Tag Archive: Valkyrie


Actor and Kansas City Royals baseball fan Paul Rudd stars in a new World War II movie premiering next month.  He plays real-life professional baseball Morris “Moe” Berg in this espionage thriller from director Ben Lewin (Please Stand By).  The movie adapts the true story of the catcher who became a World War II spy.  The Boston Red Sox player was a private figure when, in 1944, the U.S. government’s wartime intelligence agency enlisted his services.  His mission:  To go behind enemy lines in Europe to assassinate the Nazi’s chief nuclear scientist before the Germans develop an atomic bomb.  IFC Films is marketing the film as a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.

The film stars Rudd along with Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man, The Illusionist, The Amazing Spider-man 2), Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Kingsman, Shazam!), Jeff Daniels (Good Night, Good Luck, Radio Days), Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA, Layer Cake), Tom Wilkinson (Valkyrie), Guy Pearce (Alien: Covenant, Iron Man 3), and Wonder Woman’s Queen Hippolyta, Connie Nielsen.  Adapted from a book The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, by Nicholas Dawidoff, with a script by Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan, Thor: The Dark World), the film has a similar look and feel to other recent World War II espionage thrillers, like Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie and Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game. 

 

Production design is by Academy Award-winning designer Luciana Arrighi (Howard’s End, Remains of the Day).  Costumes were designed by Joan Bergin (The Prestige, In the Name of the Father, My Left Foot, Vikings).  Three-time Oscar winning composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) created the musical score.

Here’s Paul Rudd starring in the trailer for The Catcher Was a Spy:

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It’s time for borg.com‘s annual look at the year’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons, and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2017 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a pregnant gunfighter, a mutant mental patient, a double agent, a space pilot, an alien security officer, a pregnant former psychopathic killing machine, a cyborg assassin, a mythic warrior, a maverick mercenary, a warrior, a commander of armies, an alien slave turned teacher, an angry young mutant, and a teenage high school reporter.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2017:

Wynonna Earp (Wynonna Earp).  Melanie Scrofano not only played Wynonna Earp as pregnant in this year’s second season, she actually was.  And that didn’t slow her down, defeating all the evil Revenants in the town of Purgatory, and incorporating the discomfort of pregnancy made for great comic release all season long.  Who had the tougher task, Earp or Scrofano?  Either way, the series showed it’s a keeper and Earp the sharp-tongued, swaggering, tough-as-nails gunfighter we continue to love.

Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok).  As cool and powerful as Cate Blanchett’s Hela was in this year’s pinnacle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the real scene stealer in Thor: Ragnarok was Tessa Thompson’s surprising new tough heroine, Valkyrie.  Cocky?  Yep.  And she backed up that confidence with mad fighting skills and brains–enough of a combination to help Thor & Co. save the people of Asgard and get some revenge for the Valkyries who lost the original battle against Hela.  As much as any other character, we’re looking forward to more of Valkyrie in next year’s ultimate team-up Avengers: Infinity War.

Luv (Blade Runner 2049).  If Blade Runner 2049 is remembered for anything, it should be Sylvia Hoeks’ badass Replicant oddly (ironically?) named Luv.  First unassuming, polished, and pristine in her mannerisms, she later reveals she can be the next best thing since Sarah Connor and the Terminators.  Luv is a fierce, brutal borg whose villainy became the high point of the film.

Laureline (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets).  Cocky yet sympathetic, loyal and determined, the space pilot 50 years in the making made it to the screen this year and Cara Delevingne delivered a surprise performance as the co-lead and equal half of Luc Besson’s science fiction space duo.  Her confidence was second to none, she stood up for what she believed and took what she wanted, and still had time to care for a lost rare species while making sure she protected her partner’s back.  We’d like to think she dropped the creepy egotistical Valerian in her next adventure, but she did exactly what she wanted to, and seemed to have one of those modern romances that worked for her.  Quirky, snarky, funny, and tough, she took out a room full of men with weapons and made it look like she wasn’t even trying.  Laureline has it all.

Helena (Orphan Black).  Of all the characters played by Tatiana Maslany in the series’ five seasons, who knew the sestra that would write the book on them all would be Helena, the once ruthless, psychopathic killing machine who once befriended a scorpion in prison?  This year Maslany wrapped up what must be the best role for a performer in the history of television.  No one has ever played so many parts in a series, and played them beautifully.  Each character had her moment, but Helena would make our list if she was in any series.

Antiope (Wonder Woman).  The opening minutes to this year’s DC film Wonder Woman finally adapted to film what comic book readers have seen all along–that the Amazons were a creation that should have been on the screen long before 2017.  The envy of them all was the brave and strong Antiope, played by Robin Wright.  It was the character that launched a thousand memes, and what greater way to illustrate the mentoring of Wonder Woman than via Wright’s ultimate warrior.

Commander Lin Mae (The Great Wall).  Jing Tian’s Lin, commander of the Crane Corps who takes charge of the Nameless Order and staves off the Tao Tieh, may be the year’s most dynamic and talented superhero–not technically a superhero, she looked superhuman in all her battle scenes.  She was decisive and cut through the nonsensical parts of the story.  Her aerobatic skill in defending the Great Wall, leading the largest military force ever, and saving her people in the process makes Commander Lin an easy entry on this year’s kick-ass list.

Betty Cooper (Riverdale).  It took 77 years but fans of Archie Comics finally got what they always wanted: a television series true to the characters generations have grown up with.  CW’s Riverdale gave viewers 1.5 seasons to soak up Archie and his pals with a tremendously well-written story team led by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, but best of all was the casting of Lili Reinhart as Betty and Camila Mendes as Veronica.  Both were badass frenemies, but Betty’s story really allowed her to save the day time after time while taking the high road, even becoming a member of the Southside gang to help Jughead, and as intrepid school reporter, sleuthing out and taking down the town serial killer known as The Black Hood.

Trubel (Grimm).  When the Wesen become too much for Grimm’s Nick Burkhardt, the series’ other Grimm warrior Theresa “Trubel” Rubel came to the rescue.  Reserved and measured in her actions, she also never hesitated to take someone’s head off to protect her newly found family.  In the series finale this year she even took on Nick directly when she disagreed with his plan, only to help take down the Zerstörer after an ultimate confrontation team-up with the ghosts of Kelly and Marie, and Nick.  What we’d give for a Grimm spin-off with Jacqueline Toboni bringing her character into new adventures!

Syd Barrett (Legion).  Many viewers saw the twisted look at the X-Men in the new FX series Legion as the best of the superhero fare on television this year.  The highlight of the show was Rachel Keller’s Syd Barrett, who became girlfriend to series lead hero David Haller.  Revealing a brutal dark side to being a superhero mutant, Syd’s powers won’t allow her to physically make contact with anyone, yet she makes it work anyway.  She’s willing to use her powers to switch bodies with anyone she touches to save those she cares about, even at great pain and loss.  Syd fights through her own doubts, uncertainty of reality, and those that have lied to her to break through and take what she wants.  She’s a fighter and triumphant, with only more battles ahead as season two is just around the corner.

Andrea/Andra’ath Quill (Class).  We only had eight episodes to get to know Miss Quill on the BBC’s Doctor Who spin-off series Class, but what we saw in Katherine Kelly’s alien slave turned teacher was the foundation for an incredible series that could have been.  Quill made the ultimate break from oppressor Charlie, the last surviving prince of an alien war.  That didn’t stop her from finding a way out, while taking care of the prince and the small class of would-be student heroes.  Quill could have taken the show in infinite directions had viewers supported the series more.  Regardless, Katherine Kelly’s Quill will always be remembered as a kick-ass heroine in a class by herself.

Lt. Alara Kitan (The Orville).  Who knew the next great science fiction series since Battlestar Galactica would be half comedy and produced by Seth MacFarlane?  Among the strife and misadventure, one crewmember had the greatest character arc in the series’ first season, and she was also the physically strongest person on the ship: Chief of Security Lt. Alara Kitan.  Halston Sage didn’t skip a beat in portraying a futuristic officer on a starship.  She didn’t begin the show as a leader, but learned the ropes and took us all along for the ride as she became that leader, revealing a sensitive and uncertain, very “human” side, who could still buddy around with the ship commander and save the day more than once.

Lorraine Broughton (Atomic Blonde).  Next year will see a shift where the British treasure Doctor Who sees its first woman Doctor.  Who knows if something like that will ever come of the other Brit icon, James Bond, but the closest anyone has ever come to that was Charlize Theron’s hardened and savvy spy Lorraine Broughton in the film adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City.  Has any woman action star ever given this many punches in a movie ever?  She took a pounding as well, but ultimately came out on top with some shrewd tactics.  Lorraine Broughton–nobody does it better!

X-23/Laura (Logan/Logan Noir).  The biggest surprise of the year was the great piece of filmmaking that was Logan, and more specifically the black and white version that arrived in theaters in limited release, Logan Noir, the swan song for both of the X-Men we got to know over the years as Hugh Jackman’s Logan aka Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier aka Professor X.  Incredible direction and cinematography created a film on par with any black and white classic.  But the young actress that the film could not have been successful without was the young Wolverine in training, Laura aka X-23.  What a fantastic actress was Dafne Keen as Laura that you almost forget it’s a little girl ripping all these bad guys’ heads off and digging her sharp claws into their skulls.  And in the next scene she’s nonchalantly eating a bowl of cereal, or acting angry because of something Logan said.  X-23/Laura was simply the best of the best of the list of kick-ass women characters revealed to movie fans this year.  Please, oh, please, Fox or Disney, let’s see Keen reprise the character again soon, huh?

And that’s it.  Keep coming back the rest of this month as we reveal the rest of our Best in Film, Best in TV and Best in Print, and our borg.com Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything nearly ended.  Countless heroes were killed.  The Fantastic Four have disbanded.  The X-Men are gone.  Mutants are hunted as criminals.  The world still needs saving.  This is what happens next.

Released last year in a nice hardcover edition and now widely available everywhere, the oddly titled Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn is not always easy to find via electronic searches because of its clunky title.  And if you try to just ask for “that great Jeph Loeb/Frank Cho” book from last year, they may or may not know what you mean.  But take it from me, it is well worth remembering this one.

After reading last week’s prologue to the coming Avengers vs. X-Men series (Issue #0 came out last Wednesday and Issue #1 will be released early at a special pre-release party this Tuesday night), what it made me want was more Frank Cho.  In a never-dwindling stack of books to read, this New Ultimates is the one in the stack you kick yourself for not reading earlier.

By way of background, Marvel’s Ultimate Universe is a parallel universe created in 2000 to try to bring in new fans without being bogged down in 40 years of Marvel Comics Universe continuity.  Sound a little like DC’s New 52?  The Ultimate Universe is a sort of all-bets-are-off line that Marvel fans either love or hate.  As a fan of alternate history books, and as we wait for DC Comics to reveal its own new Earth 2 and Worlds Finest parallel universe series, this trade book, re-printing the Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn Issues #1-5 from 2010, is exactly the kind of story I love.

I’ll put aside Frank Cho’s brilliant art for a second and get into the story.

Jeph Loeb is one of comic book writing’s greats for a reason.  His storytelling is superb in that it is succinct enough for the comic medium yet comprehensive in its bringing in several major players and turning points in only five chapters.  Each issue/chapter is told both from a third person narrative and an internal monologue from a different key player–each of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Valkyrie, Loki and Thor.  Sometimes the stories run parallel with each other, and in other parts they require the reader to follow the two stories separately.  I rarely like switching narrators in any type of book as it usually feels like a gimmick.  In comic books, if done right, it can allow you to dig into a few characters more deeply than a third person voice by itself.

Jeph Loeb clearly poured a lot of himself into this story.  Loeb follows the thoughts of Tony Stark as he beats up himself for surviving a battle with cancer, while a kid he met named Sam did not survive.  Sam, of course, is a reference to Loeb’s own son who had died earlier of cancer, and was the subject of a popular memorial book by several DC Comics creators.  The fact that Loeb would pour such a personal story into the opening page of this book grabs the reader’s attention instantly.  Suddenly we see Loeb as Stark, and it somehow allows us to understand the darkness behind Stark’s personality.  As Stark is chatting with Hawkeye, a group of the New Defenders appear for a brawl.  Captain America shows up with two great characters, Zarda, who Hawkeye believes to be crazy yet is a goddess in her own right, and Valkyrie, who we later learn is a typical girl next door that ends up coerced into a life of a would-be superhero.

This humorous assemblage of repeating/mirror panels is reminiscent of Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows work.

Valkyrie is central to this story, as Thor’s lover, she cannot get over losing him.   He resides in Asgard, his exiled destination for sacrificing everything–including his life–in a prior battle.  We meet yp with Thor in Asgard, trying to persuade Hela to let him return.  She agrees, but for a great price that he pays–without much coercion–and with a result that will likely be played out in later series.

For Frank Cho fans, this world includes Shanna of the jungle and Ka-Zar, their twin tigers, and Black Panther.  They are first to confront the series’ villain, Loki, and another enchantress named Amora, with a flying dragon/dinosaur beastie invading Manhattan.  As much as readers will be blown away by Cho’s pantheon of women heroes like only he draws them, including Ms. Marvel’s Carol Danvers, Valkyrie, Zarda, Amora, the enchantress, and Shanna, his male superheroes are superb, too, and Iron Man and Captain America in particular have rarely been rendered artistically any better.  Also look for cameos by the Black Knight and Power Man.

Beautiful original art page by Frank Cho.

We encounter a brooding Captain America, who inadvertently pushes Valkyrie and Zarda into the manipulative trance of Amora (Zarda is a ringer for Cho’s Brandy and Amora for Cho’s Jen, both from his Liberty Meadows series).  Rounding out a triumvirate of super-powered women under the control of Loki and Amora, Carol Danvers, now director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  is pulled in to devastate the few heroes that remain: Iron Man, Captain America, and Hawkeye.  Readers are treated to several poster-worthy splash pages from Cho.  And hints abound in the series as well as in-jokes.  Cho’s use of eyes and expressions tell stories themselves that, in retrospect, were giveaways easily passed over on a first read.  Cho’s in-jokes are peppered throughout the book, in wall paintings and coffee house menus, in backgrounds other artists would have left as filler space.

Throughout this tale we follow the tragic story of the rise of Valkyrie, actually the human Barbara Norriss, whose entire life–as she sees it–is a lie.  The theme “be careful what you wish for” is repeated throughout Loeb’s story.  Valkyrie’s story is emotion-filled and poignant.  If you are looking for a great story along the lines of Wagner’s Ring fantasy, this story would fit right in.

Loeb sums up the ruthless Loki very well as Loki compares his and brother Thor’s story to Cain and Abel, and Esau and Jacob, “Unlike those brothers, however, I don’t want to actually KILL Thor.  I just want to @#$% with him.”  Consistent with the Norse god stories, and Loki in the Marvel Universe, this reveals a lot about his motivations and the pages that follow.  The final chapter, shown in part through Thor’s voice, wraps the story arc up nicely.

For some reason to me this image seems very similar to portraits of Batgirl done by Adam Hughes.

Back to Cho’s art–although we almost take for granted Cho’s pin-up worthy splash pages, his action scenes stand up to anyone else’s in their own right.  His women in battle have some similarities to Adam Hughes 1940s style women-focused cover work (like his current Batgirl covers) that I have not recognized before.  The numerous characters go through several emotions, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, and his eyes and mouths, wrinkles, frown lines, etc. convey much–he really makes it all look so easy.  One final note:  A few of these covers were mentioned earlier here in our review of the best covers of Frank Cho.

The appendix includes a great color and black and white gatefold of alternate covers and a sketchbook of Frank Cho pencil work from this series.  Overall you’ll be hard pressed to find a more interesting adventure story coupled with stellar artwork than Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn.