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Tag Archive: Kevin Smith


Absolute Green Arrow cover art

Review by C.J. Bunce

Oliver Queen was dead, to begin with.

The average superhero fan today probably wouldn’t know Oliver Queen today but for three events: (1) the modernization of the character by writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams in the 1970s, (2) his update to urban longbow hunter by writer/artist Mike Grell in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and (3) the literal resurrection of Oliver Queen in the early 2000s by the partnership of writer Kevin Smith, penciller Phil Hester and inker Ande Parks.  No TV series would have arrived without the survival of the character thanks to these stories–reprinted and available in a deluxe hardcover for the O’Neil/Adams stories here, and in paperback reprinted only recently for Mike Grell’s stories here, here, and here.  In light of Green Arrow/Arrow’s popularity today being greater than ever before in his 73 year history, it’s only fitting that DC Comics is releasing the third great chapter in the character’s history with Absolute Green Arrow this month.

Absolute Green Arrow, available here from Amazon.com, reprints Issues #1-15 of Green Arrow, Volume 3, in a matte black with gloss hardcover with slipcase  in a sharp, over-sized, 9.6 inch X 15 inch format.  It includes all of Matt Wagner’s stylish painted covers, previously released introduction by Smith and afterword by Hester, and original artwork in an appendix by Hester.  If you ever wonder how much work the inker must conquer, just take a look at Hester’s pencil work and you’ll have a great appreciation for Parks’ inks.

Green Arrow Hester Smith Parks original Batman art

Hester and Parks did shading and shadows like nobody else. Original art seen in full color as published in Absolute Green Arrow.

The first ten chapters form the “Quiver” story arc, and the last five the “Sounds of Violence” arc.  This is the entire run of Kevin Smith’s stories for Green Arrow.  Phil Hester took over writing and artistic duties for the next several issues with even better stories than found in these early chapters.  But these Smith stories present a Green Arrow in a way a bit like Frank Miller played with Batman’s mythology in The Dark Knight Returns.  Smith’s Green Arrow is not as innovative as the seminal Miller work, but it’s plenty fun, and each new chapter feels like Smith saw this opportunity to play with DC Universe characters like a kid in a toy store.  You’ll encounter the Justice League, memorable encounters with Aquaman and Hawkman, and even a quirky adventure featuring Stanley and his Monster.  Former sidekicks Roy Harper and Connor Hawke are here, too, but most importantly Oliver Queen rebuilds his relationship with long-time love interest Dinah Lance aka Black Canary.  Difficult to come back from after being presumed dead.

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Six Million Dollar Man Season Six trade paperback

Following on the heels of the exciting espionage and intrigue-filled series The Bionic Man, this year’s The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six unfortunately didn’t pack the same punch needed to continue the series beyond its first six issues.  It begs the question of whether five seasons really was enough, or whether it’s just too difficult to grab a modern audience with the story of a cybernetic human from the 1970s and 1980s when technology has moved so far past that era.

The reboot via Dynamite Comics’ license for Steve Austin began with a script by Kevin Smith that was then taken over by Phil Hester and wrapped with Aaron Gillespie.  Their series retold Steve Austin’s story of a test pilot crashing and being saved from death via cybernetics in the modern day.  It was a great read that blended the best of the TV series with technology of today.  The mistake may have been discontinuing that series for a reboot aimed to leverage the current marketing hook that worked so well for other TV series continuing in comic book form, the best being Dark Horse Comics’ multi-season Buffy the Vampire Slayer Seasons Eight through Ten, and IDW Publishing’s The X-Files Season Ten.

SMDM6 interior A   SMDM6 interior B

Why weren’t readers pulled in for the Bionic retro-fix?  The fact the story was necessarily planted in the past?  The lack of photo-real interior artwork?  With a new Bionic Man movie in the works with Mark Wahlberg, it may be the next time we see a Steve Austin comic book series is an adaptation of that movie.

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Green Arrow issue 100 cover   Green Arrow 101 cover

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

It’s a line by Alexander Pope in his 1709 poem, and Oliver Queen played out the saying fully in Arrow’s mid-season finale.  Unwisely confronting the League of Assassin’s far more powerful Ra’s Al Ghul and covering for sister Thea by posing as the killer of Sara Lance, Oliver met his end.  “Where Angels Fear to Tread” is also the title of the story arc that took the original run of DC Comics’s Green Arrow one hundred issues to get to–the original fall of the Emerald Archer.  In the mid-season TV finale it was literally a fall–off a cliff after a pretty undeniable death via Ra’s Al Ghul’s sword.

But we all know that the death of a superhero is short-lived 99 percent of the time.  In Issue #101 of DC Comics’ long-running Green Arrow monthly series Ollie met an untimely death in an exploding airplane, and yet the series continued for 36 more issues–without Oliver Queen.  Series star Stephen Amell may have given a clue to a similar direction for the return of the series in January via a Facebook post after the show:

“Despite the title, our show is bigger than any one character.  We’re going to prove that to you.”

Death of Green Arrow

The original, explosive death of Oliver Queen.

So we may see a period during the last half of Season 3 without Ollie.  But a note to the show writers: just don’t take it too far.

It feels like the series has barely begun and the writers have taken the big leap.  Where can we go from here?  Taking a superhero book forward without the title superhero in the 1990s comic book series was a risk, and split those fans who were loyal to the classic Green Arrow and those willing to accept a second Green Arrow–Connor Hawke, Oliver Queen’s son, as a new Green Arrow.  Three years was a surprisingly long run without Ollie, but ultimately the series was cancelled.  Oliver was to be resurrected years later by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks in a second successful Green Arrow series.

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Six Million Dollar Man Season Six cover 1

The new Dynamite Comics series that is intended to take over where season five of The Six Million Dollar Man TV series left off hits comic book stores next Wednesday.  We’ve previewed the book and are eager to see how the story develops over the coming year.  Written by James Kuhoric with art by Juan Antonio Ramirez, The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six wastes no time before featuring Maskatron–a great retro idea–in its first story arc with Issue #1.

The best feature of Issue #1 is undeniably the cover by Alex Ross, which is just beautiful.  Ramirez’s interior pages feature well done composition and backgrounds, outer space imagery and technology.  His character faces, however, could be improved with more detail so readers can follow who’s who.  Since this is supposed to be a continuation of the series featuring Lee Majors, it’d be great to see Lee Majors come through in the visuals.  It’s only Issue #1 so we’ll wait to see what future issues have in store for us.

Ramirez interior art Six Million Dollar Man Season Six issue 1

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Miss Fury Dynamite Comics

We tried on for size almost every new book that was released from comic book publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Archaia/BOOM!, and Image.  We tried to sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics had to offer, too, and although we didn’t have enough time to review everything we did try to put out there for your consideration those titles we thought our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro bent.  Our pull list included issues from Afterlife with Archie to Django Unchained, from Liberator to Larfleezeand from Velvet to The X-Files.  This past month we have reviewed the year-long run of the best of these titles, as we narrowed our selections to 21 of the very best entries in genre entertainment outside of TV and movies, which we revealed here yesterday.  So here are the rest of our picks for the Best of 2013.

Kane Starkiller borg by Mike Mayhew

Best Borg Appearance — Kane Starkiller, The Star Wars.  Borgs showed up everywhere this year, from the lead characters on Almost Human, to Doctor Who, to countless comic book series including Justice League and RoboCop.  Our favorite appearance came from the young mind of George Lucas as he created the original script that would later be edited into the original Star Wars trilogy.  And through Dark Horse Comics’ The Star Wars monthly comic book event we learned one of his best ideas was merged into other roles and one of his best characters entirely cut.   That character was Jedi Kane Starkiller, who would reveal his cyborg chest implants that kept him alive, later to heroically give up this life-saving technology to save his friends.

MissFury001-Cov-Renaud

Best Comic Book Series — Miss Fury, Dynamite Comics.  A uniquely crafted tale, a compelling and seductive superhero, great action panel after panel, sourced in a long-shelved classic character of the Golden Age of comics.  Rob Williams and Jack Herbert’s Miss Fury is a carefully rendered update that rings true to the edgy spirit of the world’s first female superhero.  Beautiful panels set up an ever-changing time and place and pull readers along for the ride.  And stuck-out-of-time Marla Drake and her alter ego Miss Fury could not have looked better, whether carving out her place in the 1940s or as she was teleported into the future.  It’s a series no one should miss.

Clint Barton Hawkeye by Fraction

Best Comic Book Writing – Matt Fraction, Hawkeye.  Last year revealed one of the best comic book series we ever read, focusing on that “other” superhero archer, the second tier Marvel Comics superhero Hawkeye.  Matt Fraction gave us the most interesting set-up and look into the daily life of a superhero who isn’t Captain America or Iron Man.  This year he kept up the momentum in his Hawkeye monthly series, providing stories that challenged readers, each issue taking a different peek into Clint Barton, another costumed superhero called Hawkeye, and their trusty dog.

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Veronica Mars movie

borg.com readers may remember Veronica Mars as one of our favorite characters of all time.  In its three seasons Veronica Mars became one of the best series on TV.  As borg.com writer Elizabeth C. Bunce wrote, “Complex, smart, independent, and vulnerable–with a kickass cool job–characters don’t come much better than Veronica Mars.”  More than 2 million viewers tuned in each week for its first two seasons on UPN and its last season on the CW Network between 2004 and 2007.  Yesterday the biggest Kickstarter campaign ever resulted in an amazingly fast accumulation of donations–more than $2 million in 11 hours–enough to green light the Veronica Mars big-screen movie, now scheduled to film this summer for an early 2014 release.

Series creator Rob Thomas launched the project.  Series star Kristen Bell has signed on as has Veronica’s dad Keith, played by Enrico Colantoni, and Veronica’s pals Logan (Jason Dohring), Wallace (Percy Daggs III), Weevil (Francis Capra), Mac (Tina Majorino), Dick (Ryan Hansen) and Piz (Chris Lowell), according to the Kickstarter website.  Unlikely to return, unless they come back in flashbacks or as ghosts, are the ill-fated Les Miserables star Amanda Seyfried as Lilly, CW Network’s Cult star Alona Tal as Meg, Jaime Ray Newman as Mindy O’Dell, or Ed Begley, Jr. as Principal O’Dell.  But why not bring back Dallas star Julie Gonzalo as Parker, New Girl star Max Greenfield as Leo, Teddy Dunn as Duncan, The Anchorman’s Paul Rudd as Desmond Fellows, Unstoppable’s Jessy Schram as Hannah, Just Shoot Me’s Laura San Giacomo as Keith’s girlfriend Harmony, Spin City’s Paula Marshall as Keith’s other girlfriend Rebecca, The Following’s Aaron Ashmore as Troy, or even Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Charisma Carpenter as Dick’s stepmom or Alyson Hannigan as Trina, or director Joss Whedon as the car rental guy or even Clerks’ Kevin Smith as the creepy convenience store clerk?

Veronica Mars movie project on Kickstarter Continue reading

By C.J. Bunce

As much as I want to jump ahead and discuss the current story of The Bionic Man in Issue #12, which features a character we all have wanted to see since the series started, let’s catch up with the first compilation of Dynamite Comics’ adaptation of the original Six Million Dollar Man that started last year.  The Bionic Man Volume 1: Some Assembly Required collects the first ten issues of The Bionic Man.  These ten issues were billed as “Kevin Smith’s” Bionic Man as the origin story was adapted into an unused screenplay by Smith, then writer Phil Hester re-wrote it, blocking it into chapter/issues, then Smith ran a dialogue pass and Jonathan Lau made it all look good with the visuals.  After Issue #10, the real excitement begins as Hester takes Steve Austin into new, and sometimes nostalgic, directions.  The ongoing series is currently at Issue #12, and we will discuss Hester’s Bionic Man here at borg.com soon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Micro: A Novel is a solid footnote to the successful writing career of Michael Crichton.  It doesn’t approach Jurassic Park in terms of character and intrigue, but it would fairly line up alongside the likes of Terminal Man, The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, and Congo.  Crichton had completed only about one-third of the book when he died in 2008.  Richard Preston, author of fiction and the non-fiction work The Hot Zone, picked up the reins to complete the book, finally published in November 2011.

I am always incredibly curious to read a book featuring co-authors or a work finished or packaged posthumously.  Louis L’Amour died in 1988 and for years it seemed like his estate kept churning out books as if he were still writing.  In the first issues of Kevin Smith’s The Bionic Man, I was very interested in how much content came from Smith and how much from co-author Phil Hester.  With this final Crichton work, I initially spent more time thinking about structure and technique more than getting engrossed in the book, asking myself “Is this Crichton, or the imposter?”  This was true for me for the first third of the book.  At some point, however, I jumped in fully and went along for a fairly thrilling ride.  And if Crichton didn’t write it all, then Richard Preston was able to fake it very well.

The biggest hurdle in embracing Micro was the struggle for the reader’s suspension of disbelief.  In Jurassic Park, Crichton made readers believe that you could take dried mosquito blood from ancient amber, mix it with frog DNA and grow your own dinosaurs.  It was explained so simply so as to be believable without question, despite how impossible it would be to replicate in the real world.  It was harder for me to grasp the concept of taking humans and shrinking them to a half an inch tall.  Micro explains the science perhaps too briefly, taking from some apparently real-life experiment showing that magnetic fields acting on an object could shrink the object’s size.  Extrapolating that to organic beings of any size or complexity on any scale or scope that matters seems plainly absurd to me.  This despite the fact that “I want to believe” and am an open-minded science fiction reader, and despite any number of past suggestions in science fiction going back to The Incredible Shrinking Man, which might prime the open mind for such a possibility.  Didn’t The Fly teach us there were too many variables to consider to be able to make an experiment like this work?  It is that type of question, and the philosophy behind Crichton’s techno-thrillers, that are often as intriguing as the works themselves.

In Micro when a scientist criticizes another for being a vegetarian—he is written off with the pointed question, “how do you not know plants have feelings, too?”  Basically, end of story, vegetarians are illogical.  In the preface, quoting statements made by Crichton tied to this novel, Crichton seems critical of global warming theory.  We know from Jurassic Park that he embraced chaos theory and the science of complex systems.  We know from his work Prey that Crichton jabbed at believers of global warming, or at least those purporting to understand the puts and takes of global warming.  Here in Micro he implies that, because there are too many variables we can never understand nature.  Yet at the same time he tries to get readers to understand nature, and through his characters he suggests that if you do study nature you can use it to your advantage, to even save your life in the most crazy, unlikely, and perilous circumstances possible.  I am sure if you could only interview Crichton today he may be able to iron out this apparent ambiguity.  In the end, I think you can enjoy Micro as a thrill ride, but as an attempt at anything more serious, the piece doesn’t stand up.  If he believed that we can never fully understand nature, why spend any time researching nature, or why care about the characters in this book who do?

Like Crichton’s sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World, where Crichton seemed to switch from hard science in a way similar to Tom Clancy’s delving into every nuance behind the military-industrial complex (similarly, both sometimes ad nauseum), to a more instantly cinematic form of storytelling.  Micro, too, seems to be written directly for ready-made actors to jump into their roles for the impending Hollywood release.  Its ending is better than several of Crichton’s early works, where Crichton never seemed to know when to stop the story, or like Sphere, the story dazzled at first then drifted to boredom at the end.  Here the ending is full of catastrophe and skin-of-your-teeth, nick-of-time wrap-ups.  It all works as the stuff of a thin-science, romping summer blockbuster.  And it may work for readers who don’t ask too many questions.  Such as:

  • Can you safely carry people around in a plastic baggy?
  • Can you envision a vehicle that you can fit into your pocket?
  • Could you fly a plane that was an inch long across the entire island of Oahu and arrive at any intended destination, no matter how many times you tried?
  • Would the sheer terror of encountering bugs that were bigger than you not induce a heart attack or even slightly put you off kilter so as to not allow you to tap your immense knowledge of the science of beetles to think about ways to assemble poisons to be able to successfully eliminate the creature?
  • If your co-worker was held underground by a wasp as a prisoner, to be the wasp’s offspring’s lunch, would any human in any context feel sympathy for the offspring who was to be deprived of his lunch if your rescue succeeds? (As noble and naturalistic a thought this may be, I think terror would win out in any event).
  • At what percent of normal function could you function if your arm, as an example, was injected by a giant insect with its larvae, using you as a host?  Could you then fly a plane that you’d never seen before, or would you just freak out and cower in the corner, or beg your friend to cut off your arm?

The best part of all Crichton novels is the creation of a small think tank of a half dozen experts of distinct disciplines pulled together seemingly to research some project, only to realize their real purpose is to solve a difficult problem under unthinkable conditions.  Crichton creates these mini-universities where ideas can be shared, theories argued and defended.  The human condition—personalities, foibles, belief systems, behavior–always gets in the way, but never to the detriment of the entire operation.  Here we have seven graduate students, anxious to get their own deals post-grad with private industry.  Then Vin Drake, president of tech corporation Nanigen, comes along to recruit.  One of the students, Peter Jansen, has a brother Eric who already works there.  They all fly to the headquarters on the island of Oahu.  First Eric turns up dead, and in attempting a quickly and poorly thought plan to get an admission from the killer, the seven are sucked into the microverse and left to die in the woods.

Meanwhile enter a local detective, Police Lieutenant Dan Watanabe (my favorite character in the book), who is part Officer Gunderson from Fargo and part Marshal Gerard from The Fugitive, but would have been nicely played on the big screen by Jack Soo (Barney Miller), Kam Fong (Hawaii 5-0), or Kwan Hi Lim (Magnum, PI).  He’s getting misinformation about a group of bizarre deaths, and they all have one company in common.  The story works back and forth among Watanabe (just not enough for my taste), the seven students, and the villain of the story and his minions.  The ride has its moments.

To my surprise, what also becomes most “real” in the novel is what made Jurassic Park real for me—the shock and horror.  To this day the most vivid scene for me from any Crichton novel is when a character is hiding in Jurassic Park in some inner hallway in the dark after all the dinosaurs have escaped their pens.  Something moves past him and he doesn’t feel much or know what happened, until he reaches down to feel his intestines are in his hands, quickly and seemlessly slashed by some plotting raptor. Several of these gut-churning scenes abound in Micro, all involving the fleshy, oogy, gory, grizzly, and grotesque that would likely occur when encountering bugs head-on when they out-size you.  If anything, the encounters as concepts are predictable—get out a sheet of paper and write out every worst-case encounter you would have as an insect—as prey—and you will see each of those scenarios revealed as happening to one of the characters somewhere before the final page.  Horrific to be sure, but it’s that kind of thrill that makes you soar to the end to find out what happens to everyone.

The result is a book worthy of Crichton’s catalog, and an interesting last entry for those that have gobbled up everything else he had to offer.  Available everywhere books are sold.

   

Review by C.J. Bunce

Spoilers!

Steve Austin is dead.  At least that is how the secret military organization called O.S.I. has classified him at the beginning of Issue #3 of Kevin Smith and Phil Hester’s Bionic Man series.  In actuality his right arm and both legs are gone, lost because of the crash of his test jet the Daedalus in Issues #1 and #2.

Austin feels like anyone immediately after a crash this bad, he screams at friend Oscar Goldman and his personal physician Doctor Wells, “Why didn’t you let me die?”

Despite working on the secret military project involving advanced bionics that resulted in the creation of a Frankensteinesque cyborg from a man named Hull, it doesn’t occur to Goldman that the government may have a spare $6 million per day to try to build another cybernetic human.  His director at O.S.I. tells him it’s a done deal, Goldman just need to get Austin on-board.  He’s classified as dead right now, but “we can rebuild him.”

Meanwhile Hull is rampaging across Korea, hell bent to destroy anything in his path, on his way to take out O.S.I. for creating him, or at least failing to re-create him right.  For now, despite the coaxing, Austin isn’t playing along.  But the ramifications are distilled into the one key reason to hold on for Steve, the thought of being with his fiancee Jaime Sommers again.

Smith and Hester continue to pepper the Bionic Man’s creation story with nostalgia and clever updates, such as the obvious problem with a 1975 bionic man that made sense at six million dollars, but with inflation today he’s costing the military $6 million per day.  Alex Ross’s cover work continues to be impressive for Issue #3 and Jonathan Lau’s depiction of the battle scarred, destroyed test pilot is realistic and gritty.

But the real payoff comes with Issue #4, the part of the story everyone has been waiting for, the climax of the TV pilot for the original series, and what would become one of the best classic introductions for a TV series of all time.

To begin with, Alex Ross’s cover is one of his best-ever covers, and Lau’s tryptich incentive cover is also top-notch.

And Issue #4 begins with one of the coolest ideas so far, a bionic German Shepherd–rebuilt from a heroic police dog nearly killed in the line of duty.  And he’s as normal as any dog, lifting his leg on Steve’s bed.  The dog is meant to help convince Austin to go through with the surgery to add bionic devices to his own, to create another cyborg.

The remainder of the issue is a scene by scene account of why we loved the Bionic Man in the 1970s and why we love him today.  What must have been a dream job for any artist is undertaken nicely by Jonathan Lau.  There’s not a lot for Smith and Hester by way of writing duties, however, in this issue as the classic story takes over.  Lau doesn’t miss the opportunity to keep Austin’s first test run in his trademark red track suit, instead of trying something new.

And Austin gets to learn the “why” of all this attention and investment of millions of dollars.  The tradeoff is he must come to work for O.S.I., to go after bad guys.  And with a virtually unnoticeable new body in place, Austin happily agrees.

What more could anyone want?

Review by C.J. Bunce (with spoilers)

Kevin Smith and Phil Hester’s second issue of the new Bionic Man comic offers some great exchanges between characters, particularly between Oscar Goldman and a lead of the O.S.I. branch responsible for the bionics division named Margaret.  Margaret must select a second candidate for the bionic program as the prototype has gone all “Frankenstein’s monster” and ripped up a few special strike force SEAL teams.  The bionic prototype, called Hull, has created its own goons and they are not just killing their creators, they are eating them.  It’s a strange turn of events for this story, yet it seems to be a good segue into the types of stories from the original Six Million Dollar Man TV series a lot of us loved 35 years ago.

And artist Jonathan Lau’s depiction of this Margaret character would be nicely portrayed on-screen by TV series Psych‘s chief Karen Vick, played by actress Kirsten Nelson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Everwood).

Time to cast Bionic Man for a new series or movie?

For some unreal circumstances the character exchanges are believable, and whereas the first issue seemed to spend too much time on more clichéd exchanges, the dialogue seems to have kicked in.  The O.S.I. team needs a new bionic man to take out the first creation that has failed so miserably and the board room exchange is full of politics and posturing.  We want to like this Oscar Goldman fellow, and the set-up allows us to want to support this guy’s efforts.

It is the background story that takes charge in Issue #2, primarily because our series lead has crashed his experimental aircraft at the end of Issue #1, with the fallout spilling into Issue #2.  Goldman only late in his discussions learns his friend Steve Austin is barely alive, and jaws of life can’t get him out of his smashed plane.  Goldman doesn’t ask anyone for permission, he gets his crew to start working straight away to use the resources available–the best resources anywhere–to save Steve.

In the first 48 pages we haven’t moved toward Austin’s reactions to the bionics, so it will be interesting to follow the pacing of the Bionic Man series.

Alex Ross continues to provide superb cover art, as does Lau with alternate covers.  From time to time you buy a book with a Ross cover and you’re disappointed with the interior art.  Not so with this issue and Lau’s good images.

Here is Lau’s alternate cover to Issue #2 featuring the mangled and menacing bionic villain Hull: