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Category: Comics & Books


Review by C.J. Bunce

Along with reprinting some novels based on comic book stories from Marvel’s past, a few new stories were released last year (and reviewed here at borg) as part of Titan Books’ line of novel tie-ins, including Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, Ant-Man: Natural Enemy, Deadpool: Paws, and Civil War.  Now the Spider-Verse character Venom has his own hardcover novel.  Venom: Lethal Protector joins Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover among the newly written novels, although unlike Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover‘s new story as prequel to the 2018 PS4 game, Venom: Lethal Protector is based on the very first Venom-titled six-part mini-series from back in 1993.

James R. Tuck writes a faithful adaptation to the original comic books by David Michelinie, Mark Bagley, and Ron Lim.  The story catches up after Peter Parker parts with the alien symbiote that looks like a dripping ink blot, after he makes an arrangement with the new host, Eddie Brock, to leave and do no harm.  But trouble comes looking for Eddie when he joins a group of underground people in San Francisco.  The father of a man killed by Eddie/Venom is determined to avenge his son.  He and his lackeys, the Jury, take him on, plus a mastermind arrives and creates five spawn from the symbiote, spawn that Venom must eliminate with or without the help of Spider-Man.

The comic books Venom: Lethal Protector is based on provided much of the source material for last year’s Marvel Venom movie, so fans of the character, the comics, and the movie will be familiar with this take on the villain as he more overtly switches away from villainy to the stuff of anti-heroes–much like Deadpool and Punisher.  In fact it’s difficult not to see Deadpool, Punisher, and Marvel standards like the Hulk in both Venom’s origin story and his ongoing handling.  Like Hulk’s Banner, particularly from the classic TV series, Eddie Brock is constantly moving from place to place to escape his past.  The book telegraphs what a Venom story in the vein of the 1980s The Incredible Hulk could be like.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The entire world stops, like something out of the 1980s sci-fi classic film The Quiet Earth, only this time all of the people are frozen in place, in an instant, wherever they stood or whatever they were doing.  But one computer technician was experiencing an electrical jolt as it happened, and he may be the only person on Earth who can unfreeze people back to normal.  That’s the set-up for the first issue of the new Image Comics/Top Cow series The Freeze.

This tale of an arriving apocalypse is not like the standard fare of the trope.  Those typical end of the world supernatural events you might find, fire and brimstone, nuclear devastation, zombie plagues, and the like, yield to a simple global event of unknown cause, a bit like the vanishing people at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.  Airplanes keep flying until they fall from the sky, cars smash into each other–it’s the opposite of The Day the Earth Stood Still, instead the day the people stood still.  The first issue introduces the main character, Ray, and those around him as he stumbles into one of them, and he learns his simple touch is enough to fully revive them one at a time.  Where can we go from there, since one man can’t literally touch everyone on the planet?

 

The Freeze is a creator-owned series from writer Dan Wickline (30 Days of Night) and artist Phillip Sevy (Tomb Raider).  The first issue provides a glimpse at the direction of the story, as Ray becomes the part of a squad that selectively is unfreezing individuals.  But for what purpose?

Take a look at this excerpt from Image/Top Cow:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Over the holidays you may have received a gift, an item you will look back to fondly one day, or maybe something that will even survive that your descendants may keep and treasure a century from now.  If you were asked to participate in an old-fashioned show and tell, what physical object has meaning for you that you would talk about?  That’s in essence the question asked of hundreds of people interviewed by writers Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax in the book What We Keep: 150 People Share the One Object that Brings Them Joy, Magic, Meaning.  Many people have many such objects–after all, humans are by their very nature collectors of things.  Narrowing it down to one object is difficult, yet for others it may be simple.

For movie director and writer Joss Whedon, it’s a straw hat from his school days in England.  For author James Patterson, it’s a photograph of President Clinton holding one of the books he had written, read for pleasure by the President in the middle of his carrying out of government business, carried as he walked down the stairway from a helicopter at Camp David.  For a former money counterfeit artist, it’s the paint brush she used to paint with in prison.  For another, it was a paper bill with a holes ripped through it from being shot years ago.

The objects are often obscure, many ugly, but all hold some kind of unique meaning to their owners.  The intrinsic value of most of the items highlighted is nothing or next to nothing.  Yet their owners value these things not for their monetary worth.  A rock, an awl, a document, a watch.  Most inspired (and still inspire) their owners, and remind them of how they were at their very best, like a flute carried into space by astronaut Ellen Ochoa.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re thinking about how you can change the world for the better in 2019, one step in the right direction would be reading writer/artist Rachel Ignotofsky‘s latest science book, The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Ecosystems, an easy to understand guide to the elements of science that converge to tell us about the inter-relationships of all life on Earth.  Ecosystems and organisms, wastelands to deserts and the oceans, from lichen to predators, with some -isms to learn or re-learn (like commensalism and mutualism), concepts you might learn in grade school natural science and geography, high school biology, and college geology and environmental studies.  In a word, it’s what everyone should know about Earth’s ecology.

One of my own proudest achievements was belonging to my grade school’s ecology club between 1975 and 1982, learning about the natural world, planting trees, and making the area better for wildlife.  Many concepts I learned then and supplemented in junior high, high school, and college, are peppered throughout this brightly illustrated volume.  Readers will examine some benefits of particular ecosystems (and threats to them), including the Redwood Forest, the Mangrove Swamp, the Mojave Desert, the Amazon Rainforest, the Atacama Desert, the Pampas, the Andes, the British Moors, the Alps, the Siberian Taiga, the Mongolian Steppe, the Himalayan mountains, the Congo rainforests, the Savannas, the Sahara, the Great Barrier Reef, the Tundra, and more.  The classification of lifeforms and cycles of life are detailed, including the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorous cycle, the water cycle, and plant cycle.  Deforestation, invasive species, desertification, and pollution are identified as just some of the threats the Earth faces.

Writer/artists Rachel Ignotofsky offers through her unique style charts, diagrams, and pictures, all as explanations of how the world’s piece parts interplay to create the global ecosystem.  Key to all of it is how humans can act to protect the planet.

Take a look at this preview of ten pages from Ignotofsky’s book, courtesy of Ten Speed Press:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Happy New Year!  Let’s start the year off with a look at a great new inside look at the holiday season’s biggest hit movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseCompared to most “art of the movie” books reviewed here at borg, a new behind-the-scenes book offers up a very different, modern update to our understanding of creating concept art for the cinema.  The book is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — The Art of the Movie by Ramin Zahed, an account of the design development and visual production process for this latest Sony Pictures Animation/Marvel partnership.

Concept art, sketches, and storyboards take on a different flare when you’re in the digital animation tech of today.  But the images still reflect that powerful, colorful, and dynamic feel in their formation of a brand new superhero universe.  Readers will find hundreds of images of developmental artistry behind the film, plus read exclusive interviews with the creators, including a foreword prepared by Miles Morales co-creator Brian Michael Bendis.

As we found with George Lucas’s groundbreaking selection of screen captures or frames found in his multi-volume book Star Wars Frames (reviewed here at borg), studying the selected individual frames from the new Spider-Verse reveals a film on par with the composition of the future world of Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner–a city that is realistic, yet futuristic and still obviously sourced in comic books.  It’s a gorgeous movie–and the action sweeps by so quickly that most will miss the artistry found in Miles’ graffiti, storyboard sequences, and the nooks and crannies of each set layout.  Set decoration takes on a new approach, as does prop design, art direction, and costuming, in Into the Spider-Verse.

You can also pick up a rare edition of the book, limited to 175 copies, complete with one of the prop comic books made for the film (pictured above) hand-inked by Marcelo Vignali and a signed tip-in sheet by Christopher Miller, Phil Lord, and artists from the film.  Check that out and the details at the Titan Books website here.  Take a look at this 12-page preview of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — The Art of the Movie, courtesy of Titan Books:

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Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here, and the Best in Television 2018 here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best Read, Best Sci-fi Read – The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey (Titan Books).  The Synapse Sequence is one of those standout reads that reflects why we all flock to the latest new book in the first place.  The detective mystery, the future mind travel tech, the twists, and the successful use of multiple perspectives made this one of the most engaging sci-fi reads since Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.  Honorable mention: Solo: A Star Wars Story novelization by Mur Lafferty (Del Rey).

Best Retro Read – Killing Town by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Hard Case Crime).  The lost, first Mike Hammer novel released for the 100th anniversary of Mickey Spillane’s birth was gold for noir crime fans.  This first Hammer story introduced an origin for a character that had never been released, in fact never finished, but Spillane’s late career partner on his work made a seamless read.  This was the event of the year for the genre, and a fun ride for his famous character.  Honorable mention: Help, I Am Being Held Prisoner, by Donald E. Westlake.

Best Tie-In Book – Solo: A Star Wars Story–Expanded Edition novelization by Mur Lafferty (Del Rey).  Not since Donald Glut’s novelization of The Empire Strikes Back had we encountered a Star Wars story as engaging as this one.  Lafferty took the final film version and Lawrence and Jon Kasdan’s script to weave together something fuller than the film on-screen.  Surprises and details moviegoers may have overlooked were revealed, and characters were introduced that didn’t make the final film cut.  Better yet, the writing itself was exciting.  We read more franchise tie-ins than ever before this year, and many were great reads, but this book had it all.  Honorable Mention: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove (Titan).

Best Genre Non-fiction – Hitchcock’s Heroines by Caroline Young (Insight Editions).  A compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films, this new work on Hitchcock was filled with information diehard fans of Hitchcock will not have seen before.  Young incorporated behind-the-scenes images, costume sketches, and a detailed history of the circumstances behind key films of the master of suspense and his work with some of Hollywood’s finest performers.

There’s much more of our selections for 2018’s Best in Print to go…

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What inspired you this year to be a hero?

A new Spider-Man taking to the big screen?  A new Doctor and her friends savings the world?

Lots of superheroes trying to save the planet from Thanos?

You don’t need superpowers to change the world.

Several charities are out there in need of your help.  You can change the world one dollar at a time.  And it can even help your own pocketbook if you make charitable contributions by the end of the month for your 2018 taxes.

So change the world.  borg.com endorses the following awesome organizations:

Wayside Waifs

Great Plains SPCA

Alley Cat Allies

Humane Society

ASPCA

Animal Rescue League

Bat Conservation International

American Anti-Vivisection Society

REGAP

Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary

Frankie’s Friends

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

Check out these great charities today and give if you can.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Lionsgate released its first trailer this week for the reboot of Hellboy, a holiday gift for fans of Mike Mignola‘s character and his various Dark Horse Comics series and previous films.

The new Hellboy is played by Stranger Things’ star David Harbour, and his appearance and delivery are surprisingly different than that of Ron Perlman’s version of the character, despite the similar makeup and costume.  The entire trailer also does not have the nicely creepy, dark and brooding feel from Guillermo del Toro’s original from 15 years ago, opting instead to be brighter and have more of a comic book vibe.  Maybe it’s the use of Mony Mony as the song backing the preview?  This story is expected to be adapted from Mignola stories Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury.  Despite the brighter look, the head splatter and gore seal the deal with this new film scoring an R rating.

Hellboy stars Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil), Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean, John Wick), Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-O), Sasha Lane, and Thomas Haden Church (John Carter, Tombstone) as Lobster Johnson.

Check out this first trailer for the new Hellboy:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As a high schooler who wasn’t a gamer, I watched my friends with their stack of books and wondered why the books looked so… corporate.  I knew enough about the basics of Dungeons & Dragons, and knew the focus on role-playing and imagination, and couldn’t see why players didn’t use some kind of fantasy covers, like poster art from Dragonslayer or The Dark Crystal.  Wandering a Borders or Barnes and Noble bookstore more than 15 years ago, I thought the faux leather and metal locks-and-hinge look from the 3.5 Edition was what I had expected for an in-universe look of a game that was about bringing players inside a new world.  Wizards of the Coast stepped into a different flavor of that theme with its variant series of books for the 5th Edition, and the result has been pretty stunning.

The variants Wizards of the Coast chose were created by Hydro74.  That’s the alias of artist Joshua M. Smith, whose artwork often reflects a unique style that pulls together the bright-on-black contrasts of 1970s black velvet posters, magical stylized creatures, and eye-popping foil-embossed, metallic inks.  In a series where magic is key, the selection of Hydro74 for the 5th Edition special variant covers was a great choice.

Wizards of the Coast has been slowly releasing the variants beginning late 2016 with Hydro74 covers on special editions of Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and continuing with Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, this year’s history of D&D: Art & Arcana, and a stylized D&D ampersand dragon used for other covers and poster art that began as a cover for Dragon+ magazine in 2015.  But now the publisher has created a one-stop ultimate collection of special covers for the key 5th Edition books released before the other Hydro74 covers became the theme, in the Special Edition Core Rulebooks Gift Set.  The set includes Hydro74 cover versions for the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Monster Manual, and the Player’s Handbook, and a sturdy storage box and screen–both decorated with shiny red and gold embossed dragon imagery.  If you haven’t picked up the core rulebooks for the 5th Edition yet and you’ve been thinking about diving in, this is the place to start.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With classic stories for kids dating back to as early as 1982, a new book collects twenty-nine storybooks in all from Sesame Street Christmases past.  Sesame Street Christmas Treasury features many long out-of-print storybooks, including some older Little Golden Book titles reprinted in a larger format for the first time.  Colorful, cheery, and full of positive messages for kids from 4 to 8 years old (and everyone else who still loves the Sesame Street characters), it’s a great last-minute gift idea for your younger kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews.

Whether your favorite character is Grover, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Bert & Ernie, The CountSnuffleupagus, Oscar the Grouch, Abby, Zoe, or Elmo–and better yet if you love them all–you’ll have plenty of stories to read to your kids to last the holidays and beyond.  If you’re hunting a specific out-of-print favorite storybook, check out the listing below of all 29 books included in Sesame Street Christmas Treasury.

High points of the book include reprinted Little Golden Books I Can’t Wait Until Christmas and Big Bird Meets Santa Claus, plus Oscar’s Grouchy Christmas, and A Christmas Story featuring Super Grover.  Christmas Songs from Sesame Street features two-stanza versions of ten classic carols, with images of a variety of characters from the show.  Even more songs can be found throughout the other included stories.

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