells within him,” caused by exposure to gamma radiation thanks to the mind of writer Stan Lee and pen of Jack Kirby.

Look for plenty of early performances by actors that would later appear in well-known genre roles, like Simon & Simon’s Gerald McRaney, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Diana Muldaur and Mark Lenard, Deep Space Nine’s Marc Alaimo, Robert O’Reilly, Andrew Robinson, and Rosalind Chao, Lassie and Battlestar Galactica’s Anne Lockhart, Ghostbusters’ Ernie Hudson, Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Julie Adams, Castle’s Susan Sullivan, and WKRP in Cincinnati’s Loni Anderson and Gordon Jump.

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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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