Advertisements

Latest Entries »

  

Review by C.J. Bunce

Primarily in-universe looks at the first three seasons of ABC/CW’s series Supergirl and the first four seasons of CW’s The Flash, two new books offer up a complete look at the superheroes, their encounters, and the extensive and diverse world of supporting characters in the shows.  The last of the series to round out CW’s Arrowverse–the live-action world of DC Comics characters outside the movies–Supergirl, the series, revolves around the famous daughter of Krypton created by the performance of Supergirl aka Kara Danvers actor Melissa Benoist.  The character’s personality comes to the surface in Supergirl: The Secret Files of Kara Danvers, a diary style guide to the TV series, which includes a three-season episode guide.  It’s a companion to both Arrow: Oliver Queen’s Dossier (previously reviewed here at borg) and S.T.A.R. Labs: Cisco Ramon’s Journal, and another new book in the series, The Flash: The Secret Files of Barry Allen, another diary style book documenting the latest incarnation of the superhero aka Barry Allen, as portrayed by Grant Gustin.

The first takeaway of these books is the breadth of stories that have been adapted from the comic books into these series.  The guest actors fill in the world from the comic books, and for older viewers, they conjure a bit of nostalgia, several from past superhero incarnations, from the movie version’s Helen Slater to Smallville’s Erica Durance and Sam Witwer, Lois and Clark’s Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain, Heroes’ Bruce Boxleitner and Adrian Pasdar, Hercules’ Kevin Sorbo, and the original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter.  The wealth of villains alone in The Flash series makes The Flash: The Secret Files of Barry Allen a must-have for CW Arrowverse fans.

Both books feature dossiers of the good guys and the bad guys you need to know about, whether based in National City for Kara Danvers or Central City for Barry Allen.

Here are previews of each book, published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams:

View full article »

Advertisements

With Amazon Studios releasing a new, full-length trailer for its six-part series Good Omens, showrunner Neil Gaiman discussed his creative process for the book and the show at this weekend’s South by Southwest (SXSW 2019) conference and festival in Austin, Texas.  Check out his panel interview below, with Gaiman discussing the series and his creative process.  Gaiman co-wrote the novel Good Omens on which the series is based with Terry Pratchett way back in 1989.  Pratchett passed away in 2015, and now, led by Gaiman’s efforts, twenty-nine years after its creation the book is on its way to a TV adaptation later this spring.

In Good Omens the end of the world is coming, and opposite personalities in the form of an Angel and Demon are brought together to form an unlikely alliance to stop Armageddon.  They have lost the Antichrist, an 11-year-old boy unaware he’s meant to bring upon the end of days, sending the pair to find him and save the world before… The End.  The series combines the talents of Douglas Mackinnon, who directed episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who, and it stars David Tennant (Doctor Who, Jessica Jones, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Viva Blackpool) and Michael Sheen (Passengers, Doctor Who, Tron: Legacy, Frost/Nixon, Alice in Wonderland).  Other big names appearing in the series include Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Hobbit, Star Trek Into Darkness), Jon Hamm (Baby Driver), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Muppets Most Wanted), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Michael McKean (Clue, Laverne and Shirley), David Morrissey (Doctor Who, The Walking Dead), Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards, Isle of Dogs), and Brian Cox (Shetland, RED, Doctor Who).

First, take a look at the new full-length trailer for the series, followed by the discussion with Neil Gaiman this weekend at SXSW 2019, and a brief behind-the-scenes featurette:

View full article »

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?

View full article »

 

As the last Marvel Cinematic Universe film arrives in theaters before the climactic conclusion to the decade-long journey culminates in Avengers: Endgame, one new book celebrates Captain Marvel, the film (reviewed here at borg), and another provides a new adventure for the superheroine expanding from the pages of Marvel Comics.  Captain Marvel: The Official Movie Special is the film’s official “souvenir book” full of photographs behind the scenes as well as screen images tied together with interviews from the cast and crew.  It’s the kind of book fans of the film can go to to find details of the production process, and learn more about the actors and how they approached the characters.

Also now in print is Tess Sharpe’s novel Captain Marvel: Liberation Run, which is not related to the film, but provides a new story bringing together Carol Danvers, Mantis, Medusa, Ant-Man, and more, as the Captain goes to a distant planet to save a group of women aliens from an oppressive autocracy.  Readers will find the novel closer to the most recent comic book series than past comics or the character as seen in the film.  Captain Marvel: The Official Movie Special is available now for pre-order here at Amazon (shipping Tuesday), and Captain Marvel: Liberation Run is available here.

Readers of Captain Marvel: The Official Movie Special will get a sense in the cast interviews (Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Djimon Hounsou, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Algenis Perez Soto, and Rune Temte) of the approach each actor took for their characters, how they worked with the directors and other actors, and share their thoughts on the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general.

View full article »

Review by C.J. Bunce

As the last movie before the big finale next month as Avengers: Endgame premieres, this weekend’s release of Captain Marvel provides another big win for Marvel Studios that both provides a new character to take the Marvel Cinematic Universe beyond the Avengers-centric adventures into “Phase IV,” plus it fills some gaps in the story so far.  Despite all the harangues about the history of the title “Captain Marvel” across the decades as used by both Marvel in this movie and as the lead character in the coming DC Comics movie Shazam!, oddly enough the words never get used in the film except for the title logo at the end credits.  But Brie Larson‘s take on Carol Danvers elevates the character beyond a name or title, surprisingly pulling more from the classic roots in Marvel Comics stories back to Ms. Marvel of the 1970s than from the current, cockier version of the character.  This Carol Danvers is a solid new superhero on film, who, like Black Widow, The Wasp, Jean Grey, Gamora, Storm, and Domino, happen to be women, as powerful (and sometimes more so) than their male, inhuman, or alien, counterparts.  Larson’s take on the character is certainly heroic, but initially she plays the part reserved, with Carol uncertain of her powers at first, before she settles into her boots and takes the lead role as badass against all the film‘s villainous threats.  Co-director/screenplay writers Anna Bodin and Ryan Fleck make the character smart enough to suss out the mystery behind the secrets kept hidden from her.  In many ways Danvers is unstuck in time, but the time-shifting story never causes confusion along the way–and unlike several entries in the MCU, the writers deserve credit for a fully plot-driven story.  Captain Marvel is one of the series‘ easiest to watch–all-out fun from beginning to end–with a cool cat named Goose as a bonus.

In second chair is Samuel L. Jackson playing a 1990s version of his Nick Fury character, with probably the most screen-time the character has seen in the franchise.  This becomes his chronological introduction to the MCU along with Clark Gregg‘s Agent Coulson, and fans of these two since the beginning will no doubt love seeing them back in action together, although Coulson has a lesser role.  A big surprise is Ben Mendelsohn‘s performance as the Skrull called Talos.  Mendelsohn proved he was a powerhouse character actor for years, but has taken on star status more recently in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Ready Player One, and here he is a standout force again even behind heavy prosthetics.  Talos is among the best of all the Marvel movie villains, up there with Magneto, Red Skull, Hela, Bushmaster, Surtur, Killmonger, Vulture, Venom, and Loki.

Every single character and actor in the film is done right, from Kree team members played by Jude Law, Gemma Chan, and Djimon Hounsou returning as Korath from Guardians of the Galaxy, and Lee Pace back again also from Guardians (but hardly recognizable this time) as Ronan the Accuser.  For those who are fans of the Marvel film and comics space fantasy stories like Guardians, this is the next film in that vein.

View full article »

Review by C.J. Bunce

Not all TV shows are made for binge watching.  Case in point:  The Umbrella Academy, now streaming on Netflix.  The TV series is based on a six-issue comic book series created and written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá.  Most comic adaptations for the screen have more content to pull from, but there are exceptions, like Cowboys & Aliens, From Hell, A History of Violence, iZombie, Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Men in Black, Oblivion, Polar, Road to Perdition, Sin City, 300, Timecop, V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and Wynonna Earp.  Just as most of these were able to hold up something substantial to the audience, some comics, like Cowboys & Aliens, Polar, Sin City, and 300, either didn’t have enough content, were insubstantial, or are simply too difficult to translate.  The Umbrella Academy falls somewhere in this last group.  The story is entirely derivative with nothing new to be found here, which doesn’t need to be a bad thing.  Slow moving, painfully so at times, pretentious in one story thread and over-dramatic soap opera in the other, at ten episodes this might be the most difficult series produced by Netflix to trudge through so far.  But some key elements are so well done it may be worth a try if you’re patient and have the extra time on your hands.  But don’t be afraid to have the remote control handy for fast forwarding.

Unlike timeless characters and worlds from DC Comics and Marvel Comics, which have some benefit in not needing to be completely explained in each adaptation, The Umbrella Academy offers only a brief glimpse at its origin story, leaving many questions unanswered.  In October 1989, 43 women on Earth give birth unexpectedly.  Don’t expect to learn why.  It is never revealed.  Seven of these babies are purchased by a strange, wealthy, apparently Dr. Moreau type, played by an unrecognizable Colm Feore (Thor, Anon, Paycheck).  Do all 43 have superpowers?  It doesn’t seem so and we don’t learn why.  But these seven, or at least six of seven, do.  The wealthy man takes on the role of father in name only, turning them into the Jackson Five of superheroes, and the kids are provided a mother who is actually a life-like robot (Jordan Claire Robbins), and a sort of butler who is a talking ape (Lodge 49’s Adam Godley).  Why?  The story never tells us.  These are but a few of the frustrating parts.

The good–maybe even great–parts are found in four of the seven superpowered siblings.  Number Five is a boy who stepped out of time, deemed lost to the others, and lives into the distant future only to find a way back to his siblings looking like the very boy who left years ago.  Young Nickelodeon actor Aidan Gallagher steps into this role perfectly, playing a kid with life experiences of a 58-year-old with the authority and bravado of George Clooney.  Irish actor Robert Sheehan (Bad Samaritan) plays Klaus, one of the singularly unique characters of comicdom:  He is a mess, an addict, with no drive or direction, and he can see dead people, and maybe much more if he can only stay sober.  He is also the only one who can see the only brother who has been killed in action, off camera, years before, and with no explanation how or why for the viewer.  That’s Number Six/Ben, played by Justin H. Min.  Ben tries to guide Klaus onto the right path from the other side.  And then there is Number Two/Diego, played by David Castañeda (Sicario: Day of the Soldado).  Diego has a history of being nervous about his powers, and he’s the only one who seems to want to save the world with his powers–the classic superhero character of the group that you’ll cheer for.  The special effects are a high point–as when Number Five, Klaus, and Diego get to use their powers.  Of all the characters in the series, only Klaus and Ben get a clear, satisfying character arc, but if you only watch The Umbrella Academy to catch these four characters and fast forward through the rest, you’ll witness some solid superhero performances and story elements.

View full article »

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.

View full article »

Ever wonder how the studios make the determination to release one version of a trailer in the U.S. and a different version simultaneously elsewhere?  So do we.  Language differences aside, a few cultural distinctions would make sense sometimes, but infrequently.  But how do you explain it with a straightforward superhero movie?  We previewed the U.S. trailer last week here at borg for this summer’s X-Men movie Dark Phoenix.  It looked great.  Then we saw the international version.

The international version leaves out the introduction with a weepy superheroine Jean Grey, but instead offers a developing, linear short film summary that builds and teases like a good trailer should, reflecting the power and excitement the character Dark Phoenix is known for.  And it teases an incredible space shuttle scene.  This is the right trailer to get people into theaters.  Yet it’s not the trailer most Americans will see.

Take a look and see what you think.  Here’s the new international trailer for Dark Phoenix:

View full article »

   

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:

View full article »

 

Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes the implementation of an idea goes well beyond the idea itself.  That’s what I found with the new Dynamite Comics series, Obey Me.  The catchy title and great covers drew me to this first, and I’m a sucker for a story that stars a hound dog.  I’m also a fan of the movie Crossroads, a 1986 film written by John Fusco that features an old man who sold his soul to the devil.  A kid comes along (played by Ralph Macchio) who bargains for his life, and the result is a true American classic, steeped in mythology and blues.  In Obey Me, a young woman bounty hunter is tasked with hunting down a mob boss who has broken his contract with the devil.  She is joined by a talking hellhound–a familiar of sorts–and must go through several bodyguards to get to her target.  Along the way through some mouthy dialogue and murderous camaraderie, the pair–the woman is Vanessa and the dog is Monty–create a goofy brand of chemistry.  The plot sounds a little strange, but the first issue arriving in comic book stores tomorrow provides a heckuva fun story.

Obey Me blends two of my all-time favorite off-the-wall comic book series:  It has the irreverent humor and unusual talking characters of Felipe Melo, Juan Cavia, and Santiago Villa’s The Adventures of Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy, and the equally strange, irreverent, and unusual series God the Dyslexic Dog from Brian and Phil Phillipson and legendary artist (and this year a Will Eisner Hall of Fame nominee) Alex Niño.  Plus there’s the Talking Dog.  Obey Me writer Mario Mentasti provides a familiar foundation, but look forward to some amped-up action and dialogue that will be loads of fun for mature readers.  Artist Ben Herrera and colorist Emmanuel Ordaz Torres find the perfect balance of comic book situations and blood, fire, and damnation.  Best of all, the team of Vanessa and Monty is all badass, making the book a must for your comic store pull list.

 

I was surprised this story is a tie-in to a PC and console game called Obey Me from Error 404 Game Studios.  It’s better than your average video game tie-in comic.  The game is a one- or two-person “top-down 3D action brawler” coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC later this year.  Here is a preview of Issue #0 of Obey Me, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment, and the trailer for the video game:

View full article »

%d bloggers like this: