Category: Superheroes


Review by C.J. Bunce

You still have a month before visual effects artist-turned director Dave Wilson’s Bloodshot movie arrives as the next cyborg superhero from Marvel Comics to hit the big screen.  But if you want to get a jump on your friends, there’s Bloodshot: The Official Movie Novelization, just released from Titan Books, a  great read for fans of all things borg.  Readers will be pulled inside the story of Ray Garrison, a slain special ops Marine, who is resurrected thanks to Dr. Emil Harting, a (mad?) scientist who is perfecting his use of nanotechnology and cybernetics to create an unstoppable squad of super-soldiers.  Written by Gavin Smith and based on the Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer screenplay, Bloodshot creates the next step in the evolution of cybernetic technology stories that began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, mixing the rage of The Punisher with the impact on the human psyche and dehumanization of turning from man to cyborg, as we’ve seen in stories like RoboCop (who was inspired by Judge Dredd and Marvel’s Rom).

As for the Marvel universe in film, Bloodshot is poised to stack up neatly beside the lab-created Hulk, the merger of body and “something else” of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, the mission and science of Captain America, Wolverine, and Deadpool, the determination of Cable, and it’s a fitting follow-up to the half-man/half-monster movie, Venom.  That’s a lot of Marvel characters with similar struggles, and there are certainly more, Marvel characters with the same vintage of origin story–an unlikely or involuntary super-soldier–so how do you spin this key Marvel trope in a fresh, new way?  As Smith, Wadlow, and Heisserer have done it, you go back to the human condition, and look to what has come before.

Bloodshot reads much like Martin Caidin’s original story of the first modern cyborg in his novel Cyborg, about Steve Austin, the Bionic Man–the Six Million Dollar Man–a military hero brought to death’s door and back via science.  In many ways Bloodshot–the program that pulls in the story’s hero and becomes the name of his new persona–is an update to Cyborg–what you could imagine the Bionic Man reboot with Mark Wahlberg to be like.  And it pulls in good mind-twisting sci-fi elements evoking Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and Duncan Jones’ Source Code.

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This week two brief videos will leave most people scratching their heads and asking, “Why bother?”  The first, for The Batman, released by writer-director Matt Reeves (who we hold out hope for because he wrote and directed the great vampire love story Let Me In), is a “camera test,” which appears more like an early lighting and costume test where you can glimpse new bat actor Robert Pattinson in his batsuit.  The second is from Netflix, and it’s an overly long scene of a Russian prison work detail resulting in the appearance of David Harbour as a thinner, gaunt, exhausted Jim Hopper, spoiling any surprise that the character was really killed in the final episode of the last season of Stranger Things (C’mon, you knew he wasn’t going to be dead for long).  Some will applaud one or both.  Others will sneer.  Where will you land?  (Psst.  There’s no wrong answer).

What are these things anyway?  Barely teasers, the purported “camera test” for The Batman is more “trial balloon,” an intentional vehicle for starting buzz, good or bad, so potential audiences get accustomed to yet another revamp of the batsuit and actor.  Literally thousands of podcasters have already manipulated the image of Pattinson in many ways to try to glean something worth discussing (not surprisingly with little to say).  We already knew it takes some effort to find an artist that has drawn Bruce Wayne that in any way resembles the co-star of The Lighthouse, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and the Twilight vampire movies.  And–big surprise–David Crossman and Glyn Dillon′s new costume design looks like another batsuit of the sharp-angled, action figure toy variety (toys = sales = more $) instead of something out of the comics pages.  And current movie go-to composer Michael Giacchino offers another repeated bass line with drum set in the background to back it all up.  Our wish?  We just want Warner Bros. to finally get the voice of Batman right and skip that goofy, dry, smoker voice and coughed-out dialogue.  Let’s hear him say, “I’m Batman.”

The Stranger Things video is out there to whet appetites of fans who won’t see the series return for another year.  But did the fans need to know Hopper wasn’t dead before the fourth season was ready to go?  Here’s an idea:  If you’re going to cast against type, as they’ve done for The Batman, why not really have some fun and give us David Harbour as Batman?  Sure, Harbour is playing a Russian superhero in the summer Black Widow movie from Marvel Comics, but audiences won’t care.  Let’s really have some fun.  Or give Pattinson the role of a superhero he really looks like: Wolverine.  They need a new younger actor for the role in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, right?

Oh, well.  Watch–or don’t–you’re not missing much!  Here are the two brief, too-brief videos for The Batman and Stranger Things:

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IDW Publishing, Dynamite, DC Comics, and Marvel Comics are getting into the holiday spirit this week for Valentine’s Day this Friday.

IDW Publishing has three books featuring the subject of love: Star Trek: Year Five, Transformers, and Napoleon Dynamite each with a romance tale.  DC Comics has its annual giant-sized issue for February, too.  This time it’s DC’s Crimes of Passion #1.  The 80-pager features ten stories by some good teams of writers and artists, including a Bat-story by writer Steve Orlando with fantastic artwork by Greg Smallwood.  And there’s even a Green Arrow and Black Canary team-up.  The Star Trek cover arrives in two variants, one (above) matching last year’s wraparound kids Valentine format that featured Kirk.

You need to think a bit to see what’s happening with Dynamite’s special Valentine’s Day covers, except maybe for the cover to Death to Army of Darkness #1 by Sebastian Piriz with its big red heart front and center.  Dynamite is presenting an odd assemblage of homages to Marvel Comics’ The Amazing Spider-Man covers of the past featuring Mary Jane Watson, which by themselves don’t scream chocolates and roses.  But if you collect homage covers, check out Piriz’s homage to the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, Lynne Yoshii’s Vampirella/Red Sonja #6 (matching The Amazing Spider-Man #59), and Sanya Anwar’s covers to Dejah Thoris #3 (matching The Amazing Spider-Man #601) and Red Sonja #13 (an homage to The Amazing Spider-Man #42’s final panel).  So along with Dynamite, Marvel Comics gets its own piece of Valentine’s Day attention (whether they wanted to or not).  Note: These are just variant covers for the holiday, not Valentine’s Day stories inside.

 

Check out more of the covers for this week’s books below. and a preview of DC’s Crimes of Passion:

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Coming this week is a new story from the steampunk crossover genre, those mash-ups featuring stories that blend the adventures of the real and the imaginary with Victorian charm.  It’s Adler–after Arthur C. Doyle’s Irene Adler, who he created for his story A Scandal in Bohemia, a popular character in his Sherlock Holmes stories and novels.  The new comic book series features Jane Eyre from Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Lady Estella Havisham from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Ayesha from H. Rider Haggard’s original Amazon Queen in his 1887 novel She, her confidante Carmilla, a vampire from an 1872 Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novella, The Dark Blue, and little orphan Annie, from the 1920s Harold Gray comic strip, plus real-life physicist/chemist Marie Curie and Queen Victoria, among others.

A follow-on to the 2014 Adler mini-series also written by Lavie Tidhar with artwork by Paul McCaffrey, the band of heroines are readying to again face their nemesis, also Holmes’ nemesis, Professor James Moriarty.  Artists McCaffrey and Jackson Guice will provide variant cover options, along with a silhouette cover series created by Andrew Leung.

 

Author Kim Newman (interviewed here at borg in 2013) has become the master of the crossover and mash-up genres, but the story device has been around for centuries.  Examples in recent comics history include Bill Willingham’s Legenderry, which merged Red Sonja, Six Thousand Dollar Man Steve Austin, Zorro, Vampirella, the Green Hornet and Kato, the Phantom, Ming the Merciless, and Doctor Moreau.  And then there’s Chris Roberson and Alex Ross’s Masks, including The Shadow, The Green Hornet and Kato, Zorro, the Green Lama, Miss Fury, Black Terror, and the Black Bat, and Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have included Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, and Tom Sawyer, and others.  Years before Moore, Newman’s several award-winning novels pulled together more than anyone else, literally thousands of characters, many real, historical people, many others fictional and from other famous works.  (We reviewed Newman’s characters in comic book mash-up form, Anno Dracula 1895, here at borg).  As with Willingham’s Legenderry, look for plenty of steampunk elements in Adler.

Here is a preview of Adler, Issue #1, courtesy of Titan Comics:

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Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is likely the most popular villain in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  So a Loki series–coming soon to pay streaming provider Disney+, makes a lot of sense.  But why haven’t we seen more of what it will be about?  A new trailer Disney released this weekend gives a glimpse at the next three TV series for Marvel after winding down all its popular series at Netflix.  This one features WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki Each series is slated to have six episodes, so basically audiences will get three feature-length movies released in six parts, to maximize Disney streaming revenues.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, to star Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, gets some more screen time in this trailer than Loki, but not much.  An odd team-up, it will be interesting to see if Disney can make this into something other than a bridge between the different phases of the Marvel movies.

Although we love seeing co-star Elizabeth Olsen in her traditional Scarlet Witch comic book outfit (above), we must ask: what audience is WandaVision aimed at?  This first real look at the show, still only a peek, makes it appear like a cross between I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched.  The character Vision (played by Paul Bettany) died in the movies.  Black Widow died, too, and she’s getting a full-length film, but it’s already been explained hers an early story and she’s a major character (so it’s about time).  But Wanda and Vision in a sitcom?

Take a look at this preview for all three shows and see what you think:

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Last night’s episode of CW′s Arrow brings eight seasons of one of DC Comics’ oldest superheroes to a close as the CW aired the show’s series finale.  Focused on Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow–one of the costumed characters off to the sidelines over the years in the shadow of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman–the series would be a resounding success for the network and executive Greg Berlanti, sprouting several other DC Comics adaptations under the banner of the Arrowverse.  And what a long, strange trip it has been.  It’s been seven and a half years since I first watched the premiere of CW’s Arrow in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con 2012 at the panel featuring the creators and stars Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy (I reviewed the pilot first here at borg).  My initial reaction found the show a “refreshing, intriguing update to the superhero game,” and “even for a fan of the traditional character’s story, updates made for TV were well thought out and did little to detract from the core of what makes Green Arrow the unique character that has survived as a key comic book character for 70 years,” and that the pilot “deftly managed to alter far less of the source material than, for example, the Green Lantern movie released in 2011, and in doing so created a truer, more refreshing story with appropriate nods to the past, and one that promises to survive, should it find its fan base.”  Who knew that survival would mean greenlighting so many more superhero shows, including The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and the forthcoming Superman & Lois?

The series accomplished a lot even if it didn’t get everything right.  Arrow suffered when it veered too far from the DC Comics stories, or when it pursued too deeply the more arcane corners of the DC universe, the biggest side trip being the dominance of fan-favorite minor character Felicity Smoak in the series, ultimately knocking Dinah (or Laurel in this version) Lance aside to be Oliver’s romantic partner, which again took center stage in the finale episode.

This winter’s ambitious Crisis on Infinite Earth’s crossover event killed off Oliver Queen in the grand tradition of killing any superhero character (aka until his inevitable return, which we’ve seen in Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks’ comics story arc).  Although the finale itself, “Fadeout,” was much like an old 1980s “filler” episode (with many scenes spliced from past episodes) and like the final Crisis episodes it was about mourning Oliver and preparing for his funeral.  But the penultimate episode, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” (which aired last week), would make for a good spin-off.  That episode took Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance (the only actor we ever expected to be Black Canary in 2012), and teamed her up with Katherine McNamara’s Mia (Oliver and Felicity’s daughter trained by Oliver last year), along with Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah Drake, all in a future world of Earth in 2040 (introduced earlier in the series).  How long will the CW Arrowverse continue without its flagship series?  Only time will tell, but viewership already switched over to make The Flash the CW’s #1 watched show.

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The first major variant comic book cover event of 2020 launches tomorrow as the landmark 750th issue of Wonder Woman arrives at comic stores everywhere.  As with last year’s Detective Comics Issue #1000, DC Comics will feature a set of decade-inspired cover art variants plus a sketch cover version, joining an incredibly rendered Joëlle Jones standard cover with Wonder Woman holding the Earth on her shoulders (which might be the best of all), all available in most comic book stores.  Nearly 40 other variants will also be available if you’re willing to track them down, from retailer incentives to artist and store-exclusive issues.

Look for homage covers by Joshua Middleton (1940s), Jenny Frison (1950s), J. Scott Campbell (1960s), Olivier Coipel (1970s), George Perez (1980s), Brian Bolland (1990s), Adam Hughes (2000s), and Jim Lee and Scott Williams (2010s).

 

The first story features writer Steve Orlando and artist Jesus Merino wrapping the Year of the Villain arc.  DC announced previously that a story by writer Scott Snyder and artist Bryan Hitch will basically reboot the DC universe timeline, establishing Wonder Woman as the first DC superhero.  Other stories were created by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott, Gail Simone and Colleen Doran, Marguerite Bennett and Laura Braga, Mariko Tamaki and Elena Casagrande, Kami Garcia, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks, Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Riley Rossmo, and Vita Ayala and Amancay Nahuelpan.  Readers will also find pin-up art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Ramona Fradon, Bilquis Evely, Travis Moore, Liam Sharp, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

So which is your favorite cover?  Check out the final covers and original cover artwork below:

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The second Black Widow trailer has arrived (if you missed the first, we previewed it here).  Black Widow features the return of Scarlett Johansson as Marvel’s biggest and most seen screen superheroine, plus Stranger Things and Hellboy star David Harbour as the Soviet answer to Captain America, the Red Guardian, Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) as assassin Melina Vostokoff aka Iron Maiden, Florence Pugh (The Commuter) as Yelena Belova, and de-aged Oscar-winning actor William Hurt, who started the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe off in The Incredible Hulk, back as General Ross.

Directed by Cate Shortland, Black Widow takes place following the events of Captain America: Civil War, so it’s not really all that long ago.  The villain featured in the new trailer is Taskmaster, created in 1980 by writer David Michelinie and artist George Pérez. but the identity of the actor/actress has yet to be revealed.  Pugh’s character might be getting queued up to take over the Black Widow mantle later in this new phase (#4) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as her character has been known to use the Black Widow title in the pages of the comics.

Along with the trailer, Marvel released a video looking back at Black Widow in the MCU so far.  Check out this new trailer and feature for Black Widow:

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Two of the three most famous genre Jareds take center stage in the latest trailer from the Marvel universe.  Academy Award winner Jared Leto (Suicide Squad, Blade Runner 2049) stars as Dr. Michael Morbius and Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Fringe, The Expanse) as an undisclosed mentor, possibly Jack Russell.  Morbius takes place in the Sony side of the Marvel universe.  Not yet taking the plunge to become a full-on Marvel Cinematic Universe entry now that the Disney/Sony deal is done, a trailer appearance by Michael Keaton as Vulture reflects a straddling of the franchise.  Keaton’s character was the villain of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first Spider-Man movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Morbius appears to have been filmed in the dark lighting of the earlier horror/superhero-verse film Venom, which featured another historic tie-in character from the world of Spider-Man.  Morbius will be released this summer a few months in advance of a Venom sequel.

Not to be confused with the Dr. Morbius of Forbidden Planet, this is the sci-fi/Dracula hybrid–the “living vampire”–created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in the pages of Marvel Comics in 1971.  Comic greats like Don McGregor and the late Rich Buckler and Steve Gerber would work on the Morbius stories over the years–a doomed hero drawn to look like actor Jack Palance.  Over the years the character would rub shoulders with Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Doctor Strange, and Blade, but most notably Spider-Man.  Elements of the trailer look like the stuff of Doctor Strange, Venom, and Deadpool, and this is obviously a character from the world of Stan Lee.

The original Morbius in superhero costume from the pages of Marvel Comics.

The film co-stars Doctor Who’s Matt Smith, Fast & Furious’s Tyrese Gibson, and 6 Underground’s Adria Arjona.

Could this be an entry point for new Blade, Ghost Rider, or Carnage movies?  Take a look at this first trailer for Morbius:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Although it wasn’t renewed for a second season, streaming service DC Universe’s Swamp Thing is the adaptation of a comic book series from 2019 that stood apart in a year where every other series seemed to be based on a comic book.  On the small screen, from The Umbrella Academy, The Boys, and Watchmen, to the last seasons of Netflix’s The Punisher and Jessica Jones, plus new seasons of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Gotham, and Legion, and new Batwoman and Doom Patrol series, 2019 meant a lot of comic book adaptations that either looked the same or they fought hard to try to be grittier and different.  And that’s great–that means there’s something for everyone.  But if you’re looking for fun, and nicely creepy but not too dark, and not cartoony, soap opera-ish, or comic booky, and you were willing to give DC universe a try, then you’d be lucky enough to have discovered Swamp Thing If you missed it, you can still catch up with the full season now with a DC Universe subscription or via Amazon Prime here, and it’s coming your way (and available for pre-order) on Blu-ray, digital, and DVD next month.

Swamp Thing strikes the right balance, taking a second-tier property and recreating the level of creepy found in 1960s-1980s comics–a show that actually looks and feels like what the original visionary artists Bernie Wrightson and writer Len Wein put on the page.  Finally a great Justice League Dark show, something like we loved in print from Mikel Janin and Peter Milligan that so far also has provided the best character cameos of CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event.  Complete with Madame Xanadu, Blue Devil, and Phantom Stranger, we meet two very Marvel Comics types inside the DC realm.  More importantly it’s great fun, like a John Carpenter movie with its visual effects, a top cast of household name actors and great guest stars, and faithful storytelling to the comics, headed up by Crystal Reed as a smart CDC doctor named Abby.  If you’re of the camp (like us) that agrees Bill Bixby on The Incredible Hulk is still the best comics on TV has ever been, then you’ll love seeing the similar origin tale and subsequent episodes between Abby and Andy Bean′s Alec Holland, a researcher and investigator whose lives are turned upside down when a swamp is contaminated by a local mill, which causes devastating changes to Holland.  The chemistry and tragic tale played by Bixby and Mariette Hartley in the 1970s Hulk series is echoed by the chemistry of Reed and Bean as the leads in Swamp Thing.

Holland transforms into a beast who walks and speaks like a man, but the plants of the swamp have merged with him.  Is there still a man in there that can be removed and repaired, or is he forever transformed into something entirely new?

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