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Tag Archive: Spider-Man


Review by C.J. Bunce

Marvel Contest of Champions is a 2014 mobile fighting game from Kabam, released four years ago on iOS and Android, boasting more than 100 million players.  Based on ideas generated from the 1982 three-issue Marvel Comics series Contest of Champions by Mark Gruenwald, John Romita Jr., and Bob Layton, players select superheroes from across the history of the Marvel universe to battle each other.  Both the original comic and the game key in on the scheming machinations of Grandmaster and the Collector, and if the idea sounds familiar, it may be because it was also featured in Marvel’s big screen Thor: Ragnarok, with Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster pitting Chris Hemsworth’s Thor against Mark Ruffalo’s Planet Hulk-inspired gladiator Hulk.

Initially intended to be based on Marvel’s Super Heroes Secret Wars comics, the Contest of Champions video game features more than 100 playable characters, and includes dozens of others.  The characters as realized for the game and the game environments is the focus of a new book from author Paul Davies, Marvel Contest of Champions: The Art of the Battlerealm The book represents one of the rare assemblages of so many characters from all segments of the Marvel universe.  Showcasing the story by Sam Humphries and artwork by Gabriel Frizzera, Luke Ross, and others, the book is full of great character designs, concepts, and final selections.  It even takes readers beyond the events of Infinity War, although the game does not adhere to the movies.

Readers and game players will find it difficult coming up with characters from Marvel Comics not incorporated into Contest of Champions.  In the book they’ll find updated versions of all the superheroes (and many villains) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plus the X-Men, Deadpool, Old Man Logan, X-23, Spider-Gwen, Ghost Rider, Howard the Duck, Hyperion, Jane Foster’s Thor, Miles Morales’s Spidey, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, Spawn, Dark Phoenix, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Cable, Gwenpool, Mephisto, Blade, Carnage, and the Inhumans.  Plus there’s the Netflix Marvel series characters, lesser used characters like the future evil Hulk called Maestro, Magik, M.O.D.O.K., Sentry, Sentinel, Sabretooth, Agent Venom, Morningstar, Guillotine, Karnak, Kang, Doctor Voodoo, Black Bolt, and Venompool.  Both Angela, grand-daughter of Odin, and King Groot are brilliantly realized in the game and the book (shown above).

Here are some preview pages from Marvel Contest of Champions: The Art of the Battlerealm:

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It seemed obvious from the release schedule available back in 2017–well before the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man’s drifting off into dust–but the first trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home confirms what everyone figured, Spider-Man and all his teen-aged friends get out of Avengers: Endgame in one piece.  The biggest reveal?  The “Far from Home” in the title doesn’t mean Spider-Man is left stuck on the planet Titan–where he turned to dust.  Nope.  Looks like it’s just a school trip from his home in NYC to Europe–not all that far away for this Spidey.

But what will be the fifth appearance Tom Holland as Spider-Man (since this takes place right after his fourth appearance in Avengers: Endgame) looks like it has the potential of being as fun as his past appearances, more Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, more Jon Favreau as Happy, and all his school friends returning.  And audiences get their first look at Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Mysterio and a comic villain straight out of the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #212.  Marvel Studios and Sony also released a new poster from the film (below).

We haven’t seen this March’s Captain Marvel yet, but we can’t get enough of Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury, too.  Marvel calls this one a teaser, but it’s just as long as the full length trailers for most movies.

Take a look at the first trailer and images from Spider-Man: Far from Home:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Along with reprinting some novels based on comic book stories from Marvel’s past, a few new stories were released last year (and reviewed here at borg) as part of Titan Books’ line of novel tie-ins, including Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, Ant-Man: Natural Enemy, Deadpool: Paws, and Civil War.  Now the Spider-Verse character Venom has his own hardcover novel.  Venom: Lethal Protector joins Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover among the newly written novels, although unlike Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover‘s new story as prequel to the 2018 PS4 game, Venom: Lethal Protector is based on the very first Venom-titled six-part mini-series from back in 1993.

James R. Tuck writes a faithful adaptation to the original comic books by David Michelinie, Mark Bagley, and Ron Lim.  The story catches up after Peter Parker parts with the alien symbiote that looks like a dripping ink blot, after he makes an arrangement with the new host, Eddie Brock, to leave and do no harm.  But trouble comes looking for Eddie when he joins a group of underground people in San Francisco.  The father of a man killed by Eddie/Venom is determined to avenge his son.  He and his lackeys, the Jury, take him on, plus a mastermind arrives and creates five spawn from the symbiote, spawn that Venom must eliminate with or without the help of Spider-Man.

The comic books Venom: Lethal Protector is based on provided much of the source material for last year’s Marvel Venom movie, so fans of the character, the comics, and the movie will be familiar with this take on the villain as he more overtly switches away from villainy to the stuff of anti-heroes–much like Deadpool and Punisher.  In fact it’s difficult not to see Deadpool, Punisher, and Marvel standards like the Hulk in both Venom’s origin story and his ongoing handling.  Like Hulk’s Banner, particularly from the classic TV series, Eddie Brock is constantly moving from place to place to escape his past.  The book telegraphs what a Venom story in the vein of the 1980s The Incredible Hulk could be like.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Happy New Year!  Let’s start the year off with a look at a great new inside look at the holiday season’s biggest hit movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseCompared to most “art of the movie” books reviewed here at borg, a new behind-the-scenes book offers up a very different, modern update to our understanding of creating concept art for the cinema.  The book is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — The Art of the Movie by Ramin Zahed, an account of the design development and visual production process for this latest Sony Pictures Animation/Marvel partnership.

Concept art, sketches, and storyboards take on a different flare when you’re in the digital animation tech of today.  But the images still reflect that powerful, colorful, and dynamic feel in their formation of a brand new superhero universe.  Readers will find hundreds of images of developmental artistry behind the film, plus read exclusive interviews with the creators, including a foreword prepared by Miles Morales co-creator Brian Michael Bendis.

As we found with George Lucas’s groundbreaking selection of screen captures or frames found in his multi-volume book Star Wars Frames (reviewed here at borg), studying the selected individual frames from the new Spider-Verse reveals a film on par with the composition of the future world of Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner–a city that is realistic, yet futuristic and still obviously sourced in comic books.  It’s a gorgeous movie–and the action sweeps by so quickly that most will miss the artistry found in Miles’ graffiti, storyboard sequences, and the nooks and crannies of each set layout.  Set decoration takes on a new approach, as does prop design, art direction, and costuming, in Into the Spider-Verse.

You can also pick up a rare edition of the book, limited to 175 copies, complete with one of the prop comic books made for the film (pictured above) hand-inked by Marcelo Vignali and a signed tip-in sheet by Christopher Miller, Phil Lord, and artists from the film.  Check that out and the details at the Titan Books website here.  Take a look at this 12-page preview of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — The Art of the Movie, courtesy of Titan Books:

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borg Hall of Fame 2018

It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  Before we wrap our coverage of 2018, it’s time for the sixth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have plenty of honorees from 2018 films and television, plus many from past years, and a peek at some from the future – 40 in all.  You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

Some reminders about criteria.  Borgs have technology integrated with biology.  Wearing a technology-powered suit alone doesn’t qualify a new member.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was an inaugural honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive.  The new Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but as far as we can tell it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.  Similarly Peni Parker, seen outside her high-tech SP//dr suit in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Black Manta from Aquaman (and decades of comics before), seem to be merely wearing tech suits.  We’d love a reason for a Mandalorian to make the cut, like Boba Fett, or Jango Fett, since nobody has more intriguing armor.  Maybe Jon Favreau’s new television series will give us something new to ponder next year.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids, we take their word for it.  Westworld continues to define its own characters as androids (like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Lt. Commander Data throughout the TV series), and not cyborgs (going back to Michael Crichton’s original story), so we continue this year to hold off on their admittance unless something changes, like the incorporation of living biological (blood, cells, etc.) materials.  Are we closing in on admitting individuals solely based on a breathing apparatus that may allow them to breathe to in non-native atmospheres?  Only if integrated (surgically).  Darth Vader has more borg parts than his breathing filter.  We assume new honoree Saw Gerrera does as well.  With more biological enhancements we’d allow Tusken Raiders, Moloch, and Two Tubes from the Star Wars universe, and Mordock the Benzite from Star Trek, but wouldn’t that also mean anyone in a deep sea suit or space suit is a cyborg?  Again, integration is key.  Ready Player One has humans interacting with a cyber-world with virtual reality goggles and other equipment, but like the Programs (as opposed to the Users) in the movie Tron, this doesn’t qualify as borg either, but we’re making an exception this year for the in-world Aech, who is a cyborg orc character, and two Tron universe characters.

Already admitted in 2017 were advance honorees that didn’t actually make it to the screen until 2018.  This included Josh Brolin’s new take on Cable in Deadpool 2 and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight after her acquisition of a borg arm in Marvel’s Luke Cage.  New versions of Robotman and Cyborg are coming in 2019 in the Doom Patrol series, but they are already members of the revered Hall of Fame.  Above are the new looks for these two earlier honorees.

So who’s in for 2018?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Christmas movie releases began big this weekend with the first out of the gate: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, an animated superhero movie in a year that has seen the animated Incredibles 2 and live action versions of Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Deadpool 2, and Venom.  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse holds its own against them all.  A rich story and layered characters in an easy to digest, familiar, multi-verse story make this rise above other recent animated superhero shows.  In-world references to comic books–sporting the main characters on the covers, multi-view panel sequences, and even first-person narrative captions appear pulled from the pages of any real-world Spider-Man book.

The cast list has been publicized for months, and as the trailers promised, the voice actors take the film from good to great.  Familiar–maybe over-used–Spidey villain Kingpin, played by Liev Schreiber, is trying to take control of all the multi-verses with a new weapon that initially pulls in Spider-heroes from five other universes.  Shameik Moore plays star Miles Morales, a new Spider-Man trying to find his way at the beginning stage of his journey in his universe along with Chris Pine (Star Trek, Jack Ryan, Wonder Woman) as your more familiar neighborhood Spider-Man.  After an explosion Miles catches up with another Spider-Man, Peter B. Parker, a view of Parker in another dimension 20 years older, played perfectly (and hilariously) by Jake Johnson (Jurassic World, The Mummy, New Girl).  They are soon joined by cool and confident Spider-Woman aka Gwen “Spider-Gwen” Stacy, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld (BumbleBee, True Grit, Ender’s Game).  Early scenes present lots of great action, including a memorable scene where Miles drags Peter to safety aboard a speeding commuter train, but this story is more about sentiment and humor.  And it gets better.

Three other Spider-heroes arrive.  Rounding out the cast previewed in the trailers is Spider-Man Noir, allowing the great Nicolas Cage another superhero role after his performance as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass (after almost starring in a Tim Burton Superman movie years ago).  A lifelong comic book connoisseur, Cage was born to portray superheroes, and here his Spider-Man is pure perfection.  The oldest of spin-off Spideys emerges with the entrance of Peter Porker aka Spider-Ham (John Mulany), first seen in print back in 1983.  And a newer webslinger, the anime heroine Peni Parker from Earth-14512 (Kimiko Glenn), complete with her high-tech “SP//dr Suit,” gets her own great scenes.  The film features plenty of surprise characters, too.

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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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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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Last week we saw Superman turn 80 and reach his 1000th issue of Action Comics for DC Comics.  It’s hard to believe that Spider-man is the first character to be featured on a cover for an Issue #800 from rival publisher Marvel Comics.  But that issue finally arrives this month for the long-running monthly series The Amazing Spider-man, more than 55 years after Spidey’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.  This month’s benchmark issue will be a giant 80 pages wrapping up the four-part story “Go Down Swinging.”  Written by Dan Slott, interior artwork was created by Stuart Immonen, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Nick Bradshaw.  Peter Parker takes on Norman Osborn and Carnage, combined to become the Red Goblin.  Then in July as part of Marvel’s “Fresh Start” it all begins again with The Amazing Spider-man, Issue #1, with creative duties handed over to Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley.

The Amazing Spider-man #800 is arriving with at least 38 variant covers, drawn by Steve Ditko (2 remastered covers), Alex Ross (2 versions), Frank Cho, Adam Hughes (4 versions of an image of Mary Jane), Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson, John Romita, Sr., John Cassaday, Gabriele Dell’Otto (2 versions of 2 covers and a third image with wraparound cover for Comicxposure), Mark Bagley, Moebius (2 versions), Inhyuk-Lee (2 versions for Frankie’s/7 Ate 9), Greg Land, Tyler Kirkham, Ron Frenz and Brett Breeding, Humberto Ramos, Nick Bradshaw, Paolo Rivera, Francesco Mattina (connecting cover to Venom, Issue #1), eight covers by Scott Campbell, two editions pre-autographed by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr., and a blank sketch cover.

  

We’ve searched high and low and came up with 38 covers being offered.  Are more coming?  Possibly.  The difference in some is the inclusion of a logo–or not (frequently referred to as a “virgin cover”).  Many will require work to track down as some are store exclusives, and at least one will be offered at an initial price in excess of $1,000, while ten standard release variants will be easier to acquire.  Take a look at large images of all these great covers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Amazing?  Definitely.  Spectacular?  Absolutely.  Tom Holland, who stole the show in the key battle of last year’s Captain America: Civil War, has provided the definitive, and yes, the ultimate Spider-man performance in this weekend’s latest Marvel masterwork, Spider-man: Homecoming.  And Holland is equally good, if not better, without the suit as angst-ridden, overburdened teenager and Spider-man alter ego, Peter Parker.  Kids of all ages who ever envisioned the ultimate battle between Spider-man and Batman get their satisfaction here, too: Michael Keaton, in one of his best performances in decades, creates out of an obscure character one of the best supervillain performances to hit the big screen, complete with high-tech bat wings and the classic Keaton we all love to watch.

Moviegoers have seen good efforts from Marvel creating the comic book empire’s flagship, web-slinging superhero before, with Tobey Maguire in three Spider-man solo films and Andrew Garfield in two follow-up Amazing Spider-man films, but this latest story supplies what was missing from the other five: an authentic, likeable, smart, voice-breaking do-gooder and a classic coming of age story with heart.  But it doesn’t skimp on the action, and thanks to some well-filmed 3D and magical IMAX cinematography, one key scene that takes place high atop the Washington Monument made this viewer practically step backward out of his seat into the back row.  Just breathtaking filmmaking.

If you keep a list of superhero movie requirements in the back of your mind, you’ll find that Spider-man: Homecoming fulfills or surpasses them all.  A story with a solid character arc for its lead and antagonist.  A big relief for filmgoers who go to every new superhero movie: writer/director Jon Watts and five other writers (a fact that alone would normally spell certain doom for a film, but not here) knew enough to steer clear of another superhero origin story and instead delved right in.  They flesh out Parker’s relationship with his like-minded, knowledge bowl peers at school and provide more than one jawdropper along the way.  In Keaton’s villain they provide an exceptional, compelling villain, something lacking in the past several years of superhero movies.  Holland sports an update to the Spidey supersuit, and Louise Frogley’s latest costume design is superb, complete with believable, readily available tech supplied in-story by mentor Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark aka Iron Man in his latest perfect adaptation of the role from the comics.  And Michael Giacchino’s powerful and emotional score is among his best, complete with plenty of clever and unexpected themes that amplify the story at the right time.  If you think Peter Parker is a throwaway character, prepare for some emotional work by Holland, especially at his character’s lowest point in the story.

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