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Tag Archive: Marvel Comics


Review by C.J. Bunce

Marvel has diversified its creations on film and television so much that anyone can find a series or film that grabs them and surprises them with action, drama, strong characters, superheroics and great storytelling.  It’s going to be a subjective call for anyone, but the depth of every storytelling component in two seasons of Marvel’s Luke Cage makes it our nomination for the best superhero series yet.  With all that a comic book fan could want (except maybe supersuits), Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage, now on Netflix, rises to the occasion again.  The writers, actors, and other creators of Luke, his partners, and the crimelords of Harlem, could hold their own against any of the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  A “best of” list of the villains of Marvel adaptations will no doubt have Loki and Killmonger from the movies fighting for top spots, but it also must now have Season One’s Cottonmouth Stokes, and this season’s trifecta of villains:  Bushmaster McIver, Shades Alvarez, and Mariah Stokes.

We compared Season One–which was borg.com’s Best TV Superhero Series of 2016 along with Cage actor Mike Colter and Misty Knight actor Simone Missick taking top acting kudos for the year–to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and again, Season Two is worthy of that comparison.  All the key social and cultural issues affecting every-day people inside or outside New York City neighborhoods, from the 1960s and today, work their way into the storytelling of the series.  The season kept its fresh approach with a new director at the helm of nearly every episode, while maintaining its focus thanks to Cheo Hodari Coker penning the overall story and leading the series as showrunner.  The show’s style is unique.  Even more than in Season One, nearly each episode featured the setting of the nightclub Harlem’s Paradise with an incredible performer on-stage with a relevant song to the episode.  Where a modern take on 20th century Speakeasy-inspired jazz and blues was the background for Season One, music derived from the roots of hip-hop and the heritage of key show characters in Jamaica defines the style this time.  This was topped off in the last episode with a song performed by Rakim that echoed Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s 1970s retro-funk series theme.

Family roots and legacies left behind top the season’s themes.  Along with the drama, the superheroics were present in Cage’s Power Man persona and new villain Bushmaster’s exquisitely choreographed battle scenes.  Charismatic actor Mustafa Shakir, who isn’t Jamaican, is perfectly convincing with the accent as Johnny “Bushmaster” McIver, and like Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk and series star Colter, Shakir looks like a superhuman with no need for any superhero costume.  And yes, Shakir performed most of the fabulous stunt fights with Colter, with training incorporating capoeira fighting, aptly selected for the series from its focus on power, speed, kicks, and spins.  Looking for the best superhero genre one-on-one battles at the movies or on television?  They can be found in Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  It’s even more refreshing because the series casts aside the current lazy trope in cinema of slow-motion action sequences, which can pull you out of the momentum of the action every time.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Hulk haven’t done it.  Along with Captain America and Thor, now Ant-Man adds another Marvel Cinematic universe film that matches the spirit of its first solo film.  That’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, premiering this weekend in theaters across the U.S.  If you count Ant-Man as one of your favorite films of the MCU, you won’t be disappointed in the sequel.  As with the original, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the rare superhero movie that will appeal to all ages of moviegoers–not a single scene will pollute the minds of the littlest kid, and for the older generation that loved that classic sci-fi trope from The Incredible Shrinking Man, moviegoers don’t need to follow the MCU to jump right into this film.  Better yet, Ant-Man and the Wasp has heart like nothing else on the big screen from Marvel, except for Paul Rudd’s first adventure as Ant-Man only three years ago.

For those not paying close attention, this film takes place before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, and two years following the events of Captain America: Civil War.  Each of the character-led superhero films have those elements special to that character.  The trademarks of Ant-Man return for this sequel: a slightly daft and bumbling hero (played by Rudd) enjoying his superpowers, a friend whose rapid-fire banter steals every scene (played by Michael Peña), a romantic co-lead ready to bust out and make her own name (played by Evangeline Lilly), even more cutting edge special effects that show today’s actors playing scenes looking just as they did 20 years ago, and the return of the great Michael Douglas with every bit the acting chops he had back in his The China Syndrome, Coma, and Romancing the Stone days as the incomparable Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man.  Rudd’s Scott Lang has only three days left under house arrest before regaining his freedom, as Dr. Pym and daughter Hope (Lilly) attempt to secure the last piece of technology required to try to reach Pym’s wife, long ago left in the quantum realm.  But they aren’t the only ones after this new technology.

The film doesn’t stop at mere fan service, bringing in three new characters that take the quantum universe story arc from the first film into new territory.  That’s Michelle Pfeiffer as Dr. Janet Van Dyne–the original Wasp, Laurence Fishburne as former Pym colleague Dr. Bill Foster, and a stunningly good MCU debut by Hannah John-Kamen–at last in a major big screen role after playing supporting characters this year in Tomb Raider and Ready Player One.  John-Kamen’s character has the same fierce grit and badass determination as Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, and like Valkyrie, we hope she’s back in the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War next year.  As with Thor: Ragnarok, Ant-Man and the Wasp brings the comic book page to life, and like Black Panther, the film has an antagonist you may find yourself rooting for.  And make no mistake, Lilly’s Wasp could take over the reins from Black Widow as Marvel’s lead superheroine.

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Less than one month away, San Diego Comic-Con returns to the San Diego Convention Center full of writers, artists, publishers, TV and movie studios, and vendors with representation from every major property and franchise.   Legos, Sideshow, Super 7, Mattel, Funko, Mondo, and more.  Already distributors have begun previewing convention exclusives–those sought-after rare collectibles usually available only at the show, but sometimes available afterward in small quantities if all of the inventory from the show isn’t pre-ordered or purchased on-site.

We think it’s time to share some of the best exclusives scheduled to be available at San Diego Comic-Con this year for those of you who are attending or have friends attending that can pick up items for you.  Just can’t decide what to spend your money on?  Check out the SDCC 2018 website for even more information from the vendors and more collectibles.  There’s too much for anyone to be able to see everything at the big Con, so we’ve listed booth numbers so you can make sure you don’t miss out on those toys, posters, and comic books that you simply must have.

These aren’t all the exclusives you’ll find at SDCC 2018–we’ve selected a sampling of some of the best items from popular vendors who have previewed their items with still three weeks until the convention.

Now on to the exclusives.

Gentle Giant is releasing a variety of exclusive mini-busts, plus this large-scale version of the classic Kenner Star Wars action figure.  You’ve seen Boba Fett from Gentle Giant here before–the original was borg.com‘s favorite toy of 2012 and one of the best action figure re-creations we’ve seen.

This exclusive provides one more chance to get this figure, this time reflecting original packaging from Return of the Jedi (sorry, no firing backpack).

From Alex Ross Art (Booth #2415) pick up limited prints and comics, including these new variant covers for Amazing Spider-man, Issue #1:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When he first wrote a Deadpool tie-in novel back in 2015, writer Stefan Petrucha was still a year from the arrival of the movie Deadpool in theaters.  But he would have known Ryan Reynolds was cast in the title role.  Either Petrucha had a good idea forecasting Reynolds voice and view of the role, or both the filmmakers and Petrucha had a complete take on the famous “merc with a mouth” from the comic books.  Either way for most of the Marvel novel Deadpool: Paws, the author gets Wade Wilson–the cancer-battling Weapon X experiment who becomes the wisecracking anti-hero known as Deadpool–exactly right.  In fact there is only one scene in the novel that would have you step out of the voice of Ryan Reynolds’ incarnation of the character–when Petrucha has Wilson bad-mouthing Canada.

As part of Marvel and Titan Books’ release of a series of tie-in novels of the Marvel Universe (including Civil War, reviewed here at borg.com last month), they have issued a new paperback edition of Deadpool: Paws Deadpool: Paws combines all the cringeworthy ideas you’d expect from a Deadpool tale.  It’s a blend of Ace Venture: Pet Detective, John Carpenter’s The Thing, John Wick, and a twisted look at Dick and Jane, and, if you are a fan of Deadpool 2, take note:  You’ll find that same balance of over-the-top humor, in-your-face-action, and inappropriately placed melodrama right here.

Whenever an author takes on the job of writing a tie-in story for a well-known character, and especially when the writer crafts the story in first person, readers will know quickly with even a misfire of one phrase or sentence whether the author knows what he or she is doing.  If you read a lot of tie-ins you can catch the mistakes simply in dialogue.  But Petrucha (who has written tie-in series from Nancy Drew: Girl Detective to The X-Files) mastered Deadpool’s audacity, raunch, snark, sass, whine, inner-monologue, repeated breaking of the fourth wall, and strange charisma, in every action and retort.  He also throws in as many well-placed pop culture references as you’d find in an entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In all the flurry of late spring and early summer movie releases, don’t forget to see that X-Men movie sequel that drifted into theaters with less fanfare than the original two years ago.  That’s Deadpool 2, still in theaters nationwide in its fourth week, but probably phasing out soon.  So get to the theater before it’s gone.  More Ryan Reynolds sass and wisecracking, less of the supporting cast from the original, but more new characters fans of Marvel Comics and Marvel Comics-at-the-movies will want to see more of, Deadpool 2 has one big surprise you won’t glean from the trailers:  It’s a classic X-Men comic book story.

Take away the R-Rated humor and the jokes and you’ll find the backbone is a plot bringing the entirety of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise full circle.  The themes of that very first story from the first film in 2000, the movie called X-Men, return.  In X-Men we met young teenager Rogue (Anna Paquin), struggling with her abilities and the burden they place on her.  Despite the superhero vs. superhero storyline, the real villain was Senator Kelly, trying to pass a federal Mutant Registration Act (similar in plot development as the legislation that divides the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War).  Here we meet an out-of-control and mistreated mutant from New Zealand called Firefist (Julian Dennison), and the villain is another Senator Kelly-type trying to do-away with the mutants, played by familiar British actor Eddie Marsan.  Coming back to this theme 18 years later is a smart move–even in a flurry of humor we’re reminded that the stories were sourced in an effort to address teen readers trying to fit into the world.

New characters Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) are perfect transformations from comic to screen.  Cable is an expertly realized cyborg, not just a fill-in character but a fully developed new player in Marvel Studios’ arsenal.  Domino is a reminder that members of Marvel’s B-team line-up can steal the show (like Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past) when written well.  Any kid or kid at heart will appreciate a battle scene between Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Juggernaut (Ryan Reynolds) complete with its own humorous operatic accompaniment.  Time travel plays a key element in the story and Brolin’s cyborg is every bit as compelling as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s from the Terminator series, and the writers and director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, John Wick) tap into that with dropped references every chance they get.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

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

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

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

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If you love comics and especially if you haven’t read a comic book in years then this Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day is all about you.  See what you have been missing at comic book stores across the United States as shops hand out free issues of new comic books from your favorite franchises and publishers: Marvel, DC Comics, IDW, Archie Comics, Image, Dark Horse, Titan Comics, BOOM!, Oni Press, Aftershock, and more.

Marvel fans won’t want to miss out on the lead-in to the new Avengers comic book series discussed here at borg.com earlier this week.  Doctor Who fans will find all-new stories featuring the 7th, 10th, and 11th Doctors and the first appearance of the 13th Doctor!  Today is May the Fourth–the annual Star Wars Day, and tomorrow Star Wars fans can find Han Solo and Chewbacca facing off against Zuckuss and 4-LOM from The Empire Strikes Back in Star Wars Adventures.  Riverdale features a story with Betty and Pop at the Chock-lit Shop.  In all, 52 new FCBD stories will be available. Keep in mind not all stores will have every title available and most stores limit each person to five issues to meet demand.

While you’re there, take a look around at the shop and purchase a comic or graphic novel or two.  Don’t know which one?  How about New Ultimates: Thor Reborn, or Wonder Woman: The True AmazonIf you liked Avengers: Infinity War, ask to see the shelf of Thanos and Avengers titles.  Getting ready for Ant-Man and The Wasp coming to theaters?  Ask about all the available related titles.  You don’t know who this Venom character is that Tom Hardy is playing in the new movie?  Your comic shop can get you caught up for Venom.  Do you like Batman, Miss Fury, the Bionic Man, Squirrel Girl, Spider-man, The Eternals, Ghost Rider, Ghost, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Moon Knight, Liberty Meadows, classic Archie Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy, Green Arrow, the Shadow, Star Trek, Valerian and Laureline, or Katy Keene?  Just ask, and someone will point you in the right direction.  Giant trade paperback editions are much less expensive than you might think, and they can get you caught up quickly on years of content.

 

If you’re in the Kansas City area check out Elite Comics between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., where you’ll also find lots of deals, get your Avengers issue signed by writer Jason Aaron, and meet other creators–and there’s cake.  Or use this comic book store locator to find your nearest participating shop.  Here’s an advance look at all 52 covers from the FCBD 2018 comic books you will find Saturday, a look inside the pages at some artwork from the Avengers issue, plus a video about the event:

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One more Marvel Studios film is still on its way in 2018, and with the success of Avengers: Infinity War breaking the best weekend opening box office record, moviegoers will be ready to dive back in for more.  Ant-Man and The Wasp will take a step back, at least in part, before the events in Infinity War, with Ant-Man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) on house arrest after damaging the airport as Giant Man during that spectacular action sequence in Captain America: Civil War.  Lang was enlisted to help Team Cap by The Falcon (Anthony Mackey) after his run-in with The Falcon in 2015’s Ant-Man.  That movie is also where we last saw Michael Douglas’s original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym, and his daughter, Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne.

The first full trailer (previewed here) gave us a look at Ghost, portrayed by Hannah John-Kamen (Ready Player One, Tomb Raider), but with her mask, and we now see her without the mask in the official movie poster (above), just released.  We also now have our first look at Michelle Pfeiffer (Murder on the Orient Express, Wolf, Batman Returns) as Hank Pym’s wife, Dr. Janet van Dyne, the original superheroine who was lost in the Quantum Realm decades ago.

And Marvel Studios just released a second trailer for Ant-Man and The Wasp, and all signs point to another hit for Marvel.  We met the characters in the first film and now, origin story behind us, audiences will get to watch them take off.  So with no more ado, check out the new trailer (plus the teaser) for Ant-Man and The Wasp:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ten years in the making.  Eighteen movies leading up to this weekend in the gigantic new blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War.  Never before have superhero fans seen so many superheroes on-screen at once:  Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Spider-man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackey), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Wong (Benedict Wong), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).

So many movies, especially superhero movies, depend greatly on the success of the villains.  Spider-man: Homecoming is great in part because of Michael Keaton’s Vulture.  Black Panther is great in part because of Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger.  And Thor: Ragnarok was great in part because of a load of solid villains: the CGI-created Surtur, Cate Blanchett’s Hela, and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster (and even a great supporting tier of antagonists including Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and Karl Urban’s Skurge).  So now, at last, Josh Brolin moves past his cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron to give us a big dose of one of comic books’ best-known villains, Thanos.

Marvel Studios promised to tie everything together, including every magical talisman holding the six Infinity Stones, of which filmgoers have encountered five so far: The blue Space Stone (seen held in the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger), the yellow Mind Stone (seen in the Scepter in The Avengers), the red Reality Stone (seen held in the Aether in Thor: The Dark World), the purple Power Stone (seen in the Orb in Guardians of the Galaxy), and the green Time Stone (seen in the Eye of Agamotto in Doctor Strange).  

So did directors Anthony and Joe Russo deliver as promised? Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Already taking in more than $1 billion at the box office, Marvel’s Black Panther is one of the biggest and most successful movies to come out of any genre or studio.  This is the third day and final look at the major tie-in books that have been developed for Black Panther fans here at borg.com.  The first book (reviewed here) consists primarily of concept art for the film, the second book (reviewed here) features the history of Black Panther in the comic books, and this next book, Black Panther: The Official Movie Special showcases the film in photographs with a behind the scenes view of the making of the film.

Fans of the film will love the many 8″ x 11″ stills featuring key characters and scenes.  The book includes interviews with actors Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, and Winston Duke, stunt/fight coordinator Clayton J. Barber, costume designer Ruth Carter, special effects coordinator Jesse Noel, Marvel Studios president and “mastermind” Kevin Feige, and director Ryan Coogler.

Part souvenir book, part photo guide, Black Panther: The Official Movie Special also includes sections on the setting of the film in Wakanda and on the film’s newly designed fantasy-world props.  The section on Ruth Carter includes images of costumes and some of her early concept designs.  Other interviews are interspersed throughout the book with behind-the-scenes set photos.

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