Category: Comics & Books


Review by C.J. Bunce

After its first episode back in 2015, we called it “your next favorite TV series.”  This week iZombie saw its last episode.

Rob Thomas hasn’t directed the blockbuster movies or gained the same fame, but he’s filled in the gaps on television for genre fans where Joss Whedon left off.  Along with giving us Veronica Mars (and refusing to let the world of Neptune, California, fade into TV history), Thomas brought Liv Moore and the post-apocalyptic zombie world of iZombie to life, a bigger and better heroine than the one found in the original Chris Roberson and Michael Allred comics.  That was thanks to New Zealand actor Rose McIver, whose versatility and charm took her from roles in Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and Legend of the Seeker to create one of our newest favorite superheroes.  And with Thursday night’s fifth season and series finale episode it’s all over now, yet still leaving plenty of opportunity for future episodes, series, a film, or novels, just as Thomas has provided for his sleuth Veronica Mars.

Can the middle–the place of reason our heroes are striving to fight for–survive the extremism from both sides of the ongoing struggle?  In the finale, “All’s Well that Ends Well,” Thomas brings everything full circle, wrapping up every last plot thread for Liv, Major, Clive, Ravi, Peyton, Dale, Blaine, and Don E.  But he throws an eleventh hour wrench into the plot–the cure for zombies won’t help the kids with Fröhlich’s syndrome.  Are they doomed either way?  As always, Thomas leaves plenty of room for fun–the actors and characters, the banter, and that chemistry, that made iZombie so good for five seasons.  Along with McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, Rahul Kohli, David Anders, Aly Michalka, Bryce Hodgson, and Jessica Harmon formed probably the best ensemble cast on network genre TV.

A perfect series finale is a reminder of how iZombie matched the success of Grimm in so many ways, and filled the void left by that show so well.  iZombie also improved with each of its five seasons, and exponentially improved in its final season–as Grimm did–once the end of production was in sight, complete with the year’s best hour of TV, the noir send-up episode “Night and the Zombie City.”  Series like these prove that when ratings aren’t the only driving force and creators have freedom to take characters in new directions, audiences are in store for a real treat.

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Tomorrow one of TV’s best and funniest shows adapted from a comic book returns.  iZombie enters its fourth season on the CW with the episode, “Are You Ready for Some Zombies?”  When we last left Rose McIver’s Dr. Liv Moore and her friends, Seattle became open for business to zombies, complete with food stands to feed the newly-exposed zombie population.  Showrunner Rob Thomas’s former Veronica Mars leading man Jason Dohring joined up in season three as Chase Graves, and when we saw him last he infected the flu vaccine with the zombie strain, furthering spreading the zombie population of Seattle, with included Det. Dale Bozzio (Jessica Harmon), the ex-girlfriend of Rose’s partner-in-crime solving, Det. Clive Babineaux, played by Malcolm Goodwin, our borg.com best TV actor of 2017.  Major Lilywhite (Robert Buckley) convinced Graves to scratch him, making him a zombie yet again, after Natalie and his crew were massacred.  And Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) went forward and shot himself with his experimental vaccine, leaving anything and everything open for this new season.

But what may be the most fun to look forward to this season is the return of the unlikely pair of David Anders’ Blaine DeBeers and his former, disloyal, sidekick Don E (Bryce Hodgson), back again as the show’s bad guy element.

If you miss Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars, iZombie is the only series that comes close, with that clever dialogue and those great scripts we once thought only Joss Whedon could turn out.  The TV series is loosely adapted from the comic book series iZombie, created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, and published by DC Comics under its Vertigo imprint.

Here is a preview of Season 4 of iZombie:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In many ways Stephen King’s new supernatural crime novel Later is a natural follow-on to his two earlier Hard Case Crime novels, Joyland, which I loved, and The Colorado Kid, which will have me revisiting it for years to identify what I am sure is a hidden story beneath the obvious one.  Joyland follows a coming of age vibe for an older character and King pulls from a similar quiver of creepiness in Later as he did for The Colorado Kid.  Yes, Later will get the obvious comparison to the “I see dead people” kid from The Sixth Sense–a few updates and this could be its sequel, one as good or better than that great M. Night Shyamalan shocker (a character even calls out the comparison, and King doesn’t try to shy away from it).  But even more than that, this story is a perfect launch pad for a television series, a series that should be written and directed by Shawn Piller as a natural follow-up to the King-Piller partnership’s successful series Haven and The Dead Zone.  The slow-simmering pacing reflects the perfect make-ready four season series centering on a boy burdened with an ability he cannot walk away from.  Later easily could be the next Medium, Prodigal Son, or Tru Callingjust as dark, with a bit of Fallen thrown in.  It’s a highly recommended read, available for pre-order now here at Amazon, scheduled for release March 2.

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iZombie brains

It began as a successful comic book series by Masks writer Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred for DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint about a gravedigger zombie gal who eats brains to survive.  This week Allred’s own adaptation of his iZombie world comes to television on the CW Network, but with some changes, like swapping Eugene, Oregon for Seattle, Washington.

Rose McIver plays Olivia “Liv” Moore (“live more”– get it?), a medical student turned zombie who gets a job at the coroner’s office in order to gain access to the brains she must eat so that she can maintain her humanity.  And there will be plenty of brain eating going on in the series.  But each brain she eats brings with it the final memories of the dead, so she shares her visions to solve their deaths with help from the medical examiner and a police detective.  If they can grab some of the spark of Tru Calling, another show about a young woman who gets visions that allow her to solve crimes in a morgue, there could be an interesting series coming our way.  That is, if you’re not yet tired of zombies.

But this series has the one thing that should get you to at least give it a try.  It’s produced by Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars, who has proven he knows how to make great stories.  Check out several previews for the series, after the break.

iZombie poster

McIver has been on plenty of TV series, including appearances on both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess in the 1990s.  Also starring will be Heroes’ Adam Monroe, David Anders (also Arrow’s Cyrus Vanch), a good performer who is always a scene stealer.

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PCKC 2020 comics

***Update***

The mayor of Kansas City has ordered the delay of all events with greater than 1,000 people in the city for 21 days, due to the city’s declaration of emergency for coronavirus/COVID-19.  Planet Comicon Kansas City will therefore be postponed, according to the event website until late summer or fall 2020.  See PlanetComicon.com for further updates and details.  Note: Since many creators were relying on this event for their income, please consider reviewing the guest list and purchasing their comics, books, and creations through their other channels (we’re all going to be home for a while, so it’s a perfect time to catch up on reading, right?).  In light of the cancellation, instead of the sneak peek at her new novel Premeditated Myrtle and cover reveal for her second novel in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries series (the cover created by award-winning artist Brett Helquist) planned for Planet Comicon weekend, our own borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce will be revealing the cover for the second book–How to Get Away with Myrtle, here at borg–look for it here coming soon!

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In only one week the pop culture convention Planet Comicon Kansas City is scheduled to return, this time to celebrate its 21st year.  The event is expected to host a pantheon of nationally recognized writers and artists for its eighth year in its downtown Kansas City, Missouri, venue at the Kansas City Convention Center.  The show runs Friday, March 20 through Sunday, March 22.  This is of course now subject to any cancellations, individually or as a whole, arising from corona virus/COVID-19 outbreak concerns.  Some of the biggest names and most popular comics creators are in the line-up for the 2020 event, probably the best-known being Roy Thomas, the comic book writer and editor who was Stan Lee’s first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.  Characters he created or co-created include Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Vision, Carol Danvers, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Red Sonja, Ultron, Man-Thing, Red Guardian, and Valkyrie, the majority of which have become so famous they’ve made it to recent big or small screen adaptations.  Famous for his work on X-Men and Avengers, Thomas is also known for his work on classic titles All-Star Squadron and Justice Society of America.

Several other comic book creators scheduled to attend the event for the first time include Bill Amend, Garth Ennis, Adam Hughes, Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Ed McGuinness, Afua Richardson, and Peter Stiegerwald, plus many others.  Returning PCKC regulars slated to appear include Freddie Williams IIJason Aaron, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Ant Lucia, Skottie Young, Megan Levens, Seth Peck, Rob DavisJason Arnett, Bryan Fyffe, Bryan Timmins, and Darren Neely.  In addition to comics creators, fan-favorite novelists scheduled for the show include borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce, who hopes to debut the cover for the second book in her new Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries series at her booth over the weekend.  Other authors scheduled to attend include convention regulars Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward, plus Kevin J. Anderson, Jim Butcher, and Timothy Zahn–and many more.

PCKC 2020 authors

Back again, the Elite Comics flight crew is planning its “Party on the Pillar” hoping for attendees to pick up some great deals on what the Con is all about–comics.

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iZombie season 2 poster

To quote Major Lilywhite: “Zombies?  C’mon.”

Spoiler alert:  iZombie is a big contender for multiple top honors at this year’s borg.com Best of the Year awards.  Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas did the unthinkable this year by putting together a big hit for Warner Bros. on par with both his own tale of a butt-kicking young woman but also the ultimate series of the genre, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The writing, the characters, and the actors make for a surprising hit show.  The other unthinkable bit?  After much kicking and screaming, Thomas finally sucked us into the zombie genre and even The Walking Dead was unable to do that.

Happily audiences and the CW agreed with us and quickly renewed iZombie for Season 2.  It’s “in the can” and ready to air next month.

iZombie season 2

Where we last left Rose McIver’s medical-resident-turned-morgue-dwelling zombie-police aide Liv Moore, Liv had made her life into a complete mess in classic TV cliffhanger style.  What’s to become of boyfriend Major (Robert Buckley) now that he knows she’s a zombie?  It’s not really the end for fan-favorite evil zombie Blaine (David Anders), right?  What about the fate of Liv’s poor brother, and will her roommate ever talk to her again after she witnessed Liv in full-on zombie mode?  Will Liv finally get a taste for brains and throw out the hot sauce?

We can hardly wait to find out.  Meanwhile, check out this preview of the premier episode of iZombie Season Two, followed by a San Diego Comic-Con panel from this summer, and if you’ve missed Season One, a great 3-minute catch-up reel:

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Veronica Mars

Review by C.J. Bunce

For fans of Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham’s first tie-in novel Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, previously reviewed here at borg.com, the next novel in the paperback series will get readers even closer to the Veronica of the TV series.  Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell, is a darker mystery, a hard-boiled detective story, straight out of the hard case crime series of the past.  Mr. Kiss and Tell also continues to show the growth of Veronica, now a 29-year-old with responsibilities after she ditched her law career for a P.I. agency gig with her dad.

Nobody knows Veronica better than creator Rob Thomas.  The banter, the snarky quips, the Whedon-esque pop culture references all make for a story that is not only consistent with the TV series and 2014 crowdfunded movie, but it remains fresh, taking Veronica into new territory.  Thomas and Graham waste no time, providing a powerful beginning:  A junk dealer happens upon what could be a mannequin as he is roaming the city.  Only it’s a woman, barely alive, and we’ll learn she’s from a family that will be familiar to Veronica Mars fans.  Veronica is hired by a hotel to prove that a hotel employee was not the attacker and rapist that left the young woman for dead.  But if he didn’t do it, then who did?

Mars Mr Kiss and Tell logo

Veronica has a long history with solving rape cases, cases that became almost a hallmark of her series.  This case will take her into the seedy parts of society, with Veronica barreling into danger reminding us that, however well-intentioned, she often makes poor choices.  Here she ends up in a hotel with a prostitute and her pimp–a giant thug who makes Veronica an offer that could end her case quickly–but it’s also an offer she should refuse.  But will she?  Has she changed at all?

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Rose McIver iZombie

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raise your hand if you wish you could watch more adventures of Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars, Claire Bennet, or Tru Davies.  Fortunately you can get your fix here and there–you can find Buffy in comic books in Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Veronica continues in a series of novels by Rob Thomas, Heroes is coming back to NBC, and, well, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever see Tru again.  But thanks to Veronica Mars’ creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, a new strong woman-led series might make you think they are all back.

iZombie premiered Tuesday night adding another winner to the pantheon of solid hit shows the CW Network has been churning out of late, alongside Arrow, The Flash, Reign, Supernatural, and the Vampire Diaries.  iZombie follows Olivia “Liv” Moore, a cardiac medical student resident who ends up at a party on a boat where all the guests break out into an infection and become zombies.  Liv thinks fast and jumps off the boat, but not fast enough.  She’s scratched and dies, only to return as the undead.  Her so-called life crumbles from there and she ends up working for the medical examiner’s office where she can get easy access to unwanted brains, which she needs to eat to avoid getting mean and stupid.

Zombie brains

And the execution of that off-the-wall premise is simply brilliant.  There’s no hiding the fact that the voice of Rob Thomas’s Veronica Mars is echoed in Liv–many scenes aren’t just banter between characters, but chock full of Liv’s inner-thought narration.  It was that storytelling device that was a big part of what made Veronica so accessible and endearing.  And it even works for a zombie.

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Arnold Terminator Genisys

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and as with last year we’re certain we reviewed more content this year than ever before.  This year was a big year for borgs in TV and film, so we had some difficult decisions to make.  All year long we sifted through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre TV, films, comics, and other books we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.

Today we reveal the entire list–the best genre content of 2015–with our top categories Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero FixBest Animated Fix,  and Best Borg selected regardless of medium.  A dozen properties garnered multiple mentions.

We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2016!

Killjoys

Best Sci-Fi Fix – Killjoys (Syfy).  Surprised?  Killjoys pulled together great worldbuilding, characters and actors in a year of a dozen new sci-fi shows to provide us the closest thing to the next Firefly we’ve seen in a long time.

Galavant

Best Fantasy Fix – Galavant (ABC); Runner-up The Librarians (TNT).  It aired early in 2015 but nothing surpassed Galavant’s medieval high adventure and all-out Princess Bride-style fun.

the-cw-arrow-flash-crossover

Best Superhero Fix – The Flash (CW).  Of all the Marvel movies and TV series from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Agent Carter and from Arrow to Supergirl, nothing had us coming back for more each week like the superhero world in The Flash.

Rebels season 2

Best Animated Fix – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  Compare it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and see if you think this animated Star Wars galaxy had an even better story and characterization, along with the return of its own group of original trilogy actors, compelling visuals and rousing music.

Terminator Genisys image

Best Borg – Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Terminator Genisys (Paramount).  Schwarzenegger created yet another borg that could stand up against his prior successful characters from the series.  A cool, moving character in a big year for borgs on screen!

Ava from Ex Machina - borg

Best Borg Movie –  Ex Machina (DNA Films).  Incredible storytelling and a small cast of talented actors provided a classic science fiction story and Oscar-worthy film about our favorite subject.

Humans series

Best Borg TV SeriesHumans (AMC).  On television the most in-depth look at life as a borg and among borgs has never been portrayed more dramatically than on this year’s surprise sci-fi hit series from AMC.

Star-Wars-Force-Awakens-Rey-Finn-BB8-running

Best Kickass Genre Movie Heroine – Rey (Daisy Ridley), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney); Honorable Mentions: Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Terminator Genisys (Paramount); Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Mad Max: Fury Road (Village Roadshow)

Liv Moore

Best Kickass Genre TV Heroine – Liv Moore (Rose McIver), iZombie (CW); Honorable Mentions: Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), Killjoys (Syfy); Helena (Tatiana Maslany), Orphan Black (BBC)

Want to know who we picked for best villain and best comic books of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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thousand dollar tan line rob thomas jennifer graham veronica mars novel

Fresh on the heels of the theatrical release of the Veronica Mars movie (reviewed last week here at borg.com), series creator and movie director Rob Thomas (along with writer Jennifer Graham) have just released its sequel, Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line We’re reviewed several franchise tie-ins and this new novel is among the best.  All that you think you’d need, the familiar characters, setting, and mood are here, but the most important is that inner monologue of Veronica.  Who better to scribe the next story, the immediate aftermath of the events of the movie, and Veronica’s voice than Thomas?

If you’re not already a Veronica Mars fan, the novel has enough of a standalone detective story to make for a good entry point for the series that genre king Joss Whedon referred to as “Best. Show. Ever.  Seriously, I’ve never gotten more wrapped up in a show I wasn’t making, and maybe even more than those… These guys know what they’re doing on a level that intimidates me.  It’s the Harry Potter of shows.”

Veronica back at Mars Investigations

Picking up in the days after the events of the movie and taking place literally in March 2014, the novel allows Veronica and hacker pal Mac to use all the resources of social media and modern technologies to sleuth out two missing young women who vanished on Spring break in the seedy beach town of Neptune, California (as Piz says in the movie, there really is a Hellmouth under there).  Veronica’s dad Keith is slowly recovering from his car wreck injuries.  Logan is off on an aircraft carrier in the Navy.  And Veronica is dead serious about partnering with her dad full-time at Mars Investigations, to his disappointment.

We get to catch up with a character from the series from Veronica’s distant past, as well as a new character that will likely play a key role in future stories for both Veronica and Keith.

Hacker Mac Veronica Mars

Just as true to life as the original series was, Veronica’s relationship with her dad couldn’t be more believable.  She really isn’t going back to New York to become a lawyer.  And she lives at home again.  As much as we’ve cheered Veronica on, as successful as she could be, like Michael Corleone they keep pulling her back to Neptune.  And it turns out the success we hoped to see Mac achieve (shouldn’t she be CEO of a Google or Facebook by now?) is also on a backtrack, as she quits her prestigious job at Kane Software to work for Veronica as hacker and researcher.  How could all of this have gone so wrong for these two?  Rob Thomas’s choices, if disappointing for all who have cheered on these characters, does something important:  it creates the possibility of future movies and novels.

If the Veronica Mars movie and this first Veronica Mars novel is any indication, then fans will be begging for even more Veronica Mars, no matter the format.

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