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Tag Archive: Titan Books Marvel novels


Review by C.J. Bunce

Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix saga in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men has attained classic status in the eyes of comics readers, up there with The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and Days of Future Past.  So adapting the story into another medium forty years later is one of those cultural mainstays, a modern analogue to creating a new Sherlock Holmes film, Frankenstein movie, or another generation’s interpretation of a Shakespeare play.  Marvel Comics itself has given this a go a few times now, usually as subplots or tie-in concepts, and at the movies Marvel tried it with X-Men: United, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Dark Phoenix, this year’s wrap-up to the X-Men films.  X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga, the new hardcover novel from author Stuart Moore (Captain Ginger, Civil War, Thanos: Death Sentence) comes the closest so far to a faithful adaptation for Dark Phoenix purists.

We probably should blame Marvel’s bankruptcy and resulting character/universe splits and business decisions for the disjointed handling of the Dark Phoenix characters and plot points at the movies.  Dark Phoenix is an interesting story, but not the only X-Men story, so it would have been better revealed over five or six movies culminating in a Jean Grey-centered finale, since the character has been defined as Earth’s most powerful superhero as the Marvel universe is concerned.  She’s worth it.  Now with the successes of theatrical comic book adaptations, and the formula of long-term story development in the genre a proven commodity, maybe fans will see more loyal movie adaptations coming (hopefully only after we get to see some of the hundreds of other stories adapted).  But fans of the comics will be pleased here: Moore doesn’t play games with his novel.  Readers will find the classic game of chess and all the key pieces:  Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Jason Wyngarde, Donald Pierce, Harry Leland, Lilandra, Moira MacTaggert, and X-Men Xavier/Charles, Kitty Pryde, Scott Summers and Logan & Co. (except notably Beast, who for some reason was not included).

Despite marketing to the effect of adapting the tale to the 21st century, if that’s true it’s only subtly handled.  The bones of the story are the same (including the awkward 1970s Harlequin romance subplot from the comics with Jean and a Regency era lover, every cringeworthy bit).  New readers, those unfamiliar with the story at all, will likely find some of those classic Claremont and Cockrum elements a bit jolting and distracting to the overall narrative, and episodic tangent shifts more typical to a monthly comic than longform story.  But Moore brings it all together with the key conflicts and outcomes of the source material falling into place.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With Avengers: Endgame still in theaters, another adaptation of the same source material that inspired that movie and Avengers: Infinity War is now available.  It’s James A. Moore′s Infinity, a novelized adaptation of the Infinity comic book event from 2013.  Moore adapts the key story details from Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer’s story across an array of comic book titles, drawn by several artists.  In most ways Infinity will seem completely foreign to fans who are only aware of the movies.  When people speak of the cosmic side of the Marvel universe they’re referring to the kinds of elements that form the backbone of this story.  The Inhumans, known many by the short-lived television series, are a major component of the story.  Like the graphic novel, the novel follows the Avengers and other superheroes of Earth trying to fight off ancient creators called the Builders, who believe that Earth would be better terraformed–leveled, destroyed, and rebuilt–than left as it is.  At the same time Thanos is looking for his son.  One of his loyal Children of Thanos (the Black Order in the novel), which consists of the same henchmen in the films plus a few others, ultimately finds him–his son, Thane–on Earth.

Fans of 1980s brief New Universe will recognize Star Brand and Nighthawk as major characters in this story.  Missing characters seen in the graphic novel that don’t end up here are Luke Cage, Power Man, She-Hulk, Silver Surfer, Wasp, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Hank Pym, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Falcon.  New characters for movie audiences include Manifold, Captain Universe, and the Atlantean Namor, the Sub-Mariner.  Black Panther and Doctor Strange are still key to the story, but in different ways.  Alien races include the Kree and the Skrulls, with Ronan the Accuser as a major player.  The novel adaptation is spread thinly across universes as was the comics version.  Keeping track of the characters without the benefit of seeing their unique costumes may be difficult for anyone not familiar with all the comics.

If you’re bothered by corporate guru Tony Stark as always the smartest guy in the room, which seems to be the thing in more recent years, especially with the popularity of the character from the movies, you’ll find some relief here.  Fortunately Moore also uses Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, Hulk Bruce Banner, and X-Men’s Hank McCoy aka The Beast–the three actual smartest legacy superhero characters–to work the moving parts of the problem.  Ultimately what the reader brings to the book will determine the level of enjoyment.  For anyone new to hundreds of tangent characters of the Marvel Comics, keeping track of Who’s Who is nearly impossible.  Moore takes strides to bring background characters to the fore, including a romantic sub-plot, but who they are and why they should be important isn’t tapped into enough.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Writer Stuart Moore returns this month with a solid follow-up to his multiple superhero-spanning novel Civil War, reviewed here at borg Titan Books has released the tenth book in its Marvel Comics-based series of prose paperback novels, Moore’s Thanos: Death Sentence Originally published in 2017, this is its first paperback release.  If you’re after a story about Thanos, if you love the character and want to know what makes him tick, and the circumstances around wielding that kind of power during the events of Avengers: Infinity War, then Thanos: Death Sentence is for you.  Those familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers: Infinity War will find no spoilers for the film in this story, and it may just get you excited for the release of Avengers: Endgame in theaters next week.

It’s probably better knowing something about this story before jumping into the dense 336-page novel.  Exciting, brilliant detailed superhero crossover events highlight the novel’s first 100 pages.  In a parallel but different take on Infinity War, readers see Thanos kill off nearly every major superhero in the Marvel universe.  It’s quite fun to read how Moore has Thanos do it, not with a single snap and turn to dust for everyone, but a specific, tailored death sentence for each hero.  Wielding the Soul Stone Spider-Man gets relegated to re-live the death of his uncle through his own inaction, for infinity.  Ben Grimm gets separated into his component stones and dispersed throughout the cosmos.  With the Space Stone Thanos strands Captain Marvel beyond the solar system.  The Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange, Vision, Prince Namor, Black Panther, all snuffed out.  And then it’s all undone.  And that’s only where this story begins.  The method of the undoing is not something that seems remotely possible for the movies–with far more characters introduced than we’re met on the big screen (since the entirety of the films were made before the merger with Fox to wrap in the rest of the Marvel characters).

Once the deaths are undone, Thanos the Mad Titan is forced to fight his way back to power by Mistress Death using the Infinity Wardrobe, pressed into the bodies of tangent characters in the lives of the famed Children of Thanos–his minions seen in Avengers: Infinity War: Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, Corvus Glaive, plus his adopted daughter Gamora.

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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

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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