Category: Comics & Books


It’s a graphic novel that can’t be easy to translate to either the big or small screens, yet the first episode of a new TNT television series gets off to a good start.  First a series of graphic novels we discussed five years ago here at borg, then a movie starring Chris Evans (reviewed here and discussed here), the futuristic, post-apocalypse universe of Snowpiercer is now here and the first episode wastes no time maneuvering its very allegorical existence into something intriguing.  Academy Award-winning actor Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Alita: Battle Angel, The Princess Bride) takes the baton from the movie cast’s Tilda Swinton in the leading female role, a different twist than you’ll expect if you’re familiar with the previous incarnations.  And though he’s not Chris Evans (who is?)–who starred in the film–male series lead Daveed Diggs (Ferdinand, Zootopia, Star Wars Resistance) jumps right into this insane, preposterous setting and gives it all to make you think it’s real.

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

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

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

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

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Bullet Train cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill is an example of a spectacular Japanese novel that translated perfectly to the English language and Western audiences in the movie adaptation, Edge of Tomorrow, later renamed Live. Die. Repeat.  Kotaro Isaka’s Bullet Train, initially re-titled from its original name Maria Beetle, is the next Japanese novel on its way to the big screen, not starring Tom Cruise but Brad Pitt, expected to arrive in theaters next year.  It’s not what you’d expect, which is good or bad, depending on your tastes.  Despite that evocative title, it’s surprisingly not an action thriller.  It’s billed as social satire, like the French graphic novel turned Chris Evans movie and TV series, Snowpiercer, and that’s pretty much what readers should expect from Bullet Train, the novel, arriving in its first English edition in U.S. book stores next week.  If Snowpiercer was your thing, you may want to pre-order Bullet Train now here at Amazon.

The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Unstoppable, Murder on the Orient Express, Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes, Von Ryan’s Express, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Silver Streak, Source Code, and yes, Snowpiercer, are the top 10 movies you probably think of featuring train action (oh, and don’t forget the original action movie, 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, discussed here and remade several times, plus props are due for train flicks The Commuter and Trading Places).  In each of these, a train goes out of control, or it gets highjacked, or hit by an avalanche, someone is kidnapped or killed, or the train is the target of a terrorist attack–all the kinds of dangers that couple well with a fictional speeding train.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Rod Serling, eat your heart out.  Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone writers could take some pointers from Eddie Robson′s new novel, Hearts of Oak It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy.  And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.  Borrowing its title from the popular, age-old song of the British Navy, here the cryptic “hearts of oak” says a lot about the rollercoaster ride for readers that lies ahead.

Taking a cue from the stark, detached, and quirky science fiction mysteries of Adam Christopher’s robot detective in books like Killing is My Business (reviewed previously here at borg), readers, and the protagonists, never quite know what is real and who is real.  What we do know is Iona Taylor has been an architect so long everyone knows her and respects her as the very best there is.  But she is having a particularly bad week as her colleague has died in the collapse of a building.  As she contemplates attending his funeral a new student inquires about private tutoring, and when the student leaves her hat behind the feeling of felt texture in the hat conjures something surreal for Iona–a strange feeling tugging at her, maybe even loosening some long forgotten memories.  After a strange event at the funeral and the destruction of yet another building, Iona is called by the authorities not for her advice, but for questioning, becoming a target of the investigation.  When the prospective student vanishes, Iona must play detective to clear herself, but she might not like what she finds.

Eddie Robson, a writer of Doctor Who and other radio plays and non-fiction works about movies, is a good storyteller.  His narrative reads like a fantasy fable of a king with a talking cat who advises him, in an enchanted city of expansive buildings and replenished resources centered around creating ever higher architecture so the king may relocate his rooms at the very top.  The book evokes parts of great science fiction stories and films of the past without pulling too much from any of them.  But fans of all these works will find some surprisingly good fun in Hearts of Oak: Planet of the Apes, Tron: Legacy, Humans, Alien, Snowpiercer, The Truman Show, Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint, a flip on Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and The Matrix, and a few episodes of your favorite sci-fi TV shows, especially The Twilight Zone.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

To understand the scope of celebrated Chinese author Cixin Liu′s 2005 novel Supernova Era, finally available to Western audiences in an English translated edition by Joel Martinsen, it helps to look back to its influences, and those works published since its original publication in China.  At its core, this is a classic science fiction novel of the Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury school.  It’s a work of speculative fiction, at once arguably both optimistic and dystopian that reads almost like an alternate history in the vein of Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.  Disturbing and horrifying at points, philosophical, and filled with global, international, and political intrigue, it’s also squarely a young adult title, featuring almost exclusively middle grade aged kids tasked with surviving an interstellar holocaust–the actual “supernova” of the title–that quickly fries the DNA of anyone older than the age of thirteen.  The solution?  In the face of their imminent deaths, the world’s adult leaders begin to select youth leadership based on the classic “model United Nations” competitions.  It’s a jarring, but ultimately interesting and clever mash-up of some great tropes of science fiction.

Since the initial publication of Supernova Era in China, we’ve seen parts of the story replayed–possibly even inspiring–many other genre works:  Only last year in we saw Jeff Lemire’s Sentient–a comic book series where the adults on a ship are killed in a sabotage leaving kids to run a spaceship.  Here, we follow two small groups of children, the cabinet who must lead China and the cabinet who leads the United States, without the help, advice, education, and other benefits of adults or adulthood, on a global stage.   At first, the children default to letting an Internet-like artificial intelligence computer–the Digital Domain–help keep society in order, something like the robot in last year’s Netflix movie, I Am Mother, where a computer system’s robotic surrogate fulfills all parental duties to children.

When the daily toil of work grinds the kids in the Supernova Era into a state of boredom, they reach out to a massively multi-player online roleplaying game (MMPORG) and begin to build their real lives around it, as we saw in Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel, Ready Player One, where a future society allows itself to give up life in the real world to become lost inside a virtual reality MMPORG.  And the world’s kid leadership ultimately decide they need to compete with other nations, creating a worldwide version of Suzanne Collins’ 2008 novel The Hunger Games (also inspired by Stephen King’s novel, The Running Man) with a society relying on a new world construct with quirky contrived, artificial new rules of survival, battling wars with gameboard rules to the death.  Were these authors aware of Liu’s internationally known and respected work?  Possibly, but it’s the earlier works that served at least in part as influences on Liu’s novel.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

That’s showbiz.

It sums up every feature on the brilliant Amazon Studios series The Last Tycoon, a loose adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s incomplete final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon With a nine-episode first season only touching on the threads of Fitzgerald’s original ideas, just as the characters begin to fall apart in the season’s cliffhanger finale, Amazon Studios does what studios do–tightens it belt and cancels the series.  It helps to know this before you watch this one-season-wonder (we’ll add it to the list), because you will get pulled into the world of 1936 Hollywood in a way you could only be reeled in by a genuine 1930s picture.  Even if it was all filmed in Canada in an unthinkably short 65 day production.

The Last Tycoon does it all differently and gets it all right–it’s the series we hoped the film Mank would be.  It’s not an exact adaptation of Fitzgerald’s work, but the bones are there, and creator/writer/executive producer/director Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, Terminator: Dark Fate) creates something perfect, probably better than any Fitzgerald adaptation you’ve ever seen, with some of your favorite genre actors.

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In many ways the spy protagonist Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron in this year’s action blockbuster Atomic Blonde, will be barely recognizable to fans of writer Antony Johnston and artist Sam Hart’s Lorraine Broughton, the heroine of the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City The most obvious change is certainly that Broughton is not drawn blonde in the pages of the comic, but the modifications go much further.  Yet, if you can separate the source material from the film, both can be appreciated for the great stories and the visuals that both offer.

We reviewed the film Atomic Blonde here at borg.com back in August.  The original Oni Press graphic novel is now available in a movie tie-in edition.  Atomic Blonde is no doubt a catchy and excellent title, and matches the violent and dynamic tone of the film.  But The Coldest City is also a great title, carrying its own clever double meaning.  In the book’s pages Sam Hart draws a black and white spy story that echoes the bleakness of the Cold War territory Antony Johnston’s tale revisits.  Top spy Broughton is serious about her job, she’s street savvy, and has years of experience when she’s brought in for a debriefing at the beginning of the story.  Hart’s art style is striking, and like Jean-Marc Rochette’s artistry in his graphic novel Snowpiercer (reviewed here), the panels aren’t cluttered with detail, and he instead relies on simple, dark lines with shadows to emphasize the mood.  From every angle The Coldest City is an engaging “end of the Cold War” story.

As different as Atomic Blonde appears to be from the graphic novel, the film is substantially faithful to its source.  You might find the differences in the book and movie analogous to a comparison of the film version of Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig to Ian Fleming’s original novel (we reviewed that one here).  The imagery is different but the author’s intent comes through, albeit in an updated package.

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Although DC Entertainment seemed to sweep the spotlight at this San Diego Comic-Con this year, Marvel Studios released one noteworthy trailer late today.  We’ve said it before: not since Robert Downey, Jr. was cast as Tony Stark has the studio really nailed its casting efforts as with Benedict Cumberbatch’s match to the classic comic book characterAnd he looks spot-on in this new trailer.

This latest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry is directed by Scott Derrickson, known for his horror work in films like Deliver us From Evil, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Doctor Strange co-stars Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, State of Play) as Christine Palmer, Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia, Snowpiercer) as The Ancient One, Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, The Martian) as Baron Mordo, Amy Landecker (Revenge, Early Edition), Scott Adkins (Expendables 2, The Bourne Ultimatum), and Michael Stuhlbarg (Hugo) as Nicodemus West.

Marvel also issued a new poster at Comic-Con today:

Strange poster

Check out the second trailer released for Doctor Strange:

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Doctor-Strange-Poster

Not since Robert Downey, Jr. was cast as Tony Stark has the studio really nailed its casting efforts as with Benedict Cumberbatch’s match to the classic comic book character and lead in Doctor Strange.  A new trailer is out, along with a new poster (above).

This latest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry is directed by Scott Derrickson, known for his horror work in films like Deliver us From Evil, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so expect a darker Marvel film coming your way.

Doctor Strange co-stars Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, State of Play) as Christine Palmer, Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia, Snowpiercer) as The Ancient One, Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, The Martian) as Baron Mordo, Amy Landecker (Revenge, Early Edition), Scott Adkins (Expendables 2, The Bourne Ultimatum), and Michael Stuhlbarg (Hugo) as Nicodemus West.

Strange

Check out the first trailer for the film:

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Cumberbatch Doctor Strange A

Although earlier images have surfaced of Marvel Studios’ coming big screen production of Doctor Strange, Friday night the studio released several images of star Benedict Cumberbatch and some very interesting pieces of concept art.  Not since Robert Downey, Jr. was cast as Tony Stark has the studio really nailed its casting efforts as with Cumberbatch’s match to this classic comic book character.

This latest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry is directed by Scott Derrickson, known for his horror work in films like Deliver us From Evil, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so expect a darker Marvel film coming your way.

Doctor Strange co-stars Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, State of Play) as Christine Palmer, Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia, Snowpiercer) as The Ancient One, Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, The Martian) as Baron Mordo, Amy Landecker (Revenge, Early Edition), Scott Adkins (Expendables 2, The Bourne Ultimatum), and Michael Stuhlbarg (Hugo) as Nicodemus West.

Cumberbatch Doctor Strange F     Cumberbatch Doctor Strange G

Above and after the break, check out some great concept art from the production of Doctor Strange:

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