Category: Comics & Books


In the first episode of Season 2 of BBC’s Sherlock, we met one of readers’ favorite characters from 130 years of fandom for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ultimate detective.  Initially published in The Strand in 1891 in A Scandal in Bohemia, Irene Adler first stepped into readers’ imaginations.  Of course Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss gave the story and characters their trademark modern twist with their episode A Scandal in Belgravia, and it’s that episode that gets the manga treatment in Titan Comics’ latest manga adaptation.  Fresh from confronting Moriarty in the end of The Great Game, Holmes and John Watson are called to save the royal family from blackmail at the hands of “The Woman,” and Sherlock is truly given a run for his money.  We have a special extended preview of the manga today from Titan Comics for borg readers.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the Victorian holiday tradition of spending Christmas sharing tales of ghosts and other haunts, comes James Lovegrove′s latest novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon Another excellent addition in Lovegrove’s long list of new tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero and his earnest confidante and co-conspirator in sleuthing, Dr. John Watson, here readers encounter the master detective in a tale of murder and high crimes in the yuletide season.  Like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, expect an ample serving of curiosity and cleverness, and perhaps a side of the supernatural.

It’s 1890 and Holmes and Watson are called to Fellscar Keep in Yorkshire by one Eve Allerthorpe, the heir-apparent to a family fortune.  She believes she is haunted by a Krampus-like being, the legendary Christmas demonic spirit known as the “Black Thurrick.”  Holmes and Watson believe she’s being duped–the family fortune will belong to her when she turns 21 this Christmas Eve unless she is found to not be of sound mind.  So who is trying to prove that she is insane?  As the family and extended guests arrive for the holidays, Holmes and Watson ruffle feathers, encounter strange happenings, and investigate the wing of the house where the family matriarch died, as Watson finds himself the next target for the demon.

Lovegrove knows how to take Holmes and Watson for an unusual spin, having wrapped his Holmes trilogy The Cthulhu Casebooks this year with the final chapter, Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils (reviewed here at borg and just out in paperback).  As with Lovegrove’s previous Sherlock Holmes novels and his Firefly novels Big Damn Hero and The Magnificent Nine, the story is rich and funny, and the action clips along to a surprise, satisfying ending.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

So many genre novels are quick reads, full of action and modern surprises.  Once in a while you stumble upon the slow read–the book that is so smartly written, so exciting and enjoyable you never want it to end, and you force yourself to take it slow and enjoy the author’s use of language.  With his latest book I’ve now added James Lovegrove to my shortlist of authors I will make sure to read as soon as his next work is released.  His new novel is Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils, book three of his trilogy, The Cthulhu Casebooks.  In short, this work has it all–tie-ins, a mash-up, genre-bending, and immersive storytelling in a suspense-filled mystery adventure.  It’s a big feat because the very subject matter and project has much to overcome.  First, it is the third book in a series, not your usual place as a reader to begin.  As it is a new release, I delved in anyway, and discovered Lovegrove crafted a complete end-to-end story requiring no prior knowledge of the first two books in the series.  Second, it’s a tie-in and a mash-up of the most well-known historical characters in all of fiction, Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson twisted together with the macabre, dark world of H.P. Lovecraft.

I’ve reviewed several Watson and Holmes stories written in the past decade and the challenge is always the same–getting two voices just right, voices that are so familiar after reading original Doyle writings, and watching countless modern sequels and a host of television series and movie versions.  One misstep and it’s easy to pull a reader out of the narrative, yet Lovegrove doesn’t skip a beat in this regard.  Whether you’re drawn to the TV series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, the classic Basil Rathbone film version, modern retellings, or just Doyle’s own marvelous words, you will feel this book is a believable sequel to the original stories and the voices are spot-on.  Another barrier for Lovegrove to overcome is getting right that rich world of H.P. Lovecraft, whose works and words drip with a uniquely strange brilliance and eerie beauty.  Again, Lovegrove fully captures the spirit of his creations and seaside environments, too, as if he’d conjured Lovecraft for this story.  This strange mash-up of the logical, rational Holmes and Watson and the dark and fantastical Lovecraft probably shouldn’t work so well.  These are opposites, right?  But Lovegrove fuses them into one, evoking the 19th century wonder of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne science fiction and fantasy along the way.  Not merely a fun romp for fans of either world, Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils has all the realism and research of a scholarly work, sinking us into the world of England, the nautical life of coastal peoples at the turn of the 20th century.

The story begins a few years after the retirement of Holmes and Watson.  In Doyle’s story “His Last Bow” we learned the character retired to a farm at Sussex Downs taking on beekeeping as a pastime.  Only two original stories take place during Holmes’ retirement.  This is where Lovegrove’s Watson catches up with Holmes: The date is 1910 and as England and the world moves toward war, Holmes and Watson learn the leaders of the famed Diogenes Club are all dead, found under strange circumstances.  When three young women go missing in a nearby town, the detective duo takes on sleuthing out their disappearance as their final case, where they encounter local lore that speaks of monsters from the deep and a foretold legend of the return of a phantom from long ago.  Locals believe that is why the women are missing, and Holmes knows it must all be connected.  How much is real, how much is fantasy?  Is it possible Holmes could discover both worlds might co-exist?  Can Holmes ever escape the specter of his lifelong nemesis Moriarty?  And what of his brother Mycroft?

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Sherlock-Christmas-Special-Images-Featuring-Benedict-Cumberbatch-and-Martin-Freeman1

Like all good things that get a hold on generations of audiences, Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective Sherlock Holmes has been interpreted and re-interpreted over and over.  For more than 110 years, Holmes and his trusty companion Dr. Watson have appeared in more than 200 movies that adapted Doyle’s original stories–more than 70 actors have played Holmes–the most of any fictional character on-screen according to the folks at the Guinness Book of World Records.  Interest has never waned, and every new detective show and police procedural seems to borrow something from him, much like all science fiction seems to borrow something from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Batman was inspired by Holmes 75 years ago, and more recently TV series characters like Adrian Monk, Shawn Spencer, and Dr. Gregory House all were inspired incarnations of the character.

Modern Sherlock Cumberbatch as early Sherlock

Holmes was no bigger than with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law’s blockbuster films, Sherlock Holmes in 2009 and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows in 2011.  In that franchise director Guy Ritchie opted to showcase Holmes from Doyle’s original stories in his original setting of Victorian England.

Rivaling that series of movies after three seasons is BBC’s Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson.  Here creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat take Holmes in a completely new direction, present day London, including the clever incorporation of modern technology into Holmes’s sleuthing.  Despite the updated setting Sherlock borrows the spirit of Holmes faithfully from Doyle’s stories.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

While you are waiting for the return of the BBC TV series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as modernized sleuths, or even the third big screen entry in the Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law in their more classic form, you could pull off the shelf the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories to hold your attention.  Or there is another option:  Writer Guy Adams has seamlessly intersected the world of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau in his new novel Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau.  And he does this in a way that may be more accessible to modern readers than the original Doyle stories yet evokes the same voice, time and place.  Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreauis being released in bookstores this week.

Told primarily through the mind of Holmes’ classic partner in solving crime, Dr. John Watson, this story blends two classic worlds that actually find a good home together.  Because I am more of a fan of the modern TV and movie series over the other classic visual productions such as the Basil Rathbone performances, or even the original stories, I found myself inside the mind of Martin Freeman’s Dr. Watson throughout this novel, although transferred back in time from the 21st century to Watson’s earlier 19th century incarnation.  My vision of Holmes bounced around between Cumberbatch and Downey, and I saw as Dr. Moreau, Marlon Brando from the underwhelming Val Kilmer film.

The story itself begins with Holmes’ more intriguing brother Mycroft (played in my head here by Stephen Fry’s version of Mycroft).  A bit of a character you could see as an early version of M from the James Bond universe, Adams’ Mycroft is someone you are itching to leanr more of in future novels.  The original mad scientist, Dr. Moreau, is believed alive and operating an underground frankensteinian laboratory melding what he believes to be the inevitable evolution of man–hybrids of men and animals.  Political motivations bring Dr. Moreau from his original story to again attempt to alter perception and here, take down civilized society via an army of loyal, but horrible, creations.

Although horrific in concept, Adams’ story is pleasingly contemporary to the original stories and so this does not read as a modern horror tale, but more of a dark, lost story of science fiction’s past.  It also does not overtly address the original moral and ethical lessons involving the dangers of science as the original but stays lighter in tone, focusing on the detective story.

Adams’ Dr. Watson will be familiar to anyone who is a fan of any version of Sherlock Holmes.  Constantly trying to keep up with Holmes, Watson uses his medical knowledge and desire to measure up to Holmes to propel the story forward.  Early on in the novel we briefly encounter a nice tribe of characters from the Industrial Revolution fiction’s past:  Edward Prendick, the horrified narrator of Wells’ original Dr. Moreau story, has since gone mad and left notes that help Holmes and Watson track Dr. Moreau.  Professor Challenger from Doyle’s The Lost World has his own prequel here, arm-in-arm with the heroes of this tale to the bitter end, as does Professor Lindenbrook from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, and a few other more obscure cameos.

But this is definitely a Sherlock Holmes tale, and Dr. Moreau primarily serves as a bit of a MacGuffin for the detectives to pursue for the bulk of the book since we only really deal with the evil doctor toward the end.  The spirit of Holmes and Watson is true and pure fun, worthy of the original.  A (literally) dog-headed character named Kane further helps to suck the reader into this fantastical, unthinkable world of the past.  The result is a sweeping and satisfying romp.  My only complaint would be the changing of narrators in the last two sections of the book from Watson to Holmes and then to all the team players by chapter.  It probably works here but I have never read such an abrupt point-of-view shift in a book that I would call completely successful, and so I think a smoother and more exciting end would have been possible without all the head hopping.  Still, the entries for Johnson and Mycroft at the end stood out as fun additions and the change in voice did not take away from this being a good read.  Adams has done a nice job of channeling familiar and convincing voices and recreating the world in and around 21B Baker Street.

 Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau will be released August 7, 2012, at bookstores and online retailers, and is available for pre-order discount now at Amazon.com. Adams’ first Sherlock Holmes novel, The Breath of God, is available in trade paperback and e-book editions.

SH vs D

Earlier this year at borg.com we reviewed Kevin J. Anderson’s Martian War, featuring a mash-up of H.G. Wells himself and Dr. Moreau.  We also reviewed Guy Adams’ The Army of Doctor Moreau, featuring a mash-up of Dr. Moreau and Sherlock Holmes.  A few weeks ago we reviewed Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula: Dracula Cha-Cha-Cha, which featured Hamish (aka James) Bond and brief appearances by Dracula and Sherlock Holmes.  It only makes sense then that we checked out The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock vs. Dracula by mystery writer Loren D. Estleman.  Mash-ups are everywhere these days and all of the above were worthy reading.

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock vs. Dracula begins with a schooner that has run aground in a British harbor.  Its only cargo is fifty boxes of dirt and its only living passenger a dog.  The ship’s captain was tied to the wheel, lifeless, drained of his blood, with two strange puncture wounds on his neck.  Enter our intrepid team of Holmes and Watson.

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Year's En

Merry Christmas!

It’s the end of December and another year is winding down.  Everywhere you turn someone is talking about the Best of 2012, so here we offer our take, resulting from absorbing more content this year than ever before, from books to movies to TV to comics, we reviewed and previewed entertainment from most of the big comic book publishers, and received screeners of shows and books from different publishing houses.  And we watched a lot of TV and went to a number of movies.  So what was the best of the best this year?  No one will ever have the same list but here’s where we ended up:

Best Genre Movie:  The Hobbit.  We had to wait all year for the release but once we saw it–it was well worth the wait and we want to go back and see it again and again.  How could you possibly follow one of the only fantasy films ever to win a Best Picture Academy Award and expect to come close in quality and entertainment?  Peter Jackson figured it out.  Not even The Avengers came close to touching this epic film with giant sets, special effects, elaborate costumes, a perfect story adaptation, and the best CGI creature to date: a Gollum even better than in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Best Dramatic Film: Argo It was an international event more recent in the public psyche than even Watergate, yet it had never been addressed on the silver screen before–the kidnapping of American nationals in Iran.  Ben Affleck served as both director and star of the film and performed both roles brilliantly.  Both exciting and funny–with the incredibly bizarre hook of using Hollywood to create a sci-fi B movie as CIA cover to sneak in to Iran and remove a small group of hostages–it was a story worthy of adapting to screen.  Brilliant!

Best Animated Movie: Brave Kelly McDonald’s wonderful Scottish voice, an all-star Brit voice cast including Emma Thompson, Bill Connolly, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane, coupled with Brenda Chapman’s story and the best of Walt Disney and Pixar’s animation so far, make Brave the slam dunk animated film winner of 2012.   A gorgeous film about a tough and feisty red-headed girl skilled with a bow and arrow who wants to make her own destiny provided a great story for young and old alike.

Best Animated TV Series: Tron: Uprising Disney Television Animation finally figured out a way to bring its Tron franchise forward with Tron: Legacy, and this prequel series gives us what the movie lacked–more Bruce Boxleitner as Tron.  We hardly noticed this wasn’t a live action series, and with voice actors like Frodo’s Elijah Wood, Alien’s Lance Henriksen, Paul Reubens and Tricia Helfer, you could hardly go wrong.  The brilliant choice of lighting, futuristic yet retro light cycles and funky soundtrack made this one worth coming back for each week.

Grimm-Silas-Weir-Mitchell-Bree-Turner

Best Actor: Silas Weir Mitchell, Grimm With the updates for the second season of Grimm, Mitchell’s reformed Blutbad Monroe was hard to beat as the sometimes hilarious sometimes dramatic glue that held the series together, setting up new conflicts, like the strange discovery of Renard and Juliette’s relationship, sure to drive the story next year.

Ksenia Solo as Kenzi in Lost Girl

Best Actress: Ksenia Solo, Lost Girl.  As succubus and series star Bo’s tagalong human friend and roommate Kenzi, Solo held half of the dramatic workload for the Canadian series first released to U.S. audiences this year on the Syfy Channel.  The Latvian born actress plays it funny and smart–she makes for the ideal kickass girl from the best genre fiction stories.

Cobie Smulders in The Avengers

Best Breakout Role–Female:  Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill in The Avengers.  We knew her already from How I Met Your Mother, but Smulders took what could have been a throwaway background role in the biggest movie of the year and instead put her character’s footing almost on par with the Avengers themselves, heading up an early chase scene and appearing with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury throughout the film.  Now she’s set to come back for the next Avengers films, she’s a character that we never knew about but are glad she’s on the team going forward.

Max Greenfield in New Girl

Best Breakout Role–Male: Max Greenfield as Schmidt in New Girl.  Greenfield is one among a handful of great young actors in New Girl, now in its second season, but this season his character Schmidt stepped out to create the craziest, most hysterical moment of nearly every episode.  Whether he is ranting that there is no black Santa Claus, or trying to show a stripper how to lap dance the right way, whether he is wearing his high-cut male kimono, ranting about germs, or his stupid actions result in him putting the most money in the coffee table jar, Greenfield took a funny part and stretched it to insanely funny.  This from the same guy who performed dramatic roles in Veronica Mars, Life and Castle?  Awesome.

Best Guest Appearance:  Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearance in Action Comics. It was a bit of a marketing gimmick, but what could tie the education of real science, a popular TV non-fiction series host and comic book readers together better?  The real star-vested Tyson found a possible location for Superman’s home planet of Krypton, revealing it to the Man of Steel in the pages of the ongoing series.

Best TV series: Arrow, CW Network.  We got our first look at the pilot for this series at Comic-Con this year and loved it, but wasn’t sure how it would appeal to a mass audience.  Pretty much everyone we know watches this series, including those who would never otherwise think to look at a series about a masked superhero.  We have a critical eye out for all things Green Arrow, but Arrow, led by a well-cast Stephen Amell, surpassed our expectations.

Best Comedy Series: New Girl, Fox Network.  New Girl wins this category from one simple thing: This series made this writer laugh so hard his gut hurt and corresponding tears shot out of his eyes from the quick humor in so many scenes this year he lost count.  And when the series dipped into dramatic elements it never veered far from the core of what makes the show work–it’s a comedy first.  Tuesday night this year was New Girl night.  Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston and Cece could be the next Friends (but funnier) if the series can get a wider audience.

Sherlock Belgravia episode

Best Single TV Episode: Sherlock, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” BBC America.  You just have to watch this episode of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s brilliant series over and over.  The entry of the beautiful and unpredictable Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver, was perfection, and Cumberbatch and Martin’s scene with Sherlock’s brother Mycroft in Buckingham Palace can’t be beat.  Sure to be a classic episode for years to come.

Best Cliffhanger: Shawn’s dad gets shot, Psych, USA Network.  It seems like it has been forever since Shawn’s dad Henry, played by Corbin Bernsen was shot at the end of this season’s last episode of the hit USA Network comedy/drama series.  At its core, Psych is a light-hearted pleasure, so they just CAN’T kill off Henry.  We’re really looking forward to finding out.

Best Series Ender: In Plain Sight, USA Network.*  In a year where several mega-hits wrapped for good, including House, M.D., The Closer, Awake, and Chuck, one series finale tied up all the necessary loose ends the best, and that was the aptly titled “All’s Well that Ends” from In Plain Sight, which ended after five solid seasons.  The writers skipped the gimmicks, with no gut wrenching death scenes for major cast players, but instead honored the characters as they’d been for the entire series, rewarding viewers with an end where everyone wins.  *Update:  Leverage‘s surprise December 25, 2012 series finale came in with a powerhouse finale, slightly trumping In Plain Sight at the last minute after we posted this piece.  See our review here.

Jason Isaacs in Awake

Best Series that Cancelled Too Early: Awake, NBC Network We only got to see 12 episodes of Awake, but in those episodes we saw a great paranormal drama develop.  Jason Isaacs, like Paul Blackthorne, is one of those actors you want to helm a series every week.  His dual role of father who lost his kid and husband that lost his wife, both in the same auto accident, showed this actor could do anything with a role.  Although they were able to nicely wrap-up Awake in its last episode, we’d prefer to have seen a lot more of it.

Best Surprise in Entertainment: Dallas, TNT Network.  How was this even possible?  Who would think to take THE 1980s primetime soap and bring it forward to 2012, AND think it could work?  TNT mixed a CW Network-inspired young cast with a plot continuing the struggles in the classic series and melded it into something for anyone willing to give it a try.  Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing never missed a beat as the ultimate TV villain, even in his 80s.  The writers took bits from the tangents of the original to concoct the main storyline of two young heirs fighting for family and social dominance.  The result was addictive TV.

The Major Crimes Gallery

Best Comeback:  The ensemble cast of Major Crimes The great thing about a great ensemble cast is that you like every player equally.  When this is successful, you can stand to lose a character or two and still keep going, or as was the case with the wind-up of The Closer, lose three main characters: Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson, Chief Pope, and Sgt. Gabriel.  Major Crimes added three new replacement characters and never missed a beat, pleasing fans who knew it was too soon for the stories from the L.A. Major Crimes unit to end.

Best Second Wind: Haven, Syfy Channel Some cable TV series limp along and just end after a year or two.  Haven’s single theme of solving the riddle of “the troubles” seemed a candidate for this, but something switched on with the 2012 season allowing the rich stories and great cast chemistry to give us the series’ best episodes in its three-year run so far.

Volkswagen cantina commercial

Best Genre-Related Advertisement:  Star Wars Super Bowl ad, Volkswagen The best Super Bowl ad last January with a dog, a James Brown tune, and a pristine recreation of the Mos Eisley Cantina from the original Star Wars was an instant classic that will be hard to beat in 2013.  Complete with its own recreated hive of scum and villainy, Tom Spina Designs’ creatures gave us something we want to see more of–maybe a new Disney-produced TV series based in Mos Eisley using all these obscure characters fanboys know by name?  Missed it?  See the full ad here.

Best Press Marketing: Coma mini-series press kit, A&E Network We at borg.com received tons of content this year, from books to comics to advance screeners, but one marketing gag was so awesome in its own right it surpassed what it was advertising.  The advance marketing for the Coma TV series marked a possible return by A&E to the classic TV shows we used to get in the days of shows like Price and Prejudice or Nero Wolfe.  Sporting an underground conspiracy plotline, print and online ads created a cool concept that the mini-series itself did not quite match.  When we received a human organ carrier in a “thawed” labeled box that we cautiously unzipped to find the screener, well that was just too awesome not to mention again.

Best Costumes: The Hobbit The Hobbit already made our Best Genre Movie of 2012, but it’s worth a second nod for having the most incredibly crafted costumes of possibly any film made so far in any year.  Building on the costumes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the slow panning of the camera in The Hobbit allowed us to see every seam on Bilbo’s patch-work coat, and every new emblem on each dwarf’s tunic.  How can a production make so many unique costumes for one film?  The result sets the standard for all major films to come.

Doctor Who A Town Called Mercy

Best Borg Appearance: The Cyborg Gunslinger, Doctor Who episode, “A Town Called Mercy” Andrew Brooke’s gunslinger was a slick-looking borg addition, a throwback to Westworld that gave us equal parts of good sci-fi and classic Western movies.  Doctor Who has created the best costumes and make-up of any sci-fi franchise in the past few years and this guy just looked great.

Best Web Series: TableTop bi-weekly Internet series, Geek and Sundry.  Wil Wheaton, known for Star Trek: The Next Generation and more recently his appearances on Big Bang Theory and Leverage, as host of his own online series, brought us all back from the video game world to the boardgame format that allows friends to really interact and have fun for their own game nights.   He chatted over great games like Tsuro, Munchkin and Zombie Dice with friends and celebrities alike, and showed us what could easily translate to its own Game Show Network series.

Best Villain:  The Harp Seal, Battlepug, Mike Norton. Easy choice.  This year’s Eisner Award winner for best digital comic revealed this unexpected villain, a funny surprise for readers.  Imagine a world where the harp seal gets its due–a role reversal where warriors fear him over all other creatures.  A great idea.

Best Ongoing Comic Book Series (tie):  All-Star Western, DC ComicsArtist Moritat and writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti took a long-dead comic book title and bridged 1800s Gotham City and Jonah Hex to make a gritty and fun book that rose to the top of DC Comics’ New 52 titles first released in September 2011.  Who knew a Western comic could be this good?  Bionic Man, Dynamite Comics Phil Hester took a Kevin Smith script and expanded on it, taking the most nostalgic bits of the classic Six Million Dollar Man TV series and updating it for 2012.  The highlight of the fun was an appearance by the classic TV series guest star, Bigfoot.

Thor - God of Thunder 1

Best Single Comic Book Issue: Thor, God of Thunder #1, Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic.  How do you reintroduce a classic character like Thor in a new way?  Exactly like Aaron does in this first issue of his new series, breaking up his story into three time periods, and highlighting the changing face of Thor over time.  Ribic’s lush images of Thor and a certain strange new world escalated this book to the top of my year’s reads.

JK Woodward AssimilationSquared

Best Comic Book Art: JK Woodward, Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation².  J.K. Woodward’s painted artwork throughout this limited series was stunning.  Probably the best depiction to-date of Star Trek characters in a comic book, Woodward took a fanboy’s dream job of merging two of the biggest sci-fi franchises together for the first story ever attempted and delivered a great looking story, now available in a trade edition.  We just want to see more.

Mystery in Space 1 by Ryan Sook

Best Comic Book Cover Art:  Mystery in Space, Ryan Sook, Vertigo Comics Ryan Sook had a big year, providing sensational covers for everything from The Shadow to the new Sword of Sorcery to one of our favorite titles, Justice League Dark.  But his cover for Vertigo Comics’ Mystery in Space #1 blended sci-fi and fantasy in the best way, with a steampunk angel painting the universe inside a spaceship with the help of flitting fairies, or is she creating our actual universe?  A great idea and perfect execution made this a standout on the store shelf this year.

Hawkeye cover by David Aja

Best Comic Book Cover Art Runner-up:  Hawkeye mini-series, David Aja Aja’s six unique Hawkeye series covers served not only to entice us to read this mini-series with great use of simple colors, but his own artwork between the covers made us feel like we were rewarded with what was advertised–a very cool and unusually stylish series.

Best Comics Collected Edition:  Flash Gordon, Volumes 1 and 2, Titan Books These were the best presented books we reviewed this year.  Reprinted Sunday comics from the 1930s and 1940s in a giant-sized edition that allowed readers to appreciate the story and art of creator Alex Raymond was a feast for the eyes.  The content allowed readers to see just how relevant and interesting the original mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy could be.

Best Retro Reviewed Book: Moonraker, Ian Fleming.  Casino Royale was a great read, Live and Let Die was a bit of a letdown, but Moonraker was as exciting as any book I’ve read in years.  Far different from the film of the same name, this thriller was packed with spy world intrigue.  Compared to all the other retro reviews this year, including Philip K. Dick classics, this one really stood out.

Best Reviewed Book: Dracula Cha Cha Cha, Kim Newman Although it was initially released in 1998, a new edition was re-released this year.  The best “post-modern steampunk” mash-up and incredibly detailed world building made this novel a great read, full of artful prose and creative crossovers.  Newman also added another level of storytelling, mixing the real world with the world of fiction, and the result is a densely packed, enjoyable volume.

Bond and Queen

Best Mash-Up of Fiction and Non-Fiction Worlds:  James Bond accompanies the Queen to the Olympics 2012 was the Year of Bond with his 50th year in film.  How better to highlight the best of Jolly Old England at this year’s Summer Olympics than to begin with a meeting of the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, and the actual Queen Elizabeth II in her 60th year in Buckingham Palace, followed by a faked aerial dive by the Queen over the stadium in London.  The Queen was a real sport, adding herself to the long list of Bond girls.  And don’t forget the real-world borg Oscar Pistorius’s impressive showings at the Olympics this year.

Comic-Con Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel

Best Genre Event: The Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel at Comic-Con.  More than 7,000 fans stood in line for only about 5,000 seats but the all-night wait was worth seeing most of the cast of Firefly reunite with creators Joss Whedon and Tom Minnear to talk about the short-lived series.  Firefly fans are a passionate bunch, and were able to get Whedon to make the big-budget movie Serenity a few years after cancellation.  But get most of the stars to come back ten years later?  Pretty cool feat.  With Whedon and series co-star Adam Baldwin (Jayne) dropping by to greet the people sleeping and standing in line overnight it was an event that attendees will never forget.

Best News Story: George Lucas sells Star Wars rights to Disney Some liked it and some hated it, but as months go by we’ll see what it all means.  As entertainment goes, this multi-billion dollar exchange was the talk everywhere this year.

Best Science Story: Curiosity lands on Mars.  NASA’s description of dropping a rover on the surface of the planet Mars sounded like threading a needle blind-folded wearing gloves.  Its early morning coverage of the successful landing was something like the moon landing, and made everyone want to see what more we can do in the space program now that the last Space Shuttle has been mothballed.  What will the future hold for NASA and humans in outer space?

Best Nationwide Genre Participation Event: The Avengers Marathon, AMC Theaters We only wished for something like this when we were kids–the ability to watch something like all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies in one screening.  The lead-up to the midnight premiere of The Avengers allowed fans to watch all the lead-in Avengers films so far:  Iron Man I and II, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.  A great idea that will hopefully continue with other franchise films.

Best Single Thing for Genre Works: The Avengers movie.  Genre, and specifically superhero, films needed a good kickstart.  The dark and dreary Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan was monopolizing superhero films, and we needed a giant, vibrant superhero film to usher in a new age of comic book films and Joss Whedon delivered the goods.  It’s not a perfect film (and what is?) but was completely fun and entertaining, delivering something every fan could enjoy.  Challenging the top two positions for all-time box office draw also showed everyone that fans want to see more of this kind of movie.

What were your favorites?  We hope a few of these are on your own list.  We at borg.com will be back with more coverage and reviews in 2013.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

What makes a great character?  The USA Network has used “character” as its marketing focus for the past few years, even using it to make advertising dollars by making their character of the week the Priceline Negotiator when William Shatner was guest starring as the father of Maggie Lawson’s character Juliet O’Hara on the TV series Psych.  In genre fiction, especially in popular sci-fi vs serious science fiction, whether it is in TV or film or books, sometimes character gets swallowed up by setting.   More than anywhere else, in science fiction or fantasy or mysteries you need a good balance between character and place, but if you don’t have characters that grow and change you probably have a weak story altogether.

So what makes a great character a favorite?  Is it their job?  Their passion?  Something they did?  Their reaction to their environment?  Beyond what makes him or her, or it, great, what makes a character something you form a personal attachment to?   How do you determine who your favorite characters are?

Maybe you’re drawn to favorite archetypes.  A lot of what I watch on TV and in movies are detectives to some extent or another.  Is there a more long-lived and admired character than Sherlock Holmes, for example?  My favorite incarnation of all the film versions is the current Sherlock series on BBC starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  This is followed second closely by Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law’s Sherlock Holmes movie series.  But Holmes has been injected in other incarnations, too.  Batman is Holmes in a cape with crime-fighting gadgets.  Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House on House M.D. is Holmes as a modern genius of medicine.  Psych‘s Shaun Spencer is Holmes as master sleuth posing as a psychic.

We like Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, and Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman.  Why?  Are they really just modern versions of Frankenstein’s monster?  Same for Robocop?  These characters challenge what it is to be human.  More than any other character in sci-fi, Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation sought out his humanity, but even he was a modern version of Pinocchio, a puppet trying to be a real boy, and Mr. Spock, who was part Vulcan, part human, had the same struggle discovering who he was.  Maybe we just like them because, like the Fonz, they are just plain cool to us?

Characters all fall into the classic struggles, of one or more conflicts, of a struggle between man and himself, between man and other men, or between man and society.  Is it that struggle that grabs our attention?

Popular characters get made into books, TV shows, movies, franchises.  Like Batman, Superman, James Bond, Doctor Who, Jack Ryan, John McClane, Buffy Summers, Indiana Jones, Alice in Resident Evil, Lara Croft, Harry Potter, Hobbits.  Other characters you might just get a glimpse of, but then you’re hooked and they become your favorites for life.  Like Boba Fett, Tron, Yoda, Gimli, Johnny Fever, Chewbacca, Theoden King.  And your favorite characters may not be humans or even human-like.  Maybe they are animals, like Benji or Lassie.  Or something not exactly human or animal, like Grover from Sesame Street, or Cookie Monster, Eeyore the long-eared donkey from Winnie the Pooh, Calvin (or Hobbes!) from Calvin and Hobbes, Ferdinand the Bull, E.T., Snoopy from Peanuts, Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Foghorn Leghorn, Scooby Doo.  Some characters have the classic hero role, like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Dorothy Gale, Captain James T. Kirk, Scarlett O’Hara, Hiro Nakamura, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Ivanhoe, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, Snow White, Eowyn, Mace Windu.  Some favorite characters serve as villains, often villains we love to hate, like Darth Vader, Maleficent, Sark, the Wicked Witch of the West, Colonel Nathan Jessup, Sauron, Commander Kruge, Willie Stark, the Joker, Lex Luthor, Khan, the Terminator, The Borg.  Maybe they are hard to fit into any category, like Billy Pilgrim or John Casey.

What makes a character your favorite?  As opposed to the question “Who is the greatest character in any genre work?” what is your “favorite” is purely subjective.  Maybe there is little great to be said about your personal favorite.  Maybe your favorite is a well-meaning screw-up like Al Bundy or Homer Simpson.  Maybe it’s someone clueless, like Cher, Alicia Silverstone’s character in the movie Clueless.  Maybe it’s someone who can’t get a break, like George Bailey or Joan Wilder or  Clear in Final Destination 1 and 2.  Maybe it’s someone as innocent as can be, like Buddy the Elf in the movie Elf, or purely good, like Santa Claus, or Fred Gailey, the lawyer who represented Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street.   Or maybe it’s people like Fred who protect and defend others, like Ben Stone or Archie Goodwin or Inigo Montoya or Jack McCoy or Thomas Magnum or Frozone or Robin Hood or Atticus Finch.

Who are our favorites?  Starting tomorrow and for the next four days we’ll ask the borg.com writers to reveal their top five favorites from genre fiction, from any media, books, film, TV, or anything else with characters they can come up with.

Check out the Editor’s picks here.

Check out Art Schmidt’s picks here.

Check out Jason McClain’s picks here.

Check out Elizabeth C. Bunce’s picks here.

Review by C.J. Bunce

I am a big fan of Jim Lee’s Hush series, which appeared as Issues 608-619 of the Batman title.  Jeph Loeb’s story and Jim Lee’s pencils, along with Alex Sinclair’s use of color and Scott Williams’s inks made a for a classic and definitive Batman story.  Both Loeb and Lee’s artistic influence can be seen with the feel, tone, even the inner thought fonts and speech boxes, of the new Batman in DC’s new 52, in both Justice League #1 and last week’s release, Detective Comics #1.

Detective Comics, back to issue 27 in the early 1940s, has always focused on the Caped Crusader’s real superpower (actually the absence of any superpower, to be correct), that of sleuth–as a modern Sherlock Holmes.  The modern Batman since at least Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One has remained a modern twist on Holmes, without all the necessary quirkiness of Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective.  A brilliant series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (who is filming the role of Bilbo Baggins in next year’s The Hobbit from Peter Jackson), recently began airing from the BBC.  Titled Sherlock, that series, created by the great Stephen Moffat of the Doctor Who fifth series fame, will be reviewed here later.  Like the modern look at Moffat’s Holmes, you would expect similar treatment with a modern Batman in the new DC 52.

And writer/artist Tony Daniel and co-writer Ryan Winn do not fail to deliver on that expectation.  Not only is the new Batman in Detective Comics a smart, master detective fluent in modern sleuthing techniques, the villainy he must face is disturbingly real.  Back in the 1970s, true crime and real-life detective mags were everywhere, and they often had uncensored, shocking photos.  The new Detective Comics seems almost inspired by this old sub-genre.  Is the Joker more vile than ever, or no different from his past psychotic nature?  The art seems to be pushing the bounds here and the new Detective Comics is not for the squeamish.  If there are new DC Comics titles directed toward kids then this title definitely is drawn for the mature viewer.  In one panel, the Joker’s face has been surgically removed by a new villain, the Dollmaker, and the remains are left hanging on the wall.  The result is as grotesque and grisly as it sounds.  As the Joker’s characteristic insane laugh and killer jokes are how we’d expect to see the Joker, the treatment here hangs at the precipice of being over the top.

Beyond the pursuit of the crime element we get short shapshots of a classic Alfred Pennyworth, as true to his past form as ever.  Commissioner James Gordon is also the class-act we would hope him to be.  Readers can’t really have enough Commissioner Gordon, so hopefully we’ll see a lot more coordination between him and Batman.  Once we saw Gary Oldman provide such a definitive performance as the unflinching cop in The Dark Knight, fans just can’t get enough of this character.

As Bruce Wayne, our hero is consistent with past Batman and Detective Comics stories.  One thing is for certain, if DC Comics is changing the face of certain superheroes in its universe, Batman is the same as ever.  A very good thing for such a key figure in the new universe who is featured in nearly a dozen titles.  Will the Dark Knight continue in this title to be this dark, bleak and gritty?  We’ll check out the next issue to find out next month.   But if the story sticks to its current grisly path this may not be an ongoing ‘zine for this reader.