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Tag Archive: Moritat


Happy Mother’s Day!

More than 100 comic book artists came together over the past year to create what is one of the best joint art projects featuring superheroes that has come out of the industry.  And it’s all about the biggest superheroine of all.  Some of the best-known names in the world of comics volunteered an original work of art featuring Wonder Woman, penciled, inked, painted, or otherwise colored on a 75th Anniversary DC Comics Wonder Woman blank comic book cover.  It’s all for a good cause that gives back to, and in effect pays forward comic book creators that came before them.

It’s called the Wonder Woman 100 Project.  All proceeds of the auction of the original artwork will go to the Hero Initiative, an organization that helps out the comic book industry by contributing funds to individuals and their families in the event of medical and financial crises.  Most of the comic creators the fund helps were piecemeal workers in their careers over the past decades or those without any kind of retirement program.

    

And for those who can’t afford the original artwork, the Hero Initiative is creating a hardcover and softcover edition compiling all the covers that will be for sale in June 2017, with proceeds of those books also going to the Hero Initiative.

You’ll see some of the very best Wonder Woman images you’ll ever find.  Many are from well-known artists, but some of the finest works are showcased by more recent artists entering the industry.

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archie-co

In the latest ads for CW’s new teen series Riverdale, the live-action series looks even more like an updated Twin Peaks than in the initial teaser trailer.  CW’s television adaptation of the 75-year-old Archie Comics characters and hometown is only weeks away.  More and more we’re thinking the series has the look and feel of the Archie Comics’ recent successful expanded universe in its Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series.  Let’s face it–if the new television series really were to look like the monthly comic book, which has run relatively unchanged for its 75-year span, it would basically be a remake of Happy Days. 

However CW’s Riverdale turns out, our fingers remain crossed that we’ll see the infamous Sabrina drop in as a guest star or that the writers will find a way to incorporate at least a good Halloween episode.  Zombies, anyone?  Another classic franchise family, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, are getting their own update next year when Dynamite Comics releases a new monthly series adaptation with a noir, true crime twist: Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie.  The common theme seems to be bringing back the classics, but trying to spin them in a way to make them appeal to current audiences, which is nothing really new as adaptations go.

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The first full-length trailer and a second teaser for Riverdale were both released this week. Every classic property should get the CW teen soap opera treatment like Riverdale and Smallville and all the great DC Comics series currently running.  The shows may not be entirely loyal to the source materials, but you can bank on some interesting characters and well-told stories ahead.

Check out this first extended trailer for Riverdale:

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archie-series-riverdale

In the first trailer for CW’s Riverdale, the live-action series looks more like an updated Twin Peaks than the classic comic book.  But what a way to make an update!  How will we know if Riverdale is a success?  CW’s television adaptation of the nearly 80-year-old Archie Comics universe is only weeks away.  Yet if you look back on your favorite teen television shows you may find writers and casting agents have been pulling from the Archie playbook before.  Just take a look back at Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Who was a better Jughead than Xander?  And did you ever see the original best frenemies Betty and Veronica in the love-hate relationship of Buffy and Faith?  What about the dynamic of the leads in CW’s previous successful teen-driven, comic book series Smallville?  Will Archie Comics’ own tried and tested formula prove to make Riverdale a keeper?

However CW’s Riverdale turns out, our fingers are crossed that we’ll see the infamous Sabrina drop in as a guest star or that the writers will find a way to incorporate at least a good Halloween episode banking on the success of the publisher’s recent Afterlife With Archie series.  What sure-fire way to please a current audience than delivering a zombie episode?

Riverdale -- "Pilot" -- Image Number: RVD101g_0002.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): KJ Apa as Archie and Lili Reinhart as Betty -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.

The first teaser for Riverdale dropped this week.  Although it doesn’t give us much, we get a look at the characters and a glimpse of the creepy tone of the show–a very CW teen-focused looking series.  These kinds of shows have proven to be CW’s niche realm, along with its recent success with superheroes in its five DC Comics series: Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, iZombie, and Supergirl. 

Check out this first teaser for Riverdale:

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B&V Evely    B&V Coover

What if every comic book cover artist also created the artwork inside the cover?  It’s a rare thing.  Cover artists tend to get discovered and begin churning out great cover work for a good rate and find less time for interior work.  Once in a while Alex Ross will take on a labor of love and work the interiors as with the Masks and earlier works like Kingdom Come and Justice.  Same with Frank Cho, as he did with a surprise Savage Wolverine series a few years ago and Mike Mayhew with his The Star Wars series after his cover work became more and more popular.

Adam Hughes is well known for his cover work, especially his DC Comics women renderings.  His Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan mini-series, a rare event featuring his own interiors, was probably the high point of the series.  This summer fans of his artwork and classic Archie Comics characters are in for another rare treat.

B&V Buscema    B&V St Onge

Hughes will be scripting and illustrating interiors for a new Betty & Veronica series.  Best friends and classic rivals Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge will be at each other again, this time over the fate of Riverdale’s hangout, Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe.  Hughes has said he is attempting to make the characters timely and relevant.  It shouldn’t be too hard, as the duo is certainly timeless as seen in the updates–and retro inspired designs–of the characters on the variety of covers.  The standard cover will be by Hughes, featuring the two girls in his distinct style.  Thirteen covers will be supplied by women comic book artists.  And none of them chose the look of the gals from the classic series.

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Toshiro cover

A steampunk robot samurai.  And Civil War era zombies.

It’s the Dark Horse June 2014 release of Jai Nitz (Dream Thief, Kato, Tron: Betrayal, El Diablo) and Janusz Pawlak’s new graphic novel, Toshiro.  We’ve discussed Nitz’s writing plenty of times here at borg.com.  Toshiro is Pawlak’s first published work in comics.

You will love Nitz’s creation story for this mecha-samurai who shares a name with the actor who played one of the most famous samurai on film (Toshirô Mifune’s Kikuchiyo in The Seven Samurai).  Toshiro is a creation of the Northern forces in the Civil War, a self-aware, living robot with a steam-valved heart.  He’s an American-built super-soldier, sold to Japan as the highest bidder.  “Raised” with Japanese traditions and old world values, he winds up in Manchester, England, 1867, with an equally deadly, and maybe wiser, partner.

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Toshiro knows he is machine, yet he reacts as if he is a true samurai.

This is a steampunk buddy cop story, with roots in a story out of a spaghetti Western.  Here a Zorro-esque, anti-hero has a tough-as-nails partner and they live in a world at war, but with incredible tools of battle well ahead of their time.

Polish artist Pawlak’s work is something out of a Quentin Tarentino novel, yet Tarentino’s blood and guts is kids’ stuff compared to Toshiro slicing heads with his katana.

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My Yang interior panel 1

At first look at Mickey Lam’s detailed cityscape panels you’ll wonder why he isn’t drawing a regular monthly series.  His first comic book is the black and white Mr. Yang Fights Aliens, Part 1.  By day Mr. Yang is a schoolteacher.  One evening he is awakened in his Peckham neighborhood and observes a kidnapping–a kidnapping of a homeless man by an insectoid alien race.  Can this schoolteacher, who would rather work on balancing his own life issues, like keeping ahead of work and finding a girlfriend, save the world?

Lam is a self-taught illustrator based in London.  He has a degree in biomedical materials and was a secondary school science teacher before committing to illustration work.  In addition to creating art for clients, he creates his own comic books to experiment with his style and improve his skills.  Lam’s cityscapes in particular will appeal to fans of Moritat–DC Comics’ Jonah Hex series artist.

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Year's En

Merry Christmas!

It’s the end of December and another year is winding down.  Everywhere you turn someone is talking about the Best of 2012, so here we offer our take, resulting from absorbing more content this year than ever before, from books to movies to TV to comics, we reviewed and previewed entertainment from most of the big comic book publishers, and received screeners of shows and books from different publishing houses.  And we watched a lot of TV and went to a number of movies.  So what was the best of the best this year?  No one will ever have the same list but here’s where we ended up:

Best Genre Movie:  The Hobbit.  We had to wait all year for the release but once we saw it–it was well worth the wait and we want to go back and see it again and again.  How could you possibly follow one of the only fantasy films ever to win a Best Picture Academy Award and expect to come close in quality and entertainment?  Peter Jackson figured it out.  Not even The Avengers came close to touching this epic film with giant sets, special effects, elaborate costumes, a perfect story adaptation, and the best CGI creature to date: a Gollum even better than in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Best Dramatic Film: Argo It was an international event more recent in the public psyche than even Watergate, yet it had never been addressed on the silver screen before–the kidnapping of American nationals in Iran.  Ben Affleck served as both director and star of the film and performed both roles brilliantly.  Both exciting and funny–with the incredibly bizarre hook of using Hollywood to create a sci-fi B movie as CIA cover to sneak in to Iran and remove a small group of hostages–it was a story worthy of adapting to screen.  Brilliant!

Best Animated Movie: Brave Kelly McDonald’s wonderful Scottish voice, an all-star Brit voice cast including Emma Thompson, Bill Connolly, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane, coupled with Brenda Chapman’s story and the best of Walt Disney and Pixar’s animation so far, make Brave the slam dunk animated film winner of 2012.   A gorgeous film about a tough and feisty red-headed girl skilled with a bow and arrow who wants to make her own destiny provided a great story for young and old alike.

Best Animated TV Series: Tron: Uprising Disney Television Animation finally figured out a way to bring its Tron franchise forward with Tron: Legacy, and this prequel series gives us what the movie lacked–more Bruce Boxleitner as Tron.  We hardly noticed this wasn’t a live action series, and with voice actors like Frodo’s Elijah Wood, Alien’s Lance Henriksen, Paul Reubens and Tricia Helfer, you could hardly go wrong.  The brilliant choice of lighting, futuristic yet retro light cycles and funky soundtrack made this one worth coming back for each week.

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Best Actor: Silas Weir Mitchell, Grimm With the updates for the second season of Grimm, Mitchell’s reformed Blutbad Monroe was hard to beat as the sometimes hilarious sometimes dramatic glue that held the series together, setting up new conflicts, like the strange discovery of Renard and Juliette’s relationship, sure to drive the story next year.

Ksenia Solo as Kenzi in Lost Girl

Best Actress: Ksenia Solo, Lost Girl.  As succubus and series star Bo’s tagalong human friend and roommate Kenzi, Solo held half of the dramatic workload for the Canadian series first released to U.S. audiences this year on the Syfy Channel.  The Latvian born actress plays it funny and smart–she makes for the ideal kickass girl from the best genre fiction stories.

Cobie Smulders in The Avengers

Best Breakout Role–Female:  Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill in The Avengers.  We knew her already from How I Met Your Mother, but Smulders took what could have been a throwaway background role in the biggest movie of the year and instead put her character’s footing almost on par with the Avengers themselves, heading up an early chase scene and appearing with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury throughout the film.  Now she’s set to come back for the next Avengers films, she’s a character that we never knew about but are glad she’s on the team going forward.

Max Greenfield in New Girl

Best Breakout Role–Male: Max Greenfield as Schmidt in New Girl.  Greenfield is one among a handful of great young actors in New Girl, now in its second season, but this season his character Schmidt stepped out to create the craziest, most hysterical moment of nearly every episode.  Whether he is ranting that there is no black Santa Claus, or trying to show a stripper how to lap dance the right way, whether he is wearing his high-cut male kimono, ranting about germs, or his stupid actions result in him putting the most money in the coffee table jar, Greenfield took a funny part and stretched it to insanely funny.  This from the same guy who performed dramatic roles in Veronica Mars, Life and Castle?  Awesome.

Best Guest Appearance:  Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearance in Action Comics. It was a bit of a marketing gimmick, but what could tie the education of real science, a popular TV non-fiction series host and comic book readers together better?  The real star-vested Tyson found a possible location for Superman’s home planet of Krypton, revealing it to the Man of Steel in the pages of the ongoing series.

Best TV series: Arrow, CW Network.  We got our first look at the pilot for this series at Comic-Con this year and loved it, but wasn’t sure how it would appeal to a mass audience.  Pretty much everyone we know watches this series, including those who would never otherwise think to look at a series about a masked superhero.  We have a critical eye out for all things Green Arrow, but Arrow, led by a well-cast Stephen Amell, surpassed our expectations.

Best Comedy Series: New Girl, Fox Network.  New Girl wins this category from one simple thing: This series made this writer laugh so hard his gut hurt and corresponding tears shot out of his eyes from the quick humor in so many scenes this year he lost count.  And when the series dipped into dramatic elements it never veered far from the core of what makes the show work–it’s a comedy first.  Tuesday night this year was New Girl night.  Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston and Cece could be the next Friends (but funnier) if the series can get a wider audience.

Sherlock Belgravia episode

Best Single TV Episode: Sherlock, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” BBC America.  You just have to watch this episode of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s brilliant series over and over.  The entry of the beautiful and unpredictable Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver, was perfection, and Cumberbatch and Martin’s scene with Sherlock’s brother Mycroft in Buckingham Palace can’t be beat.  Sure to be a classic episode for years to come.

Best Cliffhanger: Shawn’s dad gets shot, Psych, USA Network.  It seems like it has been forever since Shawn’s dad Henry, played by Corbin Bernsen was shot at the end of this season’s last episode of the hit USA Network comedy/drama series.  At its core, Psych is a light-hearted pleasure, so they just CAN’T kill off Henry.  We’re really looking forward to finding out.

Best Series Ender: In Plain Sight, USA Network.*  In a year where several mega-hits wrapped for good, including House, M.D., The Closer, Awake, and Chuck, one series finale tied up all the necessary loose ends the best, and that was the aptly titled “All’s Well that Ends” from In Plain Sight, which ended after five solid seasons.  The writers skipped the gimmicks, with no gut wrenching death scenes for major cast players, but instead honored the characters as they’d been for the entire series, rewarding viewers with an end where everyone wins.  *Update:  Leverage‘s surprise December 25, 2012 series finale came in with a powerhouse finale, slightly trumping In Plain Sight at the last minute after we posted this piece.  See our review here.

Jason Isaacs in Awake

Best Series that Cancelled Too Early: Awake, NBC Network We only got to see 12 episodes of Awake, but in those episodes we saw a great paranormal drama develop.  Jason Isaacs, like Paul Blackthorne, is one of those actors you want to helm a series every week.  His dual role of father who lost his kid and husband that lost his wife, both in the same auto accident, showed this actor could do anything with a role.  Although they were able to nicely wrap-up Awake in its last episode, we’d prefer to have seen a lot more of it.

Best Surprise in Entertainment: Dallas, TNT Network.  How was this even possible?  Who would think to take THE 1980s primetime soap and bring it forward to 2012, AND think it could work?  TNT mixed a CW Network-inspired young cast with a plot continuing the struggles in the classic series and melded it into something for anyone willing to give it a try.  Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing never missed a beat as the ultimate TV villain, even in his 80s.  The writers took bits from the tangents of the original to concoct the main storyline of two young heirs fighting for family and social dominance.  The result was addictive TV.

The Major Crimes Gallery

Best Comeback:  The ensemble cast of Major Crimes The great thing about a great ensemble cast is that you like every player equally.  When this is successful, you can stand to lose a character or two and still keep going, or as was the case with the wind-up of The Closer, lose three main characters: Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson, Chief Pope, and Sgt. Gabriel.  Major Crimes added three new replacement characters and never missed a beat, pleasing fans who knew it was too soon for the stories from the L.A. Major Crimes unit to end.

Best Second Wind: Haven, Syfy Channel Some cable TV series limp along and just end after a year or two.  Haven’s single theme of solving the riddle of “the troubles” seemed a candidate for this, but something switched on with the 2012 season allowing the rich stories and great cast chemistry to give us the series’ best episodes in its three-year run so far.

Volkswagen cantina commercial

Best Genre-Related Advertisement:  Star Wars Super Bowl ad, Volkswagen The best Super Bowl ad last January with a dog, a James Brown tune, and a pristine recreation of the Mos Eisley Cantina from the original Star Wars was an instant classic that will be hard to beat in 2013.  Complete with its own recreated hive of scum and villainy, Tom Spina Designs’ creatures gave us something we want to see more of–maybe a new Disney-produced TV series based in Mos Eisley using all these obscure characters fanboys know by name?  Missed it?  See the full ad here.

Best Press Marketing: Coma mini-series press kit, A&E Network We at borg.com received tons of content this year, from books to comics to advance screeners, but one marketing gag was so awesome in its own right it surpassed what it was advertising.  The advance marketing for the Coma TV series marked a possible return by A&E to the classic TV shows we used to get in the days of shows like Price and Prejudice or Nero Wolfe.  Sporting an underground conspiracy plotline, print and online ads created a cool concept that the mini-series itself did not quite match.  When we received a human organ carrier in a “thawed” labeled box that we cautiously unzipped to find the screener, well that was just too awesome not to mention again.

Best Costumes: The Hobbit The Hobbit already made our Best Genre Movie of 2012, but it’s worth a second nod for having the most incredibly crafted costumes of possibly any film made so far in any year.  Building on the costumes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the slow panning of the camera in The Hobbit allowed us to see every seam on Bilbo’s patch-work coat, and every new emblem on each dwarf’s tunic.  How can a production make so many unique costumes for one film?  The result sets the standard for all major films to come.

Doctor Who A Town Called Mercy

Best Borg Appearance: The Cyborg Gunslinger, Doctor Who episode, “A Town Called Mercy” Andrew Brooke’s gunslinger was a slick-looking borg addition, a throwback to Westworld that gave us equal parts of good sci-fi and classic Western movies.  Doctor Who has created the best costumes and make-up of any sci-fi franchise in the past few years and this guy just looked great.

Best Web Series: TableTop bi-weekly Internet series, Geek and Sundry.  Wil Wheaton, known for Star Trek: The Next Generation and more recently his appearances on Big Bang Theory and Leverage, as host of his own online series, brought us all back from the video game world to the boardgame format that allows friends to really interact and have fun for their own game nights.   He chatted over great games like Tsuro, Munchkin and Zombie Dice with friends and celebrities alike, and showed us what could easily translate to its own Game Show Network series.

Best Villain:  The Harp Seal, Battlepug, Mike Norton. Easy choice.  This year’s Eisner Award winner for best digital comic revealed this unexpected villain, a funny surprise for readers.  Imagine a world where the harp seal gets its due–a role reversal where warriors fear him over all other creatures.  A great idea.

Best Ongoing Comic Book Series (tie):  All-Star Western, DC ComicsArtist Moritat and writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti took a long-dead comic book title and bridged 1800s Gotham City and Jonah Hex to make a gritty and fun book that rose to the top of DC Comics’ New 52 titles first released in September 2011.  Who knew a Western comic could be this good?  Bionic Man, Dynamite Comics Phil Hester took a Kevin Smith script and expanded on it, taking the most nostalgic bits of the classic Six Million Dollar Man TV series and updating it for 2012.  The highlight of the fun was an appearance by the classic TV series guest star, Bigfoot.

Thor - God of Thunder 1

Best Single Comic Book Issue: Thor, God of Thunder #1, Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic.  How do you reintroduce a classic character like Thor in a new way?  Exactly like Aaron does in this first issue of his new series, breaking up his story into three time periods, and highlighting the changing face of Thor over time.  Ribic’s lush images of Thor and a certain strange new world escalated this book to the top of my year’s reads.

JK Woodward AssimilationSquared

Best Comic Book Art: JK Woodward, Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation².  J.K. Woodward’s painted artwork throughout this limited series was stunning.  Probably the best depiction to-date of Star Trek characters in a comic book, Woodward took a fanboy’s dream job of merging two of the biggest sci-fi franchises together for the first story ever attempted and delivered a great looking story, now available in a trade edition.  We just want to see more.

Mystery in Space 1 by Ryan Sook

Best Comic Book Cover Art:  Mystery in Space, Ryan Sook, Vertigo Comics Ryan Sook had a big year, providing sensational covers for everything from The Shadow to the new Sword of Sorcery to one of our favorite titles, Justice League Dark.  But his cover for Vertigo Comics’ Mystery in Space #1 blended sci-fi and fantasy in the best way, with a steampunk angel painting the universe inside a spaceship with the help of flitting fairies, or is she creating our actual universe?  A great idea and perfect execution made this a standout on the store shelf this year.

Hawkeye cover by David Aja

Best Comic Book Cover Art Runner-up:  Hawkeye mini-series, David Aja Aja’s six unique Hawkeye series covers served not only to entice us to read this mini-series with great use of simple colors, but his own artwork between the covers made us feel like we were rewarded with what was advertised–a very cool and unusually stylish series.

Best Comics Collected Edition:  Flash Gordon, Volumes 1 and 2, Titan Books These were the best presented books we reviewed this year.  Reprinted Sunday comics from the 1930s and 1940s in a giant-sized edition that allowed readers to appreciate the story and art of creator Alex Raymond was a feast for the eyes.  The content allowed readers to see just how relevant and interesting the original mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy could be.

Best Retro Reviewed Book: Moonraker, Ian Fleming.  Casino Royale was a great read, Live and Let Die was a bit of a letdown, but Moonraker was as exciting as any book I’ve read in years.  Far different from the film of the same name, this thriller was packed with spy world intrigue.  Compared to all the other retro reviews this year, including Philip K. Dick classics, this one really stood out.

Best Reviewed Book: Dracula Cha Cha Cha, Kim Newman Although it was initially released in 1998, a new edition was re-released this year.  The best “post-modern steampunk” mash-up and incredibly detailed world building made this novel a great read, full of artful prose and creative crossovers.  Newman also added another level of storytelling, mixing the real world with the world of fiction, and the result is a densely packed, enjoyable volume.

Bond and Queen

Best Mash-Up of Fiction and Non-Fiction Worlds:  James Bond accompanies the Queen to the Olympics 2012 was the Year of Bond with his 50th year in film.  How better to highlight the best of Jolly Old England at this year’s Summer Olympics than to begin with a meeting of the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, and the actual Queen Elizabeth II in her 60th year in Buckingham Palace, followed by a faked aerial dive by the Queen over the stadium in London.  The Queen was a real sport, adding herself to the long list of Bond girls.  And don’t forget the real-world borg Oscar Pistorius’s impressive showings at the Olympics this year.

Comic-Con Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel

Best Genre Event: The Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel at Comic-Con.  More than 7,000 fans stood in line for only about 5,000 seats but the all-night wait was worth seeing most of the cast of Firefly reunite with creators Joss Whedon and Tom Minnear to talk about the short-lived series.  Firefly fans are a passionate bunch, and were able to get Whedon to make the big-budget movie Serenity a few years after cancellation.  But get most of the stars to come back ten years later?  Pretty cool feat.  With Whedon and series co-star Adam Baldwin (Jayne) dropping by to greet the people sleeping and standing in line overnight it was an event that attendees will never forget.

Best News Story: George Lucas sells Star Wars rights to Disney Some liked it and some hated it, but as months go by we’ll see what it all means.  As entertainment goes, this multi-billion dollar exchange was the talk everywhere this year.

Best Science Story: Curiosity lands on Mars.  NASA’s description of dropping a rover on the surface of the planet Mars sounded like threading a needle blind-folded wearing gloves.  Its early morning coverage of the successful landing was something like the moon landing, and made everyone want to see what more we can do in the space program now that the last Space Shuttle has been mothballed.  What will the future hold for NASA and humans in outer space?

Best Nationwide Genre Participation Event: The Avengers Marathon, AMC Theaters We only wished for something like this when we were kids–the ability to watch something like all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies in one screening.  The lead-up to the midnight premiere of The Avengers allowed fans to watch all the lead-in Avengers films so far:  Iron Man I and II, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.  A great idea that will hopefully continue with other franchise films.

Best Single Thing for Genre Works: The Avengers movie.  Genre, and specifically superhero, films needed a good kickstart.  The dark and dreary Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan was monopolizing superhero films, and we needed a giant, vibrant superhero film to usher in a new age of comic book films and Joss Whedon delivered the goods.  It’s not a perfect film (and what is?) but was completely fun and entertaining, delivering something every fan could enjoy.  Challenging the top two positions for all-time box office draw also showed everyone that fans want to see more of this kind of movie.

What were your favorites?  We hope a few of these are on your own list.  We at borg.com will be back with more coverage and reviews in 2013.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

I had mentioned early in the New 52 reviews that All Star Western #1 was the coolest, most unexpected surprise of DC Comics’ first round of 52 issues.  But to the extent All Star Western #1 was a standout series opener, writer Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Moritat along with colorist Gabriel Bautista set the bar even higher with issues #2 and #3.  After six months of story development and world building, All Star Western remains both the most creative and my favorite of all the New 52 series.

Much like modern police departments attempt to keep quiet about tapping the resources of psychics in working kidnapping cases, the police of old Gotham City are adamant to not reveal they are using the resources of one Doctor Amadeus Arkham, a criminal psychologist before the term was coined and the field was in its infancy in the 18th century.  Gray and Palmiotti create a world in transition from the Old West to the Industrial Revolution.  The gun-toting days of cowboys and outlaws in frontier towns would seem to visibly contrast with the early days of street gangs and mob bosses, but Moritat and Bautista combine imagery of Gothic Noir and post-Civil War era culture, creeds, and weaponry to spin readers into an eminently believable and interesting time and place.

You can’t understate how unique Moritat’s panels and pages are compared to anyone else drawing comics  today.  For one thing Moritat does not use standard comic sized paper to render his pages.  He uses 8.5 X 11 inch art paper.  So his images are drawn much smaller compared to other artists’ panels.  This means what he draws need to be crisp and clean and get the point across.  And the result is beautiful imagery of dark and dusty places.  From page one of issue one his fabulously detailed cityscapes look like they must have taken weeks to draw.  His buildings are regal and elegant.  His characters range from creepy lecherous street drifters pawing at bar room dancers to the timid Dr. Arkham himself, who manages to stand out as an oddity in room equally with the shredded face of Jonah Hex.

Moritat also uses panels to their maximum effect as quantity is concerned.  Instead of spending an entire issue on a fight scene, much like you’ll find has occurred with other New 52 superhero titles, Moritat (and presumably an equal hand at from tight scripting by Gray and Palmiotti), gives you all out action–as much as you’d expect and as much as the story requires–but it will be packed into 24 panels in two pages.  When drawn on two 8.5X11 pages this just seems to require incredible precision and pacing.

I appreciate the fact that Moritat drew the first three covers and the interiors to all six issues so far.  It’s pretty rare today for any comic book publisher to have the interior artist draw his/her own covers.  The result is a cohesive whole from cover to cover in each issue.  Moritat’s covers are single works of art themselves.

Gray and Palmiotti’s dialogue is the best around.  By the end of issue one we had a full grasp of Dr. Arkham’s persnickety nature, and Jonah Hex’s dialogue is written like Mark Twain wrote the dialogue for Huck and Tom–“Ah” is how Jonah’s says “I,” for example.  Where Arkham is long-winded, Hex’s words are few and far between and he speaks his own language, literally.

Spoilers follow…

Recapping the first six months of All Star Western, issue one introduced how Arkham got hooked up with the violent Jonah Hex as they teamed up against skull-ringed members of Gotham’s society and a mission to find the one killer known as the Gotham Butcher.

In issue two Hex and Arkham hole up at Arkham’s house to defend themselves from an attack by those protecting this early brotherhood–a criminal religion of sorts.  We get to see why a son of the confederacy as scarred and damaged as Hex is was able to survive for so long, as he uses his rifle to level pretty much everyone in his path.  This leads Arkham and Hex to follow the carriage of the culprit who has kidnapped and tortured a local magistrate.  The murderous thugs are too much for Hex as Hex tells Arkham to run.  DC Comics couples the same writing team with artist Jordi Bernet on a two-part quick and dirty story featuring the masked hero El Diablo, concluding in issue three.

The reason Hex stumbled into Gotham City, the hunt to collect the bounty on three members of the Trapp gang, cause Hex to head out of town in issue three.  A successful conclusion to their first mission, and Arkham coming out of his shell a bit, results in Hex being asked to join the police force (he refuses).  Arkham is allowed to build a hospital to study the mind.  But that all comes apart before it begins.  Hex survives another attack, rescues, Arkham, and returns to his original pursuit.

Despite the unlikely team of Hex and Arkham splitting up in issue three, they are found back together again after Hex is offered $50,000 to locate a missing boy by the boys’ father.  Money talks, and that is all that is needed to get Jonah Hex’s attention.  After four issues the character of Hex is well established as a Han Solo, Dirty Harry of the Old West.  He’s smarter than we read of a lot of real Old West legendary characters, like Jesse James, and smarter than later outlaw types like John Dillinger.  He seems to follow the cowboy code to some extent, despite his chief tool of resolution being a quick draw.  Despite Hex chalking up a body count, we like this anti-hero, and apparently his tough ways are par for the course in old Gotham.  Following the main storyline, Phil Winslade joins the writing team for the beginning of a new monthly serial, this time a new three-part, mini-series called “The Barbury Ghost.”

In issue five the quest for the missing boy takes Arkham and Hex into the dark underbelly of Gotham, literally below Gotham in its caves that would one day house Bruce Wayne’s batcave.  Saving the children is not as easy as they had figured and they get stranded in an underground river where they must fend off the Miagani, a Native American village living in the caves.  And Hex continues ups his body count and must rescue Arkham yet again.

In the final chapter of the first major story arc, Hex and Arkham unravel who is behind the plot to use child labor to build the city’s sewer system, enlisting the help of the Wayne family, who live atop the batcaves.

All Star Western Vol. 1: Guns and Gotham is scheduled for release as a compilation in trade paperback in November, but individual issues are available in first and later printings.  All Star Western is exciting, smart, and visually and interesting read.  If you’re like this reader and have not thought to check out Western comics before now, this is a great place to begin and you won’t regret adding this series to your reading pile.

    

Review by C.J. Bunce

Spoilers!

All Star Western #1 was the coolest, most unexpected surprise of DC Comics’ first round of 52 issues.  But to the extent All Star Western #1 was a standout series opener, writer Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Moritat along with colorist Gabriel Bautista set the bar even higher with issues #2 and #3.

First off, the design and format of the book is unique among DC Comics’ New 52.  Chapters have an Old West style separation and font, with catchy titles like “Showdown at House Arkham,” “A practitioner of murder,” and “No news is good.”  The aura of Gothic and Old West can be found at every angle.

The foreground of landscape scenes have a nice, almost ghostly style that evokes the 1800s-1920s, using a lot of brown and sepia tones.  But the silhouette of grand manor houses and leafless trees on the landscape of an almost photo-real, painted horizon backdrop will have readers stopping in their tracks.  Two page spreads with 22 individual panels keep the action scenes moving at full force, and the would-be campy “Pow,” “Crunch,” “Crash,” and “Clop Clop Clop” fill in the necessary sound effects for a Jonah Hex-led shoot ‘em up.  We also get some nice splash pages of Hex, looking tough in his own half-faced way.

Unlike several other New 52 titles that unapologetically are going for the biggest shock they can provide to readers, the cartoonish quality of Jonah Hex’s gore serves to tame down the realism of the violence, creating the right venue for a fine good guy vs. bad guy battle to the end, with guns a’blazin’ and bodies fallin.’

The writers have kept up the momentum of the story with the most unlikely of pairings, the fragile Doctor Arkham against the stout Jonah Hex.  These two continue together to confound each other, but, for once, in issue #2, Arkham has revealed that there is a killer about even within his own timid, early-era psychiatrist reality.

By the end of issue #3 we have a better look at the villainy coming in future issues, a “cult of crime” based on the story of Cain and Abel.  Arkham serves to sleuth out the story while Hex is there to destroy those who get in the way and leave a body count. In issue #3 we also see the duo forming their first potential ally, by saving a city leader named Cromwell.  Yet, no one lives long in early Gotham City.

The story has a vibe reminiscent of a short-lived series published a few years ago starting on Free Comics’ Day called The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty (one of the best titles ever), an eight-issue series from Image Comics, by Gabriel Benson and Mike Hawthorne, that hinted at the potential it was ultimately unable to fulfill—a “Gothic Western” that immersed the reader in the Old West.  All Star Western is far better, but it does show there are limitless Gothic Western stories that can be told, not just with Jonah Hex and not just in Gotham City.

    

As an added feature to All Star Western, these issues #2 and #3 have an ongoing mini-series about the character El Diablo. This add-on bonus is full of quick stories in limited panels, but adds to the Saturday serial mystique of a Western series like this.  If you like the character El Diablo, I’d suggest Jai Nitz’s very cool El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman graphic novel, drawn by Phil Hester and Ande Parks.  And as for another book with a similar Gothic vibe, check out Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, by Brian Augustyn, with a powerhouse art match-up of Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell.

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