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Category: Sci-Fi Café


 

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you missed Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen‘s sci-fi/fantasy series Descender, a recommended series from Image Comics we discussed previously here at borg, you’re going to be able to jump into these creators’ exciting adventure universe in a sequel to the series coming this month, Ascender.  Set ten years after Descender, readers are introduced to a strange new world ruled by magic, replacing the mechanized world of the past that leaves the inhabitants of Sampson subject to an all-powerful space vampire witch.

Young Mila–daughter of Andy and Effie from Descender–takes center stage, roaming the wastelands and merely getting by with her father.  But what happened to Effie?  And what are they to do when an old loyal robot surfaces in a place where robot tech is forbidden?  It’s another great beginning to a series from Lemire and Nguyen, in the realm of Image’s sci-fi/fantasy Copperhead series, with artwork and colors that fans of Matt Kindt will be drawn toward.

Substitute names and places and you also have what could easily be the next great Star Wars story, complete with rebels, a dark mystic leader, and plenty of gritty Star Wars space fantasy realism.  In fact Ascender has all the elements we’re hoping for in the final chapter to the Skywalker Star Wars saga we’re looking forward to from J.J. Abrams when Episode IX arrives in December.

Check out these preview images, forthcoming covers by Nguyen, a character sheet and timeline for Ascender, Issue #1:

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In the summer of 1979, Ridley Scott revealed the next evolution in science fiction and horror with his landmark creation Alien Thanks to Star Wars art director Roger Christian, audiences saw the first lived-in look into our future, a sci-fi world that felt more realistic than nearly any sci-fi movie before it (space fantasy Star Wars excluded).  Dismissing the brand new, antiseptic look of 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was Christian’s realism and H.R. Giger‘s creepy creations that made the scares of Alien that much more jolting.  Arriving for the 40th anniversary of Alien, go-to behind-the-scenes movie book writer J.W. Rinzler is back after last year’s The Making of the Planet of the Apes (reviewed here at borg), with his next book, The Making of Alien.

Emerging first from the mind of writer Dan O’Bannon, Alien would become one of the most memorable sci-fi/horror thrillers of all time.  The film brought us Academy Award-winning concept art, new alien monsters, gore, ships, and other spectacular effects thanks to Giger, Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, and Dennis Ayling, and groundbreaking set work by Christian, Michael Seymour, Leslie Dilley, and Ian Whittaker.  Including new interviews with Ridley Scott and other key staff from the original production crew and featuring many never-before-seen photographs and artworks from the Fox archives, The Making of Alien promises to be the definitive work on this masterpiece of sci-fi/horror.

Above and following are some preview pages from The Making of Alien Pre-order The Making of Alien now here at Amazon, and come back this summer for our review here at borg:

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Netflix released the first trailer for the third season of Stranger Things, on its way to the streaming platform this Fourth of July.   The main cast is all back, with David Harbour‘s Sheriff Hopper trying to raise teenager Eleven (played by Millie Bobby Brown), who is now best buds with Max (Sadie Sink)Following up on last season, Gaten Matarazzo‘s Dustin is still pals with Joe Keery‘s Steve Harrington, and everyone else looks more than a bit older.  With last season’s hero Bob Newby (Sean Astin) obviously not returning, backfilling the fan favorite actors from the 1980s means the introduction to the series of newcomers Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Psych) and Jake Busey (Starship Troopers, Contact) taking on more than guest roles this season, as revealed in the trailer.

It’s now the Summer of 1985, but we’re back in Hawkins, so that means more bad things are coming our way from the Upside Down.  More music you remember that was played to death on the radio.  More fashion, big hair, and 1980s designs.  New villains, new beasties.  And a big new addition: The Mall and the battle at Starcourt.  But we hear the pretzels aren’t even that good, so…

Take a look at this great preview for Season 3 of the next best thing since the 1980s, Stranger Things:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We have a review of the first of three tie-in books to the new Robert Rodriguez film Alita: Battle Angel coming your way.  Alita: Battle Angel should appeal to any fan of cyborgs–the story as envisioned by James Cameron was a pet project of the director for several years, one he’d picked up from Guillermo del Toro.  When Cameron decided to pursue management of his several Avatar sequels directly and finally handed over the project to Rodriguez he did so with more than 600 pages of notes he’d prepared.  The film is an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel: Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a story about self-discovery and empowerment via a centuries-old human brain that finds its way into the cybernetic body of a young girl.  A part-time doctor, part-time bounty hunter, Doctor Ido, played in the film by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, takes center stage in Alita: Battle Angel–Doctor Ido’s Journal, the new release by writer Nick Aires for Titan Books.

After losing his human daughter’s struggle to live, the Dr. Frankenstein-inspired Dr. Ido finds the “core” of a cyborg in a scrapyard with a surviving, living human brain.  He uses the prosthetics and futuristic body parts he’d designed for his daughter to rebuild a new girl, quasi-Pinocchio style, naming her Alita after his daughter.  The sci-fi story follows Alita as she tries to learn about her past and survive in a dystopian world that mixes inspirations from John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, Neill Blomkamp, and George Miller.  The visions of each of these directors’ best futuristic films comes through in Doctor Ido’s Journal, an in-universe document which reprints concept art, sketches, and photographs from the film, combining them with a diary entry narrative written by Aires in the place of Dr. Ido.  Doctor Ido’s Journal will be familiar to fans of Aires’ past in-universe books, including Oliver Queen’s Dossier, S.T.A.R. Labs: Cisco Ramon’s Journal, and Arrow: Heroes and Villains and works by others reviewed here, including Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, and the Batman v Superman Tech ManualFans will first find a cleverly designed flex-cover that mimics metal (a great design effect that would make for an attractive blank journal), followed by pages of dense notebook entries that track the action of the film, all from Dr. Ido’s perspective.

The artwork is exceptional, vivid engineering-level drawings like those found in Mark Salisbury’s Elysium: The Art of the Film, reviewed here at borg, and the combination of horror and beauty found in production artists Dan Hallett and Matt Hatton’s elaborate designs in Alien: Covenant: David’s Drawings, reviewed here (it’s worth noting the Weta Digital created much of the designs for both Alita: Battle Angel and Elysium, and the similarly realized scrap-metal worlds of Blomkamp’s District 9 and CHAPPIE).  At times the gear-heavy animatronics inside the cyborgs echo the real-world 19th century automaton past of these creations, making these modern borgs into something that feels almost steampunk.

Here are some preview pages from Alita: Battle Angel–Doctor Ido’s Journal courtesy of the publisher:

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Captain Kirk, The Fonz, Chewbacca, The Flash, Starbuck, the Weasleys, two Supermans, Tank Girl, and a slate of characters from The Princess Bride are heading to Kansas City

For twenty years Planet Comicon has been one of the Midwest’s biggest comic book and pop culture conventions and that was no less so in 2014 when it became the largest attended event in the history of the Kansas City Convention Center.  And it’s only gotten bigger.  Last year’s show featured guests including Jason Momoa, John Cusack, Michael Rooker, Danny Trejo, and Alan Tudyk, and this year Planet Comicon Kansas City is bringing in some of the most memorable names from TV and movies from the past and present for its 20th anniversary show.  Leading things off, Captain (and Admiral) James T. Kirk, William Shatner is returning to Kansas City for the annual event, which takes place at Kansas City’s convention center at Bartle Hall, March 29-31, 2019.

The guy who invented cool, the first person to “jump the shark,” Arthur Fonzarelli “The Fonz” from Happy Days actor Henry Winkler is making his first comic-con appearance in Kansas City.  Star of last year’s big Star Wars event, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo is scheduled to attend.  Star of one of the best sci-fi TV series of all time–the reboot of Battlestar Galactica–Starbuck actor Katee Sackhoff will be appearing at the show.  Two co-stars of the CW’s The Flash will be on-hand for autographs and photographs: Danielle Panabaker and the original 1990 Flash, John Wesley Shipp, both attending the event for the first time.  And for more of your superhero retro fix, two Superman actors, Lois & Clark’s Dean Cain and Smallville star Tom Welling, will have autograph booths on the convention floor.

Famous for her role as Tank Girl, and star of A League of Their Own and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, actor/director Lori Petty will be in the house.  Harry Potter fans can meet actors that portrayed three of their favorite Weasleys: Ginny Weasley’s Bonnie Wright, and brothers Fred and George, James Phelps and Oliver Phelps.  Also in the fantasy movie realm, three stars of The Princess Bride are making their way to Planet Comicon 2019:  Westley’s Cary Elwes will join Prince Humperdinck’s Chris Sarandon and the inconceivable Vizzini himself, actor Wallace Shawn.

–there’s something for every TV and movie fanboy and fangirl at this year’s show.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A giant new photographic essay of the space program reads like a behind the scenes account of the greatest production ever attempted.  And it might be just that.  Space Utopia: A Journey Through the History of Space Exploration from the Apollo and Sputnik Programmes to the Next Mission to Mars is the result of a decade of collaboration between photographer Vincent Fournier and the world’s most important space and research centers.  Fournier worked with researchers at NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russian Space agency, the European Southern Observatory, and other locations to identify those intriguing parts of earthbound facilities, historical locations, and physical objects that have gone to space and back, seen through an artist’s eye.  From space suits and environmental suits to spaceships, satellites, Soyuz trainers, ballistic missiles, and rovers, to training facilities and environments, to experimental items used on the International Space Station and flown to the moon, Space Utopia is a one-of-a-kind look at the history of the space program in pictures.

Through his photographs Fournier is attempting to explore humankind’s myths and fantasies about the future.  According to Fournier, “My aesthetic, philosophical and recreational fascination for the space adventure undoubtedly comes from the pictures and books I saw and read in the 1970s and ’80s —  movies, television series, science fiction novels, documentaries and news reports — that have mixed and superimposed in my memory like a palimpsest…. Space explorations emblematic locations are like cinema sets where Tintin might meet with Jules Verne in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey…”

THE SPACE PROJECT – Fournier’s Space Shuttle Discovery Nose Landing Gear, J.F.K. Space Center [NASA], Florida, U.S.A., 2011 (from theravestijngallery.com)

Has the future already happened or does something more lie ahead?  Some images are stunning and colorful in their brilliance–high-tech concepts at their finest.  Others are stark and haunting, like posed space suits from Buzz Aldrin and Gus Grissom.  Space shuttles frozen in their retirement like the dismantled Discovery and immovable Independence, and the Atlantis standing majestically poised for its final flight all appear as ghostly, solemn relics, while the futuristic sound chambers. the dexterous robotic humanoid Robonaut 2, and Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America evoke an optimistic future ahead.
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Review by C.J. Bunce

So many genre novels are quick reads, full of action and modern surprises.  Once in a while you stumble upon the slow read–the book that is so smartly written, so exciting and enjoyable you never want it to end, and you force yourself to take it slow and enjoy the author’s use of language.  With his latest book I’ve now added James Lovegrove to my shortlist of authors I will make sure to read as soon as his next work is released.  His new novel is Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils, book three of his trilogy, The Cthulhu Casebooks.  In short, this work has it all–tie-ins, a mash-up, genre-bending, and immersive storytelling in a suspense-filled mystery adventure.  It’s a big feat because the very subject matter and project has much to overcome.  First, it is the third book in a series, not your usual place as a reader to begin.  As it is a new release, I delved in anyway, and discovered Lovegrove crafted a complete end-to-end story requiring no prior knowledge of the first two books in the series.  Second, it’s a tie-in and a mash-up of the most well-known historical characters in all of fiction, Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson twisted together with the macabre, dark world of H.P. Lovecraft.

I’ve reviewed several Watson and Holmes stories written in the past decade and the challenge is always the same–getting two voices just right, voices that are so familiar after reading original Doyle writings, and watching countless modern sequels and a host of television series and movie versions.  One misstep and it’s easy to pull a reader out of the narrative, yet Lovegrove doesn’t skip a beat in this regard.  Whether you’re drawn to the TV series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, the classic Basil Rathbone film version, modern retellings, or just Doyle’s own marvelous words, you will feel this book is a believable sequel to the original stories and the voices are spot-on.  Another barrier for Lovegrove to overcome is getting right that rich world of H.P. Lovecraft, whose works and words drip with a uniquely strange brilliance and eerie beauty.  Again, Lovegrove fully captures the spirit of his creations and seaside environments, too, as if he’d conjured Lovecraft for this story.  This strange mash-up of the logical, rational Holmes and Watson and the dark and fantastical Lovecraft probably shouldn’t work so well.  These are opposites, right?  But Lovegrove fuses them into one, evoking the 19th century wonder of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne science fiction and fantasy along the way.  Not merely a fun romp for fans of either world, Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils has all the realism and research of a scholarly work, sinking us into the world of England, the nautical life of coastal peoples at the turn of the 20th century.

The story begins a few years after the retirement of Holmes and Watson.  In Doyle’s story “His Last Bow” we learned the character retired to a farm at Sussex Downs taking on beekeeping as a pastime.  Only two original stories take place during Holmes’ retirement.  This is where Lovegrove’s Watson catches up with Holmes: The date is 1910 and as England and the world moves toward war, Holmes and Watson learn the leaders of the famed Diogenes Club are all dead, found under strange circumstances.  When three young women go missing in a nearby town, the detective duo takes on sleuthing out their disappearance as their final case, where they encounter local lore that speaks of monsters from the deep and a foretold legend of the return of a phantom from long ago.  Locals believe that is why the women are missing, and Holmes knows it must all be connected.  How much is real, how much is fantasy?  Is it possible Holmes could discover both worlds might co-exist?  Can Holmes ever escape the specter of his lifelong nemesis Moriarty?  And what of his brother Mycroft?

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Fox’s television series The Orville gets to explore a new world as it comes to Dark Horse Comics this summer.  TV series executive producer/writer David A. Goodman (Futurama) will write the series, with artwork by David Cabeza and colorist Michael Atiyeh (Tomb Raider).  The four-part series The Orville Season 1.5 takes place between TV seasons one and two.  Dark Horse Comics has revealed the first cover by Cabeza (below).  Check out the details from the press release for the comic book series below.

As great as the first season of The Orville was, the three most-recent episodes of the series have met or surpassed the best science fiction episodes of any classic or modern science fiction television series.  The Orville has been serious science fiction since its inception, and many critics and new viewers are at last taking notice.  Beginning with the two-part episode “Identity,” viewers got to see the very best planetary environments and sequences of space battles in the history of sci-fi television.  That’s right, the effects are that good–detailed, realistic, sweeping, and all-out fun.  And forget about comparisons to television shows, the second part of the story arc displayed an exciting, epic space battle on par with the best galactic assaults and dogfights from the Star Wars universe, comparable to the final assault in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Sci-fi fans can’t ask for anything better than that.  Thanks to executive producer and episode director Jon Cassar, The Orville reset the bar for compelling television sci-fi in this two-parter.  From story and surprises to production design and execution, the often lighthearted series drops plenty of drama on viewers–gut punches in contrast to the laughs–proving The Orville is the real deal.

Taking the journey forward immediately after the effects of the battle with the Kaylons, in last night’s episode “Blood of Patriots,” Norm MacDonald’s marvelously realized gelatinous Kaylon battle hero Yaphit is celebrated by the crew, and we meet genre-favorite actor Mackenzie Astin giving a compelling performance as a gritty warrior-soldier, the kind you’re not likely to soon forget.  The balance of the science fiction concept of reflecting the present with fictional stories of the future takes on new meaning with The Orville, as the writers deftly weave not just a single issue, but more than a half a dozen into each new episode.  The result is much-watch television that surpasses decades of programming that preceded the show.  From a character standpoint, it’s great fun to see Scott Grimes’ Lt. Gordon Malloy put forward as the ship’s hero-to-turn-to this season, a flawed man whose quirks and foibles reflect the kind of human you’d find today and in the future as part of any kind of actual fighting force.

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We’re seen several comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment featuring Steve Austin, The Bionic Man, as tie-ins from the 1970s TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, including 2013’s The Bionic Man vs The Bionic Woman, 2014’s The Bionic Man, The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six, and The Bionic Woman Season Four, a very early version of the character in Legenderry in 2015, and most recently The Six Million Dollar Man: Fall of Man from 2017.  Today the next Steve Austin series begins in the pages of The Six Million Dollar Man, Vol. 2 as Issue #1 arrives in comic book shops.  We have a preview of the covers for the first three issues, plus a preview of Issue #1 for borg readers below.

This version is more light-hearted than prior comic series for the character, with a lead that is more like the kind of off-kilter, daft take you could envision Mark Wahlberg taking on in the long-rumored Six Billion Dollar Man movie.  It’s another 1970s era tale, and readers meet Japanese secret agent Niko Abe, who takes on the James Bond position in the story, assisted on a mission by Steve Austin, ANSA agent from America, taking on the Felix Leiter position.  And, being the first real cyborg, he needs to explain to her what bionics and cyborgs are.

  

The series is written by Christopher Hastings (The Unbelievable Gwenpool! Secret Agent Deadpool! Adventure Time! I Am Groot!) with artwork by David Hahn (Batman ’66! Bombshells: United!), colors by Roshan Kurichiyanil, and letters by Ariana Maher.  Keep an eye out for variant covers by Michael Walsh, Yasmine Putri, Denis Medri, and Francesco Francavilla.

Here is a preview of Issue #1 of The Six Million Dollar Man, Vol. 2 and even more covers from the first three issue, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment:

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Steve Rogers.  John Spartan and Simon Phoenix.  Han Solo.  Austin Powers and Doctor Evil.  George Taylor.  Mr. Scott and Khaaaaaan!  

Now meet Chen Andalou and Dark Horse Comics’ new mini-series, Astro Hustle.

Not just another Space Station 76, it’s a four-part tale of space pirates out beyond Cosmic Coffee and the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  It has the space action of Killjoys and the fun of 1980’s Flash Gordon. The lost ship Sinnematica has been adrift in space, and with it one Chen Andalou, preserved for the past 60 years in cryo-freeze.  Another sci-fi fish out of water, Chen is unstuck in time, surrounded by a future costumed like Barbarella meets the 1979-81 Buck Rogers, and filled with the more off-the-wall elements of Spaceballs and the animated version of Space Ghost, all thrown in for good measure.  And then what?  Chen runs right into the cop–Captain Igor, a mix of Javert and Prince Barin who is all ready to arrest him.

Plenty of aliens are around to judge him, too–robots like the crazed guard in Logan’s Run and a mix of everyone else you might find aboard the Fhloston Paradise.  Lucky for Chen he meets up with Carbon John the space pirate and his trusty Number One, Svetlana.  But he soon learns while he was asleep his brother became President of the Galaxy.  Wait–are they going to end up like the princes of England or the Kim Jong brothers?

 

What’s missing?  The Cannon Films adaptation and a soundtrack by MECO (that’s the band with Tony Bongiovi, cousin of the Bon Jovi brothers, and Mr. Fabulous Alan Rubin of The Blues Brothers), and it should ship with one of those MPC model kits of a van with the space logo on its side.  Astro Hustle has the crazy/cool of both Vandroid (the comic) and ManBorg (the B-movie), thanks to a creator-owned story by Jai Nitz (El Diablo, Toshiro, Kato Origins, Tron: Betrayal), artwork by Tom Reilly, color by Ursula Decay, and letters by Chris “Crank!” Crank (Rick and Morty, Ciudad, Toshiro).

Take a look at this preview:

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