Category: Sci-Fi Café


Review by C.J. Bunce

Alita: Battle Angela could be just another space-age story.  It’s full of cyborgs (we love’ em), but it’s not standard fare for frequent sci-fi movie buffs and sci-fi readers.  Without the “distraction” of Robert Rodriguez’s special effects, you can really get to the heart of the movie’s story by going to the underlying source work it adapts, or in this case, its novelization, Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization, by author Pat Cadigan, who also wrote last year’s Harley Quinn–Mad Love, reviewed here at borg.  The film is an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel: Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a story about self-discovery and empowerment via a centuries-old human brain that finds its way into the cybernetic body of what looks like a teen girl.  The film changes enough from the manga, incorporating several new characters and conflicts, that the novelization and film stand apart from Kishiro’s manga.  So how does the new story fare?

Above all, the biggest surprise is that Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization is in every way a young adult novel, based on its protagonist, story structure, and the author’s writing style.  In fact the film may have missed a niche audience–as the studio targeted adult sci-fi buffs instead of fans of stories like the Divergent series, Twilight, The Maze Runner series, City of Ember, and Ender‘s GameEven more on-point, Alita: Battle Angel follows the same emotional highs and lows of The Hunger Games.  Both The Hunger Games and Alita: Battle Angel are teen heroine updates to both Rollerball (1975) and The Running Man (1987), but like some of the best science fiction they are also remakes of the oldest of them all, Frankenstein, and its descendant PinocchioBlend these four popular stories together and you can understand why James Cameron prepared 600 pages of development material for the Alita project he would ultimately produce into the film.

Pat Cadigan′s storytelling is a mirror of the writing style and pacing of The Hunger Games’ novel writer, Suzanne Collins.  In a significant way, Alita: Battle Angel is a teen romance, a romance between Alita–an amnesiac cyborg who is primarily robotic but has a human brain–and her newfound human boyfriend Hugo.  Hugo is a street kid who helps her learn who she wants to be and how to survive on the streets of a futuristic Earth where everyone who isn’t a cyborg is mugging cyborgs to steal their parts and swap them for cash.  As with Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, Alita and Hugo fall in love as they help each other and work together when faced with an onslaught of ever-increasing impediments to their survival.  And yes, this is another superheroine with a problem like the heroine in the new Captain Marvel movie.

Continue reading

   

Review by C.J. Bunce

In advance of a two-part set of movies starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem targeted to come to theaters in 2021 from director Denis Villeneuve, a new three-book graphic novel series is heading your way next month from Abrams Books.  The first part, Frank Herbert’s Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book One is available for pre-order here at Amazon.    

So how faithful is the graphic novel to Herbert’s original novel?

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s the nature of the new Star Wars brand to bounce back and forth in the galaxy stories–a lot.  Where the idea of looking back in 2021 to Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not sound like an obvious choice, once you realize the context, the characters, and the setting, anyone can get onboard the new two-part Star Wars Adventures tale Smuggler’s RunIf you don’t know Star Wars Adventures, it’s the cartoonier side of Star Wars in the pages of Marvel Comics, targeted at kids.  So you can always rely on some good fun in an issue of the series.  This tale spins out of the monthly series with a story about Han Solo and Chewie after the destruction of the first Death Star, and their plan to spend their reward money.

Continue reading

Free comics comixology

While you are sitting at your computer at home pretending to be paying attention to conference calls, you need something to do for your sanity, right?  How about comics?  The best thing you can do is order from the hundreds of graphic novels at your local comic book store.  Many will be willing to send you overnight or within a few days anything you’re after, especially if you’re behind on the latest and greatest comics have to offer.  Your own comic book shop stands ready to take your order now.  And local shops may be able to get you comics often quicker than online retailers right now.

With most single issues of new titles on delay for now, you can still get your single-issue comic fix via free comics at the Digital Comic Museum, which hosts hundreds of full Golden Age public domain comics, including many featuring superheroes (like the original Captain Marvel, Bulletman, Captain Midnight, and Spy Smasher, plus Westerns (like Gene Autry and Tom Mix), war comics, sports comics (like Jackie Robinson), jungle comics, sci-fi comics (like Captain Video), romance comics, and crime series.  Comixology also has hundreds of comics you, your kids, or your cat can read right now for free.  It’s a great way to get wind of a great story you may have missed or never considered, which you can then order in its complete series from local or online stores  Note: Comixology also has an unlimited program (currently priced at $5.99 per month) with more than 25,000 digital comics, graphic novels, and manga from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and more.  Those carry the white “Unlimited” ribbon in the bottom right corner of the comic cover icon.

The current list of totally free comics on the Comixology website (just set up a free account), is easy to use, and updates regularly with new titles.   We’ve identified many we’ve recommended before at borg for you to check out (click the Comics & Books tab above anytime to find nearly a decade of recommendations).  These include: Usagi Yojimbo, Stranger Things, Hellboy, Predator/Aliens: Fire and Stone, Centipede, Xena: Warrior Princess, Charlie’s Angels vs. The Bionic Woman, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and Star Trek: The Next Generation–Mirror Broken Thinking about watching TV or movie tie-ins?  Check out the free issues from the original comics at Comixology for The Umbrella Academy, I, Frankenstein, and Captain Marvel.  You can even read the first Batman appearance ever in Detective Comics, Issue #27, or see early Superman in Superman, Issue #1, and the original issue from the 1970s of Swamp Thing, Issue #1.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

You still have a month before visual effects artist-turned director Dave Wilson’s Bloodshot movie arrives as the next cyborg superhero from Valiant Comics to hit the big screen.  But if you want to get a jump on your friends, there’s Bloodshot: The Official Movie Novelization, just released from Titan Books, a  great read for fans of all things borg.  Readers will be pulled inside the story of Ray Garrison, a slain special ops Marine, who is resurrected thanks to Dr. Emil Harting, a (mad?) scientist who is perfecting his use of nanotechnology and cybernetics to create an unstoppable squad of super-soldiers.  Written by Gavin Smith and based on the Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer screenplay, Bloodshot creates the next step in the evolution of cybernetic technology stories that began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, mixing the rage of The Punisher with the impact on the human psyche and dehumanization of turning from man to cyborg, as we’ve seen in stories like RoboCop (who was inspired by Judge Dredd and Marvel’s Rom).

As for the comics in film, Bloodshot is poised to stack up neatly beside the lab-created Hulk, the merger of body and “something else” of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, the mission and science of Captain America, Wolverine, and Deadpool, the determination of Cable, and it’s a fitting follow-up to the half-man/half-monster movie, Venom.  That’s a lot of Marvel characters with similar struggles, and there are certainly more, characters with the same vintage of origin story–an unlikely or involuntary super-soldier–so how do you spin this key comics trope in a fresh, new way?  As Smith, Wadlow, and Heisserer have done it, you go back to the human condition, and look to what has come before.  Bloodshot isn’t from Marvel, but indie publisher Valiant, but it’s sourced in a common creative mindset.

Bloodshot reads much like Martin Caidin’s original story of the first modern cyborg in his novel Cyborg, about Steve Austin, the Bionic Man–the Six Million Dollar Man–a military hero brought to death’s door and back via science.  In many ways Bloodshot–the program that pulls in the story’s hero and becomes the name of his new persona–is an update to Cyborg–what you could imagine the Bionic Man reboot with Mark Wahlberg to be like.  And it pulls in good mind-twisting sci-fi elements evoking Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and Duncan Jones’ Source Code.

Continue reading

Feeling the heat?  A new San Diego Comic-Con trailer for Snowpiercer might help.  First a series of graphic novels we discussed five years ago here at borg, then a movie starring Chris Evans (reviewed here and discussed here), the futuristic, post-apocalypse universe of Snowpiercer is now making its way to your television set.  For the 2013 movie, the casting of big names, Marvel superhero Chris Evans, Academy Award-winning actor Tilda Swinton, and multiple Oscar-nominated actors John Hurt and Ed Harris, reflected the critical and popular appeal of the comic version of the story more than the resulting B-movie that ended up on the screen.  Now it’s up to Academy Award-winning actor Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Alita: Battle Angel, The Princess Bride) carry the baton.

Originally published in French in 1982 as Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob with art by Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer, Volume 1: The Escape is available in an English translation by Virginie Selavy with follow-on English translations of Volume 2: The Explorers by Benjamin LeGrand and Volume 3: Terminus by Olivier Bocquet also available, and a prequel Extinction by Matz, on the way.  For the new TBS television series (available on Netflix elsewhere), stage actor Daveed Diggs joins Jennifer Connelly with several new faces and background actors.  And it’s already been renewed for a second season.

Repressive like the world of George Lucas’s THX-1138 and Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, thematically political like the similarly wintry Dr. Zhivago, and drawn with the stark, black and white look of Aha’s Take On Me music video from the 1980s, Snowpiercer is a bleak, but ambitious, series of graphic novel about many things.  The back of the train like the back of the bus in the 1960s, or the lower sections of the ship on the Titanic, you can analogize the social strata of the train to many things. But neither the rumored horrors at the “tail” of the train, nor the “golden carriages” of the first class at the front of the train are what they appear to be.  At one level Snowpiercer is a strange, existential retelling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.  As with the movie, the trailer for the series shows something different from the graphic novel that inspired it, but maybe an alternate story of the train a la Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.

Here’s the trailer for TBS’s new series, Snowpiercer:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

A little bit Robocop, a little bit Bionic Man, a little bit of every Marvel solo character origin story, and very Vin Diesel, the movie adaptation of the 1990s Valiant Comics Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated sci-fi/superhero Bloodshot was the first movie industry collateral damage from the pandemic because it arrived March 13 in theaters, the same weekend the U.S. federal government began responding and theaters began to modify their rules and ultimately close.   Which also made it the first for a studio to release at theatrical prices via the new “theater-at-home” option from Vudu and Amazon Prime.  The good news is it’s well worth full ticket prices, and would have been even better on the big screen.  It has all of the right beats we’ve seen in the past decade in the better movies adapting comics beyond the traditional superheroes of DC Comics and Marvel.  It also introduces fans of all things borg to the next squad of cyborg warriors worthy of sequels.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Delayed a bit due to the pandemic, a Star Wars tie-in comic book series proved this summer to be the best so far since Marvel Comics pulled the comics license back from Dark Horse.   Star Wars: Bounty Hunters completed its first story arc and will be coming next month to comic shops in a collected edition, available via pre-order now here at Amazon.  Compiling the first five issues of a new series in the vein of The Mandalorian, it establishes itself with a new anti-hero from the past and familiar faces fans of the original trilogy love.  It all begins by asking why all those bounty hunters appeared together on Darth Vader’s ship Executor in that brief scene in The Empire Strikes Back.

Continue reading

Our borg Best of 2019 list continues today with the Best Books of 2019.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2019 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2019 here, the Best in Television 2019 here, and the Best Comics of 2019 here.

We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t print reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year:

Best Read, Best Fantasy Read, Best New Edition of Previous Published Work, Best Translated Work – A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes 1 by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood (St. Martin’s Press).  The first book in one of the most read books of all time finally makes its way to the U.S. after its premiere in Great Britain.  Readers will learn why George Lucas pulled its concepts for his Skywalker saga, and why generations of Chinese fans of fantasy of flocked to its heroes and villains.  Honorable mention for Best Fantasy Read: A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery by Curtis Craddock (Tor Books), The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz (Algonquin Young Readers).

Best New Novel, Best Horror Novel, Best Historical Novel, Best Mystery Novel – The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).  A truly literary work combining a smart Holmesian adventure and the dark mind of H.P. Lovecraft.  Readers will love Lovegrove’s approach, Holmes and Watson’s journey, and all the creepy surprises.

Best Sci-Fi Novel, Best Thriller – The Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson (HarperCollins).  Wilson successfully conjured the spirit of Michael Crichton for this smart, creepy, and oddly current sci-fi sequel to The Andromeda Strain.  A cast of characters just like Crichton would have put together, and a must-read.

Best Franchise Tie-In Novel – Firefly: Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).  One of the best authors around crafts a worthy story to expand the Firefly canon and give fans their own new movie of sorts for the franchise.  Runner-up: Alien: Prototype by Tim Waggoner (Titan Books).  Honorable Mention: Death of the Planet of the Apes by Andrew E.C. Gaska (Titan Books).

Best Retro Read – Mike Hammer: Murder, My Love, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Titan Books).  Collins continues to bring Spillane’s characters to life with thrilling prose and all the best pieces of noir drama and action.  Honorable mention: Brothers Keepers by Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime).

Best Genre Non-Fiction – Industrial Light & Magic Presents: Making of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Rob Bredow (Harry N. Abrams).  Bredow’s unique access to the production made for a rare opportunity in any production to see details of the filmmaking process.  Every movie should have such a great deep dive behind the scenes.  Honorable mention: The Making of Alien by J.W. Rinzler (Titan Books).

There’s much more of our selections for 2019’s Best in Print to go…

Continue reading

Our borg Best of 2019 list continues today with the Best in Comics.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2019 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2019 here, and the Best in Television 2019 here.

We reviewed comics from every major publisher this year, and were pleasantly surprised with all the new characters and content available.  You’ll find both some new creators on the list this year and some fan favorites who keep making better comic books each new year.

Here are the best comic books for 2019:

 

Best Limited Comic Series (tie) – Sara by Garth Ennis and Steve Epting (TKO Studios) and Goodnight Paradise by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli (TKO Studios).  The new publisher TKO Studios began with a bang with these two incredible stories.  Sara is what every fan of war comics hopes for, and Goodnight Paradise brings the realities of life in the 21st century to the comics page in a story that will stay with readers a long time.

Best Ongoing Comic Book SeriesGhost Tree by Bobby Curnow and Simon Gane (IDW Publishing). Haunting, mythic, and sweeping, this story of a man reflecting on his past and coming to terms with the present combines with Asian legend tropes to form an emotional and curiously funny tale. Sure to leave readers begging for more.

 

Best Sci-Fi Comic Series, Best Comic Book WritingAscender by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen (Image Comics).  Lemire owned this category with two fabulous science fiction tales, both with strong female lead characters. Runner-up: Sentient by Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Walta (TKO Studios).

Continue reading