Category: Comics & Books


Skybourne Baltimore variant cover Frank Cho     Motor Girl 1 Terry Moore

Two of the big five comic book writer/artists known particularly for their renderings of women are each launching creator-owned series this year.  Eisner and Harvey Award winner Frank Cho, probably the #1 cover artist known for his fantastic women as well as his humor and storytelling, is launching his own mini-series through BOOM! Studios in September, and Eisner and Harvey award-winning Terry Moore, known for his smart and quirky women-focused stories, is publishing a new series through his Abstract Studios imprint.  Both titles will feature strong women characters.

Frank Cho, first recognized for his humor and pin-up art in University² and Liberty Meadows, has gone on to create some of the finest mix of superheroes and classical artwork of any living artist.  As recently as this summer he provided the most beautiful Wonder Woman cover art in years for DC Comics.  We’ve raved about his cover art here five years ago, but he’s created a lifetime of great work since then.  We wait with bated breath for more projects like his cover to cover work on Savage Wolverine, Mighty Avengers, Shanna the She-Devil, and his X-Men Schism arc.  This may be that next series.

His new project, Skybourne, a project we first heard about in early 2015, follows two immortals, Grace Skybourne and her brother Thomas, and their battle against the legendary Merlin of medieval lore.  Here is the description from the publisher:

Skybourne Midtown variant cover Frank Cho     Skybourne cover Frank Cho

* Full of fast-paced action, Skybourne is James Bond with fantasy elements thrown in and is unlike anything Frank Cho has ever done before.
* The legend of King Arthur is alive and well in the modern day world.  Only one man, Skybourne, can stop the evil Merlin from destroying the world.

But we ask again each year:  Whatever happened to the very cool and promising Guns & Dinos, which we first previewed five years ago here at borg.com Skybourne, Issue #1 of 5, written and drawn by Cho, is scheduled for release in comic book stores September 7, 2016.  Check out a preview below.

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Garfield_V5_coverA   Peanuts24_coverA

With all the focus on teen and adult readers, you might not know that several popular comic book and comic strip characters are still going strong, and available each week for kids of all ages in your local comic book store.  With the annual re-airing of the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, why not see what the Peanuts gang is up to today?  BOOM! Studios’ KaBOOM! line has several series catering to the demographic that may not be ready for Revival and Rachel Rising.

This week KaBOOM! is releasing new issues of Garfield, Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and yes, Peanuts.  And for a slightly older set of readers, BOOM! Studios’ BOOM!Box is releasing the next issue of the 2014 breakout hit series Lumberjanes. 

After the break, check out previews for all these titles, courtesy of BOOM! Studios.  All these issues hit comic book stores tomorrow.

Lumberjanes_009_coverA   AT_BananaGuard06_coverA

First up is that lasagna-loving cat Garfield in the trade paperback edition of Garfield, Volume 5.  Whether you’ve read the prior books or not, it’s a cinch to get caught up on Garfield, Jon, and Odie.

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Hawkeye issue 11   Afterlife with Archie main cover

The annual Harvey Award nominations close tomorrow.  The nominees for best works in the comic book industry are being voted on by comic book creators, with the final award ceremony to be held at Baltimore Comic-Con on September 6, 2014.  The recently combined publisher BOOM! Studios and imprint Archaia lead this year out of the gates with 30 nominations.  Independent publisher IDW Publishing received no nominations and the biggest, DC Comics, received only one.  Probably not surprisingly one of our favorite books, Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye, is a top contender, along with David Petersen’s latest Mouse Guard work.

More of our favorites are recognized again this year: Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife With Archie is up for Best New Series and Mike Norton’s Battlepug for best online comic.  Here are the 2014 nominations for 2013 works, followed by this year’s Eisner Award winners for those that may have missed their announcement during the busy weekend of SDCC 2014.

2014 Harvey Award Nominees

Best Writer

James Asmus, Quantum and Woody, Valiant Entertainment
Matt Fraction, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Brian K. Vaughn, Saga, Image Comics
Mark Waid, Daredevil, Marvel Comics

Best Artist

David Aja, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
Nate Powell, March: Book One, Top Shelf Production
Chris Samnee, Daredevil, Marvel Comics
Fiona Staples, Saga, Image Comics
Jeff Stokely, Six Gun Gorilla, BOOM! Studios

Best Cartoonist

Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Comfort Love and Adam Withers, Rainbow in the Dark, uniquescomic.com
Terry Moore, Rachel Rising, Abstract Studios
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
David Petersen, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, BOOM! Studios/Archaia
Paul Pope, Battling Boy, First Second

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McClain panel 2

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I got to drive 125 miles south and east yesterday to visit the horde of awesome that is Comic-Con.  As usual, it was a blast and I wish I had the mutant ability of Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man to see every panel, hang out at every booth, visit every place outside the Con and then at the end of the day, try every dessert at Café Zucchero.  However, I am just one man in one place at one time in this universe.  So, let me break down my small piece of Saturday in San Diego.

The Great

– As a Los Angeleno, the two banes of my existence in this metropolitan monstrosity are traffic and parking.  Driving down took only two hours and I found a lot that only charged $5 for 12 hours.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

– At forty minutes before high noon, I made my way to room nine and the line forming outside.  The line kept on filling and filling and soon I was glad to have foregone any extra time on the floor, for I got to see “Berkeley Breathed: The Last Comic-Con Panel!”  The whole session consisted of Breathed joking about himself, his love of merchandising and his “tiff” with Bill Watterson.  Sitting in the room laughing made evident the comic quickness of the mind behind Opus and Bill the Cat.  It made me miss “Bloom County,” “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side,” all bits of my past that now only show up in collections (like the future upcoming collection of Breathed’s work “Academia Waltz” from his time at the University of Texas.)  The bit of the panel that will stick with me the most is about how times have changed and how the comic pages have begun to fade.  Pieces of art, comedy and commentary that were in 100 million newspapers on kitchen tables 30 years ago, now barely make it out of the tin boxes in the vestibules of IHOPs.

McClain panel 1

– I may have missed the “Saga” panel at 1 pm, but I caught Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples during the “Strong Female Characters” panel two hours later in the same room.  June Brigman, Colleen Coover, Sara Mayhew, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Tobin, Vaughn and Staples talked about what it takes to make strong female characters, how they approach it and listed some of their current favorites.  The story that will last with me though came from the moderator, Maggie Thompson.  She told the story of her husband reading to their daughter a run of “Fantastic Four” every night before bed.  As a gift for their daughter when she was away in college they gave her a bound collection of a great many of those same stories.  When she received them and started to read the stories, she angrily called her mom and yelled that these were not the stories her father had read to her.  It turns out that her father had read her all of Reed Richard’s lines as the words said by Sue Storm.  He didn’t want the only female superhero in the story to be the one that fades and hides.

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Hawkeye issue 11

The 2014 Eisner Award nominations were released today.  Not a lot of surprises again this year.  The nominations tend toward more serious subjects in the year’s comic book offerings as opposed to action-packed superhero titles, sci-fi, fantasy, humor, or popular works.  But there are exceptions, and some can be found this year.  And should you think the books reviewed and lauded here at borg.com might be out of touch with the Eisner nomination committee, actually some of our favorite books from 2013 can be found throughout this year’s nominees.

The ringer of course is Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye series.  Not only do we like it, everyone seems to agree this is the best book around, two years running.  And it’s up for multiple awards again this year.

But no Afterlife With Archie?  Where are all the Dynamite Comics nominees?  Where is recognition for the jaw-dropping visuals on Dark Horse Comics’ landmark series, The Star Wars?  Why not more from IDW and Dark Horse?  How about some variety?

So… congratulations to all the nominees, and extra snaps to some of our favorites (the full nomination list is after the break):

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
Hawkeye #11: “Pizza Is My Business,” by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel).  This made the borg.com Best of 2013 for Best Single Issue.  I even bought extra copies of this one.  It’s that good.

Best Continuing Series
Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel)

I read books this year from other nominations in this category: Saga, East of West, and Nowhere Men (we weren’t fans, but reviewed Issue #1 here), and the others just didn’t make our review list.

Black Beetle poster

Best Limited Series
The Black Beetle: No Way Out, by Francesco Francavilla (Dark Horse).

We reviewed this series here at borg.com this year and decided it should have made our Best of 2013 list had we reviewed it earlier.

I also read nominee Mike Richardson’s 47 Ronin–a good read, which I may review here later this year.  I had a review copy of The Wake from DC Comics, but didn’t find the story or art as gripping as others.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Itty Bitty Hellboy, by Art Baltazar and Franco (Dark Horse).  Reviewed here, I’m glad this wasn’t passed up for consideration.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Rachel Rising disturbs me.  Terry Moore’s art disturbs me.  Most of all, Terry Moore’s story disturbs me.

The thing is… it’s supposed to.

Everyone is creepy in the quaint, pastoral town called Manson.  If you need help in Manson, you pretty much have no one to turn to.  Soon you will be dead or undead, or living or working with some unspeakable horror in your midst.  Remember young Billy Mumy’s character in the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life”?  I’m convinced he lived in Manson.  And the neighbor across the street?  An adorable little girl named Zoe who has just lost her family and house.  And her newly proposed foster family has a psycho in it.  Of course, Zoe just killed a few people herself.  Including her babysitter.  You see, every time Zoe sees the beautiful blonde woman, someone dies.  Sometimes by her own hand.  Who is that woman, who can be seen only by a few people, and why can she push her will onto others?

But the story is not about Zoe.  It’s about Rachel.  In the beginning Rachel is dead, pulling herself from a shallow grave by getting a foothold on…what’s that?  Someone else’s corpse.  She’s been strangled.  But Rachel has come back for more, despite being repeatedly knocked back down.  She doesn’t understand why she’s alive any more than we do.  Along this strange trip Rachel meets a woman in the bathroom at a local jazz club and can’t help but sharing that she won’t make it to her wedding day.  Rachel has seen the woman’s coming death.  Petrified the woman rushes away.  Minutes later the woman is pushed off the roof, onto Rachel, killing both in the process.

Meanwhile Zoe and the fiancée accidentally (?!) intentionally (?!) meet up in the woods to hide their recently murdered victims.  And little Zoe finishes off the fiancée.  Why not?  And why is she so vicious about it?  It’s all bad in the quaint, pastoral town of Manson.

In the beginning, and a bit of a deja vu later, Rachel’s aunt Johnny and brunette BFF named Jet can’t believe that Rachel is dead (again).  Aunt Johnny works as a mortician, and unfortunately she knows this victim all too well.  But Johnny and Jet are even more surprised when she sits up alive.  Rachel is more dead than alive, the doctor tells her.  He also thinks Rachel is the angel of death.  But he has his own issues.  He is living at home with a 30-year old corpse.

It’s all so eerie, spooky and… oogy.

Later, Rachel and Johnny and Jet and Zoe’s stories intersect, and they collide with an 18-wheeler.

Then bodies inexplicably burst out of the town’s cemetery.  Jet dies in the car wreck, to return and join Rachel as another member of the undead.  Is she a zombie?  The doctor says no.  Is she an angel?  Jet won’t believe it.  Just prop her body up in front of a television, she’ll be all right.

Moore is at Issue #8 of the series and there is no sign of saving any of us from this town ravaged by an unknown evil.  How does this mild-mannered writer of Strangers In Paradise and Echo create such a horrific tale?  What unspeakable skeletons are hiding within the Moore household?  I really don’t want to know.

Probably most surprising is the juxtaposition between Moore’s beautiful lead females, Rachel and Jet and Zoe, and the ghoulish, macabre, palpable darkness that seems to emanate from the crossroads in the woods.  Like Frank Cho’s women and Adam Hughes’ women, you’d know Terry Moore’s women if you were pushing your way through the halls at the San Diego Convention Center at Comic-Con and ran into one.  They are the ladies with the little slightly askew noses and the bright all-knowing eyes.

Beautiful fall leaves stretch across the open grave.  It’s getting cold in Manson.  It’s snowing, but is that really snow that’s falling?  I shudder to think where this is going.  I may just cover my eyes for the rest and crawl back into bed.  Someone please leave the lights on.

Rachel Rising has been nominated for not one but two Harvey Awards: Best New Series and Best Continuing or Limited Series.  It made the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award 2012 Reading List.  And we will find out in a few weeks whether it secures the Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series and the coveted Best Writer/Artist Award to Moore for his work.

Moore is scheduled to be at Comic-Con again this year and we hear he is bringing original art for sale.  He and wife Robyn’s Abstract Studios will be featured in a panel in Room 23ABC on Comic-Con Thursday.  Issues #1-6 are now available at Amazon as the Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death trade paperback and more recent issues are available at comic book stores everywhere.

Chasing the Dead cover 1 Chasing the Dead cover 2

Chasing the Dead is a 2007 supernatural thriller novel by Joe Schreiber.  Schreiber has written several genre novels including Star Wars: Red Harvest, Star Wars: Death Troopers, Star Wars: Darth Scabrous, and Supernatural: The Unholy Cause, as well as No Doors No Windows, Eat the Dark, Perry’s Killer Playlist, and Au Revoir Crazy European Chick.  IDW Publishing writers Matthew Scott and Tim Westland have begun to adapt Schreiber’s Chasing the Dead into a monthly comic book series.

Chasing the Dead  takes readers for a very intense ride.  We meet Susan Young, now separated from the man she married who was a childhood friend.  They both shared a secret, and now their secret has impossibly returned and their daughter is now thrust into what reads like a suspenseful horror movie plot.  A 13-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl are playing at a park in a town that has a rash of child murders.  A strange car slowly pulls up and instead of another abduction the little boy grabs a knife and strikes back at the attacker, killing him, but not before noticing something unworldly about the killer.

Tomorrow Issue #3 is being released and we’re previewing the first seven pages below.  Want to get caught up?  Keep reading for an overview of Issues #1 and #2, and why you might want to check out this series.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When a publisher adapts a work of fiction into comic book or graphic novel form, there should be a reason for it.  How can a visual representation of this work add something to the story for a reader, either new to the story or not?  And timing is relevant.  Why release this adaptation now?  Easy answers that are valid are simply because the work is a classic, because the work is by a noted writer, or because the subject matter is one that resonates with current audiences.

I don’t have an answer as to why now is a good time for an adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place into comic book form.  But many of the easy answers fit.  Beagle is one of the most beloved authors of all time, and perhaps the most beloved author of classic fantasy of the level of Tolkien and Carroll and White and Lewis still living and still writing.  Issue #1 of IDW Publishing’s adaptation of Beagle’s first novel, A Fine and Private Place, is probably a long time coming.  Published in 1960, eight years before his celebrated The Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place is our first window into the thoughtful and introverted characters fans love Beagle for.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re lucky enough to land yourself a copy of Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising, Issue #1 or #2, do yourself a favor and grab it and pick up a few extra for your friends as this one is very hard to come by.  For whatever reason, comic retailers have not ordered big enough quantities.

If you’re not familiar with Terry Moore, his two big series over the past two decades were the mega-hit Strangers In Paradise and the more recent supernatural series Echo.  This year at Comic-Con Moore was selling his how-to ‘zine How to Draw Women.  If there is one thing he knows, it is drawing the female form.  Moore’s style is truly his own–he uses very few lines to capture incredible expressions and emotion in his characters.  I’d put Moore’s women drawings in an exclusive league with Frank Cho and Michael Turner, with Cliff Chiang soon to be a member of that elite group.

In Strangers In Paradise, Moore used a close relationship between roommates to create an ongoing drama that want on to form several volumes.  In Echo, he moved into more of the fantasy realm.  With Rachel Rising, he has landed firmly in the dark, creepy, macabre world of comics.  His art in all three series is black and white–something that might put off readers of other books, but Moore uses black and white’s starkness and contrasts to create a moods you won’t find in DC Comics or Marvel Comics titles.  I haven’t even mentioned yet that Moore is the writer, penciller and inker of his books, which are published by his wife.  Serving triple duty must be tough, but Moore makes it all look easy.

In Issue #1, Rachel wakes up in the woods in a shallow grave.  Over the course of Issue #1 and #2, Rachel encounters people who know her but don’t believe she really is Rachel.  She learns she has lost three days of her life.  Her glowing eyes reveal something, but what that means fully is not yet revealed.  She finds an aunt who she tries to get to help her, but her aunt is a strange breed who claims to see dead people, and as she is a mortician, she gets plenty of opportunity.

Is this going the way of Eliza Dushku’s TV series Tru Calling?  That would be fun.  In Tru Calling she worked in a morgue where dead people talked to her.  Terry’s dark-haired characters look a bit like Dushku.  When Echo came out, I asked Moore about the naming process and he said he was unaware that Dushku was playing a character starting about the same time on Joss Whedon’s short-lived Dollhouse TV series.   All just a crazy coincidence.   I’ll just go out on a limb and nominate Dushku for a role in a future movie based on Moore’s books.

But don’t think Moore’s friendly style is not as ghoulish as the next guy’s stories.  There are plenty of cringeworthy scenes in these first two issues, including the subtle but disturbing aunt who proceeds to perform “mortician’s work” while rambling away with Rachel.  As many questions about Rachel and Company are asked as are answered, so we can look forward to a good progression of story over several issues.

I first met Terry and his wife Robyn, who is the publisher of his books under the Abstract Studios label, at Comic-Con back in 2008 when Echo was released.  I got to Terry’s booth early enough that he spent the Friday sketching his famous characters Francine and Katchoo for me as my favorite superhero team Green Arrow and Black Canary.  Robyn couldn’t be nicer.  My wife and I met up with Terry and Robyn again at Comic-Con this year at Jeff Smith’s 20th anniversary of Bone party (that’s Terry above in San Diego this July), and we had a great time chatting.

I’d hoped to review this series sooner, but could not track down Issue #1.  I finally had to drive three hours away to find a copy of Issue #1 and I am hoping the distributors get their acts together so it will be easier to track down Issue #3, due out soon.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Any Midwesterner will find the quaint farm community in writer Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton’s new Image Comics “rural noir” series Revival very familiar.  Even if you live in the city, you drive past these communities going to and fro, dotted with barns and sheep and silos.  What goes on there?  Are you sure you want to know?

In the Pacific Northwest David Lynch showed us a local community in the woods (set near Snoqualmie, Washington) in his TV series Twin Peaks.  In the Syfy Channel TV series Haven, we meet a New England small-town community courtesy of Steven King.  M. Night Shyamalan has written the book over and over on these towns, a la Pennsylvania flavor, whether it’s with Signs, and its nondescript blot on the map town, or Lady in the Water and its tacky apartment complex community, or The Happening with strange goings-on in Harrisburg, Penn., or The Village, whose time and place is part of the village’s (and the movie’s) secret.  Of course these all have something less than quaint in common, something filled with secrets and the supernatural, something powerful and dark.  Yet these places manage to seem familiar, and part of you wouldn’t mind setting up residence in, say, Twin Peaks, Wash. or Haven, Maine.  Remember the good coffee and donuts at the diner in Twin Peaks?  Something is luring you closer.  And now you can add the Wisconsin version of this town to the mix.  The town of the Revival.

A certain “happening” or “event” has taken place in Wausau, Wisconsin, and its drawn the attention of the entire world.  You can’t die in Wausau, plain and simple.  But what is the cause?  An old woman is reciting verses from the Bible, speaking of purgatory and rapture.  And then, like a scene from Shyamalan’s Signs, a little boy playing on his farm encounters an all-out alien–straight out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind–walking by, mimicking, and learning the boy’s language like E.T. himself.

A sheriff and his daughter Dana are investigating this upheaval, this “things like this never happen in my town” incident, as if it were an act of bio-terrorists, including involvement of the C.D.C.  Dana is our very likable police officer, a fixture in her community.  Familiar to all of us.  She is our tour guide on our travels through this world on the edge of its own Twilight Zone.  These are simple folk, and otherwise, things are normal in Wausau.

Dana finds her sister with her car parked at a bridge standing near the edge and offers to take her on to school, but she instead accompanies her to her next case.  The disturbing old woman staring away from us in a barn…  and the end comes too soon for our apparent heroine, Dana.  And her sister is next.  Or so one might think.  After all, we’re in Wausau.  And the Revival has begun.

G.I. Joe, Hack/Slash, and Forgotten Realms writer Seeley’s story is compelling and subtle and creepy.  Battlepug and Green Arrow/Black Canary Eisner-winning artist Norton’s pencil work drops us into the pastoral realm, allowing us to get sufficiently comfortable before dropping a bomb on us, or in this case, a scythe.  Creepy but not so much disturbing, as say, the similar vein of Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising.  Thankfully.  But you really get the feel of Steven King, David Lynch, and M. Night Shyamalan here.  And I’ll be back for more with Issue #2.

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