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Category: Superheroes


Review by C.J. Bunce

It helps to know upfront that Scottish comedian and personality Frankie Boyle always wanted to write comics.  His inspiration wasn’t from the decades of superhero comics, but Alan Moore, whose attitude, as Boyle sees it, was “that comics had sort of run their course.”  A fan of the writing of Ed Brubaker, David Lapham, and Jason Aaron, Boyle embarked on an ambitious project, asking “what sort of comics do you write after comics have been done already?”  The result was first published in serial format in Mark Millar’s short-lived CLiNT magazine, and with two new chapters to wrap up his story a complete, graphic novel-length story arrives next week from Titan Comics, called Frankie Boyle’s Rex Royd.

Ambitious is the key word to describe Rex Royd.  At its worst, Boyle has touched on Alan Moore’s outrageous depravity as seen in his Lost Girls.  At its best, Boyle has created a character that will appeal to fans of the disconnected and dispassionate Dr. Manhattan and the idiosyncratic and self-absorbed Ozymandias in Moore’s acclaimed Watchmen series.  With his protagonist, the Lex Luthor-esque supervillain scientist and CEO Rex Royd, Boyle has created a brash reflection of non-mainstream comics in the pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe era.  His “hero” is like Ian Fleming’s James Bond if you remove all the tropes that make us actually like Bond, all the fun things that keep us coming back for more and not just dismiss the character as a misogynistic, unexpurgated blunt instrument.  Boyle is fully in on this, as his lead female character Eve–as in the biblical partner of Adam–resembles Bond’s confidante Eve Moneypenny in the last two Bond movies.

And yet, Rex Roydthe book–is like a writing experiment.  What do we get if we take out all these good elements and swap in the dark outcomes?  So it sometimes reads like Neil Gaiman writing a 24-Hour Comic (I’ve read that, this is probably better), but then, as in the ninth and final chapter of the book, we’re surprised with a clever sort of play on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with some Harvey Pekar-inspired attempts at making some meaning of it all.  So there’s a lot going on.  If you find linearity and deep meaning in the book, well, the joke may be on you, as the author has said when the artists needed some of his script to be explained, his response was, “It’s supposed to be a joke.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Originally released in 2015, Jason Starr’s Ant-Man: Natural Enemy is back in a new paperback edition as part of Titan Books’ new novels of the Marvel Universe.  Separate from the stories in the comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s still tough if you’ve watched the movies to separate Scott Lang from Ant-Man and Ant-Man and The Wasp actor Paul Rudd.  But why would you want to?  Readers or moviegoers new to Ant-Man who missed out on classic Dr. Hank Pym Tales to Astonish in the classic comics or S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Eric O’Grady in Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks’ The Irredeemable Ant-Man will want to put those on their reading list.  But if the movies are what reeled you in to become an Ant-Man fan, get ready for even more fun with Scott Lang in Ant-Man: Natural Enemy.

Scott’s daughter Cassie is living with him in New York, with custody being amicably split with her mother and Scott’s ex-wife Peggy, now living in the Pacific Northwest.  Cassie is a teen now, so along with Scott using online dating to find companionship he also is trying to look out for Cassie as she is looking for her first boyfriend.  As they both try to get along with each other and face uphill battles in their hours apart each day, a piece of Scott’s past creeps in.  When Scott was in jail he made plenty of criminal acquaintances.  Scott ultimately turned state’s evidence on one of the smarter criminals, Willie Dugan, after Scott met Dr. Pym and began to take on the role newly minted good guy and superhero Ant-Man.  Dugan has now escaped from Attica, and the FBI puts Scott, Cassie, and Peggy in protective custody.  Scott refuses the help of Iron Man Tony Stark and the resources of the Avengers, figuring Dugan is a small-time hood that he can handle.  That’s until several of Scott’s old jail acquaintances end up dead, and Cassie seemingly vanishes while under the watchful eye of an FBI agent.

Ant-Man: Natural Enemy is surprisingly real and current.  Both Scott and Cassie struggle with the negatives of current technologies.  Cassie is bullied on the Internet by her peers at school.  Scott can’t seem to meet the right people via dating apps.  Scott is as down-to-Earth as a superhero can be.  Fans of the laid back hero motif in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye comic book series will feel right at home with the similarly put-upon everyman Scott Lang.  And if you liked watching Peter Parker’s day-to-day goings on in the big city in Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover (reviewed here at borg.com), you may also find Starr’s novel to be a good read.  Cassie becomes as interesting an heir to Scott as Scott was to Dr. Pym.

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Four artists are helping a UK company’s bionic arms become the functioning hands of many with the benefit of stylish designs.  Open Bionics is an entrepreneurial company that has created and fitted hundreds with its advanced, multi-grip bionic arms since their release this April.  Called the Hero Arm,  it’s the next step toward true borg technology and it’s been called a game-changer in health technology alongside genome sequencing, Fitbit, and smartphones.  From kids as young as nine years old who haven’t had arms and hands since birth to amputees of all ages, the 3D printed devices go beyond prosthetics of the past.  With the slogan “We turn disabilities into superpowers,” the company is doing that in more ways than one.  Instead of making the arms look like real arms, they are adding eye-popping designs–a feature praised by their users, who have remarked, “This is a cool way to stand out for all the right reasons.”  Instead of asking “what happened to your hand?” those seeing the Hero Arm on a person for the first time ask “how does that work?”  “Can we shake hands, can we do a fist bump, can I have a photo?”  The difference is a big one for wearers.

Open Bionics boasts the Hero Arm as “the first medically approved 3D printed arm.”  The Hero Arm is a lightweight, powered bionic hand controlled by the wearer’s muscles.  Because muscles generate small electrical signals when they contract, electrodes placed on the surface of the skin can measure muscle movements.  A full suite of tools provides feedback to the user, including posable wrist, posable thumb, and a freeze mode (for use when holding something like a glass), plus proportional control for varying tasks.  Comfortable, adjustable and breathable, the arm can lift more than 15 pounds of weight.  According to the company, the Hero Arm is half the price of its closest competitor.  Still, Open Bionics has stated that it has received donations to be able to provide free Hero Arms for qualifying children residing in the UK–the only place the bionic arms have been approved for sale.  They aren’t covered by the nation’s healthcare system yet and can cost about U.S. $2,500 on up.  Compare that to similar functioning U.S. electrical prosthetics with a cost upward of $50,000 to $100,000, and anyone can see why this product looks like the future of cybernetics.  (You can help a woman get her own Hero Arm via crowdfunding.  Learn more about her story below).

Hero Arms can also be worn with swappable custom covers.  And now Open Bionics has four new styles for wearers to get a Hero Arm that best fits their personality.  Each work shown (above, top, in order), was designed by an artist in Bristol: “Handala” by Daniel Bowler, “Tree Rex” by TRex, “Palette of Patterns” by J West, “Nebular” by Cheba, and “Open Bionics Doodles” by Kid Crayon.  Even more covers are available for the Hero Arm, like the futuristic Deux Ex design (above).  The Deus Ex video games explore human augmentation in a near future world.  Open Bionics partnered with Eidos Montreal, basing the Deux Ex cover on the game’s protagonist Adam Jensen.  (But they issue a disclaimer: It won’t give you the power to smash through walls!).  Check out the future of this technology at the partnership website AugmentedFuture.com.  Candidates for the Hero Arm can see customization options at the Open Bionics website here.

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In three weeks we’ll see the return of Danny Rand to Netflix, continuing the ongoing Marvel television universe we last saw in this summer’s excellent sophomore season of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  Finn Jones’s martial arts master and corporate exec Danny Rand–the Immortal Iron Fist–returns in season two of Marvel’s Iron Fist and Netflix just released its first trailer for the season, providing a glimpse at what fans of the Marvel franchise can expect.  More action is takeaway No. 1.

The first season of Marvel’s Iron Fist was a bit rough after a dark season of Daredevil, a spectacular first season of Jessica Jones, and a knockout first season of Luke Cage.  Compared to the other series it approached its origin character with a slowly building story, with co-lead Colleen Wing, played by Jessica Henwick, carrying most of the emotional and dramatic excitement through the season.  A heavily corporate boardroom plot with siblings Joy and Ward Meachum (played by Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey) didn’t help matters.  Not even the inclusion of genre-favorite David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) could lift the ho-hum plot.  And the parallels in Iron Fist and CW’s Arrow were plentiful starting with the similarity of the leads.  Marvel’s The Defenders then brought together Rand, Cage, Jones, and Daredevil’s Matt Murdock, but when the characters even acknowledged they didn’t want to be a team that projected to viewers a team-up that wasn’t quite ready.

So can Iron Fist re-engage this season?  Star Trek and Men in Black III’s Alice Eve appears briefly in the trailer as supervillain Typhoid Mary.  Mike Colter and Finn Jones’ brief team-up as the classic Power Man and Iron Fist hinted at something fans would love to see much more of.  Although we don’t see Colter in this first trailer we do see Simone Missick’s Misty Knight will at least return for an episode–something to look forward to.  Fans of G.I. Joe won’t be able to resist comparing the conflict between that series’ Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow to Danny Rand and this season’s rival Davos aka Steel Serpent, played by the returning Sacha Dhawan.

Take a look at this first look at Season 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist:

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As part of the continuing celebration of 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that kickstarted filmdom’s modern superhero blockbuster chapter, AMC Theaters are getting the entire team back together for an eight-day movie marathon nationwide beginning Thursday, August 30.  Get ready for the Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary Film Festival.  Marvel has converted three early films in the series to IMAX for the first time: Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Incredible Hulk.  So the entire 20 film series will be screened in IMAX, plus many of the films will also be screened in 3D.

The announcement arrives with the home video release of Avengers: Infinity War, now available on Blu-ray and Digital HD, 4K, and DVD.  If you missed Infinity War, check out our review here (and catch all our Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews below).  This is your chance to catch up any or all of the films you might have missed in the theater, including the three 2018 releases Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and The Wasp.  And it will give many younger viewers the opportunity to see some great superhero movies from the early days of the MCU on the big screen for the first time.

The big day of the festival appears to be September 3, with a great single-day line-up: Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and The Wasp.  The series will run over Labor Day weekend, with four films per day from August 30 through September 5.  On September 6, AMC will screen two fan-favorite films, to be selected by a fan vote.  See the Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary Film Festival website for more details.  It also seems likely based on past screenings that AMC may offer some kind of bundled purchase price for multiple shows.  Check back to the website as the end of August nears for any additional promotions.

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If you’re curious why a recent news story surfaced about Marvel Comics seeking to get John Byrne to return for some new projects, you need only turn to a new retrospective book arriving at comic book shops today to see why Marvel wants him back.  It’s yet another in IDW Publishing’s award-winning series of “Artifact Editions”–giant-sized 12″x17″ books printed at the same dimensions as original comic book art pages, with quality scanned reprints that appear nearly identical to the originals.  Today’s release features the art of John Byrne, focusing on his classic X-Men pages.

John Byrne’s X-Men Artifact Edition includes reprints of 169 pages of Byrne art in all–a rare opportunity to view images where the original set of these pages would fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.  Beginning with X-Men Issue #108 in December 1977, Byrne, along with long-time creative partner Chris Claremont, would gain popularity for their story arcs “Proteus,” “Dark Phoenix Saga,” and “Days of Future Past.”  According to Byrne, “Even after all these years, it’s the X-Men work I did with Chris and Terry (Austin) that still resonates the most with fans.  Hopefully when you all see the pages in this format you’ll still feel the same way!”  So what’s inside?  A few pages each from X-Men Issues #108-143 (except no pages were included for Issue #117).  No full issues, but you’ll find 11 Byrne covers (for Issues #114, 116, 127, 129, 133, 134, 136, 138, 139, 140, and an unpublished cover to #142), 148 interior pages, 23 splash pages (including Wolverine, Phoenix, Spider-Man, and full teams), 8 pages from the first appearance of Alpha Flight in Issues #120 and 121, 10 pages from Issue #137, “The Death of Jean Grey,” 15 pages from the Issue #141 and 142 story, “Days of Future Past.”  All-in that’s 35 original pages to marvel at from the “Dark Phoenix Saga” alone.  Plus 10 bonus art pages, including original Marvel corner box art.  The original covers to #114, 133, and 136 are pages you’re going to look at again and again.

Byrne stopped creating for Marvel in 2000 after a falling-out with editor Joe Quesada.  Byrne has continued with other publishers and personal projects since his Marvel days, going on to being named to the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2015.  Byrne co-created some major characters for Marvel, including the Scott Lang Ant-Man, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Sabretooth, and Shadow King.

Take a look at this preview from today’s release, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new PlayStation 4/Insomniac action-adventure game arrives September 7 and it’s anticipated to be one of the best superhero games yet (check out a preview for the game below).  Leading up to the launch of the game Marvel’s Spider-Man is a new prequel novel to be published in two weeks by Titan Books as part of its rollout of Marvel paperback novels (see our previous reviews in the series of Avengers: Civil War here and Deadpool: Paws here).  Author David Liss has put together a densely packed story finding Spider-Man confronting Wilson “Kingpin of Crime” Fisk seven years after he first tried to put the mobster in jail and eight years after Peter first donned his supersuit.  Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover pits Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man up against more than Fisk–with criminals old and new taking a crack at Spidey in the hefty paperback’s 398 pages.

Liss focuses on Peter Parker adjusting to life after high school and college, after his Daily Bugle photographer days and years of taking on supervillains, in the workforce as a scientist–yet the angsty Parker is still the same everyguy struggling to balance listening to the needs of girlfriend Mary Jane, keeping his difficult supervisor at work happy, remembering his breakfast meet-ups with Aunt May (did someone say wheatcakes?), and saving the people of New York.  Yep, he still mostly falls short.  Although Fisk is the Big Bad in this tale, others are lurking, like Mayor Norman Osborn, Scorpion, Shocker, Tombstone, Electro, the most vile J. Jonah Jameson yet, and Martin Li (aka Mr. Negative).  But Spidey’s strangest riddle involves new threats, including a masked deaf woman who calls herself Echo, with mad martial arts skills and a hidden past, and a Spider-Man doppelganger called Blood-Spider, an imbalanced foe who thinks he’s the real Spider-Man (unfortunately for Spidey, he has the moves and webs to prove it).

Peter grows farther apart from Mary Jane when she lands a job at the Bugle, and he meets a new co-worker intern named Anika (who may be a bit of a stalker).  And he’s losing his other best friend and confidante as Harry Osborn takes off for a trip overseas.  A contact with the D.A.’s office and a driven Misty Knight-inspired member of the police force (Captain Yuri Watanabe) could be his way to more information.  But something is just not right everywhere Peter turns, and no facet of his life is getting better.  Liss weaves all these characters together for Peter to sleuth his way to the surface.  He will lose plenty.  What more is he willing to lose to finally put Fisk behind bars?

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Today writer Dan Slott and artist Sara Pichelli are bringing back the title Fantastic Four to Marvel Comics with a re-launch beginning with part one of a new Issue #1 story, “Fourever,” arriving at comic book stores today.  Marvel Comics sidelined the team of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm since the end of its Secret Wars series.  Now fans of the team and “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” will find out what they’ve been doing since then.  We’ve gathered the dozens of cover options available for this issue, shown below.

As Marvel states in its marketing materials for the new series:

A void no other team can fill.  And it’s time for the world to move on.  But can it?  A life-changing decision by the Thing!  A momentous declaration by the Human Torch!  A clarion call-to-arms that summons Doctor Doom!  And a signal in the sky that heralds the return of hope to the Marvel Universe!  All this, and Alicia Masters adopts kittens!  So cute!  Plus, the Impossible Man!

Marvel has amped up its cover artists yet again for the variant covers for this latest of several recent renumberings of main titles.   So you’ll find covers from Alex Ross, Artgerm, Art Adams, Adam Hughes, Steve Epting, Sara Pichelli, Esad Ribic, George Perez, Mark Brooks, Skottie Young, Simone Bianchi, Joe Quesada, Eric Powell, Humberto Ramos, Nick Bradshaw, Mike Wieringo, Jack Kirby, John Cassaday, Emanuela Lupacchino, Walt Simonson, Rob Liefeld, Jen Bartel, Will Sliney, Mike Mayhew, Bill Sienkiewicz, and many more–more than 55 including virgin art and blank covers, most new, some pulled from archives of artists of the past, plus some homages to comic book covers from the past.

  

Bonus stories will be included in the issue by Simone Bianchi and Skottie Young.  New Fantastic Four pins and backerboards will also available at some comic book stores today.

Take a look at all these covers we spotted:

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Who doesn’t love a modern team-up of classic characters from the Golden Age of comic books?  The latest, Project Superpowers, is arriving at comic book stores Wednesday.  It’s a great start to another superhero team, in an ocean of superhero teams available.  Taking only a little inspiration from Watchmen, instead of creating new characters it features actual superheroes from comics of the past banding together again: The Green Lama, Masquerade, The Mighty Samson, Black Terror, The Scarab, The Death-Defying Devil, and more.  If you’re a fan of the storytelling of Suicide Squad’s Rob Williams, and agree Legenderry’s Sergio Davila knows how to draw great superhero books, Project Superpowers should be next on your comic book store pull list.

A different tale than Alex Ross’s 2008 resurrection of dozens of heroes in his Project Superpowers series, the story is updated for today, albeit pulling a few superheroes from the earlier series.   Dynamite Comics is publishing seven variant covers in all for the first book in this latest series with the Project Superpowers title, by Francesco Mattina, Ed Benes, Philip Tan, JG Jones, Stephen Segovia, and more.  “An all-new threat faces the Earth, while the team faces turmoil from within and must overcome all obstacles to prove their worth and value in a world that desperately needs its heroes.”

   

A new superheroine is about to be called to duty.  Here is a preview of the first issue and variant covers from the new Project Superpowers, courtesy of Dynamite Comics:

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For decades kids of all ages have awakened to their favorite colorful breakfast cereal.  The best of these not only taste good but they feature some appropriately entertaining mascot, and the very best of these have some kind of prize in the package.  Most of these are forgettable, but there’s a market of collectors who buy and sell these prizes on eBay every day.  Toy company Funko is taking a new approach to the prize-in-the-box cereal with its next product, Funko’s own multigrain cereals, called Funko’s.

These cereals are all about the prize, packing each box with a premium collectible Funko figure.  First to market for Funko’s new superhero cereals are two box options: one featuring the Funko Batman and the other the Funko Batgirl.  And yes, each box features its own prize, the corresponding Pocket Pop! of Batman or Batgirl.

You can pre-order both now from Entertainment Earth (click on each box above for more details and to order).  Each sells for $9.99, a bit much for cereal, but you’re really not buying it for the cereal, right?  Funko tried some other releases of non-superhero brands that already are selling from secondary market sellers at Amazon for more than $30, like Jason Voorhees Funko’s cereal, Freddy Krueger Funko’s, and Cuphead and Mugman Funko’s cereal (all an appropriately blood-red colored cereal), so you may want to get these new Bat-cereals before they are gone.

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