Archive for September, 2018


Review by C.J. Bunce

Lists, and by extension, books with lists, are the stuff that sprout conversation.  Sometimes good conversation, sometimes knock-down-drag-outs, but always something to talk about.  We saw that last month in our look at Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies that Are Out of This World, and it applies to Scott Christianson and Colin Salter’s new audacious work, 100 Books that Changed the World This book is not merely a list of books, but an argument supporting why the authors think each book merits recognition.  After all, with more than 2 million new books published each year (300,000 per year in the U.S. alone) and documented writings going back thousands of years, whittling them all down to 100 is a bit daunting at a minimum.  Grade schoolers, college liberal arts and sciences majors, and everyone else has probably encountered a list like this before, usually styled the “greatest,” “most influential,” or “most significant” books ever written.  Ultimately, readers may find the compilation of 100 books that “changed the world” results in a very similar set of books.

What would make your list?  You can probably list 20 included without much work.  The authors state in their preface that there are 50 books everyone would agree should be included.  Think religion and myths (the Torah, the Bible, the Quran), math and science (Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Newton’s Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica), philosophy and politics (Plato’s The Republic, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man), works of fiction (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), classic children’s books (Aesop’s Fables, Grimm’s Fairy Tales), works of the often-disputed literary greats (I’m looking at you, James Joyce), and works of long undisputed literary masters like Homer and Shakespeare.  Yes, these are all “givens” for a list like this.  But noteworthy great additions I don’t recall seeing on a list like this before include Louis Braille’s Procedure for Writing Words, Music and Plainsong in Dots, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of TimeAnd no author made the list more than once, except the writers of the Bible, which appears on the list twice: for the Gutenberg Bible and the King James version.

The authors hope their book “makes you question your own choices or ours, or introduces you to a book.”  Criticisms of 100 Books that Changed the World aren’t going to be all that dire as much as simply topics for discussion.  They’re the same critiques of any list or book like this.  Thirty-seven books on the list were written by authors from England, removing the inclusion of any books from some countries.  The list is heavily back loaded, with 26 books from the 19th century and 35 books from the 20th century–explainable in part since the authors didn’t have a lot to select from the first 3,000 years covered.  The oldest book included is the I Ching, roughly 4,800 years old, and the most recent, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein, only four years old.  The late history scholar Robert E. Schofield postulated that historians cannot accurately assess the influence of a historical period unless at least 50 years has transpired, and consistent with that theory, nine books shouldn’t have made the cut, removing books like Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Art Spiegleman’s graphic novel Maus, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It helps to know upfront that Scottish comedian and personality Frankie Boyle always wanted to write comics.  His inspiration wasn’t from the decades of superhero comics, but Alan Moore, whose attitude, as Boyle sees it, was “that comics had sort of run their course.”  A fan of the writing of Ed Brubaker, David Lapham, and Jason Aaron, Boyle embarked on an ambitious project, asking “what sort of comics do you write after comics have been done already?”  The result was first published in serial format in Mark Millar’s short-lived CLiNT magazine, and with two new chapters to wrap up his story a complete, graphic novel-length story arrives next week from Titan Comics, called Frankie Boyle’s Rex Royd.

Ambitious is the key word to describe Rex Royd.  At its worst, Boyle has touched on Alan Moore’s outrageous depravity as seen in his Lost Girls.  At its best, Boyle has created a character that will appeal to fans of the disconnected and dispassionate Dr. Manhattan and the idiosyncratic and self-absorbed Ozymandias in Moore’s acclaimed Watchmen series.  With his protagonist, the Lex Luthor-esque supervillain scientist and CEO Rex Royd, Boyle has created a brash reflection of non-mainstream comics in the pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe era.  His “hero” is like Ian Fleming’s James Bond if you remove all the tropes that make us actually like Bond, all the fun things that keep us coming back for more and not just dismiss the character as a misogynistic, unexpurgated blunt instrument.  Boyle is fully in on this, as his lead female character Eve–as in the biblical partner of Adam–resembles Bond’s confidante Eve Moneypenny in the last two Bond movies.

And yet, Rex Roydthe book–is like a writing experiment.  What do we get if we take out all these good elements and swap in the dark outcomes?  So it sometimes reads like Neil Gaiman writing a 24-Hour Comic (I’ve read that, this is probably better), but then, as in the ninth and final chapter of the book, we’re surprised with a clever sort of play on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with some Harvey Pekar-inspired attempts at making some meaning of it all.  So there’s a lot going on.  If you find linearity and deep meaning in the book, well, the joke may be on you, as the author has said when the artists needed some of his script to be explained, his response was, “It’s supposed to be a joke.”

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Among the best of the free swag at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was scoring a copy of the ashcan* issue that previewed this month’s new Stranger Things comic book series from Dark Horse Comics.  The series will be published in four issues, all beginning this month.  This year’s go-to comic book writer Jody Houser is writer on the series, with artwork by Stefano Martino, Keith Champagne, and Lauren Affe.

Not only is this new story retro in every way like the series, Houser takes us back inside the events of Season One, following Will and his journey through the Upside Down.  Don’t worry–the rest of the kids are part of the story, too.

Look for four covers for the first issue, created by Aleksi Briclot, Kyle Lambert, and Rafael Albuquerque, with a variant series for all four issues with nifty retro-Scholastic book order-style, tattered back-pocket paperback-inspired covers, created by Patrick Satterfield.

  

Now you can download the entire 16-page preview issue from the publisher–free!  Then check out our first look at all the cover artwork for Issues #1, #2, and #3, including covers from artists Greg Ruth, Steve Morris, Matthew Taylor, Grzergorz Domaradzki, and more (including a brilliant M.C. Escher-inspired creation), courtesy of Dark Horse.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Originally released in 2015, Jason Starr’s Ant-Man: Natural Enemy is back in a new paperback edition as part of Titan Books’ new novels of the Marvel Universe.  Separate from the stories in the comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s still tough if you’ve watched the movies to separate Scott Lang from Ant-Man and Ant-Man and The Wasp actor Paul Rudd.  But why would you want to?  Readers or moviegoers new to Ant-Man who missed out on classic Dr. Hank Pym Tales to Astonish in the classic comics or S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Eric O’Grady in Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks’ The Irredeemable Ant-Man will want to put those on their reading list.  But if the movies are what reeled you in to become an Ant-Man fan, get ready for even more fun with Scott Lang in Ant-Man: Natural Enemy.

Scott’s daughter Cassie is living with him in New York, with custody being amicably split with her mother and Scott’s ex-wife Peggy, now living in the Pacific Northwest.  Cassie is a teen now, so along with Scott using online dating to find companionship he also is trying to look out for Cassie as she is looking for her first boyfriend.  As they both try to get along with each other and face uphill battles in their hours apart each day, a piece of Scott’s past creeps in.  When Scott was in jail he made plenty of criminal acquaintances.  Scott ultimately turned state’s evidence on one of the smarter criminals, Willie Dugan, after Scott met Dr. Pym and began to take on the role newly minted good guy and superhero Ant-Man.  Dugan has now escaped from Attica, and the FBI puts Scott, Cassie, and Peggy in protective custody.  Scott refuses the help of Iron Man Tony Stark and the resources of the Avengers, figuring Dugan is a small-time hood that he can handle.  That’s until several of Scott’s old jail acquaintances end up dead, and Cassie seemingly vanishes while under the watchful eye of an FBI agent.

Ant-Man: Natural Enemy is surprisingly real and current.  Both Scott and Cassie struggle with the negatives of current technologies.  Cassie is bullied on the Internet by her peers at school.  Scott can’t seem to meet the right people via dating apps.  Scott is as down-to-Earth as a superhero can be.  Fans of the laid back hero motif in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye comic book series will feel right at home with the similarly put-upon everyman Scott Lang.  And if you liked watching Peter Parker’s day-to-day goings on in the big city in Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover (reviewed here at borg.com), you may also find Starr’s novel to be a good read.  Cassie becomes as interesting an heir to Scott as Scott was to Dr. Pym.

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First announced earlier this year, the Firefly universe is going to expand beyond the television series, the film, and the comics, with a new series of novels expanding the story of the Serenity crew, headed up by creator Joss Whedon.  Three novels are on their way:  Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder, Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove, and Firefly: Generations by Tim Lebbon.  Titan Books has released the first two cover images.  Shiny.  Man walks down the street carrying a book like that, people know he’s not afraid of anything.

The first two original novels of the ‘Verse tying into the critically acclaimed and much-missed Firefly series are now available for pre-order at Amazon.  You can pre-order Big Damn Hero here and Magnificent Nine here, with Amazon’s Pre-Order Price Guarantee.  Firefly: Generations has not yet been listed for ordering just yet.

In Big Damn Hero we’ll see an early Mal and Zoe story: The Battle of Serenity Valley was the turning point that led the Independents to their defeat at the hands of the Alliance.  Yet the Browncoats had held the valley for weeks against all odds, before being ordered to lay down their arms.  Command stated they refused to send in airpower because the ground war was “too hot.”  But the soldiers who were there insist that was not true… While picking up a new cargo on Persephone, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war.  As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago.  As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.

The second novel, Magnificent Nine, hones in on Jayne Cobb: An old flame of Jayne’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help.  She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin.  Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favorite gun, as collateral that Mal realizes he’s serious.  When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up.  A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As we wait for December’s release of the prequel Transformers story Bumblebee coming to life in theaters, the largest and most comprehensive reference guide to the classic toys, comic strips, and comic books of the Transformers franchise is on its way.  Transform and Roll Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Transformers Franchise (1984-1992) takes the deepest dive yet offered into the early days of the favorite toys and comics of a generation.  Meticulously compiled by Ryan Frost, the book will take you back like never before as he dissects each story with summaries and cross-references.  The result is a massive 820-page historical document that Transformers fans will return to again and again.

Divided into large sections on the toys, the comics, and the cartoon series, the book breaks down the toys by their release and characters, and the comics chronologically based on release.  The greatest effort is in the third section, where the author provides production information and describes plot points of the animated series, identifying characters, creators, writers, and voice actors, and he even pulls key quotes from the episodes.  Did you know the popular tie-in novelist and comic book writer Donald F. Glut wrote for the animated series?  The original actor for Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes BackClive Revill–provided voices on the series.  Frost even attempts to locate the early story’s likely location for Mount St. Hillary, Oregon.

Frost recounts how Hasbro tapped then-Marvel Comics staff editor Denny O’Neil to be the next Larry Hama–the renowned writer he took the G.I. Joe toy line from toy to comic book form.  Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter didn’t like O’Neil’s story treatment so staff writer Bud Budiansky stepped in, ultimately naming most of the characters and assigning them their memorable personalities, powers, and abilities.  Budiansky would edit the series, with well-known writers taking on the stories, including Ben Mentlo, Ralph Macchio, and Jim Salicrup.  Other creators would add to the series, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Golden, Herb Trimpe, Mark Texeira, Charles Vess, Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan, and Mike Zeck.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As you’re planning to attend the upcoming return of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park to theaters, a new book released this week is going to take readers of all ages on a tour of the history of real dinosaurs and the history of the study of dinosaurs itself.  A fresh look at the science of paleontology and the resulting knowledge about the life, environment, and structure of the major species of dinosaurs is the subject of Dinosaurs: A Journey to the Lost Kingdom.  Authors Christine Argot and Luc Vivès, researchers at The French National Museum of Natural History in Paris, use the museum’s own paleontology gallery as the starting point to tell how scientists developed the study and reconstruction of dinosaurs since the gallery first opened in 1898.  Everyone has a favorite dinosaur, and whether yours is a stegosaurus, triceratops, diplodocus, allosaurus, iguanodon, brontosaurus, megalosaurus, or tyrannosaurus, you’ll marvel at the spectacular images of their skeletons on display as scientists have updated them consistent with improved knowledge and techniques across the years.

Interlacing the work of paleontologists, geologists, museum curators, and other scientists around the world, and changing views of remarkable fossil discoveries (like placement, stance, and presence of feathers) over nearly 150 years, the authors combine photographs of their collection with images resulting from digs, artists’ interpretations, magazine articles, and museum archives.  From tales of dragons and mythical beasts to speculative works from John Milton’s Paradise Lost to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot, and Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder to Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, ideas of fantasy have informed science and vice versa.  Movements and individuals have changed our outlook into history, via wealthy benefactors, scholars, educators, and artisans.  From lost displays in the Crystal Palace to the artistry of Charles R. Knight, the history of dinosaurs is also the evolution of the thinking of mankind.  The result will fascinate both young and old readers, whether Dinosaurs: A Journey to the Lost Kingdom will be your kid’s first book of dinosaurs or a companion book for a high school or college museum studies course, or simply a resource for you to enjoy.

One story recounts the misidentification of an iguanodon finger bone as a nose bone.  Another story describes the excavation of a pit in Belgium in the 1870s that netted 130 tons of bones.  Preservation and conservation methods are discussed throughout, plus improvements in museum display, like the use of 3D printing to allow an original tyrannosaurus rex from the States to be replicated and put on display at the Paris museum this summer.

Here is a preview of Dinosaurs: A Journey to the Lost Kingdom courtesy of the publisher:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We first previewed the new series back in January here at borg.com.  The Minky Woodcock story The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is as much a showcase of the creator’s various talents as a mash-up of great story concepts.  Cynthia von Buhler is an artist, performer, playwright, and author.  Her fictionalized tale of the last days of Houdini draws a bit from the modern mainstream shock drama (think The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), her unique provocative art style (fans of Stjepan Šejić will love it), her affinity for crime noir, and her own investigation into the death of a relative in the 1930s.  The result is a new, crafty, shrewd, and fiery private detective, the fictional Minky Woodcock, a character who proves she can hold her own against Arthur Conan Doyle, and would make a good lead in an ongoing noir series (in fact a follow-up story is in the works for next year, with Minky investigating the mysterious poisoning death of Ziegfeld Girl Olive Thomas).  The complete The Man Who Handcuffed Houdini is now available in a colorful hardcover edition from Titan Comics and Hard Case Crime.

The life of master magician Harry Houdini intersected with many other celebrities of the day, and a few of them come into play in von Buhler’s story (she both wrote and illustrated the story).  The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini tracks the magician in the 20 days leading up to his death on October 31, 1926.  Incredibly enough the strangest elements of von Buhler’s series are real.  Minky Woodcock is the writer’s creation–the daughter of a private investigator who is hired first by Arthur Conan Doyle to help him discredit Houdini, she is later hired by Houdini’s wife as a magician’s assistant to keep tabs on the magician (a purported philanderer).  The blend of the true and the fabricated is artfully drawn into an impressive tale of 1920s debauchery, fraud, celebrity, and spectacle.

 

The new hardcover compilation edition includes the main cover artwork and variants for the four issues of the series.  Von Buhler balances realism with the surreal.  Her choice of color has the nostalgic flair of Matt Kindt’s DeptH series, her images of real people (like Houdini) are spot-on, and she particularly excels at skintones, which appear almost photo-real in contrast to the book’s comic page designs.

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Halloween is going to be upon us before we know it.  It was only three months ago that we got our first look at the new Halloween movie, and today Universal Pictures released a second trailer.  I had a friend momentarily confuse Sigourney Weaver and Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis today, and I think there is a good reason for that: Curtis has been the Scream Queen for 40 years and this latest trailer seems to indicate this next movie may be what the franchise needs to give Curtis’s character full badass screen hero status.

In case you missed it, take a look here at borg.com at the prior trailers for the run of the Halloween films showing Strode’s appearances.  Strode is one of those heroines audiences love to see return, as proven by her multiple appearances from a variety of writers and directors.  Like Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, Curtis has created and re-created one of genredom’s enduring characters, even if that character is usually running from a crazed killer.  Like fans hope for Hamilton’s return as Connor again next year in a new Terminator movie from James Cameron, in the latest trailer for the new Halloween, Curtis looks tougher and smarter, and more badass than even shown in the first trailer.

In the real world it is public knowledge that Curtis and Weaver are close friends.  Can you imagine walking into a restaurant with these two women having a normal lunch sitting across from you?  You’d either feel very safe or keep looking over your soldier for something bad to happen.

Get ready for Halloween with this great trailer with Curtis’s character–40 years in the making–taking charge:

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Some of the very best genre favorites are heading back to the big screen in September and October, with many screenings celebrating some landmark anniversaries.  All of the films are part of the Fathom Events series (see FathomEvents.com for local listings), bringing classic movies to theaters as a retrospective treat for fans and an opportunity to introduce a new generation to some of Hollywood and Japan’s significant achievements in film.  So if you’re looking for your sci-fi/adventure/suspense fix, it’s on its way, along with one of the best fantasy films of all time, an animated movie milestone, and the film that defined cool in the 1960s.

First in theaters is Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s sci-fi novel of archaeology meeting the future in Jurassic Park Throw all the sequels out the window, this is the only entry in the franchise you need to see.  One of film’s greatest moments was Spielberg’s first full-screen of a modern Earth populated with dinosaurs.  John Williams provided one of his most memorable themes.  And Samuel L. Jackson told us all to hold onto our butts as he shut down the park’s security system.  It’s really been 25 years since we first saw a dinosaur in the rearview mirror.  You’ll have too many reasons to see this one on the big screen again or for the first time, and no reason not to.  It’s showing Sunday, September 16, Tuesday, September 18, and Wednesday, September 19 nationwide.

Then, as part of Studio Ghibli Fest 2018, the enchanting and beloved Hayao Miyazaki anime classic My Neighbor Totoro is back.  Join Satsuki, Mei, Granny, everyone’s friend Totoro, and the fantastic Cat Bus for an imaginative fantasy adventure story.  It’s been called delightful, strange, extraordinary, and magical.  It’s all that and more.  Audiences will have two options for watching Totoro, either the original Japanese version with English subtitles on Monday, October 1, or the American dubbed version featuring the young sister voice actors Dakota and Elle Fanning, Sunday, September 30, or Wednesday, October 3.

Before there was a Fast and the Furious series, before Baby Driver, before Clint was Dirty Harry, before Smokey met the Bandit, or before Max ever got mad, there was Steve McQueen in Bullitt.  You may try but you’re unlikely to conjure up a film that defines cool more than McQueen does as a San Francisco cop trying to protect a witness in a major case.  For 50 years the Oscar-winning car chase (from editor Frank B. Keller) has topped best action scene lists from film critics and everyone else.  Robert Vaughn was hardly better than as the demanding Senator Chalmers.  The music of the great Lalo Schifrin (Mission: Impossible, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mannix, Starsky and Hutch, Planet of the Apes) perfectly encapsulates the era, complete with a jazz flute interlude.  There’s a reason Hollywood kept returning to Schifrin for action movie scores, like Kelly’s Heroes, Enter the Dragon, Brubaker, Charley Varrick, Cool Hand Luke, THX 1138, and the Dirty Harry and Rush Hour movies–the music is that memorable.  We are lucky to have a dozen great Steve McQueen movies to re-visit, and this is one of the best.  Plus you can only look to James Bond movies for an opening credits montage as compelling as you’ll find in Bullitt.

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