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Tag Archive: Marvel Comics


The perfect killing machine is forging her way ahead to lead the next series in the vein of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye and Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow for Marvel Comics.  It’s Laura Kinney aka X-23, the clone of Logan’s Wolverine, who takes center stage in a stylish and smartly written series, wrapping the final part of a five-part story arc last month and featuring a single-story issue this Wednesday.  In the monthly series X-23 (the sixth X-23 solo title series), writer Mariko Tamaki creates a worthy follow-on to future X-Men stories like those found in the Old Man Logan.  The series takes familiar mutant powers and mythology into surprising and exciting directions in a personal character study of young X-Women dealing with life as cloned mutants.

The story begins with a partnership forged in past series.  X-23 is joined by her lab-created “sister” Gabby, aka Honey Badger, who was previously created as a clone of Laura.  Gabby is the chatty younger sister of the duo, full of pep, a little less precise in her fighting skills than the more battle hardened X-23 (think Buffy Summers’ sister Dawn or Green Arrow’s former sidekick Mia).  Gabby is also more inclined to try to find commonality between the Wolverine clone club and the series’ other clone family, the Stepford Cuckoos.  The “Cuckoos” are the five clones of Emma Frost, who only recently have lost two of their sisters, who died in stories previous to this series.  If you can put aside the cringeworthy alter ego name of the Frost clones (the Cuckoos have been around since 2001 and are a Grant Morrison creation), as realized here the characters are new and fresh, and the story is an intriguing future-world update to the Xavier School situational stories found in the pages of Wolverine and The X-Men.

Tamaki (Hunt for Wolverine, Hulk) partnered with artist Juann Cabal and colorist Nolan Woodard on the first story arc.  As X-23 pursues a missing scientist at the behest of Hank “Beast” McCoy, the remaining Emma Frost clones, referred to as the Three-in-One, are plotting to return to their family of five sisters.  But one of the sisters has other ideas, determined to kidnap and transform Gabby in the process.  The result is a solid X-Men series mutant fans should take note of.  Take a look at some pages from the series and several variant covers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a movie that had some pretty rough previews, including Tom Hardy as a journalist with some indecipherable dialogue and a scientist who mispronounced a key word in the story, the end result may come as a surprise: Venom is actually a pretty good movie.  Do we credit a great post-production and re-shoots, including a complete redo of the strange “symbiote” explanatory scene, or does Sony need to simply work on improving its movie trailers?  Frankly all that matters is what made it to the screen.  Fans of the comic book anti-hero and villain, of alien invasion movies, of that unique character design from co-creator artist Todd McFarlane, of Tom Hardy, and non-traditional superhero movies, you’ll have to work to find anything wrong with this movie.  It’s a good Halloween month monster movie and you don’t need to know anything about the character or Marvel Comics to jump right in.  But you just might want to check out the comics after you see it.  Like Frank Miller caused Daredevil to become popular, McFarlane made Venom big in the 1980s.  Unlike McFarlane’s movie Spawn, an R-rated film that was too dark for mainstream audiences, the PG-13 rating for Venom makes this movie accessible to everyone.

A mix of the classic alien invasion flick, the horrifying McFarlane character look, with the grimy city vibe like the Detroit of Robocop, Venom has elements that make it feel like it belongs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, regardless of its origin as a Sony film.  As for quality and delivery, it falls somewhere above Blade, Iron Man 2 and 3, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk movies, and Spawn, X-Men 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse, and somewhere below Hellboy and Deadpool.  For most fans of adaptations of comic books on the big screen, that will be enough.  Full of good humor moments, the film doesn’t take itself seriously.  We meet the archetype from 80 years of superhero comics with Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, an Everyman, a down-and-out guy who can never get a break who gets caught making a few mistakes.  Usually this archetype ends up captured by Batman (or insert other superhero here) and thrown into the slammer, but this time he encounters a body shifting alien presence that merges with him, blending the best and worst of both beings.  Beginning with a crash landing as a SpaceX-inspired ship returns with some specimens from outer space, we eventually meet four alien beings, the lowliest of rank who calls himself Venom.  Merged with Eddie, Venom needs to eat living lifeforms to continue on and he doesn’t grasp the subtleties of only killing bad guys just yet.  Audiences will get to watch these aliens, the symbiotes, body-shift through several random characters (like Denzel Washington’s character in the movie Fallen), including the key cast and an animal or two–and it’s mostly great fun.

Venom is probably a rare time audiences will see Michelle Williams in a stock role.  Usually every part she takes on results in an Oscar-worthy performance, but it’s nice seeing her do something less dramatic.  And she gets some great scenes directly with Venom (including an Easter Egg scene that points straight back to the origin of the character originally discussed between Marvel Comics editor Jim Salicrup and writer/co-creator David Michelinie).  This may be Tom Hardy’s best role since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (where he was the only good thing in the movie), as he at last gets to play a spectrum of emotions and demonstrate a broad acting range.  Despite what we heard in the movie trailers, his regional American accent is spot on in the final cut and his dialogue is delivered clearly–none of that crazy speech we saw him bring as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises Not hiding behind make-up or masks as in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk, or Star Trek: Nemesis, Hardy again proves he’s one of the best actors around.  The sound department gets it just right–Hardy’s voice is also the voice transformed into the monstrous, demonic sounding Venom, and it’s unique and effective.  No doubt some elaborate work went on behind the scenes for Hardy-as-Eddie to be arguing with Hardy-as-Venom.  Some of the best lines, and laugh-out-loud moments come from Venom, reminiscent of Gollum and Sméagol.

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That Miller and Lord cut of Solo you were hoping for?  You already saw it.

I was always sold on his father, Lawrence Kasdan for writing The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and writing and directing Silverado (and his superb work on non-blockbuster films like Continental Divide and Mumford), but Jonathan Kasdan (who co-wrote the screenplay to Solo: A Star Wars Story with his father) has filled in the remaining gap in what is probably the year’s best home video special features package.  That would be the extra features that accompany the home release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, available now.  The included features have key deleted scenes, most of which would have served the movie well were they included in the theatrical release (like Han’s fall from the Imperial Navy), and the least of which is plain fun that every Star Wars fan should love (like a snowball fight between Han and Chewbacca)–eight deleted scenes in all.  The home release also contains insightful featurettes that demonstrate the love for the saga and the vision, skill, and craftmanship that came together to create the film.  But it’s missing an audio commentary.  More on that in a minute.

Director Ron Howard, production designer Neil Lamont, special creature effects designer Neal Scanlan, director of photography Bradford Young, and the Kasdans, along with other members of the crew, provide fantastic insight into the influences and experience of creating the movie.  The best features include Team Chewie, with interviews and footage of Joonas Suotamo in and out of costume, and Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso, where we see the historical art influence on the Sabacc card game scene, and Solo: The Director and Cast Roundtable, a a refreshing and eye-opening look at how Howard and the key actors came together.  Also included are short featurettes Kasdan on Kasdan, Remaking the Millennium Falcon, Escape From Corellia, The Train Heist, Becoming a Droid: L3-37, and Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel RunAcross all these, keep an eye out for Tim Nielsen, supervising sound editor and sound designer for Skywalker Sound, whose creativity is the kind of effort that caused Ben Burtt to get the Oscar for his work on the original Star Wars.  Watch these features and see why Nielsen and his team should be in the running for Oscar for his work on Solo: A Star Wars Story this year.

Director Ron Howard on the Millennium Falcon set of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Director Ron Howard, who replaced Christopher Miller and Phil Lord late in production of the film, bent over backwards to treat the departure of the two prior directors with grace and respect, which means he hasn’t discussed much detail about his work on the film.  We never thought we’d learn “who contributed what” to the film, but that is where Kasdan’s notes come into play.  Released in advance of the home video release this past week, they shed some light on what went on behind the scenes, what could easily be Kasdan’s personal, unrecorded, audio commentary notes–had Lucasfilm included one in the features.  From a certain point of view, the inclusion of so many scenes developed by the initial director duo reflect the theme of the saga: Miller and Lord–seemingly two rebels against Lucasfilm/Disney who had a vision for Star Wars and for whatever reason were sidelined–were able to have much of their vision survive in the final cut of the film.  Howard’s role seems to have been both Fixer and Closer, in addition to giving his personal touch to certain scenes, something addressed well in the features.  Kasdan’s notes (not included with the home release but reproduced below) are the ultimate backstage pass into all the creative minds behind what must have been a difficult film to make (Star Wars plus Star Wars fandom sometimes reflects the Dark Side of the movies all too well).

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It must be going forward if 20th Century Fox releases an actual trailer for the movie, right?  After the last contract is inked it may very well be that only thirteen “X-Men movies” were ever made, before Disney steps in and recombines the Marvel X-Men adaptations into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.  For those of us that loved the X-Men movies, this is the winding down of a great era of movies, highlighted by the casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, and Ian McKellen as Magneto.  Who will ever forget one of the finest adaptations to film of any superhero from any comic book as Evan Peters became Quicksilver, defending his fellow mutants in the Pentagon?  And the high point of any superhero movie (from Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or anyone else) must be the Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for Logan this year.  Like the competing films in the Avengers films, there were as many high as low points, but some greatness happened throughout X-Men, X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

Only two more films were in the works when negotiations for control of 20th Century Fox’s film group got closer to a deal this year: Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants.  We previewed The New Mutants trailer way back last October here at borg, announcing an expected release date in April 2018, which came and went (the release date currently reflects a long overdue August 2019 premiere in theaters).  At last, 20th Century Fox has released a trailer for Dark Phoenix.

Dark Phoenix represents one of X-Men fans’ favorite classic X-Men stories.  We have already seen one take on the Dark Phoenix story, as Famke Janssen’s Jane Grey destroyed everyone she cares about in X-Men: The Last Stand, but after the timeline manipulation in X-Men Days of Future Past we learned again the lesson of the Terminator movies: The future’s not set–There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.  

Along with the new official poster, check out this first trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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In addition to Doctor Who’s new “woman who fell from the sky,” there’s another new heroine arriving soon the same way…

Not many pop culture events topped Infinity War discussions in 2018.  It’s probably more fun to talk about the end of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War with passing fans than regular comic book readers.  “Wait–where did everyone go?” and “Are they coming back?”  Before we learn the answers to those questions, recall that, for those who stayed after the credits (and we know many of you walked out before that, despite the warnings, you know who you are), Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury sent a last-minute pager message to someone with a strange new symbol, right before he disappeared into dust.  That was the symbol we see for the next new character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the next movie in the franchise, Captain Marvel.  (For the passing fan, that’s the Marvel Comics Captain Marvel, played in the new movie by 2015 best actress Oscar winner Brie Larson, not the DC Comics Captain Marvel played by Zachary Levi in the new Shazam movie).

Wait, why does Alison Brie look so different here?  No, that’s Alison Brie from Community and GLOW, not Brie Larson, who was in an episode of Community, but you probably saw her in Kong: Skull Island or 21 Jump Street, or lots of other things.  Keep up!

A big roster of acting talent will appear in this movie–Jackson joins Brie, with the return of Lee Pace as Ronan, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, and Djimon Hounsou as Korath, with Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Talos, Gemma Chan (Humans) as Minn-Erva, and we get to see a bit of everyone’s second favorite British actor, Jude Law (Gattaca, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows) as Mar-Vell.

Marvel released the first trailer for Captain Marvel today–Check it out:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As we wait for December’s release of the prequel Transformers story Bumblebee coming to life in theaters, the largest and most comprehensive reference guide to the classic toys, comic strips, and comic books of the Transformers franchise is on its way.  Transform and Roll Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Transformers Franchise (1984-1992) takes the deepest dive yet offered into the early days of the favorite toys and comics of a generation.  Meticulously compiled by Ryan Frost, the book will take you back like never before as he dissects each story with summaries and cross-references.  The result is a massive 820-page historical document that Transformers fans will return to again and again.

Divided into large sections on the toys, the comics, and the cartoon series, the book breaks down the toys by their release and characters, and the comics chronologically based on release.  The greatest effort is in the third section, where the author provides production information and describes plot points of the animated series, identifying characters, creators, writers, and voice actors, and he even pulls key quotes from the episodes.  Did you know the popular tie-in novelist and comic book writer Donald F. Glut wrote for the animated series?  The original actor for Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes BackClive Revill–provided voices on the series.  Frost even attempts to locate the early story’s likely location for Mount St. Hillary, Oregon.

Frost recounts how Hasbro tapped then-Marvel Comics staff editor Denny O’Neil to be the next Larry Hama–the renowned writer he took the G.I. Joe toy line from toy to comic book form.  Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter didn’t like O’Neil’s story treatment so staff writer Bud Budiansky stepped in, ultimately naming most of the characters and assigning them their memorable personalities, powers, and abilities.  Budiansky would edit the series, with well-known writers taking on the stories, including Ben Mentlo, Ralph Macchio, and Jim Salicrup.  Other creators would add to the series, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Golden, Herb Trimpe, Mark Texeira, Charles Vess, Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan, and Mike Zeck.

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If you’re curious why a recent news story surfaced about Marvel Comics seeking to get John Byrne to return for some new projects, you need only turn to a new retrospective book arriving at comic book shops today to see why Marvel wants him back.  It’s yet another in IDW Publishing’s award-winning series of “Artifact Editions”–giant-sized 12″x17″ books printed at the same dimensions as original comic book art pages, with quality scanned reprints that appear nearly identical to the originals.  Today’s release features the art of John Byrne, focusing on his classic X-Men pages.

John Byrne’s X-Men Artifact Edition includes reprints of 169 pages of Byrne art in all–a rare opportunity to view images where the original set of these pages would fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.  Beginning with X-Men Issue #108 in December 1977, Byrne, along with long-time creative partner Chris Claremont, would gain popularity for their story arcs “Proteus,” “Dark Phoenix Saga,” and “Days of Future Past.”  According to Byrne, “Even after all these years, it’s the X-Men work I did with Chris and Terry (Austin) that still resonates the most with fans.  Hopefully when you all see the pages in this format you’ll still feel the same way!”  So what’s inside?  A few pages each from X-Men Issues #108-143 (except no pages were included for Issue #117).  No full issues, but you’ll find 11 Byrne covers (for Issues #114, 116, 127, 129, 133, 134, 136, 138, 139, 140, and an unpublished cover to #142), 148 interior pages, 23 splash pages (including Wolverine, Phoenix, Spider-Man, and full teams), 8 pages from the first appearance of Alpha Flight in Issues #120 and 121, 10 pages from Issue #137, “The Death of Jean Grey,” 15 pages from the Issue #141 and 142 story, “Days of Future Past.”  All-in that’s 35 original pages to marvel at from the “Dark Phoenix Saga” alone.  Plus 10 bonus art pages, including original Marvel corner box art.  The original covers to #114, 133, and 136 are pages you’re going to look at again and again.

Byrne stopped creating for Marvel in 2000 after a falling-out with editor Joe Quesada.  Byrne has continued with other publishers and personal projects since his Marvel days, going on to being named to the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2015.  Byrne co-created some major characters for Marvel, including the Scott Lang Ant-Man, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Sabretooth, and Shadow King.

Take a look at this preview from today’s release, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new PlayStation 4/Insomniac action-adventure game arrives September 7 and it’s anticipated to be one of the best superhero games yet (check out a preview for the game below).  Leading up to the launch of the game Marvel’s Spider-Man is a new prequel novel to be published in two weeks by Titan Books as part of its rollout of Marvel paperback novels (see our previous reviews in the series of Avengers: Civil War here and Deadpool: Paws here).  Author David Liss has put together a densely packed story finding Spider-Man confronting Wilson “Kingpin of Crime” Fisk seven years after he first tried to put the mobster in jail and eight years after Peter first donned his supersuit.  Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover pits Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man up against more than Fisk–with criminals old and new taking a crack at Spidey in the hefty paperback’s 398 pages.

Liss focuses on Peter Parker adjusting to life after high school and college, after his Daily Bugle photographer days and years of taking on supervillains, in the workforce as a scientist–yet the angsty Parker is still the same everyguy struggling to balance listening to the needs of girlfriend Mary Jane, keeping his difficult supervisor at work happy, remembering his breakfast meet-ups with Aunt May (did someone say wheatcakes?), and saving the people of New York.  Yep, he still mostly falls short.  Although Fisk is the Big Bad in this tale, others are lurking, like Mayor Norman Osborn, Scorpion, Shocker, Tombstone, Electro, the most vile J. Jonah Jameson yet, and Martin Li (aka Mr. Negative).  But Spidey’s strangest riddle involves new threats, including a masked deaf woman who calls herself Echo, with mad martial arts skills and a hidden past, and a Spider-Man doppelganger called Blood-Spider, an imbalanced foe who thinks he’s the real Spider-Man (unfortunately for Spidey, he has the moves and webs to prove it).

Peter grows farther apart from Mary Jane when she lands a job at the Bugle, and he meets a new co-worker intern named Anika (who may be a bit of a stalker).  And he’s losing his other best friend and confidante as Harry Osborn takes off for a trip overseas.  A contact with the D.A.’s office and a driven Misty Knight-inspired member of the police force (Captain Yuri Watanabe) could be his way to more information.  But something is just not right everywhere Peter turns, and no facet of his life is getting better.  Liss weaves all these characters together for Peter to sleuth his way to the surface.  He will lose plenty.  What more is he willing to lose to finally put Fisk behind bars?

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Today writer Dan Slott and artist Sara Pichelli are bringing back the title Fantastic Four to Marvel Comics with a re-launch beginning with part one of a new Issue #1 story, “Fourever,” arriving at comic book stores today.  Marvel Comics sidelined the team of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm since the end of its Secret Wars series.  Now fans of the team and “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” will find out what they’ve been doing since then.  We’ve gathered the dozens of cover options available for this issue, shown below.

As Marvel states in its marketing materials for the new series:

A void no other team can fill.  And it’s time for the world to move on.  But can it?  A life-changing decision by the Thing!  A momentous declaration by the Human Torch!  A clarion call-to-arms that summons Doctor Doom!  And a signal in the sky that heralds the return of hope to the Marvel Universe!  All this, and Alicia Masters adopts kittens!  So cute!  Plus, the Impossible Man!

Marvel has amped up its cover artists yet again for the variant covers for this latest of several recent renumberings of main titles.   So you’ll find covers from Alex Ross, Artgerm, Art Adams, Adam Hughes, Steve Epting, Sara Pichelli, Esad Ribic, George Perez, Mark Brooks, Skottie Young, Simone Bianchi, Joe Quesada, Eric Powell, Humberto Ramos, Nick Bradshaw, Mike Wieringo, Jack Kirby, John Cassaday, Emanuela Lupacchino, Walt Simonson, Rob Liefeld, Jen Bartel, Will Sliney, Mike Mayhew, Bill Sienkiewicz, and many more–more than 55 including virgin art and blank covers, most new, some pulled from archives of artists of the past, plus some homages to comic book covers from the past.

  

Bonus stories will be included in the issue by Simone Bianchi and Skottie Young.  New Fantastic Four pins and backerboards will also available at some comic book stores today.

Take a look at all these covers we spotted:

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Synthesizing and consolidating 30 years of X-Men lore, writer/artist Ed Piskor surprised everyone last year with his first issue of a groundbreaking new series X-Men: Grand Design With a retro look only he–or several of the best classic artists of the past coming together–could create, Piskor brought to a new generation of comic book readers a way to catch up on a lifetime of Marvel Comics.  All in a single mini-series.  It’s all coming together in six issues.  The first two issues, discussed here at borg.com and available in a new trade compilation at Amazon here, were successful sell-throughs, immediately going to second printing.  The middle chapter (Issues #3 and #4) subtitled Second Genesis begins tomorrow with Issue #3.  Take a look below at some preview pages from tomorrow’s issue.

The series is printed on a classic newsprint type of paper stock with unique inks and trademark white inks that really pop on the page.  What Piskor has called a love letter to the medium of comics as much as a love letter to decades of X-Men comics, the series was inspired by several artists, including the obvious ones:, Robert Crumb and Jack Kirby, but also Jim Steranko, John Byrne, Alan Silvestri, Jim Lee, Katushiro Otomo, and Moebius.  When you flip through one of these issues it brings back sitting on the curb reading when you were a kid.

Elite Comics will have plenty of these available tomorrow in case you forgot to add them to your pull list.  If your nearby comic book shop doesn’t have it you may have a long wait, as the trade X-Men: Grand Design–Second Genesis Treasury Edition isn’t coming until October.

Here’s the preview:

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