Category: Comics & Books


The wedding of Batman and Catwoman is shaping up in the issues of DC Comics’s Batman bi-weekly series, with the date set at Issue #50, greeting comic book readers next month.  Writer Tom King continues his ongoing Bat-tale with an abundance of interior and variant cover artists, including Mikel Janin, Joëlle Jones, Jim Lee, Frank Cho, Alex Ross, Mike Mayhew, Tim Sale, Neal Adams, Lee Bermejo, Joshua Middleton, Dawn McTeague, Frank Miller, Jock, Andy Kubert, Ant Lucia, Eric Basaldua, Natali Sanders, Greg Capullo, Joe Jusko, Olivier Coipel, Scott Williams, Warren Louw, Tyler Kirkham, Rafael Albuquerque, Tony S. Daniel, J. Scott Campbell, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, David Mack, Lee Weeks, Mark Brooks, Dave Johnson, Clay Mann, Greg Horn, Francesco Mattina, David Finch, Paul Pope, Joe Madeurera, Mitch Gerads, Alé Garza, Becky Cloonan, Jae Lee, Francesco Mattina, Ty Templeton, Joseph Michael Linsner, Nick Derington, Jason Fabok, Arthur Adams, Jim Balent, Lucio Parillo, Amanda Conner, and Michael Turner.  The standard cover will feature the work of Mikel Janin.  So how is this going to go down?  Anyone else remember the wedding storyline for Green Arrow and Black Canary?  It seems plenty of villains will be around if the variant covers are any indication.

We think we found nearly all the base images for the variant covers (below).  Let us know if you see one when missed and we’ll update the images below.  We did not include every logo or no-logo version, or black and white or similar variants.

A quick heads-up for Frank Cho fans.  He is selling the above interlocking triptych variant cover series, and if you want these beauties, you’ll want to order them soon.  The image features the main characters of the Batman Universe: Catwoman, Nightwing, Batman, Robin, and Batgirl.  (Cho’s covers will be available at a discount off his release price with a code you can get by signing up for his newsletter here), and Joe Madureira has a similar offer for his covers here.  Even more artists are posting pre-order options for their own variants almost daily.

   

Did we mention variant covers?  If you haven’t been following Batman, the cover art of Batman and Catwoman over the past few months has been something fans of the characters dream of.  With black and white and other versions available, expect at least 30 variant covers for Issue #50.  Many of these options from contributing artists, like Frank Cho, will be found at exclusive sellers, including Kirkham (Hastings), Fabok (Yesteryear), Mattina (7-Ate-9), Jimenez (ZMX), Jae Lee (DF), Sanders (Comic Market Street), Jusko (Midtown), McTeigue (Yancy Street), and Adams (Legacy), and creator exclusive variants only at San Diego Comic-Con or webstores include Alex Ross, Mark Brooks, Greg Horn, Joe Madureira, J. Scott Campbell.  With the release of Batman Issue #50 on July 4 comes Catwoman, Issue #1.  In a rarity for comics, take a look (above, right) at what Catwoman is holding in this cover by Joëlle Jones… Janin’s cover to Batman 50.

Alex Ross Batman 50

And even more have been announced, like three Alex Ross exclusives, available for pre-order for San Diego Comic-Con at his website here.  Greg Horn has three covers available only at his website here.  Mark Brooks has eight variants available here.  J. Scott Campbell has five variants available here.  Jock has three covers here.  Aspen has pulled some art from the late Michael Turner for variants, too.  See even more below.

Here are many of the 50+ cover images and some variations on those variants for Issue #50 previewed so far:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What do a submarine, a space shuttle, dinosaurs, sea creatures from 20,000 leagues, flying saucers, and a female Tarzan have in common?  They’re all part of Frank Cho’s Jungle Girl.

Frank Cho is one of our favorite artists and he’s also a great guy, always eager to chat at the next comic convention.  He’s a double threat–his artwork is second to none, but many don’t know how humorous his writing can be, as illustrated in his University² series of comic strips and his Liberty Meadows series.  He’s also a great all-around writer, and so it’s no surprise that he combined his trademark jungle women art with his love of dinosaurs and spun them into a series that he plotted and handed over to other writers and artists to execute.  That 15-issue comic book series coming your way this month in the Jungle Girl Complete Omnibus, a giant 392-page trade paperback edition from Dynamite Entertainment.  With stunning visuals and a female Tarzan named Jana born into Earth’s distant past, the only things that would make the book even better would be if Cho wrote and illustrated more than the cover art for it.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

An overlooked 2018 sci-fi adventure mini-series is making its way to a trade collected edition tomorrow.  The six-issue story arc in Image Comics/Skybound’s Stellar is a mix of good sci-fi concepts and action-adventure imagery.  You’ll find big-eyed aliens similar in design to the villainous hunter Zando-Zans of The Last Starfighter, a rundown future world bent on destruction like in Firefly, fast-paced action and characters like that of Syfy’s Killjoys, and a lead heroine called Stellar who is stuck out of time, with a past and future hidden from her, evoking recent years’ Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel stories.

Writer Joseph Keatinge (PopGun, Shutter) takes on a surprisingly complex idea created by Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and Marc Silvestri (Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine) and delivers the kind of story that belongs in the graphic novel format.  Stellar moves from place to place, from time to time.  She pursues the evil Zenith, an alien monster she believes to be the cause of destruction in her future.  Or is he pursuing her?  She’s moving through time, encountering those who may be able to help her unravel the twisted time loop she seems to be stuck inside.

The pretty, futuristic stylings and color choices by artist Bret Blevins result in a standout read visually.  And Keatinge pulls elements in from all kinds of sci-fi stories to create uncertainty and doubt.  Readers will ask “what’s going on here?” more than once, with an ending that is both satisfying and interesting.  It’s not the kind of tale that needs a sequel, the complete story is right there.

Here are some preview pages of Stellar, courtesy of Image/Skyborne:

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It’s not the suit that makes the man.

Marvel Studios released a new, longer trailer this week for Spider-man: Homecoming, including the introduction of Michael Keaton as the villain, Vulture.  Despite five prior big budget Spider-man films, Kevin Feige and Marvel have managed to make a completely new, fantastic, and refreshingly fun superhero trailer that looks like a images from a comic book.  We’d already seen the great banter between new Peter Parker Tom Holland and Tony Stark’s Robert Downey, Jr. in Captain America: Civil War and earlier Spider-man: Homecoming previews.  The addition of Keaton really ups the street cred for what could be “just another Spidey flick.”  The gravitas of this generation’s original big-screen Batman playing an over-the-top villain that looks like evil Batman in Michael Turner’s batgear is everything fanboys and fangirls could hope for–the ultimate retro fix.  When was the last time we saw a great comic book villain on the screen?

So what makes a great superhero movie trailer?  The timing of this trailer’s release to this weekend’s release of the Justice League trailer begs a comparison.  Justice League is in your face, full of loud, arrogant and cocky heroes, with an indecipherable story, loud explosions, and pop music drowning out dialogue that looks like a sequel to Suicide Squad.  It is clear from the Spider-man: Homecoming trailer that the movie has a story.  The cockiness comes only with Downey’s established mentor, and the hero is shown via self-deprecating situations and coming-of-age humor, a hero that is an underdog at the core of the character who never seems to have his day.  It’s not the explosions that matter (although they may to young kids), it’s how the superhero deals with the threat.

Alas, critiquing a movie trailer too far is a bit like judging a book by its cover.  But with so many movies this year that look good, it’s all audiences have to go by.  As a character Spider-man has something other superheroes don’t.  Spider-man was a comic strip in daily newspapers for decades.  Many more comic book readers exist today than probably ever before, but many more had access to and read the exploits of Spider-man nearly every day.  Many still do, as The Amazing Spider-man is still a syndicated comic.

Check out this fantastic trailer for Spider-man: Homecoming:

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We knew from early trailers and buzz going back literally years now that Syfy’s new series Krypton was going to cover Superman’s family’s distant past.  Even back here at borg.com in 2014 we previewed the first plans for Syfy’s series, wondering how close the DC writers would stick to the known backstory from the comic book pages, asking “Will they keep the character’s original name Seyg-El?”  Answer: Yes, with a slight change in spelling to “Seg”.  And “Will they bring in an Eddie Haskell neighbor as a young Zod?”  Answer:  Not quite, but the Zod family is going to be well represented in the series, which premiered this week with a pilot that should far surpass fan expectations.  In fact Krypton’s production values, writing, and actors are so well put together the show has the potential to equal the DC Comics adaptations on the CW network, and ten minutes into the pilot it already seemed more grounded in the comic books than any of the DC movie adaptations going back to Superman II.

The previews for Krypton failed to convey the actual scope and solid space fantasy framework the series is built on (and the epic scope that goes beyond Superman lore, but more on that below).  It looked like it was going to be like Marvel’s Inhumans–another odd, fringe fantasy show.  So don’t let the trailers mislead you.  The acting ranks are excellently cast–the show’s lead, British actor Cameron Cuffe, plays Seg-El.  The actor is a bright, knowledgeable fan of Superman in his own right, as conveyed as the host of the after-show.  Seg-El’s family grounds the series instantly with genre gravitas: first, Sherlock’s Rupert Graves plays his father, then Paula Malcomson–who portrayed moms in both The Hunger Games and Caprica–plays Seg’s mother, and General Dodonna himself, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Horatio Hornblower, and Game of Thrones actor Ian McElhinney, plays Seg’s own grandfather.  From the beginning the women take on a fierce role in the show, with the house of Zod represented in warrior Lyta Zod, played by show co-star Georgina Campbell (Black Mirror, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, Broadchurch).  Ann Ogbomo, who portrayed an Amazon warrior in the big screen’s Wonder Woman and Justice League plays her mother, Jayna Zod.  While fans are still on a fantasy superhero high from this year’s Black Panther movie, the military guild with the fierce Amazon-inspired Zod warrior-in-charge is well-timed.

The surprise from the pilot is how much Krypton seems to have the potential to be the next big Syfy series, like Battlestar Galactica came out of nowhere to reinvigorate science fiction television 15 years ago in 2003.  The show pulls from several science fiction and space fantasy realms, but the space fantasy potential is most interesting, with Stargate, John Carter, Valerian, Riddick and more as possible inspiration.  Pinar Toprak’s musical score, with appropriate John Williams Superman movie theme cues, has a pulsating Daft Punk Tron: Legacy vibe, with brightly neon-lit ships also borrowing some of that film’s more familiar visual elements.  Add in the visuals you can find late artist Michael Turner’s Krypton and great costume styles from designers Varvara Avdyushko (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Bojana Nikitovic (Underworld: Blood Wars, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance).  Story elements can be found in Logan’s Run, Flash Gordon, THX-1138.  Even parallels to scenes from Batman’s backstory come into play.  The story in the first episode plays like one of the better episodes of Star Trek’s Enterprise series, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, incorporating the beginnings of political tangles like those in The Dead Zone.  Krypton is also cool and cocky in its sets, style, writing, and acting, much like one of Syfy’s best recent series, Killjoys.  As fulfilling as the CW Network’s worldview of the DC Universe has become with the Arrowverse, Krypton is different, with none of the pop culture reference-heavy chatter, or that soap opera vibe of Smallville.  It’s a promising pilot–this looks like a most welcome Syfy channel space show.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If Turner Classic Movies says that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the discussion is over finally, right?

It’s that time of year again and Turner Classic Movies is back showing some of the best Christmas movies from across the decades.  This year host Ben Mankiewicz is interviewing author Jeremy Arnold before and after the screening of movies Arnold has selected to feature in his new book, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season.  And yes, Arnold’s list includes Die Hard.  So as the British say, “end of.”  Most readers and movie fans will likely agree with at least twenty of the selections discussed in the book, and the rest are there ready for some good discussions with friends over some egg nog this holiday season.

It’s also likely this bucket list of movies has several films that even avid movie watchers may have missed.  I set up my DVR to pick up a few in the book I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised at how superb a selection Holiday Affair is.  It stars Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Henry Morgan, plus young Gordon Gebert in what must be the best-ever performance by a child actor in a Christmas movie.  This is exactly the kind of value you get with a book like Christmas in the Movies–this movie will now be added to my own favorite Christmas movie list.  For each entry Arnold discusses the actors, plot, audience reception and the impact of the film, and why it’s a good Christmas season film for audiences today.

Along with Die Hard, which is smartly defended by Arnold, you’ll find the usual suspects like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Elf, plus some lesser known gems, like Remember the Night, the first of four films that would pair Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, plus Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You, and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No AngelsArnold picks up genre films Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even a few Westerns, including 3 Godfathers starring John Wayne.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After a few packed years of superhero movies, Dark Phoenix is going to be a target for comparison.  No single Marvel movie this year–including Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame–really merits entry on a “best of the best” list, yet all had good, even great, moments, and easily belong in a top 25 superhero movie list.  Dark Phoenix now joins that group.  Instead of a galaxy-changing upheaval, first-time director and award-winning writer-producer Simon Kinberg marked the end of the X-Men movie saga with a personal story.  It’s a story of struggle and tragedy more attuned to the X-Men characters and the cinematic stories 20th Century Fox has told since we first met Patrick Stewart’s professor and Ian McKellen’s metal-manipulating frenemy way back in the year 2000.  Although it’s not as compelling and cinematic as James Mangold’s gold standard Logan or the incredible team-up in X-Men: Days of Future Past, actress Sophie Turner leads an emotional journey for her all-powerful Jean Grey that first began in X-Men: Apocalypse, really backing up that tagline from the movie posters: Every hero has a dark side.  They really meant it.

Kinberg wrote the original script for the Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand, but he gets a lot closer to the spirit of the source material this time.  The key conflict mimics Marvel’s Jim Shooter and Chris Claremont’s reported struggle when they developed the character of Dark Phoenix, asking whether Jean Grey is irretrievably bad or bad only because she is possessed by a dark force.  At the same time most of the cosmic oddities are stripped from the comics story, but not all, pulling the necessary elements from the original tale in a more accessible way for audiences.  Jessica Chastain′s new villain and her compatriots from afar are very much the same as found in the comics, all but in name.  The opening act in particular is perfectly executed, beginning with a nicely cinematic launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and a return to the stealth fighter that Nicholas Hoult′s Beast had been building in X-Men: Apocalypse.  If you’ve seen the trailers or know the story then the subject of the scene is no surprise–a rescue of the astronauts aboard from a giant solar flare, directed by James McAvoy′s Professor X from Earth, but led in space by Jennifer Lawrence′s Mystique, who grew to be the front-line commander of the team in the last film.  The most entertaining superhero of all the X-Men movies is back, Evan Peters′ Quicksilver, this time using his speed and time-stopping powers to assemble the astronauts for rescue in the character’s third and final awesome show-stopper.  He’s accompanied by the teleport-wielding Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler, providing actor Kodi Smit-McPhee the first of several key scenes that showcase his unique superhero, and round out a building arc for the typically background superhero.

The big takeaway from Dark Phoenix may be that it’s clear the material is capable of being recycled and resurrected many times, by different writers, directors, and actors.  Famke Janssen’s performance of Jean Grey was excellent in the original X-Men trilogy.  Sophie Turner’s performance is equally good.  In a few years we’ll see it all over again, which is pretty much what the Phoenix is all about.  Dark Phoenix will likely be accused of copying the empowered women theme of Captain Marvel.  In actuality Dark Phoenix was completed earlier, in October 2017, and if Dark Phoenix hadn’t been delayed by the Fox-Disney merger, the positions would no doubt be flipped to some extent.  The timing and similarities reportedly prompted Fox to go back and make some revisions.  But who says audiences can’t embrace two movies released within 90 days about the two most powerful superheroines in the Marvel pantheon?  Captain Marvel was able to generate far more buzz, and it’s a more upbeat story, so Dark Phoenix is unlikely to make a dent by comparison to that billion dollar box office hit.  But the acting and script for Dark Phoenix is probably a few degrees better, and the wrap-up of so many beloved characters makes Dark Phoenix a more important chapter for its franchise.

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Does every hero have a dark side?  It’s impossible Quicksilver has a dark side.  But we’ll find out in five weeks as the 12th film in the longest running superhero movie series sees its second-to-last film with the theatrical premiere of Dark PhoenixThe series that started with X-Men in 2000 began as a knockout with the stellar casting of Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellen as Magneto, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, ultimately interweaving two separate casts that would include the likes of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Michael Fassbender as a younger Magneto, and James McElvoy as a younger Professor X.  With eleven films across 19 years we’d meet our favorite (or second favorite) Marvel superheroes and supervillains shine in X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

Every hero has a dark side.

This week post-merger Fox released ten new character posters for the new film spreading that message.

 

Dark Phoenix was written and directed by Simon Kinberg, and stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, and Jessica Chastain.  Kinberg has promised Dark Phoenix will be a more faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga than seen in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Here are all ten posters:

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Magneto

Bryan Singer’s next X-Men movie keeps looking better and better.  20th Century Fox released this new poster for this summer’s superhero release, X-Men: Apocalypse, honing in on Oscar Isaac’s villain Apocalypse.  He is watching over his henchmen in the form of Michael Fassbender returning as Magneto, and newcomers Olivia Munn as Psylocke, Ben Hardy as Archangel, and Alexandra Shipp as Storm.

Other actors old and new for the next mutant bash are James McAvoy as Professor X, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast), Evan Peters as Quicksilver (the best speedster to ever appear on film), Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler.

If you missed 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past reviewed here at borg.com, or the expanded Rogue Cut from last year reviewed here, grab yourself a copy and experience one of the best superhero films of all time.  Here is an earlier image from the new film:

x-men-apocalypse villains

And here is the new poster from X-Men: Apocalypse:

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Syfy Krypton logo

Syfy Channel is jumping on the superhero series bandwagon and teaming up with DC Entertainment to launch a new series in 2015 about the family of one of DC Comics’ most popular characters.  Krypton will key in on Superman’s grandparents on his father’s side, with Jor-El’s father–Superman’s granddad–as the lead character.  One can quickly see a young Jor-El, twin brother Nim-El, and other brother Zor-El (Supergirl’s dad), and perhaps an Eddie Haskell-inspired neighbor kid Zod, as likely key characters in this new prequel story to the classic Superman tale.

Depending on the series you’re following, the grandfather of Superman (known at birth as Kal-El) was Jor-El the First or Seyg-El, son of Var-El and husband of Nimda An-Dor.  Will they select one of these names or start from scratch for the series?  It’s all being developed now.

The good part?  Other than Constantine, recent TV series featuring superheroes Arrow, Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash, and Gotham have proven to be critical successes.  The not-so-good?  Krypton is being developed by the scriptwriter (David S. Goyer) for the disappointing big-screen reboot Man of Steel (reviewed previously here at borg.com).

Superman 1978 Krypton

The 1978 Superman movie featured Marlon Brando and Julie Christie on an interesting, technologically advanced planet Krypton.

Here’s the studio description for the project:

Years before the Superman legend we know, the House of El was shamed and ostracized. This series follows The Man of Steel’s grandfather as he brings hope and equality to Krypton, turning a planet in disarray into one worthy of giving birth to the greatest Super Hero ever known.

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