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Category: Comics & Books


Following on the heels of 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service and 2017’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle comes a prequel film, The King’s Man, and the first movie trailer has just arrived from the new 20th Century Fox.  Stepping into an early Kingsman of the type perfected by Colin Firth is the actor who should have played a Bond (but ended up as another M), the BAFTA-winning, twice Academy Award-nominated actor Ralph Fiennes.  The young recruit that looks to mimic that series hero Eggsy played by Taron Egerton in the first two films this time goes to Harris Dickinson, soon to be voicing a character in Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

As with the prior films The King’s Man appears stylish, but with a historical England twist.  Expect again wall-to-wall, part dark comedy, and that over-the-top, operatic violence.  Series director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First Class, Layer Cake) continues to make his mark on the action genre, with his own British spy genre tale mixing the vibe of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers of the 1960s, based on the 2012 The Secret Service: Kingsman comic book series from award-winning creators Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Old Man Logan) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen).

Every great British spy story needs a Bond girl, and whether she’s a “King’s Man” or foil, this time the choice is actual former Bond girl Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) to take over where Sofia Boutella left off in the first movie.  You’ll also find a familiar face with Captain Marvel and Shazam!’s Djimon Hounsou The King’s Man reflects a cast list that includes superhero go-to guy Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Stanley Tucci (Captain America: The First Avenger), Rhys Ifans (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Daniel Bruhl (Captain America: Civil War, Falcon and Winter Soldier), Charles Dance (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Gosford Park), Watchmen and Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode, and Pirates of the Caribbean and Bohemian Rhapsody’s Tom Hollander as King George V.

Take a look at the first trailer for The King’s Man:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This month, a new book examining what makes a great character also takes an in-depth look at Hollywood and film from the silent picture era to today.  It’s Turner Classic Movies/TCM′s latest book on film, Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History I previously reviewed film historian Sloan De Forest′s Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World here at borg, a fun read and a fun list that is more a celebration of pop culture than film school companion.  De Forest seems to have far more passion for her next subject, selecting a masterful list of 50 women worth reading about–and worth seeing their films.  She also connects the dots between actors, their characters, and their personal lives in a way you’ve probably not seen before.  In one word, Dynamic Dames is brilliant.

Everyone reading anyone else’s list of 50 people of any pursuit will have quibbles along the way, but De Forest shows an impressive knowledge of film and delivers.  Not only a selection of 50 worthy actors–she doesn’t select the roles most movie critics flock to and rave about–she also finds those finer, more nuanced performances where these Dynamic Dames probably should have scored their Oscars.  She also divides the book into eight sections and finds perfect examples that exemplify each section, from Pre-Code Bad Girls, to Big Bad Mamas, Women of Mystery, and Strong Survivors.  A category not possible until more recently, Superheroines, rounds out the list, and although the performances have not had much of a chance to steep from a historical standpoint, De Forest provides solid rationale for them all.

Authors of a book like this typically will reserve a small percentage of the list for modern readers to have something to be attracted to, but that’s not the case here.  De Forest actually embraces recent films, pulling in more than 20 percent of her list from characters appearing in 21st century films.  Most of her rationale for each of these more recent actors and corresponding characters justifies their inclusion, comparable in performance, significance, and influence, to the film greats any movie buff would expect to find on this list.  She also ties in some of cinema’s–and literature’s–best women writers; it should be no surprise that many of these outstanding characters in film over the course of 92 years resulted from great women writers of the 19th and 20th century, including Charlotte Brontë, Agatha Christie, and J.K Rowling.

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Initially used as a way to get people to sign up for his email distribution list over the Fourth of July weekend, David Lapham, the Eisner Award-winning writer of the comic book series Stray Bullets, has released the complete artwork for a heretofore mythical, unpublished comic book.  The artwork was created by none other than legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz, and it was created for Detective Comics’ Issue #801, to be published in December 2004.  According to Lapham, it’s the “first issue of what was supposed to be our collaboration of an arc of stories titled City of Crime.  The art for the first issue was completed but never published.  We came across a set of low-res photocopies of the pages while going through some boxes.”

Sienkiewicz started the run, completing the first issue, but was unable to continue due to other commitments or a similar reason, and DC Comics continued instead with other artists, Ramón F. Bachs (Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure) and Nathan Massengill (Detective Comics), who drew the entire 12-issue run of Lapham’s story.  The reason we haven’t seen a published version in the intervening years?  Lapham answered on Twitter, “The originals were sold and all digital copies are gone.”  Lapham said the images he posted, all that is left unless someone shows up with the originals (believed to have been sold off years ago), have too low of a resolution for printing.

Other comic book creators voiced their kudos for Sienkiewicz’s artwork via twitter.  Phil Hester added his title for the issue: Batman: Heartbreaker.  Mike Oeming added his, “holy wow!”  And Alex Segura said, “oh man this is beautiful… Now I’m just dreaming of what the entire run would’ve looked like!”

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Next week a standalone issue in the Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Sirens series of anthology stories arrives you will want to get your hands on.  Both the story and artwork coming in next week’s tale were created by one of the Pacific Northwest’s best visionary artists, Aud Koch (pronounced “odd cook”).  You may know her from conventions or from her incredible Wonder Woman artwork that topped our discussion of the Wonder Woman 100 Project here at borg back in 2017, or from her other fabulous, fantastical works posted at her website here.  Her work in the Jim Henson anthology is her retelling of Lorelai: Daughter of the Rhine.  Her style is truly her own, with pages of unique design layouts and imagery that flows from scene to scene, but you may see some possible influences in the works of Jill Thompson, P. Craig Russell, Aubrey Beardsley, and Alex Niño.  Koch’s artwork has been featured in The Wicked + The Divine from Image Comics, Vision, Ultimates2, and America from Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics’ Tales of Harrow County, and she contributed to the anthology Femme Magnifique, nominated for an Eisner Award this year.

Here is the description of Lorelai: Daughter of the Rhine from publisher Archaia:

In this German tale, Lorelai is a river nymph, born to the Rhine River, living in the shadow of a prosperous town called Wochara.  But at the heart of Wochara’s prosperity lies a secret deal that Lorelei and the people of Wochara struck a long time ago.  Every year, Wochara sends Lorelei a young man who becomes her husband for the year, living in comfort and luxury in her wondrous palace, while fat nuggets of gold wash up on the town shores.  But not everything is as it seems and when she selects a young man who already has a lover, the deal between the people of Wochara and Lorelai is in jeopardy forever.

Here is a preview of what lies in store for you in next week’s Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Sirens:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s what Blade Runner fans have been waiting for, and if your appetite was whetted by the movie Blade Runner 2049, then you’re going to want to check our the next era of Blade Runner stories as Titan Comics goes back to a parallel Earth future in Blade Runner 2019.  The future is now.  It’s been worth the wait, as the new story looks and feels like we’re back inside Philip K. Dick’s original vision in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  In the neo-noir city of Los Angeles, 2019, Ash, a veteran Blade Runner, is working the kidnapping of a billionaire’s wife and child.  Is the CEO of the new Canaan Corporation any better than those behind the Tyrell Corporation?  Written by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049), with co-writer Mike Johnson (Supergirl, Star Trek), get ready for Blade Runner to experience the treatment we’ve seen in recent years for franchises like Firefly, Planet of the Apes, and Alien, as another new world of science fiction storytelling opens up.  Green and Johnson have written a perfect first chapter.

This very first original, in-canon story set in the Blade Runner universe is illustrated by Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) with brilliant color work by Marco Lesko.   You’re going to see something surprising in Guinaldo’s artwork–not only is this the world of Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott, and Syd Mead′s neo-noir future, readers will see influences from cyberpunk and tech-noir classics like John Carpenter′s Escape from New York, Luc Besson′s The Fifth Element and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Neill Blomkamp′s Elysium, James Cameron′s The Terminator and Aliens, Robert Rodriguez′s Alita: Battle Angel, and the other futureworlds adapted to film from Philip K. Dick′s stories.  It all probably comes down to the versatility, breadth, and influence of concept artist Syd Mead, but the creators do give due credit to Dick, Scott, Hampton Fancher, David Peoples, Michael Deeley–and Mead–for the look and feel of their new story.

The first issue arrives next Wednesday, and you can pick from four cover options, from Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Andreas Guinaldo, John Royle, and an original concept piece by Syd Mead.

Check out our sneak preview of the first issue of Blade Runner 2019, courtesy of Titan Comics, plus a new trailer for the series released just today:

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Jaxxon, the mercenary rabbit, first appeared in the original Marvel Comics Star Wars, Issue #8, published in November 1977.  The issue was written and drawn by Howard Chaykin, co-written by Roy Thomas and inked by Tom Palmer.  Jaxxon was a great character, and fit right in with that Star Wars cantina full of strange aliens in the original movie.  Officially a Lepi smuggler working with Han Solo on an early job, a la Seven Samurai, Jaxxon was a 1970s early dose of snarky and cantankerous, a giant Harvey in a spacesuit with the attitude of Howard the Duck.  He was tough, smart, and funny, and long before the third movie trilogy he was the first character we met who ate background characters (he hated carrots, but liked his dewback steaks).

If you missed last year’s annual for Marvel’s Star Wars Adventures series, you may not know Jaxxon is officially a canon character now.  And he’s back this summer when the next comic book annual arrives from IDW Publishing.  The creators promise plenty of Jaxxon in his next story, and even better, he’s featured on the cover.  And it’s not just any cover, it’s a cover drawn by one of our all-time favorite artists, Stan Sakai, who readers of borg will have seen turn up recently in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo, Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls, and of course the series readers know him best for, the new reboot of his solo series Usagi Yojimbo

 

Every creator at Marvel has seemed to want to bring Jaxxon back, from Jason Aaron to John Tyler Christopher, to Chip Zdarsky, with the artists featuring him on their variant covers for the main monthly series and tie-in titles, plus he made the recent non-canon Star Wars, Issue #108.  The new, second annual story for the cartoony, young adult-focused Star Wars Adventures comes from the same team to bring Jaxxon back to the Marvel Comics pages last year, writer Cavan Scott and artist Alain Mauricet, this time pairing Jaxxon with Lando Calrissian on his next gig.

Here are just a few of those covers in case you missed them, and a preview:

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The #1 top selling issue of Vampirella is arriving in comic book stores this month.  It’s part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the popular horror character, and already pre-orders for #1 of a new series have surpassed 130,000 copies.  This makes the forthcoming first issue of the series, the fifth solo-titled Vampirella comic series, the biggest selling Vampirella issue ever, even beating sales numbers for the original classic magazine from decades ago.  Publisher Dynamite has pulled out all the stops, scheduled to release several variant covers from familiar artists for the first issue.  Pre-sales numbers also make this Dynamite’s all-time best selling issue.

Several creators had a hand in developing Vampirella back in 1969, from monster guru Forrest J. Ackerman to artists Trina Robbins, Tom Sutton, and Frank Frazetta, and editor Archie Goodwin.  The new series will be written by Christopher Priest, with interior artwork by Ergün Gündüz Frank Cho is providing the main cover, with variants available from Alex Ross, Joe Jusko, Adam Hughes, Ed Sanjulian, Guillem March, Jose Gonzalez, and J. Scott Campbell and Frank Frazetta “icon” covers, a wraparound Frank Cho cover, plus cosplay editions for each issue and a blank sketch cover, and limited no-logo and black and white cover editions.  Stanley “Artgerm” Lau will provide the main cover for Issue #2, J. Scott Campbell for Issue #3, and it seems there’s a hint from the publisher of a possible new Frank Frazetta cover coming, too.  If you’re lucky enough, you already picked up the 50th anniversary Free Comic Book Day issue we previewed here at borg back in May.

Gündüz′s use of color is probably the best contribution of the first issue, especially in his splash pages.  Fans of the character and monster-zines will find the story is filled with the body count, blood, and horror they’d expect in a Vampirella book.

Take a look at these variant covers for the first two issues, and keep a look out for the life-sized Vampirella display by Jose Gonzalez:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not often a sequel surpasses the first novel in the series, but that’s the place where Spaceside lands.  And that’s saying something, because Michael Mammay′s Planetside was one powerful first novel.  I first reviewed Planetside before its release only a year ago here at borg, and its combination of military thriller and sci-fi action story was one of last year’s best sci-fi reads.  Happily for readers of Mammay’s first story, the protagonist this round is again Colonel Carl Butler, that ex-military mastermind who keeps getting pulled back into danger.  Imagine Edge of Tomorrow’s General Brigham a few years after the war or Starship Troopers’ Lieutenant Rasczak if he’d lived to fight another day, and you’ll have an idea of what you’re in for with Colonel Butler.

But this story and this style is different for Mammay.  I saw Planetside as military conspiracy-thriller in sci-fi dress, but this time Butler is part investigator in a planetside mystery as a bit of a future noir or tech noir detective.  Where Planetside featured plenty of the grunt-side action of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, this story delves more into the strategy and corporate politics (think Weyland Corp.), providing a fine standalone story.  Yet for those that take on the first novel (as they should), Spaceside fleshes out the secrets of why Butler was thrust far away across the galaxy to deal with the alien race called the Cappans in the first place.  Two books in and readers will be asking for more–Mammay has concocted one of the best science fiction universes around.  So just when a new series of Blade Runner novels is on its way, Spaceside fits the bill as a worthy read-alike of a future, cybernetically enhanced human trying to stay alive while he’s constantly dodging bullets (although Butler’s borg nature is downplayed for much of the story).  More like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner than Philip K. Dick’s source novel, Mammay’s story is a compelling character study that amps up the intrigue.

Instead of spending most of this novel’s adventure in outer space as the title might suggest, ex-Colonel Butler finds himself grounded, exiled, shunned, and scorned for the murders of millions of Cappans resulting from his decisions in the pages of Planetside.  Instead Butler is relegated to leading corporate team-building sessions where he takes groups on virtual reality combat missions with him as the real-life war hero.  It’s embarrassing, but it pays the bills, and it keeps him busy after his wife left him and took half his money.  That’s until the CEO calls him into his office to investigate a hacking of a major rival corporation–after all, his title has the word “security” in it.  If Butler can figure out what went wrong at the rival, then his own company can make sure it doesn’t happen to them, too.  Or so his CEO figures.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As history writer Colin Salter remarks in his new book 100 Speeches that Changed the World, “Speeches have always been the greatest form of advocacy.  The speaker’s careful choice of words, phrases, and sentences to persuade his or her audience is as creative an act as the poet’s or playwright’s.”  And the speech has a job to do, a mission to accomplish.  “They must convince the listener of something; perhaps a speaker’s devotion, an apology, a government’s decision, or an accused man’s innocence.”  Speeches have a target audience, and if written and delivered well, they can change the world.  Salter has collected 100 speeches to defend the thesis in his title, that words can change behavior, and that his selections fit the bill.

Any time a writer conquers a work that looks like a list, along with considering and listening to the rationale for the inclusion of the entries, the reader is required to challenge that list.  It’s the challenge and fun of these kinds of books to ask whether these are good choices, bad choices, or whether there are better works that should have been included.  In the case of 100 Speeches that Changed the World, most of the speeches are from the 20th century, so there is a modern sensibility here.  This is a book ideal as a supplement for a high school or 100 level college literature course–most entries are from Americans, but many are from England.  Socrates’ response for being accused of corrupting the youth of Athens is the oldest, from 399 B.C.  Yet only five speeches pre-date the Gregorian calendar (so this isn’t a book for ancient history readers).  William Wallace, Patrick Henry, Robespierre, Frederick Douglass, Chief Joseph, and several U.S. Presidents and authors make up much of the rest, with emphases on the World Wars.  Lincoln, Hitler, Churchill, FDR, MLK, JFK, Mandela, and Obama have multiple entries, with the most artful commentaries included coming from the mouth of Churchill (four).

Stranger references are to responses, not actually speeches, from Elvis Presley and John Lennon.  Some court case opinions and comments are included, but they seem out of place here, fulfilling the usefulness and persuasiveness of works, perhaps, but do not merit inclusion as “speeches.”  Still 100 Speeches that Changed the World is a thought-provoking review of how men and women have used words to make great things happen, and also twist them to bring about their own ill ends.

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If you enjoy Batman and especially if you read Batman comics, there’s one series you should be reading right now.  And if you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, there’s one event you can’t miss this year.  It’s Crisis in a Half Shell, the third crossover/team-up series of writer James Tynion IV and artist Freddie Williams II.  We previewed the series here at borg back in April.  It’s the most fun extension–after a lot of creators have tried–to the actual Crisis on Infinite Earths, with a Batman-centric tale including a host of Bat-villains.  Two issues into the series with a third issue arriving at comic book stores today, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III also has that classic space fantasy look from its multiverse plot, stirred by ultimate villain Krang.

Fans of original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Kevin Eastman should take note–Tynion and Williams have cleverly tied original Eastman artwork created for this series into the story.  It works seamlessly and has a great Outer Limits/Twilight Zone impact.  As we expected from seeing the first images of the new character concept drawings of Batman, the Turtles, and the villains back in April, this series is both classic Batman and classic Turtles.  Fans of either–and fans of both–franchises will be impressed with every inch of each page, including Jeremy Colwell‘s coloring that makes for a perfect partnership with Williams’ vibrant, dynamic, wall-to-wall action layouts and painterly style.  And Tom Napolitano‘s lettering takes different turns to emphasize voices, with a great, evocating type especially for this new world’s Joker counterpart.

Today’s new cover art by Williams and Colwell just can’t be beat.  It’s flat out one of the year’s best covers.  Take a look at this big preview of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Issue #3/Part 3 of the Crisis in a Half Shell story, plus previews of the cover art to Issues #4 and #5, courtesy of DC Comics and IDW Publishing:

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