Category: Comics & Books

Review by C.J. Bunce

Writer Stuart Moore returns this month with a solid follow-up to his multiple superhero-spanning novel Civil War, reviewed here at borg Titan Books has released the tenth book in its Marvel Comics-based series of prose paperback novels, Moore’s Thanos: Death Sentence Originally published in 2017, this is its first paperback release.  If you’re after a story about Thanos, if you love the character and want to know what makes him tick, and the circumstances around wielding that kind of power during the events of Avengers: Infinity War, then Thanos: Death Sentence is for you.  Those familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers: Infinity War will find no spoilers for the film in this story, and it may just get you excited for the release of Avengers: Endgame in theaters next week.

It’s probably better knowing something about this story before jumping into the dense 336-page novel.  Exciting, brilliant detailed superhero crossover events highlight the novel’s first 100 pages.  In a parallel but different take on Infinity War, readers see Thanos kill off nearly every major superhero in the Marvel universe.  It’s quite fun to read how Moore has Thanos do it, not with a single snap and turn to dust for everyone, but a specific, tailored death sentence for each hero.  Wielding the Soul Stone Spider-Man gets relegated to re-live the death of his uncle through his own inaction, for infinity.  Ben Grimm gets separated into his component stones and dispersed throughout the cosmos.  With the Space Stone Thanos strands Captain Marvel beyond the solar system.  The Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange, Vision, Prince Namor, Black Panther, all snuffed out.  And then it’s all undone.  And that’s only where this story begins.  The method of the undoing is not something that seems remotely possible for the movies–with far more characters introduced than we’re met on the big screen (since the entirety of the films were made before the merger with Fox to wrap in the rest of the Marvel characters).

Once the deaths are undone, Thanos the Mad Titan is forced to fight his way back to power by Mistress Death using the Infinity Wardrobe, pressed into the bodies of tangent characters in the lives of the famed Children of Thanos–his minions seen in Avengers: Infinity War: Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, Corvus Glaive, plus his adopted daughter Gamora.

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Sometimes your friendly comic book store owner knows just the right book to recommend to you, and the latest is Captain Ginger, one of the first comic books from the new comics publisher, AHOY Comics.  One of the improvements on the medium is thick 40-page issues, with a title story here making up 35 of those pages.  It’s not too late to climb aboard the new series, and Issue #2 is scheduled to arrive this Wednesday.

Take Planet of the Apes, but swap cats for apes.  Then get rid of the planet and humans and send them off into outer space like the reboot of Battlestar Galactica.  Add cat behavior, cat quirks, and cat community relationships and you’ll have a good idea what to look for in Captain Ginger.  The monthly series is written by Stuart Moore (Marvel’s Civil War) with pencil artwork by June Brigman (Jessica Jones, Power Pack)and inks by Roy Richardson (Flash), and colors by Veronica Gandini (Mice Templar).


Follow the exploits of Captain Ginger, an orange cat selected to lead the cats against a perplexing menace, as he tries to keep his crew aboard when they want to stay on the first planet they find that has rats, cushions, blankets, and radiators?  Will they all take a nap when they should be in battle?  Can Captain Ginger keep everyone from going outside the litter box?

Issue #1 includes a prose story by comics legend Grant Morrison, “The Electric Sky Bear That Inspired Ben Franklin,” with two panels illustrated by Phil Hester, and a Too Much Coffee Man cartoon strip by Shannon Wheeler.  Above are the covers for the first four issues, and here are a few interior pages from Issue #1:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix saga in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men has attained classic status in the eyes of comics readers, up there with The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and Days of Future Past.  So adapting the story into another medium forty years later is one of those cultural mainstays, a modern analogue to creating a new Sherlock Holmes film, Frankenstein movie, or another generation’s interpretation of a Shakespeare play.  Marvel Comics itself has given this a go a few times now, usually as subplots or tie-in concepts, and at the movies Marvel tried it with X-Men: United, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Dark Phoenix, this year’s wrap-up to the X-Men films.  X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga, the new hardcover novel from author Stuart Moore (Captain Ginger, Civil War, Thanos: Death Sentence) comes the closest so far to a faithful adaptation for Dark Phoenix purists.

We probably should blame Marvel’s bankruptcy and resulting character/universe splits and business decisions for the disjointed handling of the Dark Phoenix characters and plot points at the movies.  Dark Phoenix is an interesting story, but not the only X-Men story, so it would have been better revealed over five or six movies culminating in a Jean Grey-centered finale, since the character has been defined as Earth’s most powerful superhero as the Marvel universe is concerned.  She’s worth it.  Now with the successes of theatrical comic book adaptations, and the formula of long-term story development in the genre a proven commodity, maybe fans will see more loyal movie adaptations coming (hopefully only after we get to see some of the hundreds of other stories adapted).  But fans of the comics will be pleased here: Moore doesn’t play games with his novel.  Readers will find the classic game of chess and all the key pieces:  Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Jason Wyngarde, Donald Pierce, Harry Leland, Lilandra, Moira MacTaggert, and X-Men Xavier/Charles, Kitty Pryde, Scott Summers and Logan & Co. (except notably Beast, who for some reason was not included).

Despite marketing to the effect of adapting the tale to the 21st century, if that’s true it’s only subtly handled.  The bones of the story are the same (including the awkward 1970s Harlequin romance subplot from the comics with Jean and a Regency era lover, every cringeworthy bit).  New readers, those unfamiliar with the story at all, will likely find some of those classic Claremont and Cockrum elements a bit jolting and distracting to the overall narrative, and episodic tangent shifts more typical to a monthly comic than longform story.  But Moore brings it all together with the key conflicts and outcomes of the source material falling into place.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new edition of novels based on Marvel Comics characters is being published beginning this month from Titan Books, including reprints of past novels as well as entirely new works.  First in the series is Stuart Moore’s 2013 prose novel Civil War, based on the giant, 98-issue, comic book event from 2006 and 2007 (not a novelization of the Marvel Studios movie).  The release of the novels is well-timed to capture new readers drawn in by Avengers: Infinity War, and Moore’s Civil War is the perfect follow-up for fans of the movie looking for more stories featuring the majority of the publisher’s roster of superheroes.  Just like the movie Captain America: Civil War only loosely tapped into concepts from its source material in the comic books, this novel may be a little jarring to those who only follow the movies.  But Moore’s book is a great way to see even more characters than made it into Captain America: Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War working together and against each other.  In short:  It’s a blast to read.

As in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Civil War the novel features a split between Earth’s superheroes, pitting Steve Rogers’ Captain America against Tony Stark’s Iron Man.  But the similarities end there.  A devastating explosion that kills hundreds of people resulting from a failed attempt by the New Warriors (a young superhero team filming a reality show) prompts American citizens to fear the superhero community and push for an invasive regulation of superheroes.  Stark initially opposes the Act, but ultimately favors it as the lesser of two evils and the best way for superheroes to continue to serve and protect.  Captain America and those loyal to him see the new Superhero Registration Act as a fascist restraint on their freedom and refuse to comply.  In the conflict that ensues Moore streamlines the original story from the comic books into an exciting and engaging read, drawing together most of the Marvel universe’s major characters and many minor characters.

Thor, Nick Fury, and Scott Lang are dead, Hulk has been exiled off-planet, and Wolverine and the X-Men refuse to take sides, not participating in the story, except for Storm.  The Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm and Doctor Strange remain neutral, but the rest choose sides, with Sue Richards, Hawkeye, and Spider-man switching sides throughout the story.  Falcon, Cloak & Dagger, Johnny Storm, Tigra, Prince Namor, Dr. Hank Pym, Black Panther & Storm, Daredevil, Ms. Marvel, Cassie Lang, Luke Cage, The Punisher, and newly appointed S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill all have key roles, with She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Valkyrie, and Black Widow actively involved as well.  But the bulk of the character development follows Peter Parker, revealing for the first time to the world he is Spider-man, by far the most engaging and endearing hero of this tale.  The leadership challenges of Captain America and Iron Man as they oppose each other and keep Maria Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. at bay is the girth of the story with a great thread involving Sue Richards as she struggles to deal with her husband Reed who she feels is on the wrong side of the issue Act implementation.

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Following on the coattails of DC Comics’ reboot of its entire line last year, Marvel Comics is following suit with a relaunch of its own, called Marvel NOW!  Marvel execs have taken great pains to diffeentiate their line from DC’s re-vamp last year.  First, they claim this is not a reboot.  They also revealed that they are going to be nicer to comic book buyers, by rolling out the new changes week by week, allowing several opportunities for readers to jump on the new storylines.  Marvel NOW! will also restart only “flagship” titles (and Deadpool?), and other titles will continue their storylines.  Either way, it’s another excuse to re-start all the major series and shuffle some others, including merging teams and creating some new titles altogether.

The design of the covers and cover art really looks sharp–I really like the Fantastic Four and Iron Man covers.

So what are the new titles and the creative teams behind them?  Here are all the details, including cover art for the new first issues:

October release:

Uncanny Avengers #1 will be written by Rick Remender with art by John Cassaday.  At least five covers expected to be available.  Here’s Marvel’s detail on the title:  THIS IS IT!  The greatest era of the Marvel Universe starts here!  From the ashes of AvX an all-new, all-different Avengers assemble!  Captain America begins his quest to create a sanctioned Avengers unit  comprised of Avengers and X-Men, humans and mutants working together – so why is Professor Xavier’s dream more at risk than ever?  The first attack of the most loathsome villain in history will quake the Marvel Universe forever!  The funeral of one of Marvel’s greatest heroes!  $3.99

November releases:

Iron Man #1 will be written by Kieron Gillen with art by Greg Land.  Keep a look out for at least six variant covers.  Here is the Marvel explanation: Tony Stark—Iron Man: Technological visionary, wealthy playboy, unparalleled  engineer, and armored Avenger.  His greatest invention becomes his  greatest mistake. Iron Man must act fast…and Tony Stark must build faster!  The lethal techno virus Extremis is out in the wild and out for  grabs to the highest bidder! It’s up to Tony Stark to contain it and  that means creating a new suit of armor…NOW!  $3.99

Thor:  God of Thunder #1 will be written by Jason Aaron with art by Esad Ribic.  Six covers available.  Marvel’s blurb:  Throughout the ages, the gods of the Marvel Universe have been vanishing, their mortal worshippers left in chaos.  NOW! the Mighty Thor follows a trail of blood that threatens to consume his past, present and future selves.  The only hope for these ravaged worlds lies with the God of Thunder unraveling the gruesome mystery of the God Butcher!  $3.99

Captain America #1 will be written by Rick Remender with art by John Romita, Jr.  Six available covers.  The details: Thrust into a bizarre, inhospitable world far from home, the all-new, high-adventure, mind-melting, tough-as-nails, sci-fi, pulp-fantasy era of Captain America is NOW!  With no country and no allies, what’s left for the Sentinel of Liberty to protect?  The Saga of Dimension Z begins here!  $3.99

Indestructible Hulk #1 will be written by Mark Waid with art by Leinil Francis Yu.  Six covers expected.  The detail:  Hulk – Indestructible force more weapon than man.  Banner – smartest man alive.  Combined they are the Strongest, Smartest Weapon on the planet!  And NOW! the INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK is an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.!  $3.99

Fantastic Four #1 will be written by Matt Fraction with art by Mark Bagley.  Seven covers available.  Marvel’s description: Four adults. Two kids. One “car.”  NOW! begins a journey through all of infinite time and space.  $2.99

FF #1 will be written by Matt Fraction with art by Mike Allred.  Five available covers.   Marvel’s details:  We have seen the future and it will be fantastic!  In the absence of the Fantastic Four, a substitute Four, hand-picked by the real deal–Ant-Man, Medusa, She-Hulk and Miss Thing–stand ready to guard the Earth and the nascent Future Foundation for four minutes… NOW! what could possibly go wrong?  $2.99

Deadpool #1 will be written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn with art by Tony Moore.  Six covers expected.   Marvel’s description:  Dead former United States presidents, from George Washington to Gerald Ford have been resurrected, and that’s BAD.  The Marvel heroes can’t be the ones to stop them, someone is needed with the reputation, skills and plausible deniability to take out these com-monsters in chiefs…NOW! is the time for Deadpool… In Wade We Trust!  $2.99

X-Men: Legacy #1 will be written by Simon Spurrier with art by Tan Eng Huat.   Five covers expected.  The details: Legion, the most powerful and unstable mutant in the world and son to Professor Charles Xavier, has killed gods and reshaped the face of the universe.  NOW! in the aftermath of Avengers vs. X-Men, Legion will finally attempt to conquer his demons and embrace his father’s legacy!  $3.99

All New X-men #1 will be written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Stuart Immonen.   Five covers expected to be available.  What’s it about?  It’s a blast from the past as the original five students of Professor X – Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Beast – are plucked from the  past and brought to the present.  But what they find, the state that their future selves are in and the state of Xavier’s dream, is far from the future they dreamed of.  And how will the X-Men of the present deal with their past coming crashing forward?  $3.99

A+X #1 will be written by various writers and artists as it will be a new anthology series for Marvel, following on the heels of Avengers v. X-Men coming out earlier than the above titles.  Each issue of the series will feature two team-up stories each focusing on a different Avenger and X-Man working side-by-side.  The first installment has a Hulk/Wolverine story by Jeph Loeb and Dale Keown and a Cable/Captain America tale by Dan Slott and Ron Garney.  $3.99

December releases (preliminary info):

Avengers will be written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Jerome Opeña.  It will be published twice per month.

New Avengers will be written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Steve Epting.

Point One will be a special issue featuring Ant-Man, Hulking and Wiccan, Nick Fury, Starlord, Cable and Nova.  Several creators will be working on this issue:  Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jeph Loeb, Kieron Gillen, Nick Spencer, Dennis Hopeless, Mike Allred, Ed McGuinness, Steve McNiven, Jamie McKelvie and Salvadore Larroca.

More to come as Marvel Comics releases more information about its new line.

C.J. Bunce

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