Category: Comics & Books


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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Colorado Kid.  JoylandLater My three favorite Stephen King novels have just been released in an attractive boxed set from publisher Titan Books’ imprint Hard Case Crime.  These novels reflect Stephen King’s mystery side, as many of his fans have yet to explore.  Each box includes three cards showing alternate covers from variant editions previously released.  This is King at his best, writing nitty gritty crime stories filled with realistic characters encountering strange events.  The Colorado Kid was the first of this era in King’s work, and would ultimately be adapted into the TV series Haven.  Joyland, which we were able to preview here at borg back in 2013, is my favorite of the group, a story of a college student looking for a job in the summer of 1973, who finally lands a job at an amusement park.  Later is King’s most recent novel.  Incorporating the supernatural, King creates a new character with special powers, a young man drawn into a world of cops and crime.  The boxed set includes the illustrated edition of The Colorado Kid The Stephen King Complete Hard Case Crime Boxed Set is just out, available now here at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

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Fan Fiction book cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

First off, “fan fiction” refers to the drivel that fans of a franchise write to either show characters in situations the actual writers of the characters would never embark upon, or it’s a self-published or otherwise self-distributed book written by wannabe writers, which tends to demonstrate why the creator is not–and should not be–an actual, legitimate, published author.  For Star Trek: The Next Generation–and now Star Trek: Picard–actor Brent Spiner, the title of his new book Fan Fiction seems intended as a play on words, a nod to his fans.  Unfortunately it’s written as a piece of meta-fiction and dark comedy intended to blur the lines between fact and fiction, and it does it in a way that lands as more fan fiction than providing insight into the actor. 

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If you grew up with Star Wars in the late 1970s, you read everything you could about the movie, everything about the making of the movie, and everyone related to everyone who made the movie.  So everyone knew that Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill was sent one of every item–every toy–that was made as a tie-in for the series.  That’s every Kenner toy made for Star Wars, and Hamill mentioned in interviews he didn’t keep these things in their boxes, but let his kids play with them, and we all saw photos of his son Nathan with these toys (or we just dreamed we did).  Good luck finding a Star Wars fan that didn’t wish they had that deal.  Time moves on, Star Wars had a big lull with a bit of a resurgence thanks to tie-in novels, then Lucas makes the prequels, then Disney buys Star Wars, then Mark Hamill comes back as Luke, and there’s even more Star Wars!  Among other things, Nathan Hamill has been creating a web comic strip called 2 Dumb Dinos.

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20th century fox cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

For a century, 20th Century Fox was a production machine, churning out volumes of motion pictures annually, but never achieving the greatness seen by the likes of MGM and Paramount.  Yet its key movie star assets, its box office successes, and award-winning films were few and far between.  In 20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio, writer Scott Eyman takes movie fans back to the beginning and introduces readers to sometimes successful, sometimes not successful businessmen who built theaters and the movies to screen in them, keying in on the mergers that brought William Fox, formerly immigrant Wilhelm Fuchs, to build a corporation that Darryl F. Zanuck would take through important decades of the 21st century.  Both film buffs and historians of the era of film’s Golden Age will find a history in Turner Classic Movies/TCM’s latest film production chronicle, connected by memorable films from its first Oscar-winner, 1927’s Sunrise, to its last, 2019’s Ford v. Ferrari, telling a story of the rise and fall of a movie empire.  TCM’s 20th Century-Fox is just out from publisher Running Press and available here at Amazon.

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Autobiography spock

Review by C.J. Bunce

A new in-universe book finds that famous Star Trek Vulcan and #1 identifiable character of the franchise, the great Mr. Spock, providing a first-hand account as an elder statesman from his vantage after he became the ambassador to Romulus in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Unification” arc and just before he attempts to take his jellyfish-inspired ship with Red Matter to create a black hole in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 movie, Star TrekThe Autobiography of Mr. Spock: The Life of a Federation Legend is edited by (actually written by) frequent Star Trek in-universe writer Una McCormack, just released by Titan Books.  Readers will learn Spock intended this as a memoir for Jean-Luc Picard, with whom he melded after Picard’s meld with Spock’s father just before his death in the episode, “Sarek.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You’ll want to check out the end of the first issue of Titan Comics and Hard Case Crime’s new series Gun Honey to learn how writer/creator Charles Ardai came up with the title.  Gun Honey is a new comic book series about a woman who can get the weapons you want for the right price.  The series is a mix of international locales a la James Bond, with the style movie audiences saw and heard in Guy Ritchie’s 2015 movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E.–you can almost hear the soundtrack.  She’s the latest of a long line of anti-hero, badass femmes fatales in comics dating back to Miss Fury.  And artist Ang Hor Kheng does the character and the genre justice, providing a sexy new character in a world of intrigue, duplicity, and the need for an alter ego.

Check out a preview of the first issue below, along with a preview of several of the series’ incredible cover variants from the likes of Bill Sienkiewicz, Robert McGinnis, Adam Hughes, Kendrick Lim, Jay Anacleto, Chris Wahl, Kendrick Lim, Ivan Tao, Warren Louw, Lesley Li, Fay Dalton, Andrea Camerini, and more.

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A brand-new Victorian mystery will have you singing “Deck the Halls” in October, while you hunt for clues alongside twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle, her unflappable governess Miss Judson, and their opinionated cat, Peony.  My wife, borg contributor, and Edgar Award-winning author Elizabeth C. Bunce has been writing her Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series for a few years now.  Prompted by a quick mis-utterance of “premeditated murder” and a chatty cat that showed up one night in the rain, a character and an idea took hold and before we knew it she had created and sold the first four books in a new series of mystery novels.  The first book, Premeditated Myrtle, an Indie Next Pick named to Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2020, arrived in bookstores last year along with the second installment, How to Get Away with Myrtle, a #1 Amazon New Release.  Not only did Premeditated Myrtle win this year’s Edgar Award (the Mystery Writers of America award recognizing the mystery, crime, suspense, and intrigue genres, in its 75th year), it was named an Honor Book by the 106 years and counting Society for Midland Authors, it was named to the Library of Congress’s annual Great Reads from Great Places list, and it was nominated for the Agatha Award and Anthony Award. Tomorrow readers can follow Myrtle’s next sleuthing adventure in Cold-Blooded Myrtle, available in bookstores everywhere and here at Amazon.

Premeditated Myrtle introduced readers to Myrtle Hardcastle, an aspiring sleuth who can’t read enough about the new science of criminology, and hopes to one day work for Scotland Yard.  Her first case was the death of her neighbor, an expert on breeding rare flowers who dies under mysterious circumstances.  Premeditated Myrtle is a blend of To Kill a Mockingbird and A Secret Garden, as Myrtle tries to enlist the aid of her father, the town prosecutor, to help solve the case after she points to the wrong man.  In the second novel, How to Get Away with Myrtle, Myrtle, her curious cat Peony, and her intrepid governess Miss Judson embark on a seaside vacation on an excursion train.  But the vacation is cut short when a rare tiara is stolen and someone is murdered before the train arrives at the station.  It’s an Agatha Christie style mystery that finds Myrtle on the case as she’s stuck in a vacation town that is nothing like it was advertised, and everyone, including her aunt, is a suspect.

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In Cold-Blooded Myrtle, winter arrives and as Myrtle prepares for a hopefully uneventful traditional Dickensian Christmas, notable locals are found dead in ways that seem to mimic the murders of historical figures.  Soon Myrtle discovers her late mother was close to the victims, and Myrtle hopes secrets from her past and a famous archaeologist may lead to the truth.  A local newspaper reporter is digging into the case of a secret society and a missing student at nearby Schofield College, but is she getting too close, and why does she know so much?  And why is the reporter so chummy with family friend and legal clerk Mr. Blakeney?  What is the secret behind the long-closed bell tower?  Cold-Blooded Myrtle brings together The Watcher in the Woods, Phantom of the Opera, and The Goonies, as Myrtle, Judson, and Peony investigate an early Cold Case File. Industry reviewer Kirkus provided the novel a starred review, saying,

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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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Black Widow clip b

Review by C.J. Bunce

It was without question Marvel’s biggest delay.  Not only was Black Widow originally expected to arrive in theaters May 1 last year, getting a delay and never a proper theatrical release, it simply was Kevin Feige’s big misfire by not thinking to make it earlier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 23 movies.  Content-wise it could have arrived around 2013 as part of the Phase II of the series, and ultimately must be wedged somewhere between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.  For those not yet ready to return to theaters, it’s been a long wait.  Finally Disney+ has dropped its $30 premium for its subscribers and Vudu and other streaming providers have it where it should have been, at a sell-through price of $19.99. 

So how does Black Widow stack up with respect to the previous Marvel movies, and did Marvel make the best superheroine movie of them all with Scarlett Johanson’s solo movie?  First of all, the big word to describe this movie is “surprising.”

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Wizard of Oz MinaLima cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

It is easily the greatest and most influential American fantasy novel of all time, certainly the best of the 19th century creations, and after reading the original story, you may find it unlikely not to have influenced later British authors’ works like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  It is L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900 and now given the ultimate dose of classical style and color by the renowned designers behind the Harry Potter movies, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the artists known as MinaLima.  Especially considering the extra care taken in the margin artwork and the incorporation of the color in Baum’s story with every page, this may be the best volume in the now eight-volumes of children’s books in the MinaLima library from HarperDesign books.  Take a look at a preview of twenty of those wonderful pages below.  Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, lavishly illustrated with interactive elements by MinaLima, was published this month, and is available now here at Amazon.

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