Category: Retro Fix


Star Trek Costumes Block and Erdmann final cover 2015

Review by C.J. Bunce

The best non-fiction look at Star Trek in years is now available at book stores and online retailers.  Star Trek Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, by Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann will serve as a companion book to The Art of Star Trek, The Continuing Mission, and Star Trek: The Art of the Film, all previously reviewed here and here at borg.com.  Together these four books represent the best visual looks at the history of Star Trek.  This new volume includes beautiful, clear, full-color photographs in a colorful hardcover, coffee table edition.

General fans of Hollywood costumes will learn plenty about the variety of major costumes used in the Star Trek universe throughout the past 50 years, and Star Trek diehards will find many interesting tidbits, too.  Highlights include recollections of costume designer Robert Fletcher about his creations for the movies and photos of several of his original costume designs, including his sketches for William Shatner’s Captain Kirk Class B uniform, Scotty’s engineering radiological suit used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the maroon, naval-style officer and crewman uniforms first appearing in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

STC B

William Ware Theiss’s era-defining costumes from the original series receive plenty of coverage, including images of some of Theiss’s often quickly rendered costume designs.  The original hand-drawn artwork from past and present is worth its weight in gold press latinum, including original costume designs for Star Trek: The Next Generation by Durinda Rice Wood (like Counselor Troi’s beautiful, form-fitting, burgundy jumpsuit), costume designs for Star Trek: First Contact by Deborah Everton (like Lily’s 2063 civilian garb worn by Alfre Woodard), Robert Blackman’s original concept art for Star Trek Generations (like the British Naval uniforms), and Sanja Milkovich Hays’ original concept sketches for Star Trek: Insurrection (like the female Tarlac nurse bodysuits) many including photos of corresponding fabric swatches.  While Star Trek Costumes provides only a brief look at the costumes of Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, and Enterprise, it provides a nice overview of the revisited designs and variants of Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness, including a focus on the Klingon costumes.

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emily-blunt-edge-of-tomorrow

What a busy year!  We took in more content this year than ever before, reading more books, watching more TV series, and reviewing more movies.  Wading through all that Hollywood had to offer, we try to hone in on the genre films and TV series we think are worth our time.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual “Best of the Best” list.  Today we reveal the best content focusing on movies.  Come back for more of our picks tomorrow.  If you missed any of these films this year, check them out when they arrive on video or digital release.

Edge of Tomorrow Omaha Beach scene

Edge of TomorrowBest Film of the Year, Best Science Fiction Fix, Best Action Fix, Best Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Paxton).  The benefit of Blu-rays/DVDs is the ability to go back and verify whether a movie was as good as you remembered it in the theater.  Of all the top genre films of the year, including Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past, it was Edge of Tomorrow that became an addictive re-watch, to see all those great, funny scenes, like Tom Cruise’s demoted soldier rolling under the jeep, and Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski destroying all those aliens.  Rita was the best character we saw this year–anywhere–and Blunt provided the best performance.  Superb sci-fi components?  Check.  Superb action sequences?  Check.  With top-notch acting by Blunt and Bill Paxton.  This will be the movie of 2014 that we one day will re-watch just like we re-watch Aliens and Predator today.

Guardians in prison

Guardians of the GalaxyBest Superhero Fix, Best Actor Runner-up (Dave Bautista), Best Supporting Actress (Zoe Saldana), Best Villain (Lee Pace), Best Soundtrack, Best Rock Album.  It was the perfect blend of B-level superheroes and a space fantasy like we hadn’t seen since the original Star Wars.  A surprisingly fun ride.  Guardians introduced the world to Dave Bautista, who will likely get more and more popular in 2015 and beyond.  His serious but comedic Drax may have been the best part of a great cast of new characters.  Zoe Saldana created her best genre role so far and Lee Pace’s Ronan was a perfect comic book villain.  And those tunes on Starlord’s Walkman!  What was more fun this year than Rocket and Groot?

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star-trek-juan-ortiz

Review by C.J. Bunce

What do the art of Saul Bass, Salvador Dali, and Jackson Pollack, Russian film posters, Milton Bradley Board games, Aurora model kits, pulp novel cover art like that of Frank Franzetta and Joaquin Pertierra, Gold Key comics, Beatles and Jimi Hendrix album promotional art, and boxing match posters all have in common?  They are all part of the imagery and nostalgia that defines what we think of as “retro” today.  They also were the inspirations for a new book about 1960s Star Trek.

This month Titan Books is releasing what is probably the most attractive hardcover, coffee table-style book about Star Trek ever created.  And it’s incredibly unusual in its contents.  Back in 1966 to 1969 when the original Star Trek first aired, what if TV episodes had movie posters to advertise them?  And what if you found a box full of these folded posters and published them today?  In truth, no one created such a poster back in the 1960s.  But that didn’t stop artist Juan Ortiz from taking on a personal project of creating pulp novel style poster art in a contemporary style for each of the 80 episodes of the original Star Trek series in his new book Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz.

Juan Ortiz Arena

How do you come up with such creations?  In part, for thirty days back in 2011 Ortiz committed to producing a poster every day of the month.  This was enough to sell the concept so he could complete the series.  If Ortiz can obtain this quality in such a short period of time, the sky’s the limit for this artist’s career.  Mainly designing work under the direction of other creators, Ortiz has worked for Disney, Marvel Comics and Warner Bros.  For this project, the ideas and implementation were all Ortiz.

If you are fond of 1960s mod imagery and pop art design, Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz will no doubt deliver your own blast from the past.  And each page could be trimmed out and framed–most of these full-page posters would edge-out their Mondo poster counterparts in creating cool, evocative images–some obvious but most subtle in their messages, pulling just the right bits and pieces from each episode.  Ortiz’s pop art goes beyond this book–you can buy prints, T-shirts, posters, even wine, emblazoned with Ortiz’s Star Trek images.  Check out his website for more information.

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Admirers of Ant Lucia’s incredible retro-style art posters and collectors of Mondo posters featuring revisited movie imagery will be sure to be fans of Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz Ortiz’s book could also serve as a clip art book of sorts for ideas for creating posters, ads, and other signage for art directors and other creators of historic TV series and movies.  The design elements are all believable and if you didn’t know these were created in 2011 and 2012 you’d assume these posters were classic film entertainment memorabilia.  An added component is the aging of the posters Ortiz applies to make the posters seem fresh out of 45 years of storage, including folded pages, smudges and crinkled paper.

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IMAX 1201 banner

At the 12:01 a.m. IMAX premiere screening of Marvel’s Iron Man 3, on May 3, 2013, IMAX will be giving away limited edition Mondo Iron Man 3 prints.  The artwork, created by Detective Comics and Green Arrow: Year One comic book artist Jock, is a collaboration between Marvel Studios, IMAX, and Mondo, the Austin, Texas-based limited edition poster company.  According to Walt Disney Studios, owner of the Marvel properties, the Iron Man 3 print will be the last entry in the IMAX 12:01 poster series–a series that began in 2012 with alternate poster concepts to promote the films.  No idea what a Mondo poster is?  They are only released in limited editions and tend to sell out fast, and are created by a myriad of artists.  Here is the Iron Man 3 poster to be given away in this last IMAX 12:01 giveaway:

Iron Man 3 1201 print

Prior IMAX 12:01 posters have been created for Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Real Steel, John Carter of Mars, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Amazing Spider-man, The Avengers, Frankenweenie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Prometheus.  One of the best of these fantasy/sci-fi throwback designs was created for Oblivion:

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Year's En

Merry Christmas!

It’s the end of December and another year is winding down.  Everywhere you turn someone is talking about the Best of 2012, so here we offer our take, resulting from absorbing more content this year than ever before, from books to movies to TV to comics, we reviewed and previewed entertainment from most of the big comic book publishers, and received screeners of shows and books from different publishing houses.  And we watched a lot of TV and went to a number of movies.  So what was the best of the best this year?  No one will ever have the same list but here’s where we ended up:

Best Genre Movie:  The Hobbit.  We had to wait all year for the release but once we saw it–it was well worth the wait and we want to go back and see it again and again.  How could you possibly follow one of the only fantasy films ever to win a Best Picture Academy Award and expect to come close in quality and entertainment?  Peter Jackson figured it out.  Not even The Avengers came close to touching this epic film with giant sets, special effects, elaborate costumes, a perfect story adaptation, and the best CGI creature to date: a Gollum even better than in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Best Dramatic Film: Argo It was an international event more recent in the public psyche than even Watergate, yet it had never been addressed on the silver screen before–the kidnapping of American nationals in Iran.  Ben Affleck served as both director and star of the film and performed both roles brilliantly.  Both exciting and funny–with the incredibly bizarre hook of using Hollywood to create a sci-fi B movie as CIA cover to sneak in to Iran and remove a small group of hostages–it was a story worthy of adapting to screen.  Brilliant!

Best Animated Movie: Brave Kelly McDonald’s wonderful Scottish voice, an all-star Brit voice cast including Emma Thompson, Bill Connolly, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane, coupled with Brenda Chapman’s story and the best of Walt Disney and Pixar’s animation so far, make Brave the slam dunk animated film winner of 2012.   A gorgeous film about a tough and feisty red-headed girl skilled with a bow and arrow who wants to make her own destiny provided a great story for young and old alike.

Best Animated TV Series: Tron: Uprising Disney Television Animation finally figured out a way to bring its Tron franchise forward with Tron: Legacy, and this prequel series gives us what the movie lacked–more Bruce Boxleitner as Tron.  We hardly noticed this wasn’t a live action series, and with voice actors like Frodo’s Elijah Wood, Alien’s Lance Henriksen, Paul Reubens and Tricia Helfer, you could hardly go wrong.  The brilliant choice of lighting, futuristic yet retro light cycles and funky soundtrack made this one worth coming back for each week.

Grimm-Silas-Weir-Mitchell-Bree-Turner

Best Actor: Silas Weir Mitchell, Grimm With the updates for the second season of Grimm, Mitchell’s reformed Blutbad Monroe was hard to beat as the sometimes hilarious sometimes dramatic glue that held the series together, setting up new conflicts, like the strange discovery of Renard and Juliette’s relationship, sure to drive the story next year.

Ksenia Solo as Kenzi in Lost Girl

Best Actress: Ksenia Solo, Lost Girl.  As succubus and series star Bo’s tagalong human friend and roommate Kenzi, Solo held half of the dramatic workload for the Canadian series first released to U.S. audiences this year on the Syfy Channel.  The Latvian born actress plays it funny and smart–she makes for the ideal kickass girl from the best genre fiction stories.

Cobie Smulders in The Avengers

Best Breakout Role–Female:  Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill in The Avengers.  We knew her already from How I Met Your Mother, but Smulders took what could have been a throwaway background role in the biggest movie of the year and instead put her character’s footing almost on par with the Avengers themselves, heading up an early chase scene and appearing with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury throughout the film.  Now she’s set to come back for the next Avengers films, she’s a character that we never knew about but are glad she’s on the team going forward.

Max Greenfield in New Girl

Best Breakout Role–Male: Max Greenfield as Schmidt in New Girl.  Greenfield is one among a handful of great young actors in New Girl, now in its second season, but this season his character Schmidt stepped out to create the craziest, most hysterical moment of nearly every episode.  Whether he is ranting that there is no black Santa Claus, or trying to show a stripper how to lap dance the right way, whether he is wearing his high-cut male kimono, ranting about germs, or his stupid actions result in him putting the most money in the coffee table jar, Greenfield took a funny part and stretched it to insanely funny.  This from the same guy who performed dramatic roles in Veronica Mars, Life and Castle?  Awesome.

Best Guest Appearance:  Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearance in Action Comics. It was a bit of a marketing gimmick, but what could tie the education of real science, a popular TV non-fiction series host and comic book readers together better?  The real star-vested Tyson found a possible location for Superman’s home planet of Krypton, revealing it to the Man of Steel in the pages of the ongoing series.

Best TV series: Arrow, CW Network.  We got our first look at the pilot for this series at Comic-Con this year and loved it, but wasn’t sure how it would appeal to a mass audience.  Pretty much everyone we know watches this series, including those who would never otherwise think to look at a series about a masked superhero.  We have a critical eye out for all things Green Arrow, but Arrow, led by a well-cast Stephen Amell, surpassed our expectations.

Best Comedy Series: New Girl, Fox Network.  New Girl wins this category from one simple thing: This series made this writer laugh so hard his gut hurt and corresponding tears shot out of his eyes from the quick humor in so many scenes this year he lost count.  And when the series dipped into dramatic elements it never veered far from the core of what makes the show work–it’s a comedy first.  Tuesday night this year was New Girl night.  Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston and Cece could be the next Friends (but funnier) if the series can get a wider audience.

Sherlock Belgravia episode

Best Single TV Episode: Sherlock, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” BBC America.  You just have to watch this episode of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s brilliant series over and over.  The entry of the beautiful and unpredictable Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver, was perfection, and Cumberbatch and Martin’s scene with Sherlock’s brother Mycroft in Buckingham Palace can’t be beat.  Sure to be a classic episode for years to come.

Best Cliffhanger: Shawn’s dad gets shot, Psych, USA Network.  It seems like it has been forever since Shawn’s dad Henry, played by Corbin Bernsen was shot at the end of this season’s last episode of the hit USA Network comedy/drama series.  At its core, Psych is a light-hearted pleasure, so they just CAN’T kill off Henry.  We’re really looking forward to finding out.

Best Series Ender: In Plain Sight, USA Network.*  In a year where several mega-hits wrapped for good, including House, M.D., The Closer, Awake, and Chuck, one series finale tied up all the necessary loose ends the best, and that was the aptly titled “All’s Well that Ends” from In Plain Sight, which ended after five solid seasons.  The writers skipped the gimmicks, with no gut wrenching death scenes for major cast players, but instead honored the characters as they’d been for the entire series, rewarding viewers with an end where everyone wins.  *Update:  Leverage‘s surprise December 25, 2012 series finale came in with a powerhouse finale, slightly trumping In Plain Sight at the last minute after we posted this piece.  See our review here.

Jason Isaacs in Awake

Best Series that Cancelled Too Early: Awake, NBC Network We only got to see 12 episodes of Awake, but in those episodes we saw a great paranormal drama develop.  Jason Isaacs, like Paul Blackthorne, is one of those actors you want to helm a series every week.  His dual role of father who lost his kid and husband that lost his wife, both in the same auto accident, showed this actor could do anything with a role.  Although they were able to nicely wrap-up Awake in its last episode, we’d prefer to have seen a lot more of it.

Best Surprise in Entertainment: Dallas, TNT Network.  How was this even possible?  Who would think to take THE 1980s primetime soap and bring it forward to 2012, AND think it could work?  TNT mixed a CW Network-inspired young cast with a plot continuing the struggles in the classic series and melded it into something for anyone willing to give it a try.  Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing never missed a beat as the ultimate TV villain, even in his 80s.  The writers took bits from the tangents of the original to concoct the main storyline of two young heirs fighting for family and social dominance.  The result was addictive TV.

The Major Crimes Gallery

Best Comeback:  The ensemble cast of Major Crimes The great thing about a great ensemble cast is that you like every player equally.  When this is successful, you can stand to lose a character or two and still keep going, or as was the case with the wind-up of The Closer, lose three main characters: Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson, Chief Pope, and Sgt. Gabriel.  Major Crimes added three new replacement characters and never missed a beat, pleasing fans who knew it was too soon for the stories from the L.A. Major Crimes unit to end.

Best Second Wind: Haven, Syfy Channel Some cable TV series limp along and just end after a year or two.  Haven’s single theme of solving the riddle of “the troubles” seemed a candidate for this, but something switched on with the 2012 season allowing the rich stories and great cast chemistry to give us the series’ best episodes in its three-year run so far.

Volkswagen cantina commercial

Best Genre-Related Advertisement:  Star Wars Super Bowl ad, Volkswagen The best Super Bowl ad last January with a dog, a James Brown tune, and a pristine recreation of the Mos Eisley Cantina from the original Star Wars was an instant classic that will be hard to beat in 2013.  Complete with its own recreated hive of scum and villainy, Tom Spina Designs’ creatures gave us something we want to see more of–maybe a new Disney-produced TV series based in Mos Eisley using all these obscure characters fanboys know by name?  Missed it?  See the full ad here.

Best Press Marketing: Coma mini-series press kit, A&E Network We at borg.com received tons of content this year, from books to comics to advance screeners, but one marketing gag was so awesome in its own right it surpassed what it was advertising.  The advance marketing for the Coma TV series marked a possible return by A&E to the classic TV shows we used to get in the days of shows like Price and Prejudice or Nero Wolfe.  Sporting an underground conspiracy plotline, print and online ads created a cool concept that the mini-series itself did not quite match.  When we received a human organ carrier in a “thawed” labeled box that we cautiously unzipped to find the screener, well that was just too awesome not to mention again.

Best Costumes: The Hobbit The Hobbit already made our Best Genre Movie of 2012, but it’s worth a second nod for having the most incredibly crafted costumes of possibly any film made so far in any year.  Building on the costumes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the slow panning of the camera in The Hobbit allowed us to see every seam on Bilbo’s patch-work coat, and every new emblem on each dwarf’s tunic.  How can a production make so many unique costumes for one film?  The result sets the standard for all major films to come.

Doctor Who A Town Called Mercy

Best Borg Appearance: The Cyborg Gunslinger, Doctor Who episode, “A Town Called Mercy” Andrew Brooke’s gunslinger was a slick-looking borg addition, a throwback to Westworld that gave us equal parts of good sci-fi and classic Western movies.  Doctor Who has created the best costumes and make-up of any sci-fi franchise in the past few years and this guy just looked great.

Best Web Series: TableTop bi-weekly Internet series, Geek and Sundry.  Wil Wheaton, known for Star Trek: The Next Generation and more recently his appearances on Big Bang Theory and Leverage, as host of his own online series, brought us all back from the video game world to the boardgame format that allows friends to really interact and have fun for their own game nights.   He chatted over great games like Tsuro, Munchkin and Zombie Dice with friends and celebrities alike, and showed us what could easily translate to its own Game Show Network series.

Best Villain:  The Harp Seal, Battlepug, Mike Norton. Easy choice.  This year’s Eisner Award winner for best digital comic revealed this unexpected villain, a funny surprise for readers.  Imagine a world where the harp seal gets its due–a role reversal where warriors fear him over all other creatures.  A great idea.

Best Ongoing Comic Book Series (tie):  All-Star Western, DC ComicsArtist Moritat and writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti took a long-dead comic book title and bridged 1800s Gotham City and Jonah Hex to make a gritty and fun book that rose to the top of DC Comics’ New 52 titles first released in September 2011.  Who knew a Western comic could be this good?  Bionic Man, Dynamite Comics Phil Hester took a Kevin Smith script and expanded on it, taking the most nostalgic bits of the classic Six Million Dollar Man TV series and updating it for 2012.  The highlight of the fun was an appearance by the classic TV series guest star, Bigfoot.

Thor - God of Thunder 1

Best Single Comic Book Issue: Thor, God of Thunder #1, Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic.  How do you reintroduce a classic character like Thor in a new way?  Exactly like Aaron does in this first issue of his new series, breaking up his story into three time periods, and highlighting the changing face of Thor over time.  Ribic’s lush images of Thor and a certain strange new world escalated this book to the top of my year’s reads.

JK Woodward AssimilationSquared

Best Comic Book Art: JK Woodward, Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation².  J.K. Woodward’s painted artwork throughout this limited series was stunning.  Probably the best depiction to-date of Star Trek characters in a comic book, Woodward took a fanboy’s dream job of merging two of the biggest sci-fi franchises together for the first story ever attempted and delivered a great looking story, now available in a trade edition.  We just want to see more.

Mystery in Space 1 by Ryan Sook

Best Comic Book Cover Art:  Mystery in Space, Ryan Sook, Vertigo Comics Ryan Sook had a big year, providing sensational covers for everything from The Shadow to the new Sword of Sorcery to one of our favorite titles, Justice League Dark.  But his cover for Vertigo Comics’ Mystery in Space #1 blended sci-fi and fantasy in the best way, with a steampunk angel painting the universe inside a spaceship with the help of flitting fairies, or is she creating our actual universe?  A great idea and perfect execution made this a standout on the store shelf this year.

Hawkeye cover by David Aja

Best Comic Book Cover Art Runner-up:  Hawkeye mini-series, David Aja Aja’s six unique Hawkeye series covers served not only to entice us to read this mini-series with great use of simple colors, but his own artwork between the covers made us feel like we were rewarded with what was advertised–a very cool and unusually stylish series.

Best Comics Collected Edition:  Flash Gordon, Volumes 1 and 2, Titan Books These were the best presented books we reviewed this year.  Reprinted Sunday comics from the 1930s and 1940s in a giant-sized edition that allowed readers to appreciate the story and art of creator Alex Raymond was a feast for the eyes.  The content allowed readers to see just how relevant and interesting the original mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy could be.

Best Retro Reviewed Book: Moonraker, Ian Fleming.  Casino Royale was a great read, Live and Let Die was a bit of a letdown, but Moonraker was as exciting as any book I’ve read in years.  Far different from the film of the same name, this thriller was packed with spy world intrigue.  Compared to all the other retro reviews this year, including Philip K. Dick classics, this one really stood out.

Best Reviewed Book: Dracula Cha Cha Cha, Kim Newman Although it was initially released in 1998, a new edition was re-released this year.  The best “post-modern steampunk” mash-up and incredibly detailed world building made this novel a great read, full of artful prose and creative crossovers.  Newman also added another level of storytelling, mixing the real world with the world of fiction, and the result is a densely packed, enjoyable volume.

Bond and Queen

Best Mash-Up of Fiction and Non-Fiction Worlds:  James Bond accompanies the Queen to the Olympics 2012 was the Year of Bond with his 50th year in film.  How better to highlight the best of Jolly Old England at this year’s Summer Olympics than to begin with a meeting of the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, and the actual Queen Elizabeth II in her 60th year in Buckingham Palace, followed by a faked aerial dive by the Queen over the stadium in London.  The Queen was a real sport, adding herself to the long list of Bond girls.  And don’t forget the real-world borg Oscar Pistorius’s impressive showings at the Olympics this year.

Comic-Con Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel

Best Genre Event: The Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel at Comic-Con.  More than 7,000 fans stood in line for only about 5,000 seats but the all-night wait was worth seeing most of the cast of Firefly reunite with creators Joss Whedon and Tom Minnear to talk about the short-lived series.  Firefly fans are a passionate bunch, and were able to get Whedon to make the big-budget movie Serenity a few years after cancellation.  But get most of the stars to come back ten years later?  Pretty cool feat.  With Whedon and series co-star Adam Baldwin (Jayne) dropping by to greet the people sleeping and standing in line overnight it was an event that attendees will never forget.

Best News Story: George Lucas sells Star Wars rights to Disney Some liked it and some hated it, but as months go by we’ll see what it all means.  As entertainment goes, this multi-billion dollar exchange was the talk everywhere this year.

Best Science Story: Curiosity lands on Mars.  NASA’s description of dropping a rover on the surface of the planet Mars sounded like threading a needle blind-folded wearing gloves.  Its early morning coverage of the successful landing was something like the moon landing, and made everyone want to see what more we can do in the space program now that the last Space Shuttle has been mothballed.  What will the future hold for NASA and humans in outer space?

Best Nationwide Genre Participation Event: The Avengers Marathon, AMC Theaters We only wished for something like this when we were kids–the ability to watch something like all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies in one screening.  The lead-up to the midnight premiere of The Avengers allowed fans to watch all the lead-in Avengers films so far:  Iron Man I and II, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.  A great idea that will hopefully continue with other franchise films.

Best Single Thing for Genre Works: The Avengers movie.  Genre, and specifically superhero, films needed a good kickstart.  The dark and dreary Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan was monopolizing superhero films, and we needed a giant, vibrant superhero film to usher in a new age of comic book films and Joss Whedon delivered the goods.  It’s not a perfect film (and what is?) but was completely fun and entertaining, delivering something every fan could enjoy.  Challenging the top two positions for all-time box office draw also showed everyone that fans want to see more of this kind of movie.

What were your favorites?  We hope a few of these are on your own list.  We at borg.com will be back with more coverage and reviews in 2013.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

It really comes down to one thing.  Is the art of Ryan Sook, the superb cover artist for series like Justice League Dark, good enough to cause you to spend $7.99 for an 80-page comic book?  Let’s come back to that.

As you may know, Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics, known for stories targeted at mature readers, including elements of stepped up violence, sexuality, horror and just plain controversial subjects not easily absorbed by the mainstream audience.  Mystery in Space is a classic comic book series beginning in the 1950s, known for great sci-fi stories including stories featuring Adam Strange.  Suspense and intrigue were key to the original series, and they often had the feel of Twilight Zone stories.

Along with titles like G.I. Combat and Worlds Finest, DC has been making the best of grabbing readers through a little bit of nostalgia, and the title and classic cover of the one-shot anthology Mystery in Space #1, in the style of the original 1950s series, is step one in reeling new readers in.  As with short story anthologies, the challenge is whether a writer can really put together a narrative with a beginning, middle and end that can be compelling, exciting, and original, in just a few pages.

The new Mystery in Space is good.  Good enough that it leaves the reader wanting more.  Sure, not every entry in an anthology will be great or even good.  That’s the beauty of an anthology–if it’s good there will be something for everyone.  But there is no reason DC cannot continue churning out anthologies like this of classic themed sci-fi stories.

The book starts out with a bang, and the first story “Verbinksy Doesn’t Appreciate It” is a great story about a cyborg with an unwanted cybernetic arm and a classic storytelling session among typical guys in a bar.  Written by Duane Swierczynski and illustrated by Ramon Bachs, the story blends alien abduction and The Matrix.   Smart and dark, at 8 pages, Bachs conveys panic and emotion nicely.

Green Arrow: Year One and Adam Strange writer Andy Diggle joined forced with artist Davide Gianfelice on “Transmission.”  Billions of lives are at stake in a Star Trek Voyager “Year of Hell” throwback, with a female ambassador taking on a computer that rules all like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Quick plot movement and a satisfying resolution highlight this as one of the best stories in the set, although it ends off the mark a bit.  I’d love to see more books drawn by Bachs and Gianfelice.  Gianfelice’s giant star map room is evocative of Data’s star room in Star Trek Generations.

Writer/artist Ming Doyle serves double duty on “Asleep to See You,” an account of two women pulled apart by time and space.  At one level the life and times of a flight attendant of the future, it packs a surprising amount of emotion and delivers a classic Twilight Zone resolution of the happy ever after variety.  A simple story, written in a simple style, Doyle proves you don’t need a lot of blatant sci-fi elements to have a successful sci-fi story.

Probably the weakest of the anthology is Ann Nocenti’s “Here Nor There,” which spends too much time with clever dialogue and not enough time with character development.  Fred Harper’s unique style didn’t work for me, at least tied up with this story.  Not awful, just one to read and then move on.

“The Elgort” is a story more fantasy than sci-fi, and I really liked the adventure story by writer Nnedi Okorafor and artist Michael Kaluta.  Like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, it follows a girl flying across a strange land with varying levels of beastie threats.  A little Avatar and a little Predator, this story has a cool feel and interesting voice.

Writer Steve Orlando provides a cool glimpse at a coming of age story for centaurs in some far away place in “Breeching.”  Artist Francesco Trifogli illustrates a tale reflecting a culture not unlike Mr. Spock’s Vulcan race, struggling with the question “am I a man, or am I a horse?”  Not a lot of resolution but themes of loyalty and conformity are well-played here.

Probably the most controversial of the bunch, “Contact High” covers a love triangle among three astronauts on a space mission, and the inevitable result when idle minds in tight quarters erupt against each other.  A psychological mini-drama, Robert Rodi and Sebastian Fiumara tell their story effectively, with Fiumara’s art and need special effects renderings the better part of the team-up.

Kevin McCarthy and Kyle Baker’s “The Dream Pool” is full of action but the over-wordy story and big-eyed girl art put this at the bottom of the anthology.  There’s probably a good story here but it feels like the creators would have been served by fleshing out the story and art better–it seems a bit rushed.

Sweeping colors, simple concepts and epic level weirdness puts Mike and Laura Allred’s “Alpha Meets Omega” among the best of Mystery in Space.   Amazingly they deal, again in only a few pages, with the most heavy of concepts in a refreshing way, that will leave readers hopeful in the face of loss.

“Verbinksy Doesn’t Appreciate It” and “Alpha Meets Omega” really perfectly bookend the anthology, illustrating some good editing thoughts went into this compilation.

So, back to the first question: Is the art of Ryan Sook good enough to cause you to spend $7.99 for an 80-page comic book? 

The answer is yes, as I hesitated before buying this issue, but Sook’s awesome blending of fantasy and science fiction with this seventeenth century Valkyrie with archaic or steampunk tools painting a star map inside the hull of her spacecraft, pushed me over the edge.  Luckily what resides inside the covers does not disappoint.

You may have seen the Star Wars vault, the Marvel Comics vault, or the DC Comics vault.  On October 1, 2011, we’ll finally get to see the Star Trek version of this book and fandom memorabilia series as Star Trek Vault: 40 Years from the Archives is released.   The 128 page book will be the first Star Trek retrospective book to include behind the scenes details of the last Star Trek series, Enterprise.

The book promises to cover all 40 years of the Star Trek franchise, but only the first ten feature films–Star Trek 2009 will apparently not be covered in this release.  It is available at Amazon.com before its release in October for a discounted price of $26.40.  The street release price after October 1, 2011, will be $40.00.

Star Trek Vault: 40 Years from the Archives is illustrated with 350 photos and art images.  The extra replicas memorabilia will feature 13 items, including set signage, hand-drawn story boards, blueprints for Picard’s captain’s chair, a vintage comic book, trading cards, patch, pennant, fan poster, Japanese poster for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and a vintage T-shirt transfer.  Look for a review of Star Trek Vault: 40 Years from the Archives after its release in October.

Past versions of the vault series have been popular and included both good information and fun extras.  The Star Wars Vault: Thirty Years of Treasures from the Lucasfilm Archives is probably the best of these released to date.  It includes removable reproductions of memorabilia, too, along with two CDs containing vintage radio ads, original cast interviews, George Lucas’ commentary, and Carrie Fisher singing in the Star Wars Holiday Special.  It also featured a questionnaire for the first and only test screening of the original Star Wars— and the invitation to attend it, George Lucas’ hand-written treatment for The Empire Strikes Back, Lucasfilm Christmas cards, an iron-on T-shirt transfer, the first concept sketch drawn for Star Wars and blueprints of Star Wars vehicles and sets.

The DC Vault: A Museum-in-a-Book with Rare Collectibles from the DC Universe is another great book in the Vault series, with lots of fun features, including never-before-published memorabilia, early sketches, covers, memos, press materials, a working reproduction of a 1942 Junior Justice Society of America decoder, a series of Public Service Announcements starring Superman and Batman, and the original pencils and inks for Wonder Woman #63.

Although it was the first of the bunch and includes a little less by way of memorabilia, Marvel Comics fans and fans of comic books in general will like The Marvel Vault: A Museum-in-a-Book with Rare Collectibles from the World of Marvel.

Hopefully the Star Trek version of the Vault will include the best of these past books in the series.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.  Ted Bentley was just served his lay-off notice and is free for the first time in years to make a fresh start.  He was tired of the politics of the job, making and building with no knowledge of the point of all he did.  But he was determined to make all that change.  His plan was to go directly to the top and work for the Quizmaster, specifically Quizmaster Verrick, as one of Verrick’s biochemists.  But if you’re living on Earth in 2203 that means giving Verrick a fealty oath.  What Bentley did not know was that the oath he had just taken was a personal oath and not a positional oath–to Verrick, who was just removed as Quizmaster.

In the world of Philip K. Dick’s first novel, Solar Lottery, first published in 1955, society is upside down.  Western philosophy is no more.  Over-production became the problem of our future and all the excess is being burnt on an ongoing basis.  Natural law is at the fringe of society.  Statistics and odds and predictions and luck ultimately lead to the lottery as the means to divvy up goods across the world.  And power.  The ultimate prize?  The title of Quizmaster and with it the ability to run the Quiz itself.  But power corrupts.

Enter one “unk”—a member if the “unclassified class”–one Leon Cartwright, still driving a 1982 Chevy in 2203. Somehow he knew he was going to replace Verrick.  But how?  Armed guards arrive to take the new Quizmaster Cartwright into protective custody.  He now has supreme power of the nine-planet system, surrounded by a vast army, warfleet and police force, and a telepathic Corps, all to protect him.  And, unfortunately that includes a publicly appointed assassin to attempt to murder him.  Worse yet, a million gold-dollar bounty has been put on his head by ex-Quizmaster Verrick to call out anyone to take down his replacement.

With a world based on a lottery system, the real focus of day-to-day life is loyalty.  Who are you loyal to, and who is loyal to you?

Dick’s future world, where television commercials are the highest art form, is as complex, innovative–and as desperate–as the future dystopia of Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron.  The chaos around such a planned and unforgiving system runs far deeper and resonates better than later efforts at a random selection-based society like those found in much later works like The Running Man, The Hunger Games, or even Logan’s Run.  And there is something more ancient here that is harkened back to, something more primeval, like the search for a new emperor in ancient Rome that resulted in the crowning of Claudius, five Hills that run the industry of the planet mirror the hills of Rome, and the concept of “protectors” that individuals must give fealty oaths to almost has a Cosa Nostra vibe to it.

Class conflict, transfers of power, the role of the individual in society, stolen identity, artificial intelligence, Machiavellian constructs, reality exploited on TV, and fake realities created for TV–it all can be found in Solar Lottery.  Look for a plot that moves forward like a freight train.  As strange as this unfamiliar world is for readers, Dick has no problem putting his characters in exciting, grave situations.

Dick’s dialogue includes great, crazy lines, like “During the Final War the big research installations at Livermore were hit by a Soviet missile.  Those who survived were badly bathed. We’re all descendants of one family, Earl and Verna Phillips.”

Early concepts later to be seen in Total Recall, Blade Runner, and Minority Report can be found in this very first novel from Dick, showing that he took no time to ramp up his storytelling.  Oddities of other, later science fiction works by other authors are here as well, including Star Trek: The Final Frontier’s “Great Barrier,” real world avatars, and the pursuit of the unknown in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  A hallmark of Dick novels are his ability to include an enormous array of prophetic ideas, some as full-on plot points, other as merely passing thoughts.  Like all future predicting science fiction writers of the past, some things don’t play out, outdated gender roles that never seem to let up in Dick’s works, the entire planet-impacting economic societal change happening before the 1980s.  If you’ve read Dick before you notice he “over-describes” the female anatomy and often relegates women to annoyers of men.  If you can overlook that, you’ll find more redeeming elements to take away from the book.

Then there are other ideas, like GM building space vehicles and a news network run by Westinghouse—both companies still around more than 50 years after Dick wrote Solar Lottery.  Who knows what will be re-conjured for the future?  The only thing that doesn’t dazzle is maybe one too many denouements and a title that is not very interesting.  But don’t hold that against this solid debut novel from such an important author.

As with all Philip K. Dick novels, Solar Lottery is still widely available.

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