Tag Archive: Altered Carbon


Review by C.J. Bunce

In the world of zombie stories, Resident Evil has more than established itself as the big winner.  Box office billions aside, after this year’s better than expected, big-budget fun zombie flick Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (reviewed here) and last year’s anime Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, the most successful video game tie-in franchise ever only gets better.  Netflix’s eight-part Resident Evil live-action television series isn’t perfect, but fans aren’t really looking for perfect.  What you get is the ultimate genre-bending mash-up.  Sure, you’d expect the sci-fi horror, but full-fledged kaiju monster action?  Edgy-Terminator level cautionary themes?  Orphan Black-inspired clones?  Evil Dead-level action and fun?  Skip the drama of The Walking Dead–this is the kind of action, acting, and storytelling game fans really want.  And you don’t even need to care about the zombie genre to dig it.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you agree with us that the biggest landmark in the visual representation of futurism in science fiction over the last several years was Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow, Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Netflix’s Altered Carbon, then you might also see something similarly new and refreshing–and yet new and different–happening with the new Paramount+ series Halo As I described it last month here at borg, Halo’s first episode was a dense set-up of a series opener, establishing the world building, the opposing factions and key characters in this new universe extracted from the video game franchise.  But the series’ second episode, titled “Unbound,” doesn’t miss a beat in showing viewers an even more layered science fiction story is in play, with plenty of visual surprises.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of sci-fi noir have another world to dive into.  It’s Jason Arnett and Rob Schamberger’s The Wave, a future world of colonization in the realm of Altered Carbon, Blade Runner, and Total Recall.  The first novella of The Wave is Rudow Can’t Fail (available now here at Amazon), following a few days in the life of Mars colonist William Rudow, a “fixit” who falls for the wrong dame, the wife of a wealthy corporate executive.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Along with a comic book limited series, a new novel is the best bet for an additional space Western fix for anyone saddened by the cancellation of Netflix’s fantastic sci-fi series, Cowboy Bebop.  Cowboy Bebop: A Syndicate Story–Red Planet Requiem provides the full space mobster origin story for both lead hero Spike Spiegel aka Fearless and his one-time friend and partner, Vicious.  As a bonus, this novel, now available in paperback here at Amazon, is written by a member of the writing staff for the series.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The new Netflix series Cowboy Bebop, an adaptation of the 1999-2001 anime series, is so good, so well-written, so jazz-filled, stylish, cool, and sexy that you won’t deny it’s the best streaming series yet.  It’s not only the best science fiction series in years, but also solid noir, solid space Western, peppered with martial arts action.  If you loved the space life of Firefly, the dark future Earth noir of Altered Carbon and Blade Runner, and the lived-in future realism of Alien and Outland, you’re in for some great television.  Funny dialogue, actors inhabiting their characters, cool noir vibe, the drudgery of life as a space pilot and exploits of a space bounty hunter.  It’s as good as TV gets.  It’s as good as sci-fi and space westerns get.

But what’s the best part?  The music?  The style?  The characters?  The lived-in sci-fi world?  The dog?  Or the year’s coolest borg character?

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SMART GIRL COVER B

Review by C.J. Bunce

Spanish artist Fernando Dagnino (Superman, Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad) has designed the future of Blade Runner in the continuation series of Ridley Scott and Syd Mead’s future world for Titan Comics over the past few years.  Now fans of his artwork can see Dagnino take his work further in his own series.  In Smart Girl, readers will meet Yuki, a multitasking gynoid in the future called a Smart Girl, as in “smart phone” (the male Smartdroids are called Smart Boys)–human-like tools created exactly like the domestic assistant Synths of BBC’s Humans television series.  But like the Emergency Medical Holograms of Star Trek Voyager fame, the time comes when Yuki is no longer the latest, most advanced model, and it’s time for her to be replaced by the new androids and be deactivated.  Yuki becomes self-aware, and like the Replicants of Blade Runner, she decides she has more to offer the world and makes her escape before it’s too late.

Writer and illustrator Dagnino offers a black and white future noir comic that leans into what he does best–those shadows and layouts that feel like the stuff of 1950s pulp novels.  As much as I’d love to see his work in color, the black and white works for this tale of the bleak not-so-distant future.  Yuki is Atomic Blonde and Alita upgraded.  The story is tech-forward like Altered Carbon.  Dagnino’s style is familiar in a good way, mixes of Mike Grell layouts, Phil Noto characters, and the action and appeal of Jackson Herbert–the best of the modern Miss Fury artists.  If you like speculative science fiction, issue-driven narratives wrestling with timeless questions in the manner of the best of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, this should be your next graphic novel.

Check out our sneak preview of Fernando Dagnino’s new graphic novel, Smart Girl:

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luke cage

Ten years!  That’s ten years reviewing TV series in the decade that streaming services began to dominate TV viewing– and binge-watching was born as Netflix began releasing entire seasons at once in 2013.  How do you pick the best series?  As with yesterday’s list of movie recommendations, our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great TV series?  Great writing—great storytelling.  Also we looked to difficulty level and technology innovation—TV productions tend to get a fraction of the budget of big-screen features, so what they do with their time and money is critical, and some television series in the past decade were all-out feats.  The third factor we looked to is re-watchability—we’ll be watching the best series for years to come.  The big difference between ranking movies and TV is the change between seasons, that force that inevitably causes most shows to decline with each season.  So consistency is a factor.  Finally, as with movies the most important factor is the fun—why would you devote so many hours of your valuable time if you’re not going to have a great time?

Manda

One more thing: Ten years is a long time so we narrowed the series we’re including to those recommendations that fall primarily within the ten-year window.  We covered several fantastic, re-watchable series that cemented their status in reruns or syndication, many beginning before borg began publishing and finishing in the years after, including Burn Notice, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Leverage, House, MD, In Plain Sight, and three landmarks among the best pop culture-packed series of all time, Chuck, Psych, and Community.  We were disappointed that some of the best series were canceled and left to only a single season, otherwise they may have gone on to fare better against our top recommendations, shows like Jason Isaacs’ psychological police procedural Awake, Sarah Shahi’s all-for-fun Fairly Legal, Lauren Cohan’s action/spy series Whiskey Cavalier, the Doctor Who spin-off Class, the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ popular noir novel series Quarry, the slick animated series Tron: Uprising, and the cyborg future-world Almost Human starring Karl Urban, to name a few.

Grimm

So here are the Top 40 series we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these shows.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new series to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre series.  Title links are to one of our previous borg reviews.

Let’s get started!

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Last year Titan Comics took fans of the Blade Runner movie franchise back to the future with the comic book series Blade Runner 2019 (reviewed here at borg).  Both the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and prequel to Blade Runner 2049, the series expanded the franchise based on characters and settings created by Philip K. Dick.  Then the series went back 20 years before the theatrical sequel in Blade Runner 2029 Now for the first time writers K. Perkins, Mellow Brown, and Mike Johnson, and artists Fernando Dagnino and Marco Lesko are taking the entire franchise–the canon stories and timeline–back before the original Ridley Scott movie in the series Blade Runner Origins Dick’s universe is one of borgs called Replicants and those who hunt them, called Blade Runners.  This is the story of the first Blade Runner, and we assume we’ll see another prequel one day about the creation of the first Replicants.

   

Check out our sneak preview of artwork from Issue #1 of Blade Runner Origins and 18 series variant covers below.

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It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  It’s time for the eighth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have several honorees from 2020 films and television, plus you’ll find many from the past, and a peek at some from the future – 44 new borgs or updated variants in all, bringing the borg Hall of Fame total to 265.

You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

Some reminders about criteria.  Borgs have technology integrated with biology Wearing a technology-powered suit alone doesn’t qualify.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was named an honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive, not because of his incredible tech armor.  The Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids (as in Westworld, and as in the Synths of Star Trek: Picard, and the new Dark Troopers of The Mandalorian), we take their word for it.  Again, integration is key, but in the Hall, once a member, always a member.  

So let’s get on with it.  Who’s in for 2020?

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Today we move from the big screen to the small screen with the Best TV Series of 2020.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2020 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here.  We watch a lot of television, and probably love a good series even more than a great movie.  We preview hundreds of series, but outside big franchise content you want to know about, we only review what we recommend–the best genre content we’re watching.  The theory?  If we like it, we think you may like it.  The best shows have a compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, and all kinds of well-executed genre elements that satisfy and leave viewers feeling inspired.  Even better if we see richly detailed sets and costumes.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg SeriesAltered Carbon (Netflix).  Showing life in a world well past the merger of the organic and inorganic via stacks placed in human individuals’ vertebrae in the back of the neck, the second season of the series further revealed the dark side of being able to live forever.  What parts of life have the most value in a cybernetic world?  What crimes emerge when body and mind can be separated and re-shuffled?  Honorable mention: Star Trek: Picard (CBD All Access)–revisiting Star Trek’s old nemeses The Borg and introducing the cyborg-like nonbiological humanoids called Synths, the same term used in the BBC’s Humans.

Best TV Borg, Best TV VillainDarth Maul (played by Sam Witwer and Ray Park), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Disney+).  The athletic performer Ray Park provided the best-ever lightsaber duel scenes in his co-starring performance in The Phantom Menace.  Watching the animated series this year it was clear Darth Maul wasn’t just another animated character.  Add another great duel to the books–Park’s motion capture abilities live on and continue to set the bar for Star Wars action sequences, and Witwer voices a character we never want to see go away again.  Honorable mention for Best TV Villain: Grand Moff Gideon, Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian (Disney+).

Best Sci-fi TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Western TV SeriesThe Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which continues to be compared to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back more than anything with the Star Wars label on it since.  The Western motif is still alive, not all that hidden here in space fantasy garb.  And we won’t get started on the impact of The Child (aka Baby Yoda) now called Grogu, on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for a series that only gets better with each episode, despite their short lengths.  Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi TV Series: Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access).

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