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Tag Archive: Best of 2016


 

The 24 issues of Matt Kindt′s Dept.H series is everything we look for at borg–science fiction, action, adventure, retro, mystery, noir.  And it all arrived in one comic book series from Dark Horse.  Writer/artist Matt Kindt has said his series Dept.H was inspired by 1970s G.I. Joes, Fisher Price Adventure People toys, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Jacques Cousteau, and readers felt all of that come through. From the patch on the underwater crew outfits that evoked the classic 1960s/1970s G.I. Joe Adventure Team to the SP-350 diving saucer from the famed Calypso in the craft that takes the characters to the depths of the ocean floor in the opening pages, to the setting and Department H Headquarters based on the ocean floor that screams H.G. Wells, Dept.H is one of the decade’s top comic book series.  And it’s now coming your way in two paperback omnibus editions beginning next week.

Best known for his run on his Mind MGMT series, Eisner Award nominee Kindt wrote and illustrated the story, with coloring supplied by Sharlene Kindt, his wife.  In part the series is an Agatha Christie-inspired closed room case.  We meet Mia Hardy, who has been asked to find the mole in the undersea lab, a mole who is believed to have sabotaged the base and murdered her father.  Mia has worked with the suspects before, providing the opportunity for the writer to hold back information and share with us bits and pieces when necessary.  Who killed Mia’s father?  Was it Q, the head of Dept. H security?  Her father’s business partner Roger?  The frenetic head of research Jerome?  Demolition expert Bob?  Her childhood friend turned enemy Lily?  Her own brother Raj?  Or Aaron, the research assistant?  Or was it someone topside?

 

Readers feel the pressure of undersea operations as Mia is plunged into her own peril, as the facility again is sabotaged before she can work her way though all the suspects.  How long can Kindt take us for this suffocating adventure before letting us come up for air?  The page design even features a graduated flood gauge at the pages’ edges that slowly “fills up” with water issue after issue.

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This weekend the new adventure comedy Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle hits theaters, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan.   Before Jumanji, fans of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart will want to check out their earlier team-up in Central Intelligence, a hilarious action comedy that hit theaters last year.  It’s streaming and available now on home video.

Laugh out loud funny, Johnson plays Bob, a rogue CIA operative who was a bullied kid in school, assisted in an embarrassing moment back in school by the most popular, “most likely to succeed” kid, C.J., played by Kevin Hart.  Hart doesn’t end up governor as predicted by his schoolmates, but settles into a typical office job as an accountant.  As their 20th class reunion approaches, Bob, no longer the butt of jokes but a chiseled special ops machine, enlists C.J. for his accounting knowledge to help him flush out a traitor in the agency.

The CIA agent in charge, played by Amy Ryan, tries to convince C.J. that Bob isn’t who he claims to be–that he is in fact the traitor and his evaluations recently revealed a man on the edge, and he killed his partner.  The hijinks commence once C.J. must decide whether “he’s in” or not, as an awkward and over-the-top Bob is completely embracing a partnership with someone he has grown to believe is the ultimate cool guy.  Johnson and Hart are both at the top of their game here–Hart playing his rattled and jittery straight man routine and Johnson as the opposite of his image, uncomfortably sensitive, proud of his fanny pack, fanboying about unicorns and dropping Twilight references-and he’s a big hugger.

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This week the Saturn Awards crowned the best of genre film and television, selecting the best works on the screen for the 43rd year.  As with last year’s selections, although the start and end dates vary from our own calendar year list, this year’s winners aligned in the major categories with our own borg.com picks of the Best of 2016 from film and television.  If the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and all those other award recognitions leave you wanting, you can always depend on the Saturn Awards to come through for genre fans.

So we’re happy to see the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films name Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction in a Film (Gareth Edwards) and Best Film Visual/Special Effects (John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, Neil Corbould), Doctor Strange as Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture and Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress in a Film, and Star Trek Beyond for Best Film Make-up (Monica Huppert and Joel Harlow) Star of our favorite superhero sequence of 2016, Spider-man Tom Holland was awarded Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Captain America: Civil War.  In the television categories, Riverdale was named Best Action/Thriller TV Series and star KJ Apa won The Breakthrough Performance Award for his work as the iconic comic book character Archie Andrews.*  The Best New Media TV Series was a tie, shared between Stranger Things and Marvel’s Luke Cageand Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown was named Best Younger Actor on Television.  Even a borg.com Hall of Famer won major kudos this year, Six Million Dollar Man actor Lee Majors was awarded The Life Career Award.  We couldn’t agree more with all these selections.

Other works we liked last year that won honors included 10 Cloverfield Lane for Best Thriller Film, Best Actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Best Supporting Actor (John Goodman), Deadpool for Best Actor (Ryan Reynolds), Arrival for Best Film Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for Best Film Costume (Colleen Atwood).

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Our borg.com Best of 2016 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Top Picks and Best Movies of 2016 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2016 yesterday here.

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

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV Borg — Ash vs Evil Dead (Starz), Bruce Campbell.  We searched high and low for the year’s best TV series featuring one or more borg characters, but didn’t really need to go that far.  The brilliantly funny pop culture ace actor Bruce Campbell’s reboot of the borg.com Hall of Famer Ash could have gotten overlooked had it been just another horror series.  Yet underneath this over-the-top, blood and gore-filled demon hunt is a whole lot of silly fun.  And the actors could have been better, with the likes of Lee Majors (pictured above), Lucy Lawless, and Ted Raimi all making appearances.  We couldn’t ask for a better actor than Campbell to take our borg.com TV title this year.

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Best TV Series, Best TV Horror Series – Grimm (NBC).  The fifth season of Grimm was simply fantastic, full of gripping writing and a change-up of character roles in a way we’ve never seen before.  This season we saw the best action, twists and turns, and flat-out excitement, above every other series on television.  Pulling bits and pieces of folklore from Western and Eastern mythologies and everything in between, the writers delivered all season long.  The writing team’s best work was what they have done all along, taking the story in a direction no one could have predicted.

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Best TV Retro Series – Stranger Things (Netflix).  It’s nearly impossible to list all the influences that came together to form our pick for this year’s Best Retro Fix.  Stand By Me, Firestarter, Silver BulletStranger Things could be another coming of age Stephen King tale, but with nicely creepy John Carpenter undertones and the wonder and sci-fi of a Steven Spielberg movie.  Think Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, and Super 8.  Whatever it is, great performances by a lead group of kid actors, teen actors, and a few adults from filmdom’s past made for a fun season one.

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Best New TV Series, Best Re-Imagining on TV  – Wynonna Earp (Syfy).  We knew Syfy had a winner in the first episode of this year’s best new TV series, Wynonna Earp.  A great mash-up of Western, paranormal, and horror, Wynonna Earp took an American legend and made it interesting for today’s viewers.  Melanie Scrofano’s Wynonna is a classic heroine in a supernatural setting.  And her interactions with Tim Rozon’s Doc Holliday include some of the best humor on TV.  Did we mention the villains are basically zombies?  Wynonna’s got a gun–a Peacemaker–and she knows how to use it, giving us a fun, over-the-top shoot ’em up each week to look forward to.

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Best Sci-Fi SeriesThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  With the slow start of the first season of the series we had doubts where the show would take us for the second season this year.  But the last half of the season cinched it.  A rare look at science fiction on television that showed what could all be attained with an alternate history story, and a great adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel to boot.

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Best Animated TV Series – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  For the second year in a row, Star Wars Rebels proves that animated shows are just as compelling as big budget theatrical blockbusters.  This season we met the great villain Grand Admiral Thrawn, finally introduced to Star Wars canon.  Every episode gave fans something to be excited about, as in the episode “The Antilles Extraction,” where Sabine goes undercover as a cadet in the Empire’s elite flight academy to bring Imperial pilots over to fight for the Rebellion.  Darth Maul and Captain Rex are also standout characters.  Original trilogy voice actors, compelling visuals, and rousing music, make this one of the best series on TV.

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Best TV Superhero SeriesLuke Cage (Netflix).  Although Marvel Studios adaptations have done well at the movies, its television shows haven’t measured up so well.  Until now.  The Netflix series Marvel’s Luke Cage is full of so many elements that make it a quality series you can expect it to be a contender at next year’s Emmy Awards.  Luke Cage is completely loyal to its 1970s origin.  Carl Lucas, played by Mike Colter (reprising the role he began in Marvel’s Jessica Jones), is a man from Harlem, imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.  The writers successfully updated the story to today, for today’s viewers, and to make the story timely.  Set in a New York City neighborhood with a gritty tale like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (with Harlem swapped for Bedford Stuyvesant), the rough-and-tumble Harlem of the series encounters the same class warfare, the same friction between police and minorities, and the same political corruption that is, as once professed by the original Law and Order series, “ripped from the headlines.”  It is at once a mix of the M. Night Shyamalan hooded superhero played by Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, and an updated mobster town story.

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Best TV Fantasy SeriesThe Librarians (TNT).  The Librarians continued its great mix of fantasy and comedy this year with its excellent ensemble cast.  The chemistry of the show’s characters continue to gel, resulting in a fully realized series in the vein of past hits Warehouse 13 and Leverage.  We were excited to see great guest appearances with Sean Astin, Noah Wyle and Jane Curtin.  And we can’t get enough of Rebecca Romijn, John Larroquette, and the rest of the crew.

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Best TV Comedy – Angie Tribeca(TBS).  Angie Tribeca has the perfect setting and ensemble cast for a gritty police procedural.  But it was actually the comedy we all need.  Nothing was written for the screen in any genre this year that made us laugh like this new series.  Every now and then we need someone to try to remake Police Squad! and the sight gags here rivaled that classic.  We just hope the writers can keep the great comedic scripts coming.

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Best TV Writing Baskets (FX).  At first you might not know what to make of Zach Galifianakis, Louis C.K., and Jonathan Krisel’s surreal, black comedy drama Baskets.  How down in the dumps can a rodeo clown possibly get?  And was that really comedian Louie Anderson playing his mother?  Galifianakis was able to play two competing roles as the twin brothers, and Martha Kelly added yet another odd wanderer into the mix to somehow result in a crazy, funny, and strangely poignant series we couldn’t help getting addicted to.

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Best TV Episode – Grimm Season 5 finale “Beginning of the End” (NBC).  Season 5’s finale of Grimm barreled ahead as if the producers believed the show wasn’t going to get renewed, prompting many story threads to be tied-up and a satisfying wrap-up that leaves viewers excited for Season 6.  It’s Black Claw, who caused Sean Renard to rise to become mayor of the city, against Nick and his friends as they work with Eve, Trubel, and Hadrian’s Wall to try to prevent the coming evil that risks the destruction of the barrier between the supernatural and the rest of the world.  Incredibly after all the back and forth over five seasons the original villains are villains again and the good guys back together again.  The season finale left us wondering how this will all play out as the series ends next season.

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Best TV Soundtrack Stranger Things, Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon.  Using 1980s analog synthesizers, the musicians created the perfect sound for a B-movie horror flick that would have fit right in back in the 1980s.  Half the credit for the series success with retro aficionados probably should go to the duo, who helped to fully immerse viewers in this familiar, but strange, look into our own childhoods.

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Best TV Actress – Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles, Orphan Black (BBC America).  In any other year Rose McIver’s weekly new character update on iZombie would have given her the win, but Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany came back this year after last season’s so-so stories to prove she has the best dramatic role on television and is well up to the task, further separating and redefining the differences between the ever-increasing number of clone sisters she portrays.  Runner-up Rose McIver as Liv Moore, iZombie (CW).

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Best TV Supporting Actress – Simone Missick as Misty Knight in Luke Cage (Netflix).  With big name actresses like Alfre Woodard and Rosario Dawson co-starring in this year’s new superhero series Luke Cage, it was Simone Missick who broke through to create one of the more interesting characters this year with police officer Misty Knight.  She believes in the justice system and is assigned to go after Luke Cage–too bad she has a past with him.  Missick plays Misty as a modern version of a Pam Grier character–she’s flawed but she’s tough and smart and we know she’ll cut through all the mess and come up on top.  Runner-up: Leanna Lapp as Gilda (iZombie).

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Best TV Actor (TIE) – Mike Colter as Carl Lucas/Luke Cage in Luke Cage (Netflix).  Luke Cage is as mild-mannered as they come.  We first met him in season one of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, but in his own series Mike Colter showed how great this comic book character from the 1970s could be, and how relevant he is today.  The problem with networks dropping an entire series on us at once is that with a day long binge session we don’t get the sense of the work that goes into building a character like Cage over a full season like we’re accustomed to.  Hopefully the studio will realize how great the series is and how its lead actor can provide us with a real, gritty hero that the world needs.  We just can’t wait to see more of what Colter has in store for us next season.

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Best TV Actor (TIE) – Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Ambassador Tagomi in The Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  Tagawa has played in countless TV series and films but his role as a trade ambassador of an alternate world where Japan controls the western United States may be the most stunning work of his career.  His expressions are understated and yet the audience can read so much in his simple looks.  His character’s surprise as he maneuvered a parallel world to his own–our real world–was some of the best acting of the genre and among the best performances of the year.

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Best TV Supporting Actor (TIE) – Louie Anderson as Mrs. Baskets in Baskets(FX).  Louie Anderson has been priming us for this role for decades now.  His impersonations of relatives helped make him one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time.  Bringing him in to play to mom to Zack Galifianakis’s Chip Baskets was one of those inspired moves that doesn’t happen very often.  And the result was TV gold.

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Best TV Supporting Actor (TIE) – Tim Rozon as Doc Holliday in Wynonna Earp (Syfy).  Rozon brilliantly played the ghost of Doc Holliday this year in the new series Wynonna Earp, sporting a lazy drawl and unclear motives that make him absolutely captivating.  He was mysterious as Wynonna’s questionable love interest, an intermediary between Wynonna and the vile Revenants.  He’s a man out of his time, an anti-hero we hope to see more of next season.

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Best TV Villain – Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber, iZombie (CW)).  What kind of sick bastard throws his daughter to the wolves to become a zombie, and then laughs about it?  That’s Vaughn Du Clark, whose barbs with daughter Gilda (Leanne Lapp) provided some of the best quick-witted writing we’ve seen since Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Du Clark was the ultimate corporate villain, and we watched his rise with great interest all season long.  Runners-up: Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard, Luke Cage), The Demogorgon (Stranger Things), Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen, Star Wars Rebels). 

Best YouTube Video – “Seagulls (Stop it Now),” A Bad Lip Reading of The Empire Strikes Back.  You know you haven’t seen this Fall’s funniest Star Wars fan video enough, with that catchy, goofy tune.  Go ahead, watch it one more time.

Come back tomorrow as we reveal more of the borg.com Best of 2016!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

 

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What better way to celebrate the strong, determined leader Leia Organa made famous by actress Carrie Fisher than to celebrate her legacy in the genre heroines of today?  What do most of the characters on this year’s list of Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines have in common?  Most have roles that could easily be swapped with a male.  Sure, you can have heroine characters who are written to largely rely on traditional female qualities, but women characters bending gender roles are breaking new grounds.  We met characters this year who were held back in their place in time by their status as women, and it is often that role that prompts them to gain the fire and passion necessary to become the heroine of their stories.  So we have both a dress-wearing, well-read 19th century Jane Austen character on our list, but also a space-faring criminal in combat boots, a sea captain, an alien survivor, an alien visitor, a warrior, a sorcerer, a group of clones, a gunslinger, two cops, a zombie, and a supernatural assassin.

In past years we were able to select our Best Kick-Ass Genre Movie Heroine and Best Kick-Ass Genre TV Heroine, but this year the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever, and instead of ranking them we’re highlighting the very best from an unprecedented slate of heroines, with characteristics to learn from and emulate.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong.  You’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, very human, resulting from trying circumstances, personal losses, and even death of friends and family.  But they all mustered up the strength to rise above it all.  These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2016:

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Sara (The Huntsman: Winter’s War).  Heroines can be medieval or fairy tale warriors, a trained Huntsman quick with a bow and arrow or two-handed swordplay.  Jessica Chastain’s Sara was never seen in Snow White and the Huntsman, but we quickly learned why Chris Hemsworth’s Eric was filled with despair when learning of her supposed death.  A loyal warrior to her queen, she must decide whether to join her excommunicated secret husband against the forces of evil or stand with Queen Freya and her manipulative sister.  A powerhouse trio of actresses, Chastain’s Sara rises above them all opposite Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron in this great fantasy film.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  You already know Elizabeth Bennet as the eldest sister in the classic Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice.  An obnoxious mother harassing her, unlikely prospects for marriage, and an oppressive society with little opportunity to make her own choices.  Readers finally get to witness how the classic character might react when given opportunity–opportunity to learn Eastern mysticism and Japanese martial arts, and a role where she and her sisters and friends can fully defend their family and home from a zombie onslaught.  Lily James couples lacy dresses, Regency manners, and in-your-face, Quentin Tarentino-inspired kicks, with classic swordplay–and bloody beheadings.  If a war is coming, you want the likes of Elizabeth Bennet on your side of the battle lines.

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What a year!  The world’s a changing place and no less so than with the welcome onslaught of new movies, television shows, books, comics, and everything else that entertained us in 2016.  All year long we tried to keep up with the best of what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  We watched all of nearly two dozen TV series, and enough of others to know we’d seen enough.  We watched dozens of new movies, reviewed more than three dozen books (and read even more), and kept up with dozens of comic book titles.  We witnessed the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Archie, and Captain America, the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and Charles Schulz’s Great Pumpkin, Rocky turned 40, and it was the 30th anniversary of Aliens and Labyrinth.  And the Cubs finally won the World Series.

Today we reveal the best genre content of 2016–with our top categories from movies and television Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero Fix, Best Animated Fix, and Best Borg, followed by our Best in Movies picks.  The big winner was Rogue One, taking 13 spots, followed by Doctor Strange with three.  Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, our special look at Kick-ass Heroines of 2016, followed by our annual borg.com Hall of Fame inductees.

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Best Sci-Fi Fix – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm).  Although the franchise is more space fantasy than science fiction, all the elements of the best sci-fi were crammed into Rogue One.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology.  A compelling story.  We’re wagering this film will be a classic we go back to for years to come, upsetting Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the third best of the eight films in the series.  It’s everything a sci-fi fan could want.

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Best Fantasy FixThe Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal Pictures).  Like Rogue One it was a prequel that was also a sequel.  Better than the original Snow White and the Huntsman, this early 2016 release provided a high-fantasy story rooted in the classic fairy tale, rewarding viewers midway with a surprise change-up.  Three tough female leads, four brave (and funny) dwarves, two epic quests, a fairy tale romance, and elaborate costumes and sets made for a perfect fantasy film.

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Best Superhero FixThe Magnificent Seven (MGM/Columbia Pictures).  When we first reviewed The Magnificent Seven we were surprised it had adapted the Yul Brynner version and Akira Kurosawa’s earlier Seven Samurai so well.  We were even more surprised at how well the cast, and cast of characters, worked together to create a true ensemble piece.  It rivaled every attempt by the studios to make a great superhero team-up, and, but for the Western garb and setting, it rates as the year’s best of the superhero genre.  Runner-up, a close contender for the win was the second appearance of Evan Peters as Quicksilver doing his speedster business slow-motion style again in X-Men: Apocalypse.

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Best Retro FixStranger Things (Netflix).  It’s a TV series that would have made a solid movie hit in 1982.  So many series appear unexpectedly these days with a full season ready to stream immediately.  Most demonstrate why they couldn’t cut it with the networks or a major cable channel.  Not so with some of Netflix’s series, especially the surprise hit Stranger Things.  With a nicely eerie soundtrack, title font, a Twin Peaks-meets Steven Spielberg coming of age film cul-de-sac for the setting, and  John Carpenter meets Stephen King vibe, it’s no wonder Stranger Things was the #1 talked about series this year.  Our favorite part, besides the young heroine of the show, was the attention to throwback clothes, toys, posters, and 1980s pop culture references.  It’s a series we’ll revisit in the future, and look forward to in its second season.

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Best Borg/Best Movie Villain – Darth Vader (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).  Darth Vader returned in his best scene of the franchise outside of The Empire Strikes Back in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  It wasn’t James Earl Jones’s return to voice one of the best villains in the history of cinema that grabbed us, but the full-on rampage Vader takes to pursue the stolen Rebel plans in the film’s finale.  Director (and lifelong Star Wars fan) Gareth Edwards gave fans exactly what they wanted, utilizing an impressive UK creature actor Spencer Wilding to do his bidding as the imposing Lord of the Sith.  We also got a peek at what little of the man remained years after his battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.  We saw inside his cybernetic suit of armor via a scene featuring him floating in a bacta tank.  Darth Vader remains one of the greatest borgs of all time.

Want to know who we picked for best in effects, soundtrack, and best sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, and horror movies of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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In so many ways, Dark Horse Comics’ Dept.H is everything we look for at borg.com.  Science fiction, action, adventure, retro, mystery, noir.  And it’s all in one comic book series.  Writer/artist Matt Kindt has said his series Dept.H was inspired by 1970s G.I. Joes, Fisher Price Adventure People toys, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Jacques Cousteau, and you can feel all of that come through in its first nine issues this year.  From the patch on the underwater crew outfits that evokes the classic 1960s/1970s G.I. Joe Adventure Team patch to the SP-350 diving saucer from the famed Calypso in the craft that takes the series lead to the depths of the ocean floor in the opening pages, to the setting and Department H Headquarters based on the ocean floor that screams H.G. Wells, Dept.H is at the top of this year’s comic book series.

Best known for his run on his Mind MGMT series, Eisner Award nominee Kindt wrote and illustrated the story, with coloring supplied by wife Sharlene.  The series is an Agatha Christie-inspired closed room case.  We meet Mia Hardy, who has been asked to find the mole in the undersea lab, a mole who is believed to have sabotaged the base and murdered her father.  Mia has worked with the suspects before, providing the opportunity for the writer to hold back information and share with us bits and pieces when necessary.  Who killed Mia’s father?  Was it Q, the head of Dept. H security?  Her father’s business partner Roger?  The frenetic head of research Jerome?  Demolition expert Bob?  Her childhood friend turned enemy Lily?  Her own brother Raj?  Or Aaron, the research assistant?  Or was it somehow, someone topside?

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Readers feel the pressure of undersea operations as Mia is plunged into her own peril, as the facility again is sabotaged before she can work her way though all the suspects.  How long can Kindt take us for this suffocating adventure before letting us come up for air?  The page design even features a graduated flood gauge at the pages’ right edges that slowly “fills up” with water issue after issue.

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There’s an app even for that.

In the past few years the Marvel Comics line-up of secondary superheroes really kicked into gear in the publisher’s solo titles.  We’ve previously raved here at borg.com about Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye and Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow.  Another popular secondary Marvel superhero is the current Ant-Man, Scott Lang.  In comicbookdom there’s probably no superhero more put-upon than Lang’s Ant-Man.  His crazy backstory, the origin of his powers, and his inability to catch a break makes him instantly appealing, so much so that he’s the one that got his own Marvel Cinematic Universe movie last year.

Actor Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man was one of the highlights of this year’s Captain America: Civil War, and that same Ant-Man has headlined his own series this year with Marvel’s monthly The Astonishing Ant-Man.  And the entire year has been about Lang trying to explain to the reader how he ended up in prison.  Again.  Series writer Nick Spencer provided this year’s best humor in his choice of situations he dropped Lang into, his choice of team-ups and sidekicks, and loads and loads of superhero inner-monologuing and witty banter.

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Whether it’s a single issue team-up with Captain America aka Sam Wilson or Ms. Thing aka Darla Deering, The Astonishing Ant-Man has been a fun read in a year full of drama-focused fiction and non-fiction.  Spencer plants Lang in today’s world with not a lot of situations that are grave in the way other comic book series are grave–Lang is plagued with plenty of First World Problems (although saving Miami from a Giganto is probably important to the locals).  But every month in different ways The Astonishing Ant-Man is full of the comic book fun you liked as a kid.  Artist Ramon Rosanas consistently created a visual treat full of Ant-Man doing everything we love–the little guy that saves the day, whether or not he gets recognized for it.  Then there are those personal issues–struggling between his ex-wife Peggy, his ex-girlfriend Darla, his ex-whatever Janice aka Beetle, and She-Hulk even makes an appearance.  Above all else is his efforts to stay a hero in the eyes of Cassie, his daughter-turned-criminal via the amazing new “Hench” app.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Old Man Logan is a 2017 theatrical release we previewed here at borg.com earlier this Fall.  Bryan Singer treated us to a sneak peek at this version of Logan aka Wolverine in this year’s hit superhero flick X-Men: Apocalypse.  If all you know about Logan is the nine films in which Hugh Jackman portrayed the on again/off again X-Men leader, then now is a great time to get caught up on the monthly comic book title that inspired the movie.

Old Man Logan is the second series to follow the exploits of Logan in a post-apocalypse setting–the first was written in the eight-issue Wolverine: Old Man Logan story arc collected here, and the second was published in 2015, collected here.  The current series, now on Issue #14, is available in three trade editions, with Issue #15 due out in comic book stores by year end.

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Old Man Logan may be the best work yet from well-known writer Jeff Lemire, artist Andrea Sorrentino, and color artist Marcelo Maiolo.  Lemire is known for his work on books from Animal Man to Green Arrow, and currently he also pens All-New Hawkeye, Extraordinary X-Men, and Moon Knight.  Lemire tells a tale of a distant future, one overrun by villains and a world without Wolverine to protect it, Logan is a farmer with a wife and kids, whose life is destroyed when the Hulk Gang kills his family.  But the twist is Logan finds himself back in future’s past, able to change the timeline and destroy all of those who one day will ruin his life.  This Logan is an Old West wanderer and drifter, who makes Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name pale in comparisonThis is Marvel’s answer to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns at last, a series gritty and dark and full of the kind of what-ifs readers are clamoring for.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is one of the all-time best fantasy movies, in the same league as Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films.  Rarely has any classic book been adapted so well to the big screen.  This year’s sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, is even better.  Nothing is better than being surprised by an extraordinary new fantasy film.  Looking Glass features the original top-notch class plus new characters, an exciting time travel tale, more of Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood’s lavish costumes, and brilliant visual effects.  This time The Muppets and The Muppets Most Wanted’s James Bobin has taken over directing reins for Burton.  Changing from Burton’s signature look and feel of creepy darkness for an almost bright and shiny Doctor Who-inspired universe makes for a movie that truly stands apart from the original and on its own footing.

Mia Wasikowska’s Alice was a girl when we last left her, making the adult decision to leave behind an arranged marriage.  Now she is a mature young woman, a sea captain leading her father’s ship.  The girl who doesn’t like the word “impossible” is confronted with an unfortunate decision to live the life she has chosen or give it all up for her mother.  Thankfully, Absolem, voiced by Alan Rickman in his final performance, leads her into a mirror where she returns to Underland.  Unanswered mysteries from the first film are revealed as Alice begins a new quest to help her old friend the Mad-Hatter, even no more mad than ever before.  Her journey is a classic fantasy quest, where she confronts a fantastic new character: Time itself, expertly played by Sasha Baren Cohen.

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If you’re looking for an escape from reality this week, this is for you.  Alice is an oppressed woman of the past who pulls herself up by her own bootstraps to eliminate those around her who would keep her down.  Wasikowska, superb as the girl in the original and as the lead in Guillermo del Toro’s haunting Crimson Peak, is still the perfect Alice.  And Johnny Depp, the greatest actor of his generation, continues to dazzle as the enormously likeable and sympathetic Hatter.

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