Tag Archive: Captain Marvel


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you remember last year’s Captain Marvel (the movie, not the character in Shazam!), you’ll be familiar with the pilot Carol Danvers (known as the most powerful Avenger) and her cat named Goose (movie) or Chewie (comics), who is actually a Flerken (an alien with tentacles and a pocket dimension in her mouth).  IDW Publishing is re-printing a Marvel Comics series from last year that may be the most fun of all the Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel stories, the all-ages series Marvel Action: Captain Marvel Now you can get the first three issues in the compilation trade paperback, Marvel Action: Captain Marvel–Cosmic CAT-tastrophe, a blast of a story packed with more than one cosmic cat.  Lots more.

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Free comics comixology

While you are sitting at your computer at home pretending to be paying attention to conference calls, you need something to do for your sanity, right?  How about comics?  The best thing you can do is order from the hundreds of graphic novels at your local comic book store.  Many will be willing to send you overnight or within a few days anything you’re after, especially if you’re behind on the latest and greatest comics have to offer.  Your own comic book shop stands ready to take your order now.  And local shops may be able to get you comics often quicker than online retailers right now.

With most single issues of new titles on delay for now, you can still get your single-issue comic fix via free comics at the Digital Comic Museum, which hosts hundreds of full Golden Age public domain comics, including many featuring superheroes (like the original Captain Marvel, Bulletman, Captain Midnight, and Spy Smasher, plus Westerns (like Gene Autry and Tom Mix), war comics, sports comics (like Jackie Robinson), jungle comics, sci-fi comics (like Captain Video), romance comics, and crime series.  Comixology also has hundreds of comics you, your kids, or your cat can read right now for free.  It’s a great way to get wind of a great story you may have missed or never considered, which you can then order in its complete series from local or online stores  Note: Comixology also has an unlimited program (currently priced at $5.99 per month) with more than 25,000 digital comics, graphic novels, and manga from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and more.  Those carry the white “Unlimited” ribbon in the bottom right corner of the comic cover icon.

The current list of totally free comics on the Comixology website (just set up a free account), is easy to use, and updates regularly with new titles.   We’ve identified many we’ve recommended before at borg for you to check out (click the Comics & Books tab above anytime to find nearly a decade of recommendations).  These include: Usagi Yojimbo, Stranger Things, Hellboy, Predator/Aliens: Fire and Stone, Centipede, Xena: Warrior Princess, Charlie’s Angels vs. The Bionic Woman, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and Star Trek: The Next Generation–Mirror Broken Thinking about watching TV or movie tie-ins?  Check out the free issues from the original comics at Comixology for The Umbrella Academy, I, Frankenstein, and Captain Marvel.  You can even read the first Batman appearance ever in Detective Comics, Issue #27, or see early Superman in Superman, Issue #1, and the original issue from the 1970s of Swamp Thing, Issue #1.

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When we created last year’s preview of 2019 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and homed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our annual picks in our Best Movies of 2019.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this month for our print media picks, and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2019 here.  Wait no further, here are our movie picks for 2019:

Best Film, Best Superhero Movie, Best Re-Imagining on Film Shazam! (Warner Bros.).  Movies are supposed to be a wonder, right?  What brought the magic of the movies back to theaters more than Shazam?  Why did DC take so long to adapt a superhero to the scene perfectly?  Who cares–they finally did it.  Faithful to the character from the #1 selling superhero book of the 1940s, this was the superhero movie many of us have been waiting for for the past 50 years (or more).  Full of superhero fun, one of the best training montages ever, Zachary Levi’s boyish hero was perfectly matched to Jack Dylan Grazer’s take on best pal Freddy.  It’s also the only superhero movie we can think of that got better as it went along, culminating in a fantastic, satisfying third act and finale.  This is what we want more of.  And it was the first DC superhero movie of the millennium that could be watched and enjoyed by the entire family.  Honorable mention: Glass (Universal), Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony Pictures).

Best Fantasy Movie, Best Adventure Movie, Best Comedy MovieJumanji: The Next Level (Columbia Pictures).  The only issue with this film was that its status as a sequel will prompt some to not recognize it for the gigantic success it truly is.  With adventure scenes bigger and better than anything in the entire Indiana Jones franchise, two movies in and director Jake Kasdan proved a sequel can actually be as good as the original.  The four stars didn’t miss a beat, swapping roles and adding new laughs, and the new characters inside and outside the game were perfectly spliced in to tell a new tale.  The bridge crossing scene is now the adventure film scene to beat.  An epic fantasy that’s loads of fun.  Honorable mention for Best Fantasy Movie: Shazam! (Disney/Marvel), Captain Marvel (Disney/Marvel).

Best Movie Borg, Best Borg Film – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Carl, Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount Pictures).  It would have been almost impossible for James Cameron and director Tim Miller not to get this right, a new thread through time reuniting Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor and a new T-800 with Arnold back with another take on his greatest borg of all time.  New characters and new effects kept the franchise from getting boring, but this was more than just getting by, a big sci-fi spectacle with great cyborg battles, and easily the best cyborg fix this year.

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It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  This year we selected 26 characters that rose to the top.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  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.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

Several characters who made previous years’ kick-ass heroine lists returned to TV and film and could very well make the list again, but we’re looking for new recruits.  So we’re not forgetting Lagertha in Vikings, Liv Moore from iZombie, Trish Walker in Jessica Jones, and Juliana Crain from The Man in the High Castle, all in their final seasons of their series, plus Eleven in Stranger Things, Juliet Higgins in Magnum PI, Liz Dudley in Lodge 49, the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who, Betty Cooper from Riverdale, and Sabrina Spellman and Ms. Wardwell from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  At the movies Valkyrie, The Wasp, and Okoye were back, this time in Avengers: Endgame, Martha/Ruby Roundhouse returned in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Rey was back one more time in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  This year we add a mystic, a former Russian operative, a DHS agent, an adventurer, an undercover cop, a bounty hunter, a general, a gang leader, superheroes, martial arts masters, special agents, survivors, former soldiers, resistance fighters, gelflings, warriors, witches, a bride, an emperor (not empress!), and even a cyborg–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters.

Credit goes to both the writers and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2019:

Aughra (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance).  If there was a greater woman character in the history of fantasy film, we don’t know who that would be.  We first met her 37 years ago thanks to Jim Henson in the original movie, and she hardly changed at all for the prequel series that arrived at last this year.  Voice actor Donna Kimball and Muppeteer extraordinaire Kevin Clash perfectly replicated the witchy sorceress whose wisdom, savvy, and mystic powers were stealthily used this season.  She went to death and back again, and was key to defeat the Skekses once again. (Henson/Netflix)

Black Widow (Avengers: Endgame).  After a decade of being the only superheroine in the Avengers, Scarlet Johannson’s Natasha Romanoff finally took center stage this year as the bravest of the entire bunch, giving her life to save not only everyone on Earth, but everyone across the universe destroyed by Thanos.  And yet she still didn’t get the fanfare that Tony Stark did.  We’re hoping she gets the solo film she deserves when she’s back one more time next year in her own movie. (Disney/Marvel)

Hattie Shaw (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw).  As part of a big bad assassin family, whose mother was played by Helen Mirren and brother by Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby’s Hattie might be the toughest of them all.  If you need to track down a missing deadly virus in the hands of a cybernetically enhanced superhuman, who else are you going to call to team up with Statham and The Rock?  (Universal)

Agent M (Men in Black: International).  Valkyrie Tessa Thompson is back on the list again, this time as the first movie lead Woman in Black, earning her nebulizer with the help of her Thor-world partner Chris Hemsworth.  As a little girl, Molly witnessed an alien as her parents were zapped by Men in Black, and she worked her entire life to be able to get into the CIA or FBI, hoping one would be the entry point into the secret organization.  Agents O and High T would recognize her value to the team, as she saved the planet from the latest menace. (Columbia/Sony)

Cyclone Mei (The Legend of the Condor Heroes).  Even as an evil witch, Viola Mi’s master of the Nine Yin White Bone Claw and Heart Destroying Palm techniques became a sympathetic villain after her husband died at the hands of young Guo Jing and she became blind.  Even blind she used internal techniques to defeat anyone she perceived as a threat.  Master of the whip with fearsome claws, beautiful and fierce Mei Chaofeng once joined her husband as the “Twin Masters of the Dark Winds” to possess a forbidden manual of martial arts, and would leave mountains of bodies in their wake as they sank deeper into the dark teachings.  (iQIYI)

Sarah Connor (Terminator: Dark Fate).  We were excited when we heard Linda Hamilton would return to the franchise 27 years after she had a major transformation from waitress into the woman who would save 3 billion lives.  One of Sci-Fi’s two best-known kick-ass heroines (along with Ellen Ripley), original terminator target Sarah Connor lost none of that drive and determination to continue to kill Terminators into the 21st century.  As a grandma surrogate and mentor to the next generation of leadership, we’ve no doubt the future is safe again.  (Paramount/20th Century Fox)

Special Agent Dinah Madani (Marvel’s The Punisher).  For the entire second season, Amber Rose Revah’s DHS agent was hot on the trail of taking down Billy Russo’s villain Jigsaw.  Who knew she’d need to get through his psychiatrist first.  She was always tough and good at her job, but proved herself in the final two episodes of the series.  (Netflix)

Leia Organa (Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker).  Princess or General, Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa was one of the 1970s brand of kick-ass heroines, although we still wish she’d had the opportunity to show her stuff just as Rey was able to in the third trilogy movies.  We prefer seeing her as she continued after the original trilogy in Timothy Zahn’s novels, the Dark Empire comics, and the 20 years of the Expanded Universe stories, where we saw her realize power as great as Luke and the rest of the Jedi Order.  (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Captain Marvel (Captain Marvel/Avengers: Endgame).  Brie Larson’s take on Captain Marvel was an end-to-end story about being tough and taking charge.  An entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that didn’t fit the mold of past films, it allowed audiences to meet her for the first time and ramp up our appreciation for all she could do in short order.  Soon enough she’d be integral to relocating Thanos after The Snap, and she’d return one more time in the final battle to try to turn the universe back to the way it was.  (Disney/Marvel)

Cara Dune (The Mandalorian).  A master of hand-to-hand combat as well as crack sharp-shooter, the latest Star Wars heroine (played by Gina Carano) helped the Mandalorian take down an AT-ST in their first go. Once a shock trooper with the Rebel Alliance and a fighter after the Battle of Endor, Cara is just the help the Mandalorian and The Child need going forward in the series.  (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Sue Lynn Blackbird (Stumptown).  Always the smartest person in the room, and ten steps ahead of everyone else, Tantoo Cardinal’s Sue Lynn runs the local Tribal Casino, but she does much more.  She’s a businesswoman who always negotiates from the power position.  Her leadership role means she has the power to excommunicate anyone who isn’t acting in the best interests of the tribe–or give them another chance.  She’s also tough enough to forgive and mentor younger walking disasters she encounters from time to time. (ABC)

Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Star Trek: Discovery). We’ve always loved Michelle Yeoh, but the series writers for her latest character held back in the first season of the series. At last viewers got the full monte when the mirror version of the series lead character’s captain returned not only to help her, but to eliminate any who got in her way, and proceed to take over the secret spy agency of the prime world timeline. Up there with Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond, “Mirror Georgiou” is one of the new breed of badass Star Trek character.

Christine Gavin (Wu Assassins).  Vikings star Katheryn Winnick makes her second showing on the list, this time as San Francisco undercover police officer Christine Gavin.  Expecting to find the ringleader of a major crime syndicate, she began her work gaining the trust of a man in a local chop shop, only to discover a larger world existed beyond the world we see every day.  Possessing some major martial arts skills and a street fighting manner, she didn’t lose a fight all season long, and helped battle evil in both dimensions.  (Netflix)

Grace (Terminator: Dark Fate).  Sent from the future to save a young woman who has the potential to go forward and lead a rebellion against a new technological apocalypse, Mackenzie Davis’s Grace stepped up to fight a new brand of Terminator.  A human that volunteered to undergo enhancements to make herself into a full-fledged cyborg, she would fulfill her mission, giving the ultimate sacrifice for the future of humanity. (Paramount/20th Century Fox)

Huang Rong (The Legend of the Condor Heroes).  Quick thinking with a photographic memory, Yitong Ling’s Rong’er met her future husband on one of her outings in beggar garb disguised as a man, practicing her skills as a thief and 13th century grifter.  Young and easy to underestimate, with the witty banter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and an almost supernatural ability to coerce anyone to do her bidding, her charismatic traits were only matched by her mastery of enough schools of martial arts to prevent anyone from learning who taught her.  Raised on Peach Blossom Island by her father, she learned how to confuse an enemy, and is able to convince Hong Qigong to teach her even more, all in exchange for her cooking–hey, you can be a badass and also a master chef.  (iQIYI)

Maudra Fara (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance). Refusing to recognize Seladon’s claim to the position of All-Maudra, she’d challenge her for the Living CrownFara assumed the title of Maudra after Vala, her mother, had been killed during the First Battle of Stone-in-the-Wood, and she would prove to be the fiercest of all the Gelflings, male or female.  Who wouldn’t follow her into harm’s way?  Alice Dinnean was the puppeteer behind the scenes, with Lena Headey supplying her voice.  (Henson/Netflix)

Grace (Ready Or Not).  Samara Weaving’s character Grace made for the perfect bride on her wedding day… who married into a family of psychopaths that required she first beat them in a wedding night game of hide and seek–to the death.  A horror movie that was also a suspense thriller, Ready Or Not ran circles around the similar Knives Out from an entertainment and excitement standpoint.  Grace had to shoot though her in-laws and extended family to survive the night, somehow finding the mettle to defend herself when the unthinkable became the thinkable–and for audiences it was so much fun!  (Mythology/Vinson)

Vedek Kira Nerys (Deep Space Nine: What We Left Behind).  In this year’s Deep Space Nine documentary, the creators of the series returned to give viewers a glimpse at what Season 8 would have looked like had they been able to continue, complete with Kira as Vedek, in charge of the space station and taking her seven year character arc into new places.  It’s the same grit Nana Visitor gave to her performance, and the spirit of the original shown through as she joins with her former Starfleet colleagues at the show’s cliffhanger.

Agent Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge (Whiskey Cavalier).  Lauren Cohan’s Frankie had it all, and unfortunately for fans the show was canceled after only one season.  But what a season!  This agent was every bit 100% James Bond but she also used her looks and smarts to double as “Bond girl” when the mission called for it.  In hand-to-hand combat or with a weapon, whatever bad guys the writers threw at her, nobody could get past her for long. (ABC)

Zan Hui (Wu Assassins).  Cold and near emotionless, Hong Kong movie star JuJu Chan’s Zan was ruthless as henchwoman to the leader of the Triads.  But she was also ambitious, and at her first opportunity she didn’t hesitate to act.  Incredibly skilled in kung fu and street fighting as well as weaponry, she didn’t need the supernatural skills of the other characters to make an impact.  (Netflix)

Two (6 Underground).  Melanie Laurent’s Camille was ready to join One and his secret force of ghosts, undoing some of the damage she’d done while CIA operative.  Quiet and saying little most of the time, she reveals to the squad’s hitman she knows all she needs to navigate international politics.  Take down a government led by a murderous villain and replace him with someone better?  Count her in.  (Netflix)

Gunnhild (Vikings).  An entire series could be written around Ragga Ragnars’ strong and proud warrior.  As shield-maiden, she doesn’t hesitate to lead the fight with her sword onto the battlefield.  Also kind and humble, she also doesn’t hesitate to make sure her niece and nephew are protected when she has a dream that they are in danger.  As Queen of Kattigat she proves she’s the right person at the right time in history.  (History)

Dex Parios (Stumptown).  Taking a character from the comic books to the screen, Cobie Smulders made ex-Marine Dex her own.  Her P.I. is a walking disaster, always “this close” to succeeding, and always trying to claw her way back from the last worst decision she could have made.  Somehow she is able to look after her brother.  She makes Jessica Jones look like a lightweight, always her own worst enemy.  But if she keeps fighting back in this city, she may just make it after all. (ABC)

Amelia Wren (The Aeronauts).  Nobody else on the list had to climb to the top of a balloon in freezing cold temperatures with frostbitten, unusable fingers at a height of more than 30,000 feet.  And Felicity Jones’s Amelia Wren was based on a real person.  Does it get more badass than that?  That she was a composite character doesn’t matter–she’ll make audiences breathless as she performs one death-defying feat after another in her two-hour flight. (Netflix)

Bell Mallory (The Man in the High Castle).  In the series’ alternate histore, while the Eastern United States was still being fought over by the Nazis and a small band of resistance fighters, Frances Turner’s Bell Mallory rescued San Francisco and led a revolt that removed Japanese occupation from the entire west coast.  Undercover op?  Whatever it takes.  A strategist and brains behind taking out a slew of leaders, she knew who to trust and who not to, and her decisions helped put the U.S. back into American control. (Amazon Studios)

Deet (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance).  The nicest gelfling of the Grottan clan you could ever meet, she befriends plant and animal alike.  Once she experiences a vision by touching Vliste-Staba, the Sanctuary Tree located in the Mountains of Grot, the nature loving soul joins the resistance.  And when the Skekses are ready to destroy Thra, she is the only one who can muster the power to stop them.  An unlikely hero, we don’t yet know the extent of the price she paid for restoring the balance of Thra.  Performers Beccy Henderson and Nathalie Emmanuel couldn’t have created a better heroine.  (Netflix)

And that’s this year’s list.  Keep coming back the remainder of this month as we reveal the rest of our Best in Film, Best in TV, and Best in Print, and our borg Hall of Fame inductees for 2019.

Want to see previous years’ kickass genre heroines?  Here are 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

Review by C.J. Bunce

DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers began to take a shift in their superhero movie franchise with last year’s more adventurous Aquaman.  With Shazam! the studios proved that a movie based on DC Comics characters could be every bit as good as the source material, and more satisfying than their past big budget efforts.  True to the spirit of the characters and the story going back to the original Captain Marvel that was so successful in the 1940s, director David F. Sandberg found the sweet spot with Shazam!  Just as seen on the big screen, now on home video Shazam! balances good fun with the requirements of demanding modern audiences.  With the heart of the 1978 Superman and the Tom Hanks hit movie Big, the movie is the best of what DC has to offer in live action entertainment (check out my review of the film earlier at borg here).  Worthy of the film itself, the new home release offers a trove of special features.

The film’s first strength is screenwriter Henry Gayden′s lighthearted story.  It’s all about heart and family bonds, but it also has its action, and even for its comparatively modest $100 million budget, the movie relied extensively on practical effects for its key action sequences.  All of the scenes with Shazam, his extended family, and the villain Dr. Sivana featured a mix of actors and stunt professionals, with far less reliance on the CGI in so many recent DC and Marvel films.  So many of these scenes are showcased in the features that it’s apparent the 1,000 effects filmed for the third act in the final 12 weeks of shooting required something like the strength of Shazam to accomplish.  As director Sandberg remarks in the bonus features, the production had very little slippage in their timetable.  And the success can be seen in the final edit.

Some of the best content on the home release examines how the lead actors filmed their aerial scenes.  Comic fans and fans of stars Zachary Levi and Mark Strong will appreciate their knowledge of the history of the characters they played.  Levi initially submitted screen tests to play a grown-up version of Billy Batson’s foster brother Freddie, and it was apparent immediately to Sandberg he needed to take the lead role.  Strong, who already played a great Sinestro in the less well-received Green Lantern movie, continued to add to the wealth of powerful live-action supervillains, bringing gravitas to the production, reflected in the final cut of the film.  His acting prowess while being transported as if soaring across the sky with cables in front of a green screen (instead of rendering him entirely in CGI) reflects a versatile, impressive thespian who can do his craft in whatever environment is thrown at him.  But fans of the film will find more than 37 minutes of deleted scenes really make the home version a must-watch.

So what all is in the home release?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This month, a new book examining what makes a great character also takes an in-depth look at Hollywood and film from the silent picture era to today.  It’s Turner Classic Movies/TCM′s latest book on film, Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History I previously reviewed film historian Sloan De Forest′s Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World here at borg, a fun read and a fun list that is more a celebration of pop culture than film school companion.  De Forest seems to have far more passion for her next subject, selecting a masterful list of 50 women worth reading about–and worth seeing their films.  She also connects the dots between actors, their characters, and their personal lives in a way you’ve probably not seen before.  In one word, Dynamic Dames is brilliant.

Everyone reading anyone else’s list of 50 people of any pursuit will have quibbles along the way, but De Forest shows an impressive knowledge of film and delivers.  Not only a selection of 50 worthy actors–she doesn’t select the roles most movie critics flock to and rave about–she also finds those finer, more nuanced performances where these Dynamic Dames probably should have scored their Oscars.  She also divides the book into eight sections and finds perfect examples that exemplify each section, from Pre-Code Bad Girls, to Big Bad Mamas, Women of Mystery, and Strong Survivors.  A category not possible until more recently, Superheroines, rounds out the list, and although the performances have not had much of a chance to steep from a historical standpoint, De Forest provides solid rationale for them all.

Authors of a book like this typically will reserve a small percentage of the list for modern readers to have something to be attracted to, but that’s not the case here.  De Forest actually embraces recent films, pulling in more than 20 percent of her list from characters appearing in 21st century films.  Most of her rationale for each of these more recent actors and corresponding characters justifies their inclusion, comparable in performance, significance, and influence, to the film greats any movie buff would expect to find on this list.  She also ties in some of cinema’s–and literature’s–best women writers; it should be no surprise that many of these outstanding characters in film over the course of 92 years resulted from great women writers of the 19th and 20th century, including Charlotte Brontë, Agatha Christie, and J.K Rowling.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After 21 movies and a decade of superheroics, the end arrived this weekend with Marvel StudiosAvengers: Endgame, already setting new box office records.  Nearly every seat at multiple screenings at my local theater was sold out this weekend, as was the case across the country.  Which means many have seen it, but even more haven’t. You can’t review a film without some details, so if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor: bookmark this and come back later.  The short version: If you’re a superhero fan and you’ve followed the previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you won’t want to miss it.  But re-watch both Avengers: Infinity War and Captain Marvel first.  I’ve no idea how anyone will follow the events in the film without first seeing at least these two films.  Endgame is a good wrap-up to the first major story arc in the franchise and a fine segue into the future of the films.  But it’s not perfect (what ever is?) and I’m going to walk through some goods and bads from the film.

That means “there be spoilers ahead” so consider yourself forewarned if you continue.

Note to email subscribers: Clicking on the link will take you into the full review.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Alita: Battle Angela could be just another space-age story.  It’s full of cyborgs (we love’ em), but it’s not standard fare for frequent sci-fi movie buffs and sci-fi readers.  Without the “distraction” of Robert Rodriguez’s special effects, you can really get to the heart of the movie’s story by going to the underlying source work it adapts, or in this case, its novelization, Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization, by author Pat Cadigan, who also wrote last year’s Harley Quinn–Mad Love, reviewed here at borg.  The film is an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel: Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a story about self-discovery and empowerment via a centuries-old human brain that finds its way into the cybernetic body of what looks like a teen girl.  The film changes enough from the manga, incorporating several new characters and conflicts, that the novelization and film stand apart from Kishiro’s manga.  So how does the new story fare?

Above all, the biggest surprise is that Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization is in every way a young adult novel, based on its protagonist, story structure, and the author’s writing style.  In fact the film may have missed a niche audience–as the studio targeted adult sci-fi buffs instead of fans of stories like the Divergent series, Twilight, The Maze Runner series, City of Ember, and Ender‘s GameEven more on-point, Alita: Battle Angel follows the same emotional highs and lows of The Hunger Games.  Both The Hunger Games and Alita: Battle Angel are teen heroine updates to both Rollerball (1975) and The Running Man (1987), but like some of the best science fiction they are also remakes of the oldest of them all, Frankenstein, and its descendant PinocchioBlend these four popular stories together and you can understand why James Cameron prepared 600 pages of development material for the Alita project he would ultimately produce into the film.

Pat Cadigan′s storytelling is a mirror of the writing style and pacing of The Hunger Games’ novel writer, Suzanne Collins.  In a significant way, Alita: Battle Angel is a teen romance, a romance between Alita–an amnesiac cyborg who is primarily robotic but has a human brain–and her newfound human boyfriend Hugo.  Hugo is a street kid who helps her learn who she wants to be and how to survive on the streets of a futuristic Earth where everyone who isn’t a cyborg is mugging cyborgs to steal their parts and swap them for cash.  As with Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, Alita and Hugo fall in love as they help each other and work together when faced with an onslaught of ever-increasing impediments to their survival.  And yes, this is another superheroine with a problem like the heroine in the new Captain Marvel movie.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Make no mistake, Billy Batson aka Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel (aka Shazam since 2012) has always been the most difficult to fold into the DC pantheon of superheroes.  With Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman–the trinity at the top of DC Comics for so long–audiences always know much of what those characters are going to bring to a story even before they walk into the theater.  To be fair, Billy wasn’t a DC original, shuffled much later into the DC universe because of some decades-long legal tedium.  Billy Batson is a kid who suddenly becomes a superhero, so the trailers have been compared to Penny Marshall’s Big, another story about a kid suddenly dealing with being grown-up.  And that is, indeed, part of Shazam!  The movie is also part origin story, because although Shazam! adheres to Billy’s origin story going back to the 1940s (just as Captain America: The First Avenger adhered to its source material), much of the audience that saw the character in his heyday–when he was even more popular and well-known than Superman–aren’t around to make up the target moviegoing audience.  But Big and an origin story is just the beginning.

You know it when you watch a movie unfold and realize something great is happening.  DC Entertainment–the movie guys–finally paid attention to DC Comics–the actual writers and artists who built the character from the ground up–and at last delivered what this comic book reader has always wanted.  Shazam!, the story, Zachary Levi‘s superhero, and a new young actor named Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s friend Freddy–are fantastic.  The magic, wonder, and heart of DC Comics is finally back in the theaters.  It’s a gamechanger for the DC universe, because it finally steps away from Zack Snyder’s dark and brooding Justice League and returns it to the roots of DC Comics and DC At the Movies that we first got a taste of with Christopher Reeve’s first Superman and Michael Keaton’s first Batman.  So if the executives at DC are paying attention, and audiences agree once the film hits general release April 5, this could be an opportunity for a switch-up–an excuse to build a new Marvel-level superhero film universe around the new, amazingly fun and appealing superhero characters in this film.

At its core, the story by new screenwriter Henry Gayden updating a script by Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer, Goosebumps) is about a foster family and the importance of family, so don’t think this is another frivolous superhero movie to be easily dismissed.  As with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it’s loaded with emotional beats, and it’s all heart.  What do kids care about, and what are they afraid of?  The film takes some time to look seriously at these things.  It’s not only laugh-out-loud funny in spots, expect some snorts, too.  But look for some emotional pangs along the way, on par with an oft-forgotten superhero movie that may have more heart than any other, the 1980 John Ritter sleeper (and one of my favorites) Hero At Large.  Which makes Shazam! also a movie for fans who count Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Incredibles among their most favorite superhero movies.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new edition of a book about the popularity of Fawcett Comics‘ original Captain Marvel, the world’s mightiest mortal–the superhero renamed Shazam and featured in a new movie this month starring Zachary Levi–will be the perfect trip through time for fans who have enjoyed the character in his many stories going back to his debut in 1939.  My personal favorite Captain Marvel stories can be found in the original Whiz Comics (all in the public domain and available to read online now here) and as drawn by Alex Ross in his landmark graphic novel with Mark Waid, Kingdom Come.  For the first time in a softcover edition, Chip Kidd’s Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal has been reprinted by Abrams ComicArts just in time for the release of the film, Shazam!

For those not in-the-know, this is the Captain Marvel who now goes by Shazam (the word that causes him to bring forth his powers)–the one owned by DC Comics today, and not the one owned by Marvel Comics and also in theaters now in the movie Captain Marvel (reviewed here at borg).  Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal is a historical work, and it doesn’t hesitate to use the name he’s always been known as by his fans.  As told by writer Chip Kidd, the Captain Marvel fan club had 400,000 people in it in its best year in the 1940s, and Fawcett projected 40 million followers of the character in books and film.  Captain Marvel books sold 1.3 million copies per month, not a common feat even today.  Does anything approach that kind of fan club status today?  At the height of the character it was more popular than Superman and Batman, and so of course the character had hundreds of tie-in products.

Readers will marvel over a reprint of the entire story from Captain Marvel Adventures, Issue #1–created by two then unknowns: Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, and reprints of several colorful covers from Whiz Comics, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel Comics, WOW Comics, Master Comics, America’s Greatest Comics, Spy Smasher, and even Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny, plus pages of scans of original comic pages from ex-Fawcett staff.

The book uses photographs from a collection of some of the scarcest superhero collectibles known, including images of books, toys, and paper ephemera for Captain Marvel and the entire Marvel Family–superhero kids like Billy Batson–the boy who turns into Captain Marvel–and his friends who use the Shazam powers but remain as kids.

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