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Tag Archive: Captain America


If you don’t want to see anything about Avengers: Endgame you might want to skip the latest trailer, which reveals some trickery by Marvel Studios in its earlier trailers–although with time travel bringing anyone back into the fold it’s not just possible but a likely scheme to mess with Thanos, and anything can happen.  Take a look at the new trailer below, along with a new poster including the key cast at least one version of what we’ll see in the film.

If you don’t see Captain Marvel first (reviewed here at borg), one thing is clear: you’re not going understand what’s going on in Avengers: Endgame.  As Marvel fans will see in one of the codas for the current film in theaters, everything is coming together, and in today’s trailer the Avengers Assemble–that also means new uniforms.

 

It’s good seeing most of the Avengers back again, even if there’s still no sign of the last recruit, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.  The only quirk: Danai Gurira’s Okoye is in the poster, but her name was the only actor not included in the first poster released today in the above-the-title list of actors (she is listed below the title, along with those not pictured: Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau, and Gwyneth Paltrow)–contractual deals tend to be specific about what actors get the top of the marquee listing and who doesn’t, but this decision tends to stand out.  But Marvel updated that a few hours later (shown updated to the right above).  And in the realm of trickiness, note that the original poster included 19 names, many of which were omitted this time–reflecting the characters who vanished in Avengers: Infinity War, like Benedict Cumberbatch.

Take a look at the next trailer–if you dare–for Avengers: Endgame:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new edition of novels based on Marvel Comics characters is being published beginning this month from Titan Books, including reprints of past novels as well as entirely new works.  First in the series is Stuart Moore’s 2013 prose novel Civil War, based on the giant, 98-issue, comic book event from 2006 and 2007 (not a novelization of the Marvel Studios movie).  The release of the novels is well-timed to capture new readers drawn in by Avengers: Infinity War, and Moore’s Civil War is the perfect follow-up for fans of the movie looking for more stories featuring the majority of the publisher’s roster of superheroes.  Just like the movie Captain America: Civil War only loosely tapped into concepts from its source material in the comic books, this novel may be a little jarring to those who only follow the movies.  But Moore’s book is a great way to see even more characters than made it into Captain America: Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War working together and against each other.  In short:  It’s a blast to read.

As in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Civil War the novel features a split between Earth’s superheroes, pitting Steve Rogers’ Captain America against Tony Stark’s Iron Man.  But the similarities end there.  A devastating explosion that kills hundreds of people resulting from a failed attempt by the New Warriors (a young superhero team filming a reality show) prompts American citizens to fear the superhero community and push for an invasive regulation of superheroes.  Stark initially opposes the Act, but ultimately favors it as the lesser of two evils and the best way for superheroes to continue to serve and protect.  Captain America and those loyal to him see the new Superhero Registration Act as a fascist restraint on their freedom and refuse to comply.  In the conflict that ensues Moore streamlines the original story from the comic books into an exciting and engaging read, drawing together most of the Marvel universe’s major characters and many minor characters.

Thor, Nick Fury, and Scott Lang are dead, Hulk has been exiled off-planet, and Wolverine and the X-Men refuse to take sides, not participating in the story, except for Storm.  The Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm and Doctor Strange remain neutral, but the rest choose sides, with Sue Richards, Hawkeye, and Spider-man switching sides throughout the story.  Falcon, Cloak & Dagger, Johnny Storm, Tigra, Prince Namor, Dr. Hank Pym, Black Panther & Storm, Daredevil, Ms. Marvel, Cassie Lang, Luke Cage, The Punisher, and newly appointed S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill all have key roles, with She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Valkyrie, and Black Widow actively involved as well.  But the bulk of the character development follows Peter Parker, revealing for the first time to the world he is Spider-man, by far the most engaging and endearing hero of this tale.  The leadership challenges of Captain America and Iron Man as they oppose each other and keep Maria Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. at bay is the girth of the story with a great thread involving Sue Richards as she struggles to deal with her husband Reed who she feels is on the wrong side of the issue Act implementation.

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Get thee to the comic book store tomorrow!

It’s that time of year again.  It’s time for the annual pilgrimage to your local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day, this Saturday, May 7, 2016.  Dozens of new books are available this year, for kids of all ages.  Like these:

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Alan Tudyk has a new comic book out called Spectrum.  He talks about it here:

And despite what you hear below from that familiar guy from Reading Rainbow, most comic book stores will let you select more than a few issues, not just one:

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Bettany Vision

We’ve talked about and sat through many a movie marathon in the past four years here at borg.com, with The Lord of the Rings Marathon, The Dark Knight Marathon, the first Avengers Movie Marathon, the Cornetto Marathon, and The Hobbit Movie Marathon.  But those won’t quite compare to what’s coming your way, spanning two days, April 29-30, 2015.  For those willing to spend more than 27 hours in the theater, you can soak up the entire Avengers series of movies in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” plus Guardians of the Galaxy as a bonus– eleven movies in total–at the Ultimate Marvel Movie Marathon.  It all leads up to the premiere of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron in advance of its May 1 national release.

You can buy advance tickets now here, but don’t wait too long as shows in many cities will sell out.  Major chains are all participating, including AMC Theaters, Cinemark, Megaplex, and Regal Entertainment Group, among others.  Check out this insane schedule:

April 29

6:00 p.m. IRON MAN

8:25 p.m. THE INCREDIBLE HULK

10:35 p.m. IRON MAN 2

April 30

1:00 a.m. THOR

3:10 a.m. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

5:30 a.m. THE AVENGERS

8:48 a.m. IRON MAN 3

11:15 a.m. THOR: THE DARK WORLD

1:45 p.m. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

4:20 p.m. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

7:00 p.m. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (in RealD® 3D)

avengers-marathon

Some theaters are planning a double feature with 2012’s The Avengers plus Avengers 2.  Check local listings for showings as the premiere date gets closer.

And after the break, check out the third full trailer for Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, with a peek at Paul Bettany’s new villain, The Vision.

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Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the sequel to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and the ensemble film The Avengers, is full of all those things you like to see in a comic book spinoff film: lots of action sequences and plenty of banter between superheroes.  It’s a good addition to the Marvel Studios universe of films.  But compared to past entries it begs the question of where Marvel is heading with all its Avengers-based films.

Not as viscerally compelling as The First Avenger, the story in The Winter Soldier seems disjointed, as if it is a stitched together batch of scenes instead of a clearly thought out story.  We have one villain with the Winter Soldier, another with a government wonk played by Robert Redford, another with a would-be S.H.I.E.L.D. enforcer played by the who-would ever-trust-a-guy that-looks-like-that Frank Grillo, and pretty much every government lawman around, including scenes with too-many-to-count police cars destroyed and demolished by the good guys.  Oh, yeah–and Hydra.  Again.  Is it a complex story or just too many unnecessary plot threads?  The first Captain America was a complete story, showing the weak young man who wanted to fight for all that’s right as he moved along a path to become a supersoldier, working with an incredible group of comrades, and experiencing love and loss along the way–character driven, not action driven.  The basic story here has been over-used lately–stop the criminals who believe destroying the world (or the city, etc.) is the only way to save it.  In what world does that logic make sense?

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Cap 2

As promised, here’s the full trailer released yesterday for next year’s Captain America sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  But it might as well be The Avengers 2, considering the inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.

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Captain America Winter Soldier banner

Although reviewers at early screenings are already calling Thor: The Dark World the best of the Avengers movie sequels so far (that’s compared to Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3?), 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger is still nearly tied with the original Iron Man as the critical favorite.  So we’re excited about the next film to put Chris Evans’ 1940s super soldier up against his next foe, and see the return of Cap, Nick Fury and Black Widow in their first movie appearance since last year’s blockbuster The Avengers. 

Last night Entertainment Tonight previewed a full trailer that will be uploaded to the Web today, and we plan to have it posted here at borg.com as soon as it’s available.  In addition to returning favorites Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson, one great addition to the cast is the one and only Robert Redford making a rare genre appearance as a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. director and Nick Fury’s superior.

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Review by Art Schmidt

Overall this is probably one of the best Marvel Studios has produced thus far.  Despite the multitude of heroes and personalities on the screen, which could have easily lent itself to a convoluted, overly-busy and confusing plot, the movie sails right along with only a few minor bumps in dialogue or story.  The tight script by director Joss Whedon manages to bring out the individual personality of each character, as well as showcasing each ones strengths and, in most cases, their weaknesses, without anything feeling like it was shoe-horned in the middle of a scene or duct-taped onto the end of a conversation.  It all flows exceedingly well, to both Whedon and Zek Penn‘s credit.

Early on, many questioned Whedon’s ability to transform from a televised series format where he’s had his greatest critical and commercial successes with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse, to the big screen, despite having written stories and/or screenplays for several films including Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection, and Serenity.  Well, The Avengers have assembled for what is currently Earth’s Mightiest Movie, and Whedon has answered all of those critics with a guttural roar heard all across America yesterday:

“Joss SMASH!”

Smash, indeed.  It appears some records are about to be smashed, judging by the movie’s world-wide tallies and first-day numbers in the United States.

In fact, it may very well be Whedon’s experience with television’s shorter episodic format that enabled the director to write such crisp, fast-paced exchanges between the characters, expressing multiple points of view in relatively short conversations without feeling pithy or trite.  Of particular note is a scene mid-way through the movie, as the Team wrestles with each other’s hidden objectives and priorities, trying to make sense of how they can possibly agree on even one thing, much less begin to work together.  S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury’s agenda is questioned, as is Thor’s long-term plans for his captive brother Loki, played again with devilish delight by Tom Hiddleston.  Steve Rogers (a.k.a Captain America) questions Tony Stark’s patriotism, and Bruce Banner tries to remain out of the fray altogether, because in reality he doesn’t trust any of them.  And it is Banner who aptly frames the team’s troubles with the quip showcased in the previews: “We’re not a team…  we’re a time bomb.”

Of particular note is newcomer Mark Ruffalo, taking up the role of Bruce Banner formerly portrayed by not one but three other actors, the fairly straight-forward scientist on the run character (“David” Banner) that Bill Bixby gave us in the seventies TV series, the brooding scientist with the weight of the world on his shoulders as portrayed by Eric Bana in Ang Lee’s The Hulk, and the mousy, sensitive fugitive we were shown by Edward Norton.

Ruffalo gives us a character more true to the Banner of the comics, nerdy and analyzing, shy around people and reluctant to get involved, with much hand wringing and avoiding eye contact, even when the camera isn’t squarely on him.

The Hulk himself, finally, comes into his own in an odd way, with hints that Banner now has at least a tiny bit of control over the beast.  The CGI Hulk is a rare cinematic treat, fun to watch, exhilarating with his combat acrobatics and both vicious and funny to behold in all his rage.  He definitely grabs both some of the movies best action sequences and its funniest sight gags.  Whereas many studios anymore give away the best parts of their movies in the previews in an attempt to trick an audience into the seats, The Avengers saves the best stuff for the theater, and I won’t be so callous as to spoil one single juicy bit of it here.  I will say that when Banner tells his “big secret” to Black Widow and the rest of the team during the finale, it drew some the biggest cheers of the night.

Although now in an apparently steady relationship with Pepper Potts, played in a few brief scenes by Gwyneth Paltrow with the warmth and grace she brings to every role, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is at his most self-centered and narcissistic throughout the entire film.  Which of course is to say at his most fun, especially for the audience.  His cooler-than-thou attitude grates against almost every other member of the “team,” and much of the early in-fighting amongst the team is either attributed to, or enflamed by, Stark’s ingratiating self-importance.  Again, to the audience’s delight.

Despite the excess of charisma, Iron Man does not end up leading the team, of course.  That honor goes to Captain America, although next to the high-flying and alien-smashing abilities of the other “big three,” the star-spangled man in blue tights seems, as times, a bit under-powered.  But the Captain’s confidence and, ultimately, loyalty to his teammates is what brings out his leadership skills, and the others end up swallowing their pride and prejudices and looking to him as their quarterback, their general, their Captain.

Chris Evans does a skillful job of maintaining Cap’s Boy Scout innocence amidst the highly experienced and jaded folks around him, even when faced with deadly threats and other-worldly beings.  Steve just pitches in and helps, whether it’s assisting Iron Man in getting a rotor repaired, sneaking around S.H.I.E.L.D.’s vaults to uncover their secrets, or directing New York’s finest to execute their duty to protect and serve.

“Why should I take orders from you?” one veteran police sergeant asks dubiously.  The response is pure popcorn delight.

Chris Helmsworth recites Thor’s Olde English dialogue with clarity and ease, and though at times you can almost see the words in your head in the fancy font used in the comics, it rolls off of his tongue naturally.  The God of Thunder actually feels more real in this movie than in his own, partially because the other heroes bring him down to Earth a bit (no pun intended), but also because of the balancing effect of the Hulk.

As Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson has enough to do and gets plenty of screen time, even discounting the shots of her character walking away from the camera, but compared to those who have super-natural (or super high-tech) abilities, her martial arts and weapons skills seem flashy but inadequate.  As one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top operatives, however, she in right in the mix and given some tough assignments, like dealing with Banner / Hulk and figuring out how to ultimately stop the bad guys at the end.

Hawkeye suffers from a similar fate (played by Jeremy Renner), although his trick arrows do bring some surprises and satisfying butt-kicking moments.  His arsenal isn’t as tricked-out as in the comics, but his skill comes across (especially when he’s eyeing his targets a full forty or fifty degrees from where he’s aiming his bow) and his automated quiver is a fairly neat addition to the Avenger’s arsenal.

Samuel L. Jackson has been playing Nick Fury with his own unique brand of quiet cool through almost all of the Marvel movies leading up the this, and I was looking forward to seeing him in some action sequences in The Avengers.  Though Fury does unleash some on a few bad guys, his role is mostly as the S.H.I.E.L.D. administrator and liaison to those in power calling the real shots.  Too bad, maybe next time.

All in all, the movie aims to please and hits the mark dead-on, with tons of thrills, laughs, great action sequences, characters who sound intelligent and a story that makes sense.  Usually with superhero movies, you’re lucky to get any three of those things and call your money fairly spent.  Well, Joss Whedon and company have assembled the entire team and anyone who enjoys action / adventure movies should walk away with a huge grin on their face.

Be sure to wait until after the credits for a great nugget!  I won’t give it away, but it is unlike any of the others Marvel has planted at the end of the movies leading up to this one.  And joyously so!

Last month we previewed the Captain America: The First Avenger auction to be conducted by Marvel Studios and auction house Profiles in History.  The auction was held April 14, 2012 at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo with incredible results proving that Marvel Comics fans are as rabid as any genre collecting group.  Details of the full prices realized can be found via links at Profiles in History’s company website.  Featuring primarily props, costumes, and set pieces from the 2011 release Captain America: The First Avenger, the auction also featured a few lots from Iron Man 2 and Thor.  The auction included four recognizable Captain America supersuits, as well as several other costumes worn by actor Chris Evans, and 11 iconic shield variants.

Supersuits

The key item up for bid was Lot 154, the Steve Rogers Captain America hero costume and shield worn by Chris Evans in the movie, which served as his final superhero suit in the film and is the suit used in all the Marvel posters and marketing.  It carried an auction estimate of $20,000-$30,000.  The final price including the auction house premium?  A stunning $233,700!   That’s right–nearly a quarter of a million dollars.  You’ll be hard pressed to come up with any genre costume from any character of any series, sci-fi, fantasy, or superhero movie, that has ever sold at auction for so much.  Clearly a landmark price for a neat character costume.

Why such a high hammer price, as compared with sales in past auctions of other hero costumes from other franchises?  Several factors created fertile turf for this monumental auction, including: (1) the movie itself received critical acclaim and approval of average movie-goers (I have met no one who saw this film and didn’t think it was very good), (2) the character is iconic–literally a hero suit (as opposed to a stunt suit) from an actual superhero, (3) it’s Captain America–there’s a lot of nationalistic pride behind this character and its historic place in both comicdom, World War II mythos, and Americana, (4) unlike all the Batman, Spider-man, and Superman suits on the market from several movies, this was the first big budget Captain America film, for a character who has been around and beloved by all ages for three generations, (5) the Avengers have never been bigger in the history of Marvel Comics than this month–with the release of Avengers vs. X-Men and the new Avengers film premiering everywhere in just days from now, (6) this was a rare occasion where a film costume didn’t match the classic costume and fans didn’t care because the new outfit was designed with cool results, (7) the auction was heavily publicized and was held in a venue with excited comic book fans, (8) the simple but nicely done catalog arrived early and gave interested bidders time to plan bidding strategies, (9) the auction house, Profiles in History, is simply getting more and more visible, especially with its SyFy Channel TV series Hollywood Treasure, and the recent record-setting movie costume sales from the Debbie Reynolds collection.

Chris Evans’ Captain America USO costume and shield had an estimate of $4,000-$6,000.  Final sale price?  $30,750.

The Captain America costume worn by Evans in the POW rescue scene had an auction estimate of $6,000-$8,000.  The lot included an early style Cap shield.  Final sale price?  $27,675less than the distressed version–Evan’s Captain America distressed rescue suit also had an auction estimate of $6,000-$8,000, but sold for $30,750–still a low price considering it was seen so much in the film as compared to the primary hero outfit.

Shields

One early style Cap shield from the Hydra factory scene carried a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.  It sold for $13,530.  A separate shield of the same design was estimated to sell at $2,000-$3,000.  It sold for $14,760.  A similar shield with distress marks from the “Invaders” scene had the same auction estimate.  It sold for $17,220.

An unpainted silver prototype shield from Howard Stark’s laboratory carried an auction estimate of $3,000-$5,000.  It sold for $18,450.

One shield offered was the frozen in ice version, which had an auction estimate of $4,000-$6,000.   I think this was the coolest shield at the auction.  It sold for a cool $24,600.  Lot 177 was a classic, traditional Captain America shield, expected to sell for $4,000-$6,000.   It fetched $27,675.  Yet another battle damaged shield from the final showdown with Red Skull carried an auction estimate of $4,000-$6,000.   It sold for $27,675.

A distressed stunt shield of the same type from the show’s final showdown carried an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.  It sold for $20,910.

Motorcycles

The Steve Rogers’ hero modified Harley Davidson motorcycle had an auction estimate of $12,000-$15,000 and a second hero motorcycle from a different scene has an auction estimate of $10,000-$12,000.  They sold for $14,760 and $12,300, respectively.

Red Skull and Hydra

Hugo Weaving’s Johann Schmidt/Red Skull SS costumes were expected to fetch $6,000-$8,000 each.  They ranged from $19,680 to $20,910.   Weaving’s bright red “Red Skull” facial prosthetics—3 in all—were expected to sell for $2,000-$3,000.  They sold for $4,305 to $7,995. 

A Hydra non-functional mini-tank was expected to fetch $12,000-$15,000.   It was one of the rare key pieces that sold in its estimate range, for $14,760.  Various Hydra motorcycles carried an auction estimate ranging from $3,000-$6,000.   They sold between $4,920 and $18,450.  Several Hydra soldier uniforms had an auction estimate of $1,000-$1,500.  They sold well over that, from $6,765 for standard outfit to $15,990 for the hero outfit.

Iron Man

The original, incredibly detailed, full-scale Mark II silver Iron Man suit from Iron Man 2 had an auction estimate of $60,000-$80,000.  It sold for a whopping $135,300.

Thor

Finally, two stunt Thor Mjolnir war hammers were offered at the end of the auction from the Kenneth Branagh movie Thor, each expected to sell between $3,000-$6,000.  They each sold for $19,680 and $23,370, incredible for rubber stunt props of any film.

As with most Profiles in History auctions, the actual hammer prices (rimshot) generally far exceeded the auction estimates.  Movie studios are sure to take note of this quickly burgeoning source for revenues.   With strike prices this impressive, expect studios that haven’t paid much attention to the costumes and props that were once thrown out after production in the past to follow suit with future auctions.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything nearly ended.  Countless heroes were killed.  The Fantastic Four have disbanded.  The X-Men are gone.  Mutants are hunted as criminals.  The world still needs saving.  This is what happens next.

Released last year in a nice hardcover edition and now widely available everywhere, the oddly titled Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn is not always easy to find via electronic searches because of its clunky title.  And if you try to just ask for “that great Jeph Loeb/Frank Cho” book from last year, they may or may not know what you mean.  But take it from me, it is well worth remembering this one.

After reading last week’s prologue to the coming Avengers vs. X-Men series (Issue #0 came out last Wednesday and Issue #1 will be released early at a special pre-release party this Tuesday night), what it made me want was more Frank Cho.  In a never-dwindling stack of books to read, this New Ultimates is the one in the stack you kick yourself for not reading earlier.

By way of background, Marvel’s Ultimate Universe is a parallel universe created in 2000 to try to bring in new fans without being bogged down in 40 years of Marvel Comics Universe continuity.  Sound a little like DC’s New 52?  The Ultimate Universe is a sort of all-bets-are-off line that Marvel fans either love or hate.  As a fan of alternate history books, and as we wait for DC Comics to reveal its own new Earth 2 and Worlds Finest parallel universe series, this trade book, re-printing the Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn Issues #1-5 from 2010, is exactly the kind of story I love.

I’ll put aside Frank Cho’s brilliant art for a second and get into the story.

Jeph Loeb is one of comic book writing’s greats for a reason.  His storytelling is superb in that it is succinct enough for the comic medium yet comprehensive in its bringing in several major players and turning points in only five chapters.  Each issue/chapter is told both from a third person narrative and an internal monologue from a different key player–each of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Valkyrie, Loki and Thor.  Sometimes the stories run parallel with each other, and in other parts they require the reader to follow the two stories separately.  I rarely like switching narrators in any type of book as it usually feels like a gimmick.  In comic books, if done right, it can allow you to dig into a few characters more deeply than a third person voice by itself.

Jeph Loeb clearly poured a lot of himself into this story.  Loeb follows the thoughts of Tony Stark as he beats up himself for surviving a battle with cancer, while a kid he met named Sam did not survive.  Sam, of course, is a reference to Loeb’s own son who had died earlier of cancer, and was the subject of a popular memorial book by several DC Comics creators.  The fact that Loeb would pour such a personal story into the opening page of this book grabs the reader’s attention instantly.  Suddenly we see Loeb as Stark, and it somehow allows us to understand the darkness behind Stark’s personality.  As Stark is chatting with Hawkeye, a group of the New Defenders appear for a brawl.  Captain America shows up with two great characters, Zarda, who Hawkeye believes to be crazy yet is a goddess in her own right, and Valkyrie, who we later learn is a typical girl next door that ends up coerced into a life of a would-be superhero.

This humorous assemblage of repeating/mirror panels is reminiscent of Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows work.

Valkyrie is central to this story, as Thor’s lover, she cannot get over losing him.   He resides in Asgard, his exiled destination for sacrificing everything–including his life–in a prior battle.  We meet yp with Thor in Asgard, trying to persuade Hela to let him return.  She agrees, but for a great price that he pays–without much coercion–and with a result that will likely be played out in later series.

For Frank Cho fans, this world includes Shanna of the jungle and Ka-Zar, their twin tigers, and Black Panther.  They are first to confront the series’ villain, Loki, and another enchantress named Amora, with a flying dragon/dinosaur beastie invading Manhattan.  As much as readers will be blown away by Cho’s pantheon of women heroes like only he draws them, including Ms. Marvel’s Carol Danvers, Valkyrie, Zarda, Amora, the enchantress, and Shanna, his male superheroes are superb, too, and Iron Man and Captain America in particular have rarely been rendered artistically any better.  Also look for cameos by the Black Knight and Power Man.

Beautiful original art page by Frank Cho.

We encounter a brooding Captain America, who inadvertently pushes Valkyrie and Zarda into the manipulative trance of Amora (Zarda is a ringer for Cho’s Brandy and Amora for Cho’s Jen, both from his Liberty Meadows series).  Rounding out a triumvirate of super-powered women under the control of Loki and Amora, Carol Danvers, now director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  is pulled in to devastate the few heroes that remain: Iron Man, Captain America, and Hawkeye.  Readers are treated to several poster-worthy splash pages from Cho.  And hints abound in the series as well as in-jokes.  Cho’s use of eyes and expressions tell stories themselves that, in retrospect, were giveaways easily passed over on a first read.  Cho’s in-jokes are peppered throughout the book, in wall paintings and coffee house menus, in backgrounds other artists would have left as filler space.

Throughout this tale we follow the tragic story of the rise of Valkyrie, actually the human Barbara Norriss, whose entire life–as she sees it–is a lie.  The theme “be careful what you wish for” is repeated throughout Loeb’s story.  Valkyrie’s story is emotion-filled and poignant.  If you are looking for a great story along the lines of Wagner’s Ring fantasy, this story would fit right in.

Loeb sums up the ruthless Loki very well as Loki compares his and brother Thor’s story to Cain and Abel, and Esau and Jacob, “Unlike those brothers, however, I don’t want to actually KILL Thor.  I just want to @#$% with him.”  Consistent with the Norse god stories, and Loki in the Marvel Universe, this reveals a lot about his motivations and the pages that follow.  The final chapter, shown in part through Thor’s voice, wraps the story arc up nicely.

For some reason to me this image seems very similar to portraits of Batgirl done by Adam Hughes.

Back to Cho’s art–although we almost take for granted Cho’s pin-up worthy splash pages, his action scenes stand up to anyone else’s in their own right.  His women in battle have some similarities to Adam Hughes 1940s style women-focused cover work (like his current Batgirl covers) that I have not recognized before.  The numerous characters go through several emotions, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, and his eyes and mouths, wrinkles, frown lines, etc. convey much–he really makes it all look so easy.  One final note:  A few of these covers were mentioned earlier here in our review of the best covers of Frank Cho.

The appendix includes a great color and black and white gatefold of alternate covers and a sketchbook of Frank Cho pencil work from this series.  Overall you’ll be hard pressed to find a more interesting adventure story coupled with stellar artwork than Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn.