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- 12/09/18--12:15: The Umbrella Academy Trailer Arrives
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Everything you need to know about Netflix's The Umbrella Academy, including latest news, release date, trailer, and much more!
Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba's The Umbrella Academy is coming to Netflix as a live action series. The comic book series, which debuted in 2007, was first optioned as a movie before Dark Horse signed a deal with Universal Cable Productions to adapt the comic as a TV series.
The live action series follows the estranged members of a dysfunctional family of superheroes -- The Monocle, Spaceboy, The Kraken, The Rumor, The Séance, Number Five, The Horror, and the seemingly powerless Vanya -- as they work together to solve their father’s mysterious death while coming apart at the seams due to their divergent personalities and abilities.
Way began writing The Umbrella Academy just a year after the release of My Chemical Romance's magnum opus, The Black Parade. The series is 15 issues of Eisner Award-winning goodness that has continued to inform Way's career as a comic book writer, especially with his current run on Doom Patrol and his Young Animal line at DC. Artist Gabriel Ba has also done some of his best work on the series. (If you want something really great by Ba, check out Daytripper, which he created with his twin brother, artist Fabio Moon.)
The Umbrella Academy has been on a bit of a hiatus since 2009. Only two volumes, The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas, have been released thus far, although Way and Ba plan at least two more volumes. The third volume is called Hotel Oblivion, and it's been in the works since at least 2013 when Way tweeted out an update with some sketches of new characters. Way and Ba had agreed to begin work on Hotel Oblivion in 2014, but a lot's happened since then. Besides his music projects, Way has his own line of comics and two comic book series to write.
While it's not likely the Umbrella Academy will return on the page any time soon, fans will at least gave the show to look forward to. – Here's everything else we know:
The Umbrella Academy Trailer
The first trailer is here!
The Umbrella Academy Release Date
Netflix has officially announced that all 10 one-hour episodes of The Umbrella Academy will premiere will premiere on February 15, 2019. Best Valentine ever.
The Umbrella Academy Cast
Netflix has revealed the core cast of the show. Here are the actors who will portray the members of the Umbrella Academy:
Ellen Page (X-Men: Days of Future Past) will star as Vanya, who is estranged from the rest of the family because of her lack of powers. Vanya is a very important character in the first arc of the comics, as she goes through a bit of self-discovery that puts her at odds with the superheroes she once called a family.
Tom Hopper (Game of Thrones) plays Luther, aka Spaceboy. He has super-strength, and after a terrible accident during an expedition to Mars, his head had to be transplanted onto the body of a gorilla. Ehem...
Emmy Raver-Lampman (Hamilton) will play Allison, aka The Rumor, who can alter reality by lying.
David Castaneda (El Chicano) is Diego, codenamed The Kraken. He is sort of a fuse between Aquaman and Batman. He can hold his breath indefinitely, which gives him an advantage when in water, and is an expert knife thrower.
Robert Sheehan (Misfits) is perfectly cast as Klaus aka The Seance, the most morbid character of the group. His powers, which manifest only when he's barefoot, include levitation, telekinesis, and the ability to contant the dead. In the comics, Klaus is killed at one point but rejected from both Heaven and Hell.
Aidan Gallagher (Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn) is Number Five, simply codenamed The Boy. He can effortlessly travel in time and does not age due to a temporal condition.
Colm Feore (House of Cards) will play Sir Reginald Hargreeves, the leader of the Umbrella Academy. He is the billionaire who adopted all of the strange children that made up the superhero team. Hargreeves was known to be manipulative and cold towards the kids, something that has scarred the heroes later in life.
Adam Godley (Breaking Bad) will play Pogo, a genetically-engineered and talking chimpanzee. Pogo is a point of comfort for the Umbrella Academy, acting in much more of a fatherly and nurturing role than Hargreeves ever did.
Ashley Madekwe (Revenge) plays Detective Patch, who is at odds with the vigilantes that protect her city. She prefers to play things by the book.
Mary J. Blige has joined the cast as well. She will play the role of Cha-Cha, the insane time-traveling assassin first introduced in the second arc of the comic, "Dallas," which reimagines the Kennedy assassination. Cha-Cha, along with her partner Hazel, believes in using the most violent method possible to dispatch her prey.
Hazel will be played by Cameron Britton (Mindhunter). According to the official character description, Hazel will become at odds with Cha-Cha at some point after their time-traveling blood-soaked adventures begin to wear on him.
John Magaro (The Big Short) will be a series regular, playing Leonard Peabody, described as “a sweet Average Joe,” who, while dismissed as being somewhat of a milquetoast, strikes up an unlikely romance with Vanya (Ellen Page) that plays out against the backdrop of the larger events of the series.
Kate Walsh will play a recurring character called The Handler, officially described as “a composed and confident leader of a mysterious, bureaucratic company who is always ready to manage any situation — though it's best not to get on her bad side. Her charm is her greatest strength and she uses it to her advantage to complete the business of her organization.”
Ready to see what DC Comics and DCEU goodness is hidden in the seaweed of the Aquaman movie? We've got you covered!
This article contains nothing but Aquaman spoilers.
After years of development, the Aquaman movie is finally here. For a little perspective, we first glimpsed Jason Momoa as Aquaman in a brief cameo in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but he had been cast in the role as early as 2014. That's...quite a long time to wait for the king of Atlantis to ascend (or descend) to his throne, even when you take his starring role in last year's Justice League movie into account.
And just as we've seen in every DCEU movie, Aquaman is absolutely packed to the gills (sorry) with DC Universe easter eggs. With a tremendous amount of reverence for Aquaman comic book history, and a few subtle nods to the wider DC Comics world, there's a lot to unpack here.
So here's how this works. I've spotted everything I can from my first viewing. If you see anything I missed, let me know, either in the comments or yell at me on Twitter, and if it checks out, I'll update this.
Let's get our lines in the water, shall we?
The Origin Story
Let's talk about Arthur Curry for a minute. Do you know this character has been around nearly as long as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? Aquaman first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941, where he was created by Mort Weisinger (who later went on to be a legendary...and legendarily difficult...editor on the Superman titles) and Paul Norris.
Arthur has had a ton of different origins through the years, but this movie primarily pulls from comics published in the last decade. It's far less confusing that way.
- Just a quick note about Aquaman's look before we dive back into the rest of the fun stuff in the origin story. While he ultimately ends up in a very faithful version of his comic book costume (and seriously, it looks amazing, doesn't it?), the long-haired, bearded, tough guy Aquaman look was really popularized when Peter David was writing the character in the 1990s, and was further cemented in pop culture consciousness by the excellent Justice League animated series in the early part of the 21st century. In fact...
- The gladiator gear Arthur wears during his first fight with Orm is reminiscent of the Peter David era of the character.
OK, back to work...
- The underwater WB logo reminds me a little of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie. That was the first time I could remember the WB logo being presented against something less traditional than the bright blue sky. There, the sky darkened to night before panning down for the opening credits. Here it's more intricate (with the barnacles, etc) but it's still very cool.
- The opening narration by Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry includes a quote from Jules Verne, one of the fathers of science fiction. Here’s the full quote:
"Put two ships in the open sea, without wind or tide, and, at last, they will come together. Throw two planets into space, and they will fall one on the other. Place two enemies in the midst of a crowd, and they will inevitably meet; it is a fatality, a question of time; that is all."
While the first part of that quote certainly refers to Tom Curry and Atlanna (and perhaps Arthur and Mera), the rest of it could surely encompass the rest of the movie. The “two planets in space” is the surface world and Atlantis, and the “two enemies in a crowd” is Arthur’s dual nature as an Atlantean/human, his relationship with his half-brother, but ultimately I feel like it best sums up the enmity between Aquaman and Black Manta.
- Right out of the gate, the influence of Geoff Johns on the Aquaman character is felt in this movie. The first time we ever heard of Amnesty Bay as his hometown was in the Johns-penned Blackest Night series (something that would make a fine basis for a Green Lantern movie or Justice League sequel down the road, by the way).
- On the TV during that intro sequence is the intro to Stingray, a 1964 puppet animation underwater series. Interestingly enough, the very first episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 from back in its public access days was "Invaders From the Deep," a feature length compilation of Stingray episodes.
- In the Curry household you can spot a Fender bass and a Vox amplifier (is that a Pathfinder, amp?). While neither Tom nor Arthur Curry are particularly renowned for their musical skills, Jason Momoa does play a mean bass.
- The adorable golden retriever is most likely a reference to “Salty" (no, his name isn't Aquadog) from the Geoff Johns New 52 run. The difference there is that the doggie wasn't Tom Curry's, but adopted by Arthur and Mera after his owner had been killed by the trench.
- As an early nod to director James Wan’s horror roots during the otherwise Amblin-esque prologuge, there’s a copy of HP Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror visible on a table. That story also deals with a “half-breed” main character, although one whose mysterious origins are far less noble than Arthur’s. Its New England setting also connects with the Amnesty Bay opening sequence here.
- The scene with Atlanna swallowing the goldfish is a play on classic “fish out of water” tropes. Older fans may remember Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks in Splash, where Hannah's mermaid eats a lobster, shell and all.
We definitely get a distinctive “vuu-vuu-vuu” sound when young Arthur talks to the fish, reminiscent of what would be heard when Aquaman would use his powers on various incarnations of the Super Friends cartoon.
Later on in the movie we also get the famed "circles" effect that would be visible when Aquaman would use his powers in assorted animation series. It's really cool to see it represented on screen.
Let's talk about this movie's baddies, shall we?
- The Black Manta origin story we see on screen is basically an adaptation of his most recent one (he has had...a bunch...we detailed them all here). There are some changes here, though. In the comics origin (this one concocted by Geoff Johns), Arthur killed Manta's father by mistake, as he believed he was responsible for the death of Tom Curry. Here, it's used to illustrate how Arthur needs to learn mercy for later in the film, but it's still close enough to the comics version of events.
- When we finally see Black Manta in his full costume, there’s a great vocal effect. One of the most striking things about the character when he was a regular on Challenge of the Super Friends was his voice. Unforgettable, and a nice nod here.
- When building his technology, Manta says "I think I'm gonna need a bigger helmet," a clear nod to the famous "we're gonna need a bigger boat" line from the greatest seafaring blockbuster of all time, Jaws.
- It's interesting that they lean so hard into how well-established Aquaman is as a superhero with the Aquaman-fights-pirates scene. It helps place this movie even more firmly within the DCEU (which is not being rebooted any time soon). We already knew Arthur had been operating more or less out in the open before Justice League, but clearly the events of that movie have made him more of a household name. It's not clear how long after the end of Justice League this movie takes place, but let's just say it has been roughly a year, which gives Arthur's fame a little more time to grow.
- Orm has been around since Aquaman #29 in 1966, where he was created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy. Like Black Manta, Orm has had several variations of his origin story through the decades, but also like Black Manta, the version we see on screen here is most similar to the New 52 version of the character introduced by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Paul Pelletier.
- Once nice touch here is that they made Ocean Master a title, not a codename.
Orm's father, King Orvax is from the Geoff Johns comics, as well. Orvax was a Captain in the Atlantean army who became king by marrying Atlanna. The idea is to make sure that the royal family is always bound to military leaders. Needless to say it didn't work out well for anyone involved.
- The visual of the tidal wave coming to shore is very much like how Orm first launched his attack on the surface world during the Throne of Atlantis comics story, which this movie certainly owes a tremendous debt to. There, however, Orm actually did wage all out war on the surface world, rather than merely threaten it, and it took the full Justice League to stop him. It's too bad they seem to have used up this story here, because this story is certainly big enough, and would have made for an interesting Justice League 2.
Also, it might be a coincidence because it looks cool, but the final throwdown taking place in the pouring rain feels like it comes out of , too. It was always raining in that story.
- It takes him a while to get there, but Ocean Master does eventually wear his classic comics costume, right down to the famous helmet.
- One other random thing about Patrick Wilson as Orm. His clean-shaven, blond haired, classical good looks make him appear far more like traditional comic book depictions of Aquaman.
- The flashbacks to the dawn of Atlantis is reminiscent of the worldbuilding we saw in Wonder Woman and Man of Steel. This is a highlight of nearly every DCEU movie. I love seeing the ancient history of these societies represented on screen.
I don't believe that this particular origin of Atlantis lines up with any of the ones from the comics. One thing to keep in mind is that for years, DC had multiple/competing versions of Atlantis in their continuity, before they were finally all unified in the excellent Atlantis Chronicles limited series. You can read that on DC Universe right now, and it's definitely worth your time.
- One of the nice little touches throughout the movie is that there is a subtle but cool underwater vocal effect.
- King Nereus first appeared in Aquaman #19 (2013) and was created by Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier. He’s played here by the beloved, awesome Dolph Lundgren. He’s a fairly different character in the comics, though, where he isn’t a king, but a soldier of Xebel. And he isn’t Mera’s father, but a competitor for her romantic interests. Instead, they made Orm into Mera's betrothed...who she ditches for Arthur. Comic book Nereus and movie Orm should go out for a beer and have a good cry together.
- Murk (played here by Ludi Lin, who we loved in the Power Rangers movie) first appeared in Aquaman #17 (2013), and like Nereus, he was created by Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier. Later in the movie (during that amazing Sicily fight/chase sequence) he loses a hand, which is a nod to his comic book look, where he is a far more grizzled soldier with a harpoon for a hand.
The octopus playing the drums during the Orm/Arthur battle is none other than Topo! And yes, he was known to dabble in music from time to time...
Topo was created by Ramona Fradon (a giant among Aquaman creators) in the pages of Adventure Comics #229 in 1956.
However, the New 52 version of Topo is a giant kaiju-type monster, one who looks far more like the beast Arthur brings to everyone's aid at the climax of this movie.
- So much of this movie's visual flair is reminiscent of Mike Hodges' brilliant Flash Gordon movie from 1980, and I feel like some of the underwater laser sound effects sound like nods to those.
Mera has been around since Aquaman #11 in 1963, where she was created by Jack Miller and Nick Cardy. In the comics, Xebel isn't another kingdom of Atlantis, it's an entirely different dimension. And again, it should be noted, Nereus is NOT her Dad in the comics. Because...that would be weird.
- The same way Aquaman draws moisture from Aquaman's body to activate that piece of Atlantean tech, she also can use that kind of power offensively. There's an issue of the New 52 series where she straight up dehydrates a guy to bring him down...as in, makes him feel the effects of nearly 2 full days without water. In other words, just in case this movie didn't clue you in, under no circumstances should you mess with Mera, because she will mess your life up.
Mera references the events of Justice League, and that’s about as much inter-movie continuity as we get in the movie (or need, for that matter).
- King Atlan, first appeared in the excellent Atlantis Chronicles mini-series, but like nearly everything else in this movie, what we see here is primarily from what was introduced during Geoff Johns' New 52 run on the character. His look here, and how he just kind of hung out mummified on his old throne, is reminiscent of those comics. And yes, New 52 Aquaman wields his scepter.
However, it wasn't his trident that was the ultimate "holy relic" you see in this movie, but rather a magical scepter, one far more powerful than the trident. In any case, that scepter was responsible for the sinking of Atlantis in the comics, not the misuse of technology shown in the movie.
- Vulko's full name is Nuidis Vulko (but I don't think we ever actually hear it in the movie). The character has been around since 1967's The Brave and the Bold#73, where he was created by Bob Haney and Howard Purcell. But the character as we see him here, a loyalist to Atlanna who takes it upon himself to train young Arthur is far more in line with the New 52 version of the character as written by Geoff Johns.
- I am kind of imagining this, but the blue "deep ocean camoflauge" suit that Vulko wears while training young Arthur reminds me of a briefly used, but incredibly cool, Aquaman costume design from the 1980s...
Honestly, if Warner Bros. decides that they want to do a smaller, more horror-focused Aquaman sequel, you could do worse than adapting the first story from Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Paul Pelletier's first volume of the New 52 series, which introduced the Trench. In that story, they basically invade Amnesty Bay before Aquaman tracks them back to their undersea lair and seals them in.
But there's one ability of the Trench that we don't see in the movie. They secrete this substance that basically shuts down their prey's nervous system, making them easier to eat. So yeah, that's terrifying. Imagine what James Wan could do with a story like this, one far less ambitious than this crazy Aquaman movie, but one more akin to The Walking Dead with horrifying fish monsters.
Miscellaneous Cool DC Stuff (and More!)
- While Aquaman is taking out the pirates on the submarine, there’s a funny moment where he holds an unconscious guy up to a porthole in the door, in order to fool one of the other pirates into opening it. I don’t know if this was intentional or not (I’d like to think it was), but in Jason Momoa’s ill-fated Conan the Barbarian reboot, there’s a scene where he does something similar...only it’s with a severed head. I...I actually really enjoy that Conan scene, even though the rest of the movie isn’t really up to it.
This isn't the only Conan reference in the movie. Later on, when Arthur is confronting the Karathen and making his case as to why he should be allowed to take the lost trident of Atlan, he tells it (her? It's a her. That's Julie Andrews, after all. I had better show some damn respect) "if that's not good enough, then screw you!" It's like a modern version of Arnold Schwarzenegger's classic prayer to Crom in John Milius' brilliant 1982 Conan the Barbarian, where he ends with a rather pragmatic, "and if you don't listen, then the hell with you!"
- Speaking of the Karathen, while that isn't from the comics, there is a similar giant kaiju from Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier's "Sea of Storms" story, called the Karaqan, and I don't think this is a coincidence. The Karaqan is less friendly (and dignified) than the Karathen, but let's say they're roughly of the same family.
And also, the image of the "forge" for the trident seems to be inspired by a panel from "Sea of Storms" which looks almost identical, although the context is very, very different there.
- Everyone is watching WGBS in the bar. Galaxy Broadcasting System is the most famous fictional network in the DC Universe, at one point owning The Daily Planet in addition to its other enterprises. The TV arm, WGBS, employed Clark Kent as a news anchor during the 1970s and early 1980s. And the head of WGBS? That would be Morgan Edge, someone we haven’t yet seen in the DCEU, but who certainly could make an impact if they decide to do anything with him down the line.
- Apparently, you can spot the creepy Annabelle doll from The Conjuring stashed underwater in one scene, but I didn't see her myself on the first viewing. I'm willing to take everyone's word for it, though!
- All through Atlantis we see Atlanteans riding seahorses. But...badass seahorses. But this is especially significant during the final battle when Arthur is charing into war on the back of one, wearing his classic comic book costume. This is a nod to what has generally been the most prominent picture of Aquaman in the pop culture consciousness: a dude who rides a seahorse.
- There are two moments in this movie that remind me of a mostly forgotten chapter in Aquaman history. Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and the great Curt Swan had a limited series called The Legend of Aquaman in the 1980s. The vast majority of this story has been consigned to the continuity dustbin of history (which is too bad, because it's really cool). But in it, Aquaman is first brought to Atlantis as a prisoner, which feels kind of reminiscent of his first encounter with his brother in this movie.
But the other is his first large scale use of his ability to communicate with undersea life comes during a massive final battle to repel invaders, where he basically gets alllll the fishies to come and kick some ass for the glory of Atlantis. There's an element of that here.
- Back to more current Aquaman continuity, though...the sequence with Arthur and Mera in the desert isn't from any particular Aquaman comics, BUT it does seem inspired by something that came at the tail end of the first volume of the New 52 series by (you guessed it) Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. There's certainly a visual homage to it, as Arthur makes a hard landing in the sand at the start of it, and he's following the directions of a piece of Atlantean tech that needs to be immersed in water to be properly activated.
- The idea of Atlanna being alive was first brought forth in Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier's "Maelstrom" which sees Aquaman and Mera travel through a kind of dimensional barrier (similar to what they have to do to evade the Trench in this movie), to a tropical world where Atlanna still lives. There, however, she's a little less friendly. But whatever.
Aquaman Post Credits Scene
- Throughout the movie we see noted scientific crackpot Stephen Shin talking about Atlantis on TV. Shin was created by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis early in the New 52 Aquaman period. What we don't get in this movie, but that could potentially be explored in sequels, is his history with Arthur, which explains why he is so certain that Atlantis exists.
- In Shin's beat-up old lab, full of newspaper clippings about Atlantis, one stands out: The Coast City Ledger! This might be the first reference to Coast City in the DCEU (please correct me if I'm wrong). Coast City is home to Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern who we’ll (presumably...eventually) see again in a new Green Lantern Corps movie, whenever that finally gets made.
Spot anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Song by song, Queen shook the palaces to become rock royalty. Queen: Album by Album exposes the coup.
God save Queen. I mean it, man. When the prog-metal glam vaudeville act recorded the album News of the World next door to the Sex Pistols, who were recording the punk classic Never Mind the Bollocks … Here are the Sex Pistols, their drummer gave us a "Sheer Heart Attack." He blew the balls off the amps for an aural attack downstroked from a stack of guitars set at 11. Brian May was the band's guitarist, and a regal hard rock master plucking strings with a six-pence. Freddie Mercury was the singer with the operatic range. But Roger Taylor, a beatkeeper who sang the band's highest parts, came up with a classic shredder riff you "Gotta Fight from the Inside" for a song he played all the instruments on.
Metal journalist Martin Popoff's book Queen: Album by Album, part of a series of musical breakdowns he puts out through Voyageur Press, and everyone who comments for it, loves the band Queen. From Dee Snider to Paul McCartney, through David Ellefson of Megadeth and Nina Noir of the San Francisco Bay all-girl Queen tribute band The Killer Queens, the band is treated lovingly and reverently. Even the songs they don't particularly like, they love. But none so much as Popoff, who starts the book humbly admitting Queen is “absolutely the greatest band to ever walk this earth."
The 19 Queen experts he assembled to rip through the band’s 15 studio albums tend to agree. One says you don't listen to Queen albums waiting for the next song, like you do with Jethro Tull, which irked me. But hey, Tull were only Queen for a day. There's a small part of me, and probably a lot of people reading this, who would like to hear what Mr. Robot's Rami Malek, who plays Mercury in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, might like to say about mixing his voice in with Freddy's. Popoff does include Patrick Myers, who played the lead in the Broadway musical Killer Queen.
Queen was formed in 1970. They'd been playing in London clubs after Mercury culled May and Taylor from the band Smile. After nearly 50 years and the untimely death of Freddie Mercury of AIDS in November 1991, the surviving members can fill arenas with celebrity frontmen like Bad Company's Paul Rodgers. The experts, musicians, and record label execs get into the individual songs, the feel of the studio, what else was going on in the music world as music was being recorded and released. They get into which of Queen's songs they prefer Adam Lambert not sing.
Insiders include Queen producer Reinhold Mack. Popoff keeps the conversations lively. McCartney's comments are as personal as they are musical. He first discovered Queen through a family member who loved the band, prompting the Beatle's bassist to give them a serious listen. He contrasts his own bass playing against John Deacon's, who he lauds for not getting in the way, while at the same time applauding the songs where the bottom drives the band. He remembers meeting Brian May, a brother in arms against cruelty to animals, at the Diamond Jubilee Concert thrown by the other Queen, god save her. May told Eric Clapton he was the reason he picked up a guitar, and McCartney how there would be no Queen, the band not the one rattling her jewelry, without The Beatles. Paul reacted much the same as George Harrison did after meeting Homer Simpson of the vocal group the B-Sharps: what a nice fella, where did he say the brownies were?
The book moves through Queen's discography in chronological order, starting with their debut album which came out on July 13, 1973 on EMI and Elektra Records. Recorded at Trident Studios and De Lane Lea Music Centre in London, Queen was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, John Anthony and the band. Popoff starts off each chapter with his own breakdowns of the albums' merits, what he loved about them and why everyone else should.
Warning, you will want to read Album by Album next to a handy audio delivery system. And probably headphones, as they discuss some tiny detail you might have missed or a guitar harmony, or just to check out a voice that isn't Freddy's. Each member of Queen sang and wrote hits. The hits get just as much coverage as the deeper album cuts, for the most part, as do the albums. A Night at The Opera, arguably the band's best-known album because it had their biggest hit "Bohemian Rhapsody" on it, gets the same space as Queen's 1982 album Hot Space, best known for their collaboration with David Bowie on the sole hit of the album, "Under Pressure."
Queen: Album by Album includes the soundtrack for the 1980 film Flash Gordon. The film was considered a bomb but the album is a cult favorite for many Queen fans. It only had two songs on it that were fully vocalized, but we learn many hipsters think it's their best album. Following the classic Queen period, the experts and observers judge the band against themselves. Sometimes they "defend the indefensible." Although they allow certain disappointments to come through, such as dipping too many times into the disco well. They conclude the band's last creative period was somewhat formulaic, giving listeners what they wanted while keeping pace with recording technology. But damn if the band didn't achieve both.
The book is liberally illustrated with rare performance and offstage photos, old playbills, and official shot. The experts talk about the album covers, how important they are to each collection of songs, from the majestic black and white coupling of A Day at the Races and A Night at the Opera, through the rockabilly winks of The Game and the play-it-safe cover of The Works.
Bohemian Rhapsody is the highest grossing music biopic of all time at the moment, giving rise to a lot of new fans and casual listeners. Queen: Album by Album is a great introduction to the band. Popoff, who has reviewed more than 7,000 albums and written books like Rush: The Illustrated History, Metallica: The Complete Illustrated History, The Art of Metal and The Big Book of Hair Metal, gets his say and gets out of the way. Grab the albums, listen while you read.
Queen: Album by Album is available at Amazon.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City's Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.
Another year in the books, another batch of incredible comics for you to read! These are the best comics of 2018.
Comics, like all art, can be a mirror on society or a safe harbor from its worst tendencies, and thankfully again in 2018, we got some incredible books this year. I’ve been watching our pull lists since the calendar flipped in January, keeping an eye out for the best comics to share with you, and we’ve finally cut it down to just 10. But first, a few honorable mentions.
Yoshitoki Oima’s To Your Eternitywas probably the best new manga I read this year, but I kept it off the list because as good as the newest volumes are, the first one is stellar and it was published too early. Transformers: Unicron is a great way to end a fascinating era of Transformers comics, one that (oddly enough) spent as much time exploring notions of gender, romantic love, and politics as they did making giant robots punch each other. Sean McKeever and Alexandre Tefenkgi’s Outpost Zero isn’t on the list, but it was exactly the kind of hard-ish sci-fi I needed at exactly the right time. I spent a lot of the year really wanting an Alien comic to love, and Johnny Christmas’ adaptation of William Gibson’s Alien 3 script is giving me precisely that. So did Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s Green Lantern: Earth One. Annie Nocenti and David Aja’s The Seeds is baffling but gorgeous, and I think it’s going to end up being incredible when it finally wraps. Kel MacDonald and Tyler Crook's The Stone King feels like I just started a Zelda game.
And at the big two, there are five writers who are making The Leap. Kelly Thompson and Tom Taylor have both had career years. Sina Grace’s Iceman was the first X-book in years that connected with me, and Thompson and Taylor did that for team books in Rogue & Gambit and X-Men Red respectively. They are quite honestly the best X-Men comics in more than five years. And their other comics are just as good - Taylor defined Laura Kinney in All-New Wolverine, and Taylor’s story in this year’s Batmanannual is as good as Tom King’s Ace the Bathound story was a couple of years back, while Thompson’s West Coast Avengers is a joy to behold.
Chip Zdarsky’s career is mind boggling. He used to be the guy who had his own convention in a hotel room in Toronto and wrote a notepad full of porn jokes about Marvel characters, and now he’s the guy who wrote the best Fantastic Four comic since Jonathan Hickman left with Marvel Two-in-One and one of the best Spider-Man runs of all time on Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man. If he had been announced on Daredeviltwo years ago, I would have assumed it was all masturbation and Catholicism jokes, but now I assume it’s going to be really good, with a light sprinkling of masturbation and Catholicism jokes.
Speaking of Catholicism jokes, Mark Russell continues to be one of the best writers around. Lex Luthor/Porky Pig Specialis as savage to tech culture as The Flintstones was to our...everything else, but Exit Stage Left: The Snaglepuss Chronicleswas something else entirely. It was a glimpse at the gay rights movement in the US as it was being born, a muse on celebrity and acts we put on for the rest of the world and also a story where Marilyn Monroe and a pink feral cat hung out while Huckleberry Hound and NYPD Officer Quick Draw McGraw maintained a DL romance. What a world.
Donnie Cates didn’t write any historical fiction with Hanna Barbera cartoon characters in it. He just wrote straightforward, over the top comic book fun in Thanosand Venom, and put in an all time classic run on Doctor Strange.
10. Mandela and the General
John Carlin (W), Oriol Malet (A), Plough Publishing House
The true success of Mandela and the General, a comic from the journalist who wrote the source text for Invictus, is its simplicity. It’s presented as a story told by Constand Viljoen to Carlin about his relationship with Mandela, entirely from Viljoen’s point of view. And, PS, Viljoen was the general who nearly started a war between the South African far right and Mandela’s ANC in the ‘90s.
There’s nothing flashy about it. No narrative tricks, no cloying attempt at humanizing or romanticizing people who were clearly wrong and bad. It’s got some explanation in it for Viljoen’s perspective, but it’s largely just “I went here, he said this.”
That’s a brilliant presentation choice. This subject matter is so charged, especially in today’s world, that even the slightest deviation from that straight line narrative might lose some of the audience before a payoff that is as brilliantly simple as the rest of the book: a conversation between Mandela and Viljoen in Mandela’s house that ends with them shaking hands and agreeing on a common interest. Malet’s art is beautiful and loose where it needs to be, and sparsely but effectively colored. This is a great book to read right now, and probably will be for the next few years.
Jeff Loveness (W), Jakub Rebelka (A), BOOM! Studios
Judasis an odd book in that the first half of it feels really blasphemous, while the ending is probably where the hardcore blasphemy actually takes place. Either way, I assume Jakub Rebelka is going to be a lot more famous next year.
Rebelka’s art is intricate and detailed. He renders Hell wonderfully, showing the breadth of the horror and the vastness of the realm. He spends no less time on his acting. His characters are expressive and well rendered, and there’s a faint hint of Frazier Irving to his figures. I’m not sure if that is his natural style or if he tweaked it for this story, but either way it fit perfectly. The exaggerated long faces really help you get good and sad with these characters. Loveness’s story is terrific and unexpected, full of alternating rage and tranquility, horror and purpose. The two together make a fascinating, gorgeous book.
8. Nothing Special
Katie Cook (W/A), Komikaki Studio (C), (Line Webtoon)
Ten years ago, I’m not certain that Nothing Special makes this list. It’s a really good webcomic about a fantasy realm and a band of friends questing in it, but the web is littered with the remains of pleasant fantasy webcomics, many of which were as charming or well thought out as Nothing Special. What makes this comic stand out is what a smart storyteller Katie Cook is.
The LINE Webtoon format is basically “Whatever you feel like doing but remember most of our readers are on phones.” So while an artist really digging down into a Comixology original might make a standard comic with guided view in mind, Cook sets Nothing Special up for a vertical scroll and then plays with comic storytelling conventions to make the comic reading process work better for her story. There’s a hide and seek sequence in chapter 6 of season 2 that just flies because of smart layout. It’s a ton of fun to read, and even more fun to dissect.
7. The Dreaming
Simon Spurrier (W), Bilquis Evely (A), Mat Lopes (C), Vertigo Comics
Spurrier is one of my favorite writers of all time. When he’s on, he’s incredible and you get comics like The Spire or Numbercruncheror really anything X-Men that he’s written. But his non-X company owned work too often feels like “Simon Spurrier Writing Venom” and not “Venom." Not so on The Dreaming.
DC is in the midst of pushing a new Vertigo reinvigoration of sorts, with new books in the Sandman Universe and a wave of interesting indie-feeling series. Of the Sandman books, The Dreaming feels the most like a continuation of the old universe, which is an amazing piece of writing mimicry from such a distinctive voice. It has his own flourishes, but Merv and Lucien and Matthew and the rest of the crew feel like they’re still being used by Neil Gaiman.
Bilquis Evely is a revelation as an artist. There’s certainly elements of Jim Cheung and Jim Lee in here, but there’s as much JH Williams and a splash of indie cartoonist mixed with Dan DeCarlo that I find fascinating to look at. The Dreaming is a ton of fun.
6. Black Bolt
Saladin Ahmed (W), Christian Ward (A), Marvel Comics
I gave Black Bolt as a Christmas present. That may not seem like a big deal, but think about it for a second. I gave someone a pair of trades starring the leader of a band of moon weirdos who doesn’t speak. And when I gave it, I told the giftee “You gotta read this, it’s the best Absorbing Man story I’ve ever seen.”
Saladin Ahmed has had a great year in comics with Abbottand the delightful Exilesrelaunch I never knew I wanted, but here he took the most ineffable member of the Illuminati, made him sympathetic and even relatable, and then put him in a book that made me root for Crusher Creel and Titania. Hell, I even cried a little at the (spoilers but not really) funeral for Absorbing Man. Unbelievable.
Christian Ward should be allowed to draw whatever Marvel space comic he wants. Whenever he wants it. He has almost no peer in his ability to draw weird abstractions in a way that is so clearly laid out and understood. He’s a magnificent storyteller, and he helped make Black Boltanother in a nice stretch of solo character hits for Marvel.
5. The Highest House
Mike Carey (W), Peter Gross (A), Fabien Alquiler (C), IDW Publishing
Carey and Gross are long-time collaborators, working together on Luciferand The Unwritten. But it’s The Highest House where their work reaches its pinnacle. This is a masterful comic by exceptionally talented creators.
Gross and Alquiler get to play around with a different format. The book as it hits shelves is enormous, letting them lay out the comic more like something European than a traditional American comic. The layouts are lush and sprawling, and the detail work is incredibly fine. Gross draws extreme darkness to look almost like scratch art, and it’s enthralling.
Meanwhile, Carey’s success in crafting the story comes from playing with your expectations. The plot isn’t all that innovative - it’s a fairly standard fantasy yarn about a slave climbing the ranks of society. But there’s a swerve at almost every level: Moth, the slave kid making good, has systemic change in mind, rather than being the wide eyed just-happy-to-be-noticed attitude that too many of these protagonists usually are. Obsidian is actually a monster and a demon, but he’s also a good friend to Moth. Lady Shu is introduced like a Disney princess, but by the end of the first arc she’s extremely not one. Moth’s master, Lord Demini, isn’t a domineering monster who’s the secret villain of the series but a kind man being dragged to change by Moth. The Highest House is a terrific comic that will probably show up on next year’s list too.
4. Upgrade Soul
Ezra Claytan Daniels (W/A), Lion Forge Comics
Ezra Claytan Daniels has some serious artistic chops. Upgrade Soulhas a great story - a sci-fi writer who is a great friend to hard sciences and his brilliant geneticist partner are early investors in an untested longevity project, agree to be the first human subjects, and then get Black Mirror-ed to hell by their own pride.
How he tells that story is amazing. His art is a combination of conventional layouts with hard-indie figure drawing and expressiveness and a superhero artist’s sense of pacing and perspective: there’s a sequence of several pages early on in the book when gauze is being removed from someone’s face, and it’s presented from the point of view of the patient as the gauze comes off, with light breaking through and the faintest hints of people behind the gauze. That was the moment I knew Upgrade Soulis something special, and the rest of the book didn’t let me down. I’m excited to see what’s next from Claytan Daniels.
Marjorie Liu (W), Sana Takeda (A), Image Comics
There’s not a lot more to say about Monstress and Marjorie Liu’s writing that wasn’t already said by the Eisner committee. She cleaned up there this year, and she deserved every award. However, we should probably say a little more about Sana Takeda’s art, which gives me hand cramps every time I look at it.
It is some of the most intricate art I’ve ever seen in a comic. Every page looks like it would take a mere mortal weeks to draw. Even the huge two panel/splash pages have so much detail, so many lines put into it. And the amazing part of the linework is that every one is important. It’s not needless nonsense crosshatching like Takeda was inking early X-Force. Monstressis a stunningly beautiful comic that’s easily one of the best of the year.
2. The Divided Earth
Faith Erin Hicks (W/A), Jordie Bellaire (c), First Second
Getting a blurb from Bryan Konietzko, one of the co-creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender for a book that shares so much design sensibility with one of the greatest American cartoons ever made, sets the bar really high. And yet, Hicks’ first two volumes in The Nameless City trilogy were so good that I made The Divided Earth one of my first trade paperback preorders ever, and I was not disappointed. Everything about this comic is so good.
There is so much energy in every panel. Even shots where Rat or Kai are sitting and reading, the panel is dripping with emotion. Hicks has created a book full of characters who are immediately recognizable and interesting, thoughtful, and vibrant. It looks a lot like Avatar, but it also shares the same hopeful, positive worldview and was every bit as fun to immerse myself in. Faith Erin Hicks is an amazing talent.
1. Mister Miracle
Tom King (W), Mitch Gerads (A), DC Comics
It wasn’t going to be anything else. Mister Miraclewas the pick of the year from about issue 6, when Barda and Scott were talking about expanding their condo while breaking into Highfather’s palace and I slowly realized why they were talking about it. When I got the payoff (a page before the comic did), at that “Oh shit” moment, I knew that Mister Miracle had moved beyond a good comic and into something I’ve never experienced before.
At one point I was worried that Tom King and Mitch Gerads weren’t going to stick the landing. I was so invested in the end of this story that I was ready to drop another 20,000 words analyzing the placement of the glitches in Gerads’ art to try and figure out if Scott, after his suicide attempt in issue 1, was hovering near death or if he was trapped in the Omega Sanction. I was almost certain it was the Omega Sanction and had reference guides lined up for Funky Flashman and Lump, and I had clipped the screenshot from “For the Man Who Has Everything” of Superman’s face when he realized the Black Mercy and Mongul made his kid up. I was there. And then the actual ending hit and basically said “sure, it’s all real if you want it to be,” and my gast was flabbered by how perfect it actually was.
Mister Miracle took the insanity of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and turned it into a slice of life story while keeping the epic mythology operative, twisting your mind around comic continuity, and also managing to be a love letter to the form and to superhero comics in general. I read one of the greatest comics ever published as it was coming out, and I’m extremely happy about that.
PS: I’m not sure what it says that King made King Kirby Scott Free’s surrogate father and Stan the Man the one Scott trusted to care for his child, but that realization still makes me cry a little.
If you only know of Stan Lee from his MCU cameos, you need to read his Marvel Comics work with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others.
The death of Stan Lee has brought an influx of people wondering what the legendary writer/editor’s best stories were. It’s tricky to pinpoint what would be considered Stan Lee’s best stories, because he was a consummate collaborator. Lee was a writer, an idea man, and scripter who worked with some of the greatest storytellers in the business to bring characters to life in tales that were greater than the sum of their parts. And thus, a history of the best Stan Lee Marvel comics is also a showcase of some of the other historic talents in comic book history as well, with two looming larger than any others: Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
With apologies to Don Heck, John Buscema, John Romita, and many others, it was with Kirby and Ditko that Lee did his best work. There are, of course, controversies surrounding all of these collaborations. Lee's working relationship with Ditko was particularly contentious, and the issue of the Kirby/Lee partnership is still the subject of heated debate to this day, and will remain so for all time. I’m not here to unpack any of that. I’m just here to outline what, for someone who may not be overly familiar with the early days of Marvel, are the most essential segments of an impossibly large body of work.
I hit the big ones here. It’s not that I forgot about the early Hulk, Avengers, Iron Man, or Daredevil comics so much as I never considered those, especially when taken as a whole, to be the best work of Lee and his respective collaborators. And before you kill me, I'm not talking about the characters themselves, I'm just talking about the body of work Stan Lee did on those characters with his collaborators. It's good stuff, but little of it, in total, is the kind of legendary, essential reading I feel these other books are. The same goes for the Lee/Kirby X-Men series. While the essential elements of the X-Men as the ultimate metaphor for the ongoing fight against bigotry in all its forms was more or less in place early on, the concept (and the overall quality of the stories) didn’t really come into its own until the 1970s, under the guidance of other creators. That’s just my opinion, of course, and by all means, feel free to seek out all of the above, but in terms of sheer scope, and as the best possible showcase of the kind of power contained in Marvel’s early days, I give you these stories by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Buscema, John Romita, and others...
For some modern readers, the earliest Fantastic Four tales might not land with the kind of impact that you would expect, considering that they essentially redefined superhero comics. But rest assured, this is the foundation of the entire Marvel Universe, and the proper beginning of one of the greatest collaborations in all of comics with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
But if the first two volumes (Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World's Greatest Comics Magazine and Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The Master Plan of Doctor Doom, which make up roughly the first three years of the book) are too dry for you, then just go ahead and jump right into Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The Coming of Galactus, which is really when Lee and Kirby find themselves in full flower. By this point in the series, you’ll find more ideas per page than most comics usually crank out in a year, and the book truly earns the title of “World’s Greatest Comics Magazine” with the legendary "Galactus Trilogy." And while the “Galactus Trilogy” itself is often (rightly) cited as the pinnacle of the Lee/Kirby team, this volume ends with “This Man, This Monster” which is possibly an even better example of what Lee and Kirby could do with extraordinary characters, even when the fate of the planet wasn’t at stake.
And the amazing thing about that volume? It’s still only the halfway point of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four stories. But before I dive deeper into the Lee/Kirby partnership, or the Lee/Ditko years, there is one brief diversion worth taking...
At the moment, there isn’t yet an Epic Collection for the second half of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four run (you can find them in assorted Marvel Masterworks volumes, though). But what there is is Silver Surfer Epic Collection: When Calls Galactus. What this volume does is reprint all of the early Silver Surfer appearances in the next two years or so of Fantastic Four. The Surfer here is a much more alien figure than he would later become, owing more to Jack Kirby’s continued influence on the character he created.
Follow that up with Silver Surfer Masterworks Vol. 1, where Lee and artist John Buscema fleshed out Norrin Radd’s backstory and gave him a little bit more of an interior life. These are really the tales that have essentially defined the Surfer for the rest of his pop culture history, and John Buscema at the height of his own artistic powers is a real treat to behold, even as Lee took the Surfer character a little further afield from the roots that Jack Kirby had tried to imbue him with. Still, key to these early Surfer tales is "The Power and the Prize," the first appearance of Marvel's Mephisto, and an important example of Lee's gift for high drama and melodramatic dialogue.
As a bonus, you absolutely should check out Silver Surfer: Parable, in which Lee partnered with visionary French comics artist Moebius, to tell a short, but weighty and compelling, tale that melds the end times imagery of Galactus with religious fanaticism.
While the earliest Thor stories (collected in Thor Epic Collection: God of Thunder) might feel a little tough to take for modern readers, often utilizing relatively traditional superhero storytelling tropes combined with faux-Shakespearean “elevated” dialogue, stick with ‘em and you’ll be rewarded. But really, starting at the beginning is overrated. You know the broad strokes of all these characters otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this site, right?
You want another pure, unfiltered blast of Lee/Kirby awesome? Start with Thor Epic Collection: The Wrath of Odin, which is when Thor goes full blown Marvel Cinematic Universe cosmic god mythology mash-up, complete with familiar MCU figures like Destroyer, Ego, the Living Planet, and plenty of Loki. Like When Calls Galactus, you get Jack Kirby in his finest form, and it’s incredible that the pair were able to produce both Thor and Fantastic Four on a monthly basis. Just follow that right up with Thor Epic Collection: To Wake the Mangog for even more cosmic mythology mash-ups. While the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four is the true bedrock of the Marvel Universe as we know it, their collaboration on Thor is just as impressive.
Basically, if you loved all the crazy comic-flavored visual goodness in Thor: Ragnarok, you'll want to settle in with a stack of these.
No, Stan Lee didn’t have a hand in creating Captain America (but Jack Kirby sure did). But Lee DID bring him back from publishing limbo in the early 1960s. And that’s the focus of Captain America Epic Collection: Captain America Lives Again, featuring the tales that first brought Captain America back into the public consciousness.
Kicking off with Avengers #4 and then following up with the Tales of Suspense stories featuring Steve Rogers (before Marvel was confident enough he could sustain his own title), this, perhaps even more than the original Joe Simon/Jack Kirby Cap stories from the 1940s, is ground zero for Captain America fans.
Roughly half the stories deal with Cap readjusting to the modern world and the overwhelming guilt over the fate of Bucky Barnes, with plenty of Lee’s trademark introspective, soul-searching dialogue. Meanwhile, Kirby delivers some of the most spectacular fight scenes ever put on the page. This volume contains many of my favorite Captain America stories, and for my money, it's the definitive Cap. As out there as Lee and Kirby got on Fantastic Four and Thor, this is pure costumed superhero adventure on as "grounded" a level as you're ever likely to see from that team.
There have been plenty of talented creative teams who put in the time on the Sorcerer Supreme (we’ve written about plenty of them here), but none have ever matched the original Lee/Ditko stories. Hell, they’ll probably admit to it if you ask ‘em.
Stan Lee’s creative partnership with Steve Ditko was always a tricky one, and perhaps nowhere was it more strained than in their collaboration on Doctor Strange. Ditko certainly maintained that Lee's input in these tales was minimal. And while these stories are indelibly stamped with Ditko’s style and philosophical sensibilities, perhaps even more than their work on Spider-Man, it’s nevertheless Lee’s lyrical dialogue and inventive, bizarre names for the numerous magical devices, dimensions, and demons that populate these stories that helped give Stephen Strange his unique identity. By the way, if you're ever in need of a thorough cataloging of the magic spells in these early Doctor Strange stories, you should really check this out.
I have long maintained that there are no three greater words in our modern language than “the complete series” which is why you should just stick Doctor Strange Epic Collection: Master of the Mystic Arts on your shelf.
It’s remarkable how Spider-Man remains relatively unchanged from his earliest appearances. The costume is the same, the origin (one of the most oft-told in all of popular culture) has not only remained virtually unchanged, it has downright rejected any attempts to foist extraneous elements on it, and the central principle that guides the character was there from the very last page of his very first story. All of that just speaks to how solid the storytelling by Lee and Ditko was from the very start. Like Doctor Strange, these early Spider-Man tales have aged far better than their contemporaries, and still serve as the blueprint every time anyone looks to reinterpret the character, whether on the comics page or the screen.
The entirety of the Lee/Ditko Amazing Spider-Man partnership can be found in two Epic Collection volumes, Spider-Man Epic Collection: Great Power and then Spider-Man Epic Collection: Great Responsibility. You can almost pretend that these two volumes comprise one complete story, so cohesive is the storytelling, and if again, like their Doctor Strange, if these were the only stories ever told with this character, they would be enough.
After Ditko departed the book, Lee continued on as writer, partnering with John Romita, Sr. You can see how the story shifted with the transition from Ditko to Romita, as Romita’s more romantic style turned Peter Parker and his supporting cast from a group of regular folks into matinee idols, and even as Peter found a little more luck in the romance department (while Gwen Stacy had been introduced in the latter part of the Ditko years, it was Romita who formally introduced Mary Jane Watson), the spirit of Spidey as a hard luck hero remained.
Perhaps more than any other book, the years Stan Lee spent guiding Spider-Man with Ditko and Romita encompass the elements of Marvel's unique brand of superheroics. Nobody else in the entire stable embodies the everyman the way Peter Parker does, from his personal struggles to his homemade costume. And a single panel, the final panel from Spidey's first appearance in 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15, sums up the ethos of the Marvel Universe as a whole, in a perfect meeting of words and images.
Invisible Kingdom, the new book from G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward, looks stunning.
Hey, remember that time we said that Christian Ward should be allowed to draw whatever Marvel space comics he wanted? Good news, everyone! Dark Horse was listening! Or more specifically, Karen Berger.
Berger, the legendary DC/Vertigo editor who threw open the doors to the 80s "British Invasion" that brought us Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, and others, is now curating her own line of comics at Dark Horse: Berger Books. In the next wave of Berger Books, we're getting Invisible Kingdomfrom Ward (Black Bolt, Thor, ODY-C) and G. Willow Wilson, the creator of Kamala Khan and the newest ongoing Wonder Womanscribe. And Den of Geek has your exclusive first look at pages!
When the book was announced in July ahead of San Diego Comic Con, Wilson said "Christian Ward's art is truly visionary—this is one of the most dynamic collaborations I've ever been involved with. I can't wait to show the world what we've cooked up."Invisible Kingdomsees a young religious acolyte and a freighter pilot team up to rip down society after discovering an unsavory alliance between their system's religion and a (presumably corrupt) mega-corporation.
In addition to co-creating the new Ms. Marvel and writing Wonder Woman (which is excellent, btw), Wilson broke into comics largely through Berger's Vertigo with Cairoand Air. She's also a successful novelist, winning a World Fantasy Award for her first novel, Alif the Unseen(also unsurprisingly terrific). In other words, she long ago entered "anything she writes is worth a shot" territory.
Ward first came to my attention as the guy putting Matt Fraction's adaptation of Homer's dactylic hexameter (seriously, ODY-Cis written in the same meter as The Odysseyand it's super weird but great). He's since gone on to be incredible and worth checking out on anything.
Here's what Dark Horse has to say about the book:
Invisible Kingdom #1 G.Willow Wilson (W) and Christian Ward (A/C/Cover)
FC, 32 pages
Set in a in a far-flung star system, this new epic sci-fi monthly saga tells the tale of two women—a young religious acolyte and a hard-bitten freighter pilot—who separately uncover a vast conspiracy between the leader of the system’s dominant religion and the mega-corporation that controls society. On the run from reprisals on both sides, this unlikely pair of rebels risk plunging the world into anarchy if they reveal the truth. But when your beliefs betray you, what choice is there left? By Hugo Award-winning writer G. Willow Wilson (Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel) and Eisner Award-winning artist Christian Ward (Black Bolt, ODY-C).
For more on Invisible Kingdom(in shops on March 20, 2019) or on why you should buy anything Wilson or Ward does, stick with Den of Geek!
We're tracking down every single Avengers: Infinity War easter egg and Marvel Comics reference, but we need your help!
Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and as we all suspected, it's insane, and absolutely packed with everything fans want to see.
But don't be fooled by the fact that this is a story about Thanos wielding an all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet to make life miserable for all your favorite Marvel superheroes. Avengers: Infinity War is full of crazy surprises, and all the comics knowledge in the world won't prepare you for what's coming. We're trying to track down all of the Marvel easter eggs in the movie...but we need your help. So if you spot something that we missed, shout it out down in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter, and we'll keep updating this until it's the most complete Marvel easter egg guide to Avengers: Infinity War around!
The Infinity Gauntlet
- The movie takes plenty of liberties with the original The Infinity Gauntlet comic story. In fact, you can't even really call this movie an adaptation of that story...and it's certainly not an adaptation of The Infinity War comic, either. But there are still some early similarities. But the fact that Thanos spends most of his time gathering the stones during the movie makes it more of a loose adaptation of The Thanos Quest by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim than anything else. But again, it's a pretty loose adaptation.
- The Hulk falling to Earth from space and landing in Doctor Strange's Sanctum is reminiscent of something that happened early on in The Infinity Gauntlet comics, except there, it was the Silver Surfer who warned Strange of Thanos' coming, not Bruce Banner, right down to the "Thanos is coming."
- Loki is dead. Most fans (including me) expected Loki to serve the kind of role that Mephisto did in The Infinity Gauntlet comics. There, Mephisto was kind of an obsequious "guide" for Thanos, and that's the word that Loki offers...before he tries (and fails) to betray Thanos. Well, if you've gotta go, this is the way to do it.
But seriously, couldn't you just imagine Loki behaving like this for his own ends? Even the body language is the same!
Also, Loki's attempted betrayal/stabbing of Thanos reminds me of Prince Thun trying to take out Ming the Merciless in Mike Hodges' masterful Flash Gordon movie.
- Wong tells the origin of the Infinity Stones, which is kind of like the creation myth of the entire Marvel Universe when you think about it. Something very similar was done in the pages of The Thanos Quest, and they basically hint that these are fragments of God!
(thanks to Dylan Bates for helping me out with that one!)
- The weird reality-warping "deaths" that Thanos inflicts on Drax and Mantis is really reminiscent of the ways that Thanos tortured Eros, Nebula, and others in The Infinty Gauntlet comic. Speaking of deaths, if you're wondering who we think is actually dead for real, we broke all that down right here.
- In the comics, and certainly by The Infinity Gauntlet era, Thanos was known as the Mad Titan, and he was a pretty irrational dork most of the time. Thanos was in love with the cosmic physical manifestation of death, and this whole thing was a way for him to impress him. He's a really needy, giant purple MRA, basically.
But here, Thanos is kind of rational, if still a dick. Here is obsession is with bringing balance to the universe to preserve resources, and his motives are almost like, I dunno, an extremely shitty environmentalist or something. If anything, his motivations here more resemble the character as he was portrayed in The Thanos Imperative comic than The Infinity Gauntlet.
Thanos' armor and helmet bears the strongest resemblance to recent designs in the comics, as well as the design for Thane, his son's outfit in Infinity.
- Gamora has "always hated" Thanos' weird throne/chair, which is pretty hilarious considering it was such an iconic part of the character's whole "thing" for so many years.
- Have we seen Thanos' vaguely Ancient Egyptian looking guards before? They're the ones guarding Nebula while she's being tortured. What a cool design they have. I feel like maybe they were hanging around with Ronan in the first Guardians movie, but my brain is so fried from this movie I can't trust myself.
- Thanos creepy army of Alien-looking drones are called Outriders, and they're also from the Infinity crossover.
- Thanos' crack about how he could "finally rest" once he achieves his goal is a reference to the "Farmer Thanos" he became in the comics, and that we glimpse at the very end of this movie.
- Thanos literally snaps his fingers to bring about the end of half of all life in the universe, which is exactly what he did in the first chapter of The Infinity Gauntlet comic. And that's what he did BEFORE the fighting started there!
- In the closing credits, there's a line that reads “the producers would like to recognize Jim Starlin for his significant contribution to the film.” Saying Starlin made a "significant contribution" to this movie is an understatement. The vast majority of Thanos stories, and certainly the Thanos stories that matter, were written and often drawn by Jim Starlin. That's HIS character, just as surely as most of the others on screen are Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's.
The Black Order
We're introduced to Thanos' Black Order early on, and they first appeared in Jonathan Hickman's massive Thanos vs Avengers story, Infinity. In the comics, they were also known as the Cull Obsidian, and are basically Thanos' generals, but here it's implied that they are Thanos' children. We went into MUCH more detail about them right here.
Check out the whole skeevy squad in the movie...
From left to right, that's Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, Corvus Glaive, and Cull Obsidian. Your ears do not deceive you, that is Carrie Coon as Proxima Midnight.
“Even in death you have become children of Thanos” - this line from Ebony Maw (who never shuts the hell up) hints at Thanos' obsession with death as a concept, even if the movie gives him a more practical outlook than his comic book counterpart, and a less physical manifestation of Death herself. We'll get into more of that in a bit. I also couldn't help but feel that Ebony Maw kind of acts like a "herald of Galactus" when it comes to announcing the coming of Thanos.
But speaking of death...
Heimdall is dead, and it's always going to be a shame that this franchise never used Idris Elba to the fullest.
Guardians of the Galaxy
- The song playing during the Guardians' intro here is "Rubberband Man" by The Spinners, and it's kinda great. And as it turns out, James Gunn did indeed choose the tune. "The first song is James," co-writer Stephen McFeely told us. In fact, go read the whole interview with the writers because it's a riot.
- The Guardians are flying a new ship. This ain't the Milano...it's the Benatar. And for real, nobody can tell me that "Invincible" isn't the best Pat Benatar song.
- Teen Groot is playing a handheld version of the 1981 arcade game, Defender, which is an all-time coin-op classic. This is the closest we're going to get to the Netflix Defenders on the big screen, though. We wrote lots more about Groot's favorite game right here.
- Thanos calls on the Collector to pick up the reality stone from him. In The Thanos Quest comic, he does indeed kick the Collector's ass for a stone, but there it was for the soul stone, not reality.
- This is a great catch (thanks to Andrew Gallo!), Thanos'"where is the stone" line to the Collector echoes Benicio del Toro's line in Snatch!
By the way...what is the tree in the Collector's place, there? It looks familiar, but I can't quite place it, and I feel like I'm going to look like an idiot as soon as one of you points it out to me.
- The Collector for whatever reason owns Tobias Funke of Arrested Development fame (which is even confirmed in the end credits). Tobias is covered in blue paint, much like the episode of the show where he tried to join Blue Man Group. I don't even want to get into the can of worms with the continuity considering Tobias once put together a Fantastic Four musical.
- As the Guardians are heading into the Collector's lair, there's some circuitry on the wall that kind of reminds me of the Jack Kirby-esque designs we saw so much of in Thor: Ragnarok.
- The unnecessary reference to Footloose is a callback to the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but also feels a little out of place with Spider-Man. It makes sense that Spidey would be down with things like Star Wars and Alien, but Footloose? C'mon. Nobody Peter Parker's age cares about that flick.
- Drax is eating a bag of Zargnuts...which makes me think of Zagnut, the candy bar that Beetlejuice used to lure an insect to its death in Tim Burton's classic movie which had seriously better never have a sequel or reboot ever. Anyway, this is perhaps an unnecessary pop culture connection to make and I now apologize to Peter Parker about my Footloose crack above.
- Worth pointing out that Nebula is Thanos' daughter in the MCU, but she's his granddaugher in the comics. His shitty treatment of her remains the same. Seriously, dude...lighten up.
We see Nebula half-disassembled and held in stasis, in a state of constant agony. In the comics, Thanos used the power of the Gauntlet to burn her to a crisp and keep her in a state between living and dying. Zombie Nebula with flesh dripping off her skeleton might have been a bit of a stretch for PG-13 MCU stuff, but this is the closest we're likely to get to that. It's definitely inspired by the comics.
- During the flashbacks detailing how he adopted Gamora, I'm pretty sure you can spot those giant Chitauri worm ship things from the first Avengers movie.
- In the comics Gamora has always been a big fan of blades and edged weapons. I feel like we get the "origin" of that with the knife here.
- Maybe Gamora knows ANOTHER secret about Thanos? For example, in the comics, Thanos always plants the seeds of his own defeat, because subconsciously he feels that he isn't worthy of power. Is this something Gamora knows? Well, knew...because she's dead. Right? Nah.
- While Gamora's death is a powerful scene here, this is the one proper on-screen death that I don't expect to stick. James Gunn had always said he had plans to complete the team's story in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and while he has since been fired off the project (to make Suicide Squad 2 for Warner Bros.), his script, or at least the essence of it, is likely to remain.
Don't be surprised if it turns out Gamora is just imprisoned in the soul stone. And seriously, how amazing is Zoe Saldana in this movie?
- This movie has the best Thor moments of any of his big screen appearances. And yes, I'm including the wonderful Thor: Ragnarok. The fact that they took us to Nidavelir, the home of the Norse Dwarves, and instead made it the heart of a star where Mjolnir was forged, well, that's a pretty wonderful way to do things.
- Making Peter Dinklage into the dwarf, Eitri, was even better. The Marvel Comics version of Eitri isn't nearly as cool as Peter Dinklage, but he made his first appearance in Thor Annual #11 in 1983.
- Is this the first time we learn Thor's actual age is 1500 years old?
- The whole sequence of Thor "starting up a star" is the kind of crazy "only in comics" thing that I love so much, and it feels like something that would come right out of the mind of Jack Kirby or Jason Aaron.
And c'mon, tell me this next shot doesn't look like a Jack Kirby panel come to life!
- Oh my god, Thor is wielding Stormbreaker now! Stormbreaker wasn't ever really Thor's weapon in the mainstream comics, but rather that of Beta Ray Bill, the noble, horse-faced replacement Thor, who we kinda sorta got a glimpse of in Thor: Ragnarok. He did wield a hammer/ax just like it in the Ultimate continuity, though.
- We get our first ever MCU use of Peter's Spider-sense in this movie when the ships arrive!
- Peter swaps out his regular costume for Tony's "17A" model, which we glimpsed at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming. This is the cinematic equivalent of the dreadful "Iron Spider" armor Peter wore in the Civil War comics, right down to the extra appendages it gives him. This design is a little better than the comic book one...but only a little. It's kinda hideous, really.
Go back to the blue and red, kid.
- Spidey's line, “I’m being beamed up,” is a slight nod to Star Trek.
- But more importantly, and please tell me whether or not I'm crazy here, does the Tony/Peter relationship and banter in this movie feel like Rick and Morty to anyone else? I didn't get that vibe in Captain America: Civil War or Spider-Man: Homecoming, but it definitely felt that way here.
Except when Peter dies. That was heartbreaking.
Nice to see Peter got the old "web to the face" in that he did on Thanos in The Infinity Gauntlet comic, too!
The Stan Lee Cameo
- You all spotted Stan Lee driving the bus, right? Good. We miss him.
The Avengers: Endgame Roster
So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the folks who survived are the core Avengers from the first movie. Our Avengers: Endgame roster will consist of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Bruce Banner, Black Widow, Hawkeye (even though he's not here, we can confirm he isn't dead...more details here), plus War Machine, Rocket Raccoon, and Captain Marvel.
The Post Credits Scene
The post credits scenes kind of drive home the fact that the ending of Avengers: Infinity War is basically the beginning of the MCU version of The Infinity Gauntlet comic. In the second chapter of Infinity Gauntlet we saw how the world was affected when half of all humans just disappear, and yes, that includes car accidents, aviation mishaps, etc.
That final symbol you see belongs to Captain Marvel, but since this article is long enough already, I wrote in much, much more detail about the post-credits scene and everything it means right here.
Miscellaneous Cool Stuff
- Did I hear this correctly, and is the Asgardian spaceship known as the Ice Guardian? I know they also say "Asgardian families" when sending the distress call, but I feel like this was how they identified the ship.
- Overall, the opening to this was more akin to a Star Wars movie than anything Marvel usually does, just dropping us right into the jaws of a defeat with a seemingly unstoppable villain. Shades of A New Hope right off the bat...although some of the genuinely gruesome carnage with the dead bodies lying all over the place made me think of the end of Rogue One.
- At the Central Park reservoir, before Tony is told that "the fate of the universe is at stake" (which is some proper comic book dialogue right there), he makes a reference to Pepper having an eccentric uncle named Morgan. I'm drawing a blank on what this might be a reference to, though.
- You can basically just consider Cap's team the Secret Avengers in this. The lineup is similar enough!
Cap taking on Thanos in hand-to-hand combat is amazing. Thanos is, after all, a guy who could go at it with Thor or Hulk and come out OK. But this in particular reminds us of a specific scene from the original Infinity Gauntlet comics...
Cap is the best, you guys.
- Tony calls Ebony Maw "Squidward" which is pretty great. I...don't have to tell you who Squidward is, right?
- During the fights on the streets of NYC you can spot a New York Post newspaper dispenser. Still no sign of The Daily Bugle in the MCU. Seriously, what the hell? Although it's fun to point out that the layout and logo of the Bugle in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies was based heavily on the Post. I'm just surprised they used the Post here and not the Marvel Netflix-centric New York Bulletin. Apparently the producers considered having The Defenders make an appearance, but it just couldn't work out. It's probably for the best.
-Xandar's destruction was a key plot point in Annihilation, the opening chapter of the greatest era of Marvel space stories ever. Maybe that's the jumping off point of the Nova movie rumored to be in development?
- When Glave tries to take the Eye of Agamotto from Strange, his hand gets burned/branded, like Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- Captain America's phone number appears to be 678-136-7092. I haven't called it yet. I'm not going to AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU because if I read that wrong on the screen some poor senior citizen is going to get bombarded with phone calls and it's going to be my fault.
- I'm pretty sure that Vision and Scarlet Witch never lived in Scotland in the comics, but I'm willing to be corrected. Still, they're right on the verge of committing for life here, and assuming poor Vision manages to make a return at the end of Avengers: Endgame, I'd love to see them get married, like they did in the comics.
This is a pretty radical departure for Black Widow. It's actually referencing the second comics Black Widow, Yelena Belova, who was created in Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee's late '90s Inhumans series and ended up being an evil foil for Natasha.
- Who the hell has a bass guitar in Avengers HQ? Please tell me that's Thor's.
- The Alien tribute with Ebony Maw is an absolute highlight.
- If Avengers movies had been made in the 1980s, wouldn't David Bowie have been the most perfect Vision ever? And I'm getting such Bowie vibes from Paul Bettany's Vision performance that now I want him to star in a Ziggy Stardust movie. Hollywood, call me. I'm waiting by the phone. Alone. Writing about the intersection of Marvel superheroes and David Bowie. For the love of gods, someone please call me...
When Vision "dies" he's drained of color. While he isn't completely white like he was in the West Coast Avengers comic, there's definitely a resemblance.
That look pretty much defined the character in the early to mid '90s, too...including in the still awesome Captain America and the Avengers arcade game.
- When we're on Titan, and see the flashbacks to how it was before, are we basically seeing the seeds of Eternals society, there? They do have a movie in development, now.
- Vormir (the location of the Soul Stone) is a "real" place in the comics, existing way the hell out in the Kree galaxy. It was first mentioned in Avengers #123 in 1974.
- C'mon, admit it, NOBODY saw that Red Skull surprise coming, right? Sadly, that isn't Hugo Weaving, it's The Walking Dead's Ross Marquand. Bummer. On the bright side, maybe if we ever get a Captain America 4 this means the Skull can return!
OK Avengers, it's time to assemble! Let us know what we missed down in the comments or on Twitter, and if it checks out, we'll update this!
Which Marvel comics should you read before (or after) Avengers: Infinity War? We have a definitive reading guide for you!
Avengers: Infinity War brings fans the first extended appearance on screen of Thanos, a character with a surprisingly rich history for someone who was created as a ripoff of Darkseid/musing on the concept of nihilism by a bunch of really stoned teenagers - honestly, I'm not sure which one I'm supposed to cross out there. Thanos was both of those things, and so much more, and he became one of the Marvel Universe's most feared villains almost as soon as he burst on the scene.
We've got the perfect Avengers: Infinity War reading guide for you. It's full of the Marvel comics you're going to want to check out before and after the movie. We've also got some of the stories that might also have a little influence on Avengers: Endgame so you can be ready for all the references and winks at comics fans.
The Infinity Gauntlet
One of the most impressive things about Infinity War was the very specific dialogue in the trailer about Thanos wanting the Infinity Stones to kill "half the universe." That is a direct lift from The Infinity Gauntlet, the story that moved Thanos from a bit villain in Jim Starlin's psychedelic '70s Marvel space stories to one of the primary bad dudes of the entire Marvel Universe.
The Infinity Gauntlet had Thanos, furious that he was being friendzoned by an abstract concept, obtain the titular macguffin to impress Death by killing half the living beings in the universe. He does, and he is opposed by Adam Warlock and the universal entities who make up the real power of the galaxy - Eternity, Eon, Galactus, the Living Tribunal, etc. (to be clear, Etcetera is not a character in the Marvel Universe). Adam Warlock and Doctor Strange gather a team of heroes together, and teamed with the universal entites, everyone beats the hell out of Thanos until he tricks himself into not having the gauntlet any more.
I snark, but the thing about The Infinity Gauntlet is it's actually really good. Starlin's writing is more thoughtful and introspective than your typical big summer blockbuster, and George Perez's art on the first half is outstanding. This is a must-read if you're a fan of anything Marvel at all. It has a sequel that's actually called Infinity War, but that's not as essential a read, and doesn't seem to have anything to do with the movie.
Annihilation, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Thanos Imperative
Starting with Annihilationin 2006 and ending with The Thanos Imperative, writing duo Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's time with the Marvel cosmic characters was foundational for both the future of Marvel Comics and for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their Guardians of the Galaxy, which grew out of Annihilation: Conquest, is the basis for the MCU version of the Guardians. It also happens that this run of comics was INCREDIBLE.
The era began with a shock invasion of the galaxy by Annihilus and the Negative Zone, where Drax was remade from a monosyllabic killing machine to...a slimmed down, knife-wielding killing machine...and Thanos was helping Annihilus tap into the Power Cosmic, which they were harnessing from a captured Silver Surfer and Galactus. Thanos was killed by Drax at the end of the first series, and then the galaxy had to live through an invasion by the Ultron-led Phalanx; a war between the Shi'ar and the Kree; and a giant tear in the fabric of reality before Thanos was resurrected by the Universal Church of Truth. He was revealed as an avatar of Death, the universal concept and his forever alone internet girlfriend, when the tear in the fabric of reality was discovered to be the point of entry for a parallel universe where death had been conquered by Cthulu and Captain Mar-vell. Thanos quite predictably went apeshit and killed everything in a universe where nothing could be killed.
This era of Marvel cosmic was truly magnificent. Start with Annihilation and then go from there!
Jonathan Hickman's Avengers was enormous and wonderful, and as it turns out extremely important to Avengers: Infinity War.Two things from that era seem to be key to the plot of the movie. The first is how epic and large the Avengers team becomes. Avengers (the big team adventure book) starts with Iron Man telling Captain America "We have to get bigger." And eventually the team comes to encompass...pretty much every Marvel hero, along with (at varying points) Doctor Doom, Molecule Man, Thanos, Corvus Glaive, Black Swan, Proxima Midnight, and Terrax the Parallel Universe Tamer. The movie Avengers team seems similarly stuffed, so I expect many similar dynamics.
The other component of Hickman-era Avengers that is crucial to Infinity War is the Black Order, which we weent into detail about here. The whole design aesthetic of this movie seems to be heavily influenced by the art from Mike Deodato and Jerome Opena. That's a good thing.
Want to know how Thanos became an omega-level MRA? Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi's Thanos Rising is the place to go.
This story shows Thanos' origins - as a Deviant (a mutant Eternal) on the moon Titan, Thanos' mother had a nervous breakdown immediately upon his birth. He went through life a passive, almost passionately nonviolent person until he discovered his true calling in life: killing as many people as he had to to get Death to notice him.
This comic is dark and weird and beautiful to look at, if extremely European in aesthetic. Aaron's writing is almost always good, and paired with Bianchi's sweeping painted art, it's a great comic.
Everything you need to know about The Dark Tower TV series, including latest news, release date, story details, and more!
The Dark Tower TV series is in development at Amazon. While the series was originally planned to tie into the 2017 film, that is no longer the plan, according to Stephen King in an interview with Vulture.
"The TV series they’re developing now … we’ll see what happens with that. It would be like a complete reboot, so we’ll just have to see," said King.
Glen Mazzara, who previously helmed The Walking Dead season 3, has been brought on as showrunner. Akiva Goldsman, who produced and co-wrote the film adaptation, will executive produce, along with Jeff Pinkner, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer. Nikolaj Arcel, who directed The Dark Tower movie, and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen wrote a script for the pilot and will also executive produce.
Of course, it's unclear if Amazon plans to move forward with Arcel and Jensen's script now that the film has turned out to be a failure. That pilot was said to feature Idris Elba, who played Roland in the movie, and Tom Taylor, who played Jake. It's unclear what their involvement will be at this point. Mazzara might prefer to start from scratch completely.
MRC and Sony Pictures, which also released the film in 2017, will finance a 10-13 episode first season.
Here's everything else we know:
The Dark Tower TV Series Release Date
No release date has been set for The Dark Tower TV series. Filming was expected to begin in 2017 with a potential 2018 release date but that timetable seems to have shifted.
The Dark Tower TV Series Showrunner
Former Walking Deadexec producer Glen Mazzara will serve as showrunner for The Dark Tower TV series.
"I’ve been a Stephen King fan for decades and the opportunity to adapt The Dark Tower as a TV series is a great honor," Mazzara told THR. "The events of The Gunslinger, Wizard & Glass, The Wind Through the Keyhole, and other tales need a long format to capture the complexity of Roland's coming of age — how he became the Gunslinger, how Walter became the Man in Black, and how their rivalry cost Roland everything and everyone he ever loved. I could not be more excited to tell this story. It feels like being given the key to a treasure chest. And oh yeah, we’ll have billy-bumblers!"
Mazzara's involvement is definitely great news. He's responsible for what is arguably the greatest season of The Walking Dead after taking over for Frank Darabont in season 3. Hopefully, he'll bring a bit of his magic to The Dark Tower.
The showrunner has also been attached to a prequel to The Shining called The Overlook Hotelfor some time. No news on that front, though.
The Dark Tower TV Series Story
The show will reportedly flesh Roland's origin story and his first adventure as a young gunslinger from the fourth book in the series, Wizard and Glass.
In 2017, MRC released a cool promo that teased the setting of the show. It's a map of the different places in the Barony of Mejis, where most of Wizard and Glass takes place:
Roland's instructor, Cort, and his original ka-tet, Cuthbert and Alain, will reportedly appear on the show, although none of those roles have been cast yet.
Murder comes to Wayne Manor in Detective Comics #995, and Batman isn't happy about it.
You don't spend a decade working on a character without figuring some stuff out about him. This is why we were so excited about Pete Tomasi and Doug Mahnke coming back to Batman when it was announced at San Diego Comic Con. And for all the internal hype about it, their first issue back, Detective Comics#994 still managed to exceed expecations. So of course we jumped at the chance to share an exclusive preview of this week's issue, #995, when it was offered.
Here's what DC has to say about the issue, which hits stores today, Jan. 2!
DETECTIVE COMICS #995 written by PETER J. TOMASI
art by DOUG MAHNKE and JAIME MENDOZA
cover by DOUG MAHNKE
variant cover by MARK BROOKS
Alfred Pennyworth…attacked at the Wayne mansion! Who’s hunting those closest to Batman? The monstrous shadow creature plaguing Gotham City gains the upper hand when two of the Dark Knight’s most ardent allies fall prey to the violent vendetta. Will those tragedies send Batman over the edge? Good thing he’s on his way to Arkham Asylum—but will he investigate a murder, or get incarcerated in a padded cell?
Check it out...
It feels like there's a conscious narrowing of the Bat-universe. In the last year, Batman's world has expanded to two multiverses, a barracks-load of Gotham vigilantes, and in recent issues of Justice League, a mech suit/bacta tank that let him work with his new partner, Jarro (Starro the Conquerer but in a jar...it's actually pretty self-explanatory).
So far in this run, we've seen Batman and Commissioner Gordon investigating a murder mystery. And a car chase. This is not a knock on anything else going on with the character (because it's been fantastic), but it's also refreshing to have a book where Batman can do Regular Batman things, instead of Black Casebook stuff with the Justice League.
Mahnke is an exceptional Batman artist. His storytelling is crystal clear, and his Batman is full of stoic menace. There's a sequence later in this issue that is one of the most perfect Batman sequences I've ever read, and it's all from the terror that Batman can impart on his foes and the reader. He's brutal, savage, and scary as hell.
Also with the exception of maybe Brian Bolland, I'm not sure if there's anyone whose Joker I prefer more. Most of the greats have their own peculiar charms, but nobody mixes the Joker's horror, his distorted cartoonishness, and the actual physical pain looking like that must cause quite as well as Mahnke. These pages work, showing Leslie in a Joker venom medical emergency, because Mahnke sells it so well. She looks like she's dying here.
For more on Tomasi and Mahnke's return to Batman and on the leadup to Detective Comics#1000, stick with Den of Geek!
Gerard Way takes us on a trip to the Hotel Oblivion and beyond in our chat about the return of The Umbrella Academy.
This article contains Umbrella Academy spoilers.
Gerard Way is a bit tired on the third day of New York Comic Con. He'd stayed up late for a Netflix cast dinner the night before (he's in bed by 9:45 most nights) and had overslept this morning. Worst of all, he'd been forced to skip his morning meditation.
"It's kind of throwing my whole day off," Way tells me as we sit together in a corner of the Dark Horse booth at the Javits Center, hidden from the masses. The writer/musician is dressed in a big fatigue jacket, hair long and shaggy. He's starting to show hints of a shiny gray. Once impeccably clean-shaven, he now sports a mustache and beard.
Gone are the days of bleached hair, marching bands, and eyeliner. The force of nature who belted out songs about wasted youth, love lost, and doom as the frontman of My Chemical Romance is dead (like the Black Parade itself). Three cheers for the next life of Gerard Way, one of the best comic book writers currently working.
In October, following his excellent work on DC's Doom Patrol with artist Nick Derington, Way finally returned to his original comic book creation, The Umbrella Academy, after an almost ten-year hiatus. The new story arc, Hotel Oblivion, is a grand return for the series as well as for Way and the brilliant Brazilian artist Gabriel Ba, who first collaborated on the series in 2007 and won an Eisner for Best Limited Series in 2008.
The Umbrella Academy is the story of an estranged family of superheroes, years past their prime, who must navigate a nightmarish family reunion, prevent the end of the world, and deal with their traumatic pasts at the hands of their cold (and sometimes abusive) father. In the series' first arc, Apocalypse Suite, the team must stop one of their siblings, a classically trained violinist, from bringing about the end of the world with her evil orchestra. The follow-up, Dallas, is the story of Number Five, a time-traveling assassin who's hired to go back to 1963 and kill John F. Kennedy. It's up to his siblings to either help him or thwart the assassination from ever taking place.
Just three issues into Hotel Oblivion, Way and Ba have laid the foundation for another epic story, this time spanning not only time but also space. At the center of this tale is the titular hotel, a purgatorial prison located in an alternate dimension meant to house the world's worst criminals. The secrets of this hotel and the family's connection to it are the focus of the arc, but there are also plenty of other strange shenanigans along the way.
You have to read it to believe it: 43 superpowered orphans are born around the world at the same time to women whom just seconds before hadn't been pregnant. This is the big bang of Way and Ba's outrageous comic book universe, an alternate version of our reality where Kennedy wasn't assassinated and wrestlers wage war against giant space monsters in the ring. Seven of these orphans are adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a rich scientist who also happens to be an undercover alien, and turned into the world's most famous superhero team, the Umbrella Academy. Together, these extraordinary kids have stopped the Eiffel Tower from taking over the world, defeated a rampaging Lincoln Memorial, and put all manner of costumed villains behind bars.
But those were the good old days.
By the start of the story, one of the orphans is already dead. You quickly find out he was the lucky one because the remaining six siblings are seriously fucked up, thanks to their manipulative and emotionally unavailable father, who's very good at saving the world but terrible at giving the kids what they need the most: love and support.
When the remaining members of the team -- Luther aka Spaceboy, Diego aka the Kraken, Allison aka the Rumor, Klaus aka the Seance, Number Five, and Vanya aka the White Violin (but only after discovering her apocalyptic powers as an adult) -- return home for Sir Reginald's funeral, things only get more complicated. Spaceboy struggles with depression, Kraken is unable to get close to anyone, Rumor's marriage is breaking down, Seance falls deeper into drug addiction, and Number Five...well, he's actually doing alright...
By the end of Dallas, the team is more broken than ever before and it seems that only distance from each other can help mend these characters. Well, a decade was plenty of distance, a lot of time for Way to consider what came next for his children. By the time Way started working on Umbrella Academy again in 2014, he found that the way he thought about these characters had changed.
"I think I understand them in different ways now," Way says. "I think I'm less hard on them. I think I've found more compassion in dealing with them. I've put them through some really hard things and sometimes I feel bad about it."
These days, Way is interested in really digging into the trauma these characters have faced and maybe even giving them some space to heal.
"Trauma is a very intense thing and a very real thing and everybody experiences it in some way. I obviously did not have a childhood like these kids. But I did have a childhood in which I needed to escape a lot."
Hotel Oblivion certainly feels like an escape for the Hargreeves siblings, who are spread out all over the globe (and in the afterlife because that's how the Seance rolls). The first four issues are a sort of exhale for these characters, who are still recovering from major losses, heartbreak, and the whole JFK business.
After all the blood, explosions, betrayals, and deaths, Hotel Oblivion is meant to be cathartic, according to Way: "It's about the past. It's about mistakes. It's about fathers. It's about redemption. It's definitely a therapeutic series."
At the center of the story is still the concept of family. The Rumor is trying to help Vanya recover from the injuries she suffered in Apocalypse Suite while also trying to reconnect with her civilian family and working with the ultra-violent Number Five on his latest gambit.
Most surprising is the mending relationship between the Kraken and the team's former leader, Spaceboy. While stuck in an eternal sibling rivalry in the first two arcs -- Kraken challenges Spaceboy's leadership, Spaceboy condemns Kraken's impulsivity -- these scarred heroes start to reach out to each other in Hotel Oblivion. It's a change in the dynamic of the team that didn't seem possible back in 2009.
"Kraken's interesting and his relationship with Spaceboy changes in this series," Way explains. "A lot of it had to do with the fact that I was tired of writing that type of character, that rebellious fool, that Wolverine kind who always gives the leader shit. I never saw Kraken always being that way. I thought he was gonna be that way in the beginning and then he would grow."
Kraken, the loner who most resembles the "Batman" of the group, is actually the one trying to reunite the superhero team. Meanwhile, an overweight Spaceboy, who fled to Tokyo after the events of Dallas, is dealing with an existential crisis and no longer interested in leading his siblings.
"He's searching," Way says of Spaceboy. "I like the idea of a lost leader. A leader that doesn't have the answers anymore. Who's maybe not even a leader anymore. So I loved exploring that with Spaceboy."
Spaceboy isn't the only leader in need of redemption, though. Even Sir Reginald deserves a re-examination, according to Way.
"I learned more about him. I learned more about his history in working through this stuff, and I can't reveal any of that, obviously. But I've learned to find even compassion for him. Like there's a reason he is the way he is. Over the course of the series, you discover that reason of why he is this kind of ruthless person."
For these heroes, their father remains the catalyst for their problems. Will these characters ultimately find peace (and maybe even love) where it previously eluded them? It's too early to say, but at the very least, the search for the Hotel Oblivion gives them a new place to inevitably find and help each other.
"The story at one point was gonna be a little bit less about the people that live in the hotel, but over time I found that I really wanted to tell their stories, so there are a lot more characters in Hotel Oblivion than there were nine years ago."
The Hotel Oblivion, with its faceless bellhops and cockroach entrees, might remind one of Captain Willard's stay in Saigon in the opening minutes of Apocalypse Now. Willard's hotel room is a sort of purgatory before his journey back to hell, a way station where he's left to relive his trauma over and over until he's lying naked on the dirty carpet, crying, bleeding, and a bit mad.
Way's prison isn't quite as dramatic as that, but it's doubly as terrifying. When Sir Reginald sends the villainous Murder Magician to the hotel, we get to see firsthand the lengths to which Sir Reginald will go to "save the world," letting the bad guys rot in a TripAdvisor hellscape without a trial.
"The concept of Hotel Oblivion deals a little bit with capital punishment," Way explains. "I think in terms of current events and the state of our world right now, in future Umbrella Academy volumes, we'll see a little more of that creep its way into the book. But right now I really wanted to explore capital punishment because we know what a super prison is."
Watching the villain watch a grotesque Lynchian cartoon about mice on the hotel television with nowhere else to go for the rest of eternity, you even start to feel for him. In one panel, he looks out his window at the desert beyond the hotel, surrounded on all sides by desolation and the bony carcasses of animals. This place could break him, the villain's face seems to say (Ba's pencils bring depth and emotion beautifully to this book).
"You don't really see mainstream comics exploring the ramifications of somebody having to live in Arkham Asylum and what that does to somebody psychologically. Or if the Phantom Zone is ethical punishment. So it deals a lot with that."
Way took inspiration from his real-life travels when creating the titular hotel, which he based on the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon where he stayed while working on the original Umbrella Academy stories.
"It's a very old hotel and it's kinda classy, but it's also a little bit old. From the outside, it kinda looks like the Hotel Oblivion," Way recalls. "I would be really isolated in that room just writing. I started to become inspired by the environment that I was in."
There was a time in Way's life when the writing didn't come so easy, though. Way told EW back in October that writing Umbrella Academy while on the road with My Chemical Romance became more difficult, describing the twilight of the band during that final tour as "really taxing." The band broke up in 2013 and Way jumped straight into a solo album, Hesitant Alien, soon after, further delaying his comic book work.
Way has a steady place to work now, a studio separate from his house. That's where the magic happens.
"I wake up really early, I hang out with my daughter, get her ready for school, I take her to school, I come back, I meditate, and then I start writing. And that takes up most of my time. I only make music on Fridays."
Since our chat, Way has released two groovy new songs, "Baby, You're a Haunted House" and "Getting Down the Germs," which show the artist moving away from both his emo pop roots and Britpop revival sensibilities to a more psychedelic sound. "Germs" even has a flute solo courtesy of renowned flutist Sara Andon. A third song, "Dasher," is a lovely Christmas ballad about a girl who falls in love with a reindeer, with backup vocals by Lydia Night of The Regrettes. Yeah, this is Way like we've never heard him before.
Way is also working on the upcoming Umbrella Academy Netflix series. The first season, which is set to debut on Feb. 15, will adapt both Apocalypse Suite and Dallas. That's quite a bit of ground to cover (across at least three different time periods), but Way, who has spent a lot of time on set as an executive producer, says that the series is going deeper into certain parts of the story than the comics did.
"Since they have more time, they can get deeper into things that may only be like two pages in the comic. And that's been really cool. They explore the characters a lot more." Way teases that both arcs "were expanded for the TV show. There are new elements in there. They've kind of enhanced the experience of those two graphic novels."
Beyond Hotel Oblivion and the Netflix show are more comics. In fact, Way is already developing the fourth arc with Ba.
"I'm putting all my notes together. So basically I know that there are eight volumes of Umbrella and I know what happens in each of them. I know what happens in the fourth. We're basically gonna take about three months between Hotel and when we start series four."
What can Way tease about series four? The arc will explore the biggest mystery at the center of their superhero universe, according to Way.
"We're finally gonna get to see some more of the 43 individuals." But he won't say any more about that.
Don't worry, though. The writer knows that you've been waiting a long time to learn more about these characters, to spend more time in their world. At the end of our chat, he opens up about how much it means to him that fans continue to ask for The Umbrella Academy.
"I just really appreciate them sticking around," Way says. "If people didn't care about it, I don't know, maybe I would have moved on to something else. But they still really want to know the whole story and so it's my duty to tell that story. I'm gonna give them what they want."
The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #1-4 are out now. Issue #5 is out on Feb. 6. The Netflix series premieres on Feb. 15.
John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9.
Netflix has given a series order to Raising Dion, a sci-fi story about woman raising a super-powered young son.
Another superhero series is joining Netflix’s original content lineup. However, this one won’t quite fit with its existing Marvel small screen scene. Raising Dion, an independently-created superhero sci-fi story that carries a heartfelt family twist, has been given a full series order by the streaming giant.
Netflix has announced that Raising Dion will arrive on its platform with a 10-episode series order. The story stems from a 2015 short film and comic book of the same name, created by Dennis Liu and illustrated by Jason Piperberg. It depicts the innately unconventional parenting task of a widowed African-American woman, whose 7-year-old son Dion possesses an array of potent superpowers (telekinesis, energy projection, invisibility, etc.). Yet, despite its fantastical premise, the focus rests more on the realistic implications that one would have when raising a child who has a normal sense of wonder and mischief, but happens to possess incredibly dangerous abilities. Indeed, the sight of the mother packing a pistol while watching some men-in-black types outside her door drives home the idea that threats are everywhere.
Discussing the Netflix pickup, creator Dennis Liu expresses in a statement:
“I started this project many years ago because I wanted to see more diverse representation on film and television and I’m excited to partner with Netflix, who I know shares that commitment. More than ever, we need more stories told from different points of view and my hope with Raising Dion is to create a cinematic experience for all families that will lift your spirits and make you laugh and cry.”
Helping Liu in that endeavor with Raising Dion will be appointed showrunner Carol Barbee, who has also written the script for the first episode. Barbee, a veteran television writer/producer, has been attached to a wide variety of series, notably in the sci-fi/action arena, with Falling Skies, Touch, Hawaii Five-O and Jericho, as well as dramas such as UnREAL, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce and Judging Amy. She is joined by exec producers in Macro’s Charles D. King, Kim Roth and Poppy Hanks, along with Kenny Goodman and Michael Green.
Intriguingly enough, also joining Barbee as an executive producer on Raising Dion will be actor Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther), who is onboard via his Outlier Society Productions. Moreover, Jordan will also appear on the series on occasion, playing the late father of the titular super-powered-sprout, who (at least, in the original short,) is implied to have been a military man who was cut down in action.
Regarding Michael B. Jordan’s presence on the series, Netflix VP of Original Content Cindy Holland states:
“We haven’t seen this type of superhero story before — an origin myth full of imagination, wonder and adventure, all grounded in the experiences of a modern single mother. Michael B. Jordan is an exciting and dynamic talent, and I’m excited to see him, Macro, Carol and the team translate Dennis’ unique vision to television.”
Longtime TV director Seith Mann (who, like Jordan, worked on TheWire but not at the same time as the actor) is set to direct the series' first episode per Deadline.
Raising Dion does stand as a potentially unique family-centric take on an increasingly crowded superhero/sci-fi genre, also carrying much of the same X-Men-esque drama about society’s depicted fear of superpowered people; something that will undoubtedly be rooted in socially topical themes.
Raising Dion Cast
Netflix has now cast the Dion in Raising Dion along with his mother as well. According to Deadline, newcomer Ja’Siah Young will protray the young boy with limitless potential and powers. Alisha Wainwright (Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments) will play the mother tasked with raising him, Nicole.
Michael B. Jordan, of course, is portraying Dion's father and he posted a lovely little family photo to his Instagram.
On the non-family front, Jason Ritter previously joined Michael B. Jordan in being one of the first actors cast on Raising Dion. Ritter will portray Pat, a comicbook fan, scientist, and best friend to Jordan's character, Mark. After Mark dies, Pat fills in as a paternal figure for Dion and shares a special bond with her. Someone's gotta raise Dion! The show's title demands it.
Ritter has had a strong recent history of television roles and is coming off of starring in ABC's Kevin (Probably) Saves the World. Deadline first reported the casting.
Jazmyn Simon (Ballers) will play Kat, Nicole's sister and a surgical student.
Raising Dion Release Date
There’s no word yet on when Netflix expects Raising Dion to arrive. It is not currently among the shows listed in Netflix's roster and could get a release date of 2019 or later.
Marvel's Doctor Strange has a weird history with psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. Get ready to expand your mind.
Doctor Strange and Pink Floyd both got their start during the 1960s, a decade known for mind-expansion, psychedelic experimentation, and the pushing of cultural and artistic boundaries. Neither were exactly in step with the rest of their genre.
Doctor Strange, unlike his spandex clad and heavily muscled contemporaries, used occult practices like black magic and astral projection to defeat his foes instead of brute force. Pink Floyd were never really the kind of post-Beatles psychedelic pop group that were still common in the late '60s, nor were they ever the kind of blues-based hard rock or technically-oriented progressive rock band that dominated the 1970s. Unsurprisingly, Doctor Strange comics were popular on college campuses as the counterculture revolution of the 1960s began to take hold and it's easy to see stoners disappearing into Steve Ditko's surreal artwork while early Floyd records played or why psychedelic rockers were more drawn to these than traditional superhero fare.
Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson dropped a number of Pink Floyd references on Twitter during the production of the Doctor Strange movie (not to mention Bob Dylan, The Talking Heads, T.Rex, and other bands), so I was waiting to see if a Pink Floyd song would actually make its way into a Marvel movie.
I wasn't disappointed.
Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" plays during a key early sequence in the movie. It comes from first Pink Floyd album, The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, which abandoned the melodic but skewed psychedelic pop of their early singles, "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" for a collection of songs that were more metaphysical, sinister, and occasionally (like in the case of "Interstellar Overdrive") freeform explorations of sound and feedback. The album version clocks in at nearly 10 minutes, but live versions could run longer, as long as the band wanted, really, and were accompanied by a psychedelic light show and oil projections that were conducive to mind-expansion. Those visuals wouldn't have looked out of place in the Doctor Strange comics of the era, either.
Pink Floyd's guitar player, singer, and driving creative force in 1967 was Syd Barrett, who left the group the following year due to worsening mental illness that was likely accelerated by his voracious appetite for mind-altering chemicals like LSD. Marvel's Doctor Strange movie certainly leans heavily on imagery consistent with the visuals associated with LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline trips (Strange even accuses the Ancient One of spiking his tea with psilocybin), which is fitting, even if it isn't a direct connection to Pink Floyd.
Barrett was still present on a few tracks on the band's second album, 1968's A Saucerful of Secrets, which has a semi-hidden image of Doctor Strange on the cover. The collage effect is not only reminiscent of the band's light shows and a representation of the psychedelic experience, but the placement of Strange himself makes it look as if the whole album cover is a spell being cast by the Master of the Mystic Arts.
The Strange elements come from a story in 1967's Strange Tales #158, with art by Marie Severin (Doctor Strange co-creator Steve Ditko had left Marvel almost a year earlier).
Here's the page:
(and thanks to Richie who pointed out the specific issue in the comments of our article about all of the easter eggs in the Doctor Strange movie)
The title track, "A Saucerful of Secrets" is kind of like the sequel to "Interstellar Overdrive" as it's another extended instrumental that places more emphasis on experimental sound than it does on anything resembling a traditional rock song structure. In other words, it's the perfect accompaniment to your reading of weird-ass Doctor Strange comics from the era.
What I somehow never realized until this NightFlight article pointed it out to me is that you can also spot Marvel cosmic entity The Living Tribunal in the upper left-hand corner of the album cover, too...
Doctor Strange was still on the band's radar enough that they included him in the lyrics of "Cymbaline" from their third album, 1969's soundtrack to the Barbet Schroeder film, More. "Suddenly it strikes you, that they're moving into range,"Syd Barrett's replacement David Gilmour intones solemnly, "and Doctor Strange is always changing size."
Funny enough, "Cymbaline" was known as "Nightmare" when it was performed as part of The Man and The Journey suite of songs, meaning it shared a name with the first villain Strange ever fought in the comics. Soon the band's lyrical focus drifted away from metaphysical concerns and into more earthly ones, and while they continued to produce extended musical compositions, the atonal sounds of "Interstellar Overdrive" and "A Saucerful of Secrets" gave way to the more melodic "Echoes" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond."
But if Doctor Strange was an influence on the band in their early days, you can perhaps see hints of Pink Floyd's influence on the character in the 1978 Dr. Strange TV movie, which has a synth-heavy, at times funky, electronic soundtrack and an astral trip visual sequence that looks like some of the light show projections the band were known for. The final song on Michael Giacchino's Doctor Strangescore, "Master of the Mystic Arts" subtly evokes some of the band's 1970s work, too.
But one final piece of Doctor Strange/Pink Floyd synchronicity popped up in 2016. Doctor Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch joined former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour on stage to sing "Comfortably Numb," a song which started life as a demo called, funny enough, "The Doctor." Whether this is coincidence, or simply the universe bringing the Pink Floyd/Doctor Strange connections full circle is entirely up to you to decide, of course. Maybe Doctor Strange 2can find room for more Pink Floyd music when exploring the Dark Dimension or somewhere similar.
Cast spells, or at least talk psychedelic rock and comics, with Mike Cecchini on Twitter. We have a playlist of all songs discussed here...
With Mister Miracle wrapped, Tom King and Mitch Gerads are back together for Batman #62, pitting the Dark Knight against Professor Pyg.
Mister Miracle was at or near the top of just about everyone's best of 2018 lists, including ours. And with good reason! It's really good you guys. It's rare that you find two comic creators who are both working at their peak and whose sensibilities complement each other so perfectly that the end result is leaps and bounds better than what they do apart.
So when DC came knocking with an exclusive preview of Batman#62, after fifteen minutes of squealing and putting a fresh "E" on my keyboard, we of course said yes.
Here's what DC has to say about the issue:
BATMAN #62 written by TOM KING
art and cover by MITCH GERADS
variant cover by FRANK MILLER
The Eisner-winning creative team behind MISTER MIRACLE is back together as artist Mitch Gerads rejoins the Bat team for a special issue! Professor Pyg is loose in Gotham, and you know that means things are going to get weird…and bloody!
Now check out these crazy preview pages...
Playing up Mister Miracle is in no way meant to slight the work being done by King and the murderer's row of artists he's got working with him on Batman. Mister Miracle is probably a generational book, think James Robinson's Starman if it was as widely read as Watchmen. Batmancould have just as easily been at or near the top of that best comics list last year.
Batman's baseline is so high. Think about it: 62 issues in now, and maybe the most relatively pedestrian part of the run was "The War of Jokes and Riddles," a gang war between Riddler and Joker that's predicated on how neither one gets the other's schtick that ALSO included a Kite Man story that turned Comics Internet into a blubbering mess. That's a really high floor of quality.
In the last year alone, we've seen Batman and Wonder Woman trapped in an alternate dimension for 10,000 years; the wedding; the Poison Ivy and Booster Gold lead ins to Heroes in Crisis;12 Angry Batmen, the fallout from the wedding with Mr. Freeze; and a KGBeast story. There wasn't a single time that an issue of Batmancame out in the last year where Batmanwasn't at or near the top of my read pile.
It's an underrated component of this run, but there's an elegance to the way King works blatant fanservice into the book that makes it so joyful to read. The Superman and Batman "double date" issues from last year had so much from the respective animated series, and the Wonder Woman story felt like a direct call and response to the classic Justice League cartoon, where their relationship felt completely legitimate and earned. And here...hang on.
Look at that. "Remember being nineteen, tied up by Thaddeus Brown, the original Mister Miracle." They're just taunting us now. And yet even when you know it's fan service, it's still so good that you don't care. The art effects that Gerads puts in, the blurring and the blood blotting over the camera, are wonderfully immersive and effective storytelling tricks. These guys are unbelievably good.
Oh, and there's a groovy Frank Miller variant cover for the issue, too...
Batman#62 is on sale on 1/9/2019. For more on Batman,Tom King, Mitch Gerads, Mister Miracle, or rampant (and probably incorrect) speculation about where King's Batmanwill end up in 40 more issues when it wraps, stick with Den of Geek!
DC Comics is finally coming to ComiXology's Unlimited subscription service. This may now be the best deal in comics!
DC Comics is unleashing its superhero universe (as well as its Vertigo line) on ComiXology's Unlimited all-you-can-read subscription service, according to io9. Starting today, readers can access select graphic novels and single issues starring DC's most iconic characters, including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The service, which already includes books from Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, Archie, and many other publishers, will set you back $6 a month.
This new acquisition from ComiXology comes at a time when DC is finally entering the digital subscription space with its own DC Universe service, which charges $7.99 a month for access to a selection from DC's comic book archive as well as a library of movies, TV shows, and animated series. The service is also home to original content, such as the Titans, Doom Patrol, and Young Justice shows. There's even a neat encyclopedia of the DC Universe for the uninitiated. You can access DC Universe on your TV, tablet, or smartphone.
That said, this writer has found DC Universe's selection of comics a bit lacking, and the experience of reading the books on a screen doesn't quite feel as optimized as ComiXology's or even Marvel Unlimited, which offers up basically every book the House of Ideas has ever put out, including TONS of Dark Horse Star Wars series it acquired after 2012 as well as classic superhero runs from Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and many more. DC Universe's library is pretty scarce in comparison.
The addition of DC Comics to ComiXology Unlimited perhaps means that the company is ready to open up its archive a bit more. If you're wondering what you can get for your $6, here are just some of the DC books being added to the service today:
Animal Man (2011-2014)
Batgirl (2016- )
Batman (2016- )
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: White Knight
Cyborg (2016- )
The Flash (2016- )
Green Lanterns (2016-)
Harley Quinn (2016-)
Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
Injustice 2 (2017-)
The Mulitversity (2014)
New Super-Man (2016-)
Teen Titans (2016-)
Wonder Woman (2016-)
Astro City (2013- )
Books of Magick: Life During Wartime (2004-2005)
Clean Room (2015-2017)
Doom Patrol (1987-1995)
V for Vendetta
Y: The Last Man
Titan Comics' Robotech series receives some superstar talent with writer Brenden Fletcher joining the long running franchise!
Robotech comics are about to see an influx of new writing talent! Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl, Gotham Academy) will be joining the exemplary Robotech comics team of Sumon Furman and Hendry Prasetya for new adventures set in the Macross saga.
For those who haven't been keeping up with Titan Comics'Robotech series, it started off as a loose retelling of the famous Macross saga but quickly diverged with new elements introduced into the story. Now, as the series is set to release it's 16th issue, the story has featured elements from all three sagas of the original series and even deep cut references to various Robotech spin-off media. If you're a hardcore Robotech fan, this comic is everything you've ever wanted.
Fletcher's run on the book will kick off in a "special primer issue" on Free Comic Book Day 2019 (May 4, 2019) which will "shine a spotlight on unseen events and major hints of things to come." This will be building to a "spectacular storyline called Event Horizon."
You can find the cover for the Free Comic Book Day issue below.
Once again, Prasetya knocks it out of the park with a gorgeous cover featuring the famous Macross saga characters. Prasetya is also doing the interior art for the main comic, so know what you see on the cover is what you're getting throughout the whole book. With Simon Furman along for the ride this issue might just be one of the best yet.
We reached out to Titan Comics and Will O'Mullane, Senior Press Officer for Titan, confirmed that Fletcher is joining the Robotechcomic for more than just the FCBD issue. O'Mullane let us know he's also, "doing back-ups in an upcoming arc."
We don't have word on what those back-ups are just yet, but we can't wait to see. Considering what Titan Comics has done with the Robotech franchise we're sure it'll be something that puts a whole new spin on Robotechcontinuity.
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter! He also co-hosts a Robotech podcast, which covers the original series and the new comics. Give it a listen! Read more articles by him here!
The Gifted stumbles setting up the board for the end of the season.
This The Gifted review contains spoilers.
The Gifted Season 2 Episode 11
Man, tonight's cold open was pretty on the nose.
It's not The Gifted's fault, but it was probably to their benefit that the delay got me in the mood for some righteous, "they made their beds, fuck 'em" fury. This week was all about everyone* realizing what a mistake they've made and reevaluating their lives. Unfortunately for everyone involved (including The Gifted), very few of the characters made defensible choices coming out of those reevaluations.
Lorna realizes that Reva and the Inner Circle are disasters after she catches Reva coaching up a crew that slaughtered thousands of people, including kids, on a cruise ship. So she heads to Marcos to bail her out. This is probably the most well-written exchange of the group: Lorna is simultaneously begging Marcos for help and admitting she's taking advantage of his sense of right and wrong. It's messed up and a little abusive, so there's no small sense of satisfaction when he's heavy flirting with Glow, the Morlock he reconnects with as a result of Lorna's revelation.
Clarice and Marcos don't share a romantic moment, but Blink continues to be the most well adjusted character on the sho. When Marcos asks her to go to Erg and the Morlocks for more intel on the Inner Circle's plans, she gives him a rash of crap and calls him out for diming her out to John. It's a refreshingly straightforward interaction - it would have been so easy to try and draw drama out of their frustration with each other, but the writers had it confronted head on and put it away. This is perfectly in character with what Clarice has been on the show so far, and it felt really good to deal with.
Lauren's story feels like space-filling setup. She gets a music box that Andreas Strucker used to listen to, and now it's making her evil. It's just...there. There's a cool bit with her slicing up distant light poles to throw some nosy cops off their tail, but she's also just focusing her air shield powers into Destructo Discs, and I doubt they're going to actually turn her into Krillin from Dragonball, so it's just there.
Jace continues to be the worst part of the show. The whiplash he causes with his seesaws between being an upstanding law and order person and being a middle manager in a hate militia suck the life out of the show. This week, him and his partner, Racist Steve Zahn, bust down the doors at an orphanage and wave guns at a couple of mutant kids. Then Jace gets lectured by the black mutant kid about how bullshit his racism is while Racist Steve Zahn screams "WATCH OUT HE'S COMIN RIGHT FOR US" and shoots the other mutant kid in another room, and after Jace freaks out and tries some futile CPR on the kid with the gaping chest wound. Then Jace refuses to help the cops in their investigation, and after that, he gets a call from his now ex-wife telling him she saw him on the Shane Hannity Show or whatever they're calling Peter Gallagher's character, and she and their dead daughter would be proud of how he "helped" in that orphanage. And then, after 10 episodes of unrequited pining and just after he filed divorce papers, she's like "hey maybe we can hang out you brave fella."
This makes no sense.
Last season, when Reed and Kate broke into the Turner household, she was the voice of reason. She connected with Kate and felt empathy for the kids. There is no way she sits around watching Shane Hannity for nightly updates about Mutie Crime. It's also extremely unlikely that even if she was the kind of person who smashed up her Keurig because they sponsored the X-Corps, she'd call Jace after seeing his picture on TV and start to undo the extremely fraught divorce they just wrapped up. And even more nonsensical was when Jace cut her off and declined to meet. He's been pining for her hard all year, but when she asked to meet, he just drifted off and told her no. I guess they wanted to show that he's married to the cult now?
The frustrating part of this development, besides the obvious "it makes no sense," is the knowledge that we're going to be dealing with this nonsense choice as long as Jace is a character on the show. We're going to either be playing games about whether or not they get back together, or we'll be watching him mourn the death of a relationship he could have inexplicably resurrected, or he'll fully snap and dedicate his eventual genocide to the memory of his still living wife or something.
Further damaging this episode was the ending, where literally everything felt like a trap. Lauren is being baited into being a psychopath by a creepy incest music box. Jace's conversation with his wife felt wiretapped. Lorna and Marcos are out on a date following up on info from the Morlocks when they see Reva and Shane Hannity exchange envelopes and shout at each other. John, freshly healed from his chest full of buckshot, gets a call from Evangeline Whedon where she breaks every rule of underground opsec and organizes a meeting of every available cell. The Marcos/Lorna date makes the most sense, but none of it was all that great.
This week's episode had a couple of things going for it, but much of it felt sloppy and rushed, and I fully expect them to get back on track next week.
lauren reads german now?
LOOSE GENETIC MATERIAL
- What's up with the episode naming conventions? If we're going by last week's episode, this one should have been "MeMento."
- HOLY SHIT THEY DID THE STRUCKER SWORD. In the comics, Andreas skinned his sister and wrapped the hilt of his sword in her skin so he could still use their shared power. In The Giftedthey did exactly the same thing I can't believe it.
- This is less important than skin sword, but in the skin sword flashback that took place in New Orleans, everybody was dressed like they were making fun of the town. How many mutants can possibly share "Big Daddy" as a code name?
- The cruise ship killing crew includes a guy who can heat things up, a girl who can teleport things, and a guy who claps and can make things explode. The teleporter's powers actually look like they work a lot like Blink's in the comics do, but not exactly. She's probably not Lila Cheney, because she ddidn't need to stop off on another planet between ports. I'm not sure who the warming guy is, and the clapper is probably not Arclight, one of Sinister's Marauders.
- In retrospect it's probably good that they didn't name the baby Aurora, since that already happens every time Marcos and Lorna bone.
- Lauren finds a note in the music box and apparently can suddenly read German? I don't know, man.
Deadly Class delivers another appealing “secret school” drama that comics readers, aging 80s nerds, and millennials will all enjoy.
This review is spoiler-free for all episodes of Deadly Class.
There will be two types of skeptics judging Deadly Class: those who have read the comic and wonder how true the series is to the source material and those who are new to the story asking, “Wait, is this just Harry Potter or The Magicians with assassins?” Fortunately, both groups of cautiously optimistic viewers will be satisfied by Syfy’s adaptation, which premieres on January 16, 2019. In some ways, the comic that inspired this troubled and violent coming-of-age tale has thoroughly invaded the television show, especially in its animated sequences from original artist Wesley Craig, and those seeking a “hidden school for special youth” derivative will find many tropes upended.
That’s not to say that Deadly Class doesn’t have some predictable high school drama conventions. Shows that have teenagers at their core do tend to have stereotypical cliques that work for and against the hero, and this series is no exception. The difference here is that the preps (children of secret government operatives) and nerds (a group called “The Hessians” not found in introductory issues of the comic) are all working against our hero, a scrappy homeless kid with a tragic past, Marcus Lopez. Other social divisions feel more like prison gangs than school cliques with groups of students representing Mexican cartels, white supremacists, and the Yakuza among others.
The life-or-death stakes feel very real in the opulent-but-rundown private school environment of the underground institution known as King’s Dominion. Marcus is recruited because of a murderous reputation he doesn’t necessarily deserve, and he’s not a legacy student from a criminal family like most of the other kids. His outsider status doesn’t make him the awed, grateful student that Harry Potter was upon admission to Hogwarts but rather a suspicious, cynical enrollee who simply has nowhere else to go. The fact that he is immediately embroiled in school drama comes across as inexorable and inescapable rather than as an angsty obstacle to overcome.
But despite the fact that Deadly Class will eventually have Syfy’s popular fantasy, The Magicians, as its lead-in on Wednesday nights, the two shows do not share the same brooding tone. Since this show takes place in 1987 (this writer was a sophomore in high school then, so plenty of feels there), let’s put it this way: the kids of Brakebills are like the progressives (a term that was replaced by “goths” in contemporary times), full of tragic self-doubt and indulgent ennui, whereas the students at King’s Dominion are full-on punk, with all of the angry righteousness and bluster that entails.
Ironically, Marcus hangs out with both goths and punks as the series begins and is evaluated derisively by several gangs, but with class assignments ranging from the poison arts taught by Henry Rollins to AP Black Arts taught by Benedict Wong, the deadly purpose of the school becomes the great equalizer, and as it turns out, Marcus has a knack. He may not be “the boy who lived,” but he’s certainly “the boy with nothing to lose,” which actually may serve him better in this game of survival. The fact that Deadly Class is able to establish this core theme in its opening episode is pretty damn impressive.
Further evaluation of this promising start to a unique series will have to wait for a more spoilery review after the Deadly Class premiere, but everything points to another success for Syfy in their high school and college age target audience. The 80s setting will also appeal to the middle-aged geek set since the original writer of the comic, Rick Remender, who is of that era, is not only in the writer’s room; he’s also co-showrunning his creation with Mick Betancourt of Chicago Fire and Miles Orion Feldsott, who helped adapt the comic.
Wong’s Master Lin almost seems to address the Deadly Class audience at one point in the pilot episode when he asks, “What do you want here, Marcus?” Future fans of the show, who very well may be searching for a series just like this one that will excite their senses, might have the same answer as King’s Dominion’s newest student when they tune in at 10/9c to Syfy on Wednesday, January 16, 2019: “A reason to wake up.”
20 years on from The Sopranos' first episode, new book The Sopranos Sessions is a compelling, insightful dive into the show's legacy.
“The show's gonna be forgotten, like everything.”
This is how David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, described the legacy of his most famous body of work to Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall during one of the many coffee-house round-tables they convened for The Sopranos Sessions, a weighty tome – filled with recaps, discussions, dissections, analyses, insights, and interviews – being released this week to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the transmission of the show's first episode.
Chase's shoot-from-the-hip, fatalistic world-view is often a dead ringer for that of his most famous fictional creation's, depressed mob boss Tony Soprano. Tony would almost certainly have assessed his own existence in the same terms as Chase does the show's. Namely: "It's all a big nothing."
And on one level, of course, Chase is entirely correct. There will indeed come a time when even our most celebrated works of art and our most iconic heroes and villains – Einstein, Hitler, Buddha, Mr. Rogers – will inevitably recede and vanish into the infinite mists of existence. That final cut to black awaits every one of us, both individually and as a species.
And yet, ten years after its end, and twenty years since its beginning, The Sopranosstill dominates most of the "Best of" lists compiled by the critics who matter; and few viewers with any serious appreciation for television as a dramatic medium would dare place it outside the top three of the greatest series ever made. Its legacy, then, despite Chase's dark-edged humility, shows no signs of fading.
We're at a time in pop culture history when we are surrounded with – some might say drowning in – choice. It sometimes feels like there are more TV shows out there than there are people and not enough years in even the most generous estimates of our life cycles to introduce ourselves to more than a minuscule fraction of them. The added problem is that a great deal of today's TV is good, and much of it is great. We're drowning, but at least we're drowning in Dom Perignon. Among other things, The Sopranos Sessions reminds us just how much of this proliferation of prestige television we owe to The Sopranos, and why – even after all of these years – the show still holds an unchallenged position at the head of the TV hierarchy.
The Sopranos was, in essence, an anti-TV series, and Tony Soprano was an anti-hero the likes of which audiences had never seen before, one who would push the boundaries of our empathy and understanding to their limits and beyond. It was a show about the intersections between Family and family; faith and betrayal; guilt and innocence; dreams and reality; good and evil; cunnilingus and psychiatry; and, of course, the sacred and the propane (sic). It was a show about everything. It was a show about nothingness.
Few could've realized it at the time, but The Sopranos - cinematic in its scope and vision, literary in its depth and complexity - was about to shake up and remake the TV landscape, ushering in a new era of revolutionary TV characterized by ever greater risks and almost boundless creative freedom.
Without The Sopranos, without James Gandolfini, without Edie Falco - without that whole, remarkable, almost pitch-perfect cast - without HBO, without that team of writers, directors and producers, and almost definitely without the clarity of vision brought to bear on it all by the bold and uncompromising genius of Chase, TV today might have been a whispering, barren wasteland, filled only with generic cop shows and hoary old hospital dramas. Your eyes, at this very moment, might have been skimming down a review of a book called "Twenty Years of Groundbreaking US Game Shows."
Simply put: Jan. 10, 1999 was D-Day for TV.
It's fitting that this moment in TV history and its seismic aftermath should be commemorated and chronicled by two men who were with The Sopranos from the very beginning, and who between them have spent two decades delineating its multi-layered, mesmerizing genius.
Zoller Seitz and Sepinwall bring not only a fierce love and admiration of the series to their collaboration but also a wealth of experience and knowledge: Seitz is editor-at-large for RogerEbert.com, as well as the TV critic for New York magazine and Vulture.com. Sepinwall is the chief TV critic for Rolling Stone, and previously worked for both Uproxx and Hitfix. He's also the author of a clutch of highly-regarded books on TV, among themThe Revolution Was Televised. Both men were critics at the Newark Star-Ledger throughout the time that The Sopranos was on the air. The Star-Ledger, of course, is the paper that usually slammed on to Tony's driveway at the beginning of (almost) every season of The Sopranos, and of which Tony himself was an avid reader.
The Sopranos Sessions is essentially a box-set in book form, both in terms of how it's presented, and in the behavioral mindset I'm certain it will inspire in its readers. Just one more page, you'll promise yourself, just one more chapter, and then I'll put it down. Before you know it, it's three o'clock in the morning, you've binged half the book, and you're on the phone to your estranged wife, with Lionel Ritchie ringing in your ears.
The book is divided into three parts. There are the recaps, analyses, and deconstructions, so engagingly written and thought-provoking that you'll feel like you've actually watched the episodes. Then there are the "bonus features": previously published articles about the show and its cast; ruminations on the show's relevance to and connection with the wider culture, all of which were written by the authors between 1999 and 2007; and, finally, the piece de resistance, a glut of brand new and in-depth interviews and discussions with Chase on all aspects of the show, with inevitable segues into pop-culture, history, music, cinematography, the art of showrunning, philosophy, psychology, sickness, sin, and the minutiae of life itself.
Chase is an auteur extraordinaire, an almost holy figure. If The Sopranos is a church, and few are broader or more ornate, then Chase is undoubtedly both the head of that church and its God. Sometimes his sentences demand the sort of close examination normally reserved for entire episodes of his magnum opus. His mind appears to be in constant flux, constantly revising, reframing, and re-interpreting his own motivations and understanding, ceaselessly interrogating the meanings behind his words and actions. It's not just that there was no better person than Chase to bring The Sopranos to life; it's simply that there was no other person who could possibly have done it. His genius bleeds into and out of every blessed moment.
Through Chase's conversations with Seitz and Sepinwall – as funny, insightful, frustrating, illuminating, and erudite on all sides as you'd expect – we come to realize that true genius is kaleidoscopic and mystical, and sometimes feels closer in character to the big bang than a controlled explosion. Chase can't always account for the genesis of some of the show's deepest and most pivotal moments, or else shrugs and says it was just luck. He brings great clarity to some aspects of the show – for instance, we discover that Ralph definitely burned Pie-O-My ("You never got the goat thing?" he chides) – and veils others in ever greater cloaks of obscurity.
Anyone hoping for some final closure on the whole "Is Tony dead?" question may find themselves pleasantly surprised... and then hopelessly disappointed. And then pleasantly surprised again. And then, well, you get the idea. It's a journey that seems destined to go on and on and on and on...
Or is it?
Whichever side you're on (or perhaps you're on neither side and think that the whole question of Tony's fate is either a distraction from proper contemplation of the show's overarching themes or an artsy gimmick unworthy of further consideration) you'll find the Freudian slip that prompts Chase to aim an exasperated "Fuck you guys" in the direction of an astonished Seitz and Sepinwall – and its fallout – very interesting indeed.
As Laura Lippman says in the foreword to The Sopranos Sessions, there are levels of Sopranos obsessiveness. I've always considered myself in the higher ranks of obsession, having watched each episode of the show more times than I could count. I've pondered and pored over its myriad meanings and symbols, and I've proselytized in its name. But Seitz and Sepinwall make me feel like a newbie, a late-night channel-flicker. Their insight is staggering and immersive, though still entirely accessible to those in the earlier stages of Sopranos-based obsession.
Seitz and Sepinwall's ability to tease out themes, intuit connections, analyze at the atomic level, and discover hidden meanings in the material frequently had me lowering the book in slack-jawed admiration, from the revelation that eggs always augur death to the deliciously meta reframing of season three's "Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood"; and to passages like the below, which I'm going to reproduce verbatim so that you can revel in the Ouroborotic beauty of the duo's reasoning:
The architecture of the Tony/Livia relationship is astonishingly intricate in retrospect. It's driven not just by straightforward dialogue and definitive actions but subtle psychological and literary details, including the recurring talk of infanticide, Tony's two dreams about mother figures (the duck and Isabella), and the way that the idea of asphyxiation is woven throughout the season. Tony feels suffocated by his mother; the resultant panic attacks make him feel like he's suffocating; he now intends to deal with the problem by suffocating his mother (poetic justice), but arrives to find her lying on a gurney, a plastic mask on her face providing constant oxygen. (“That woman is a peculiar duck,” Carmella tells Tony. “Always has been.”)
The real joy of the show, and the joy of this book, lies in the act and art of interpretation. The Sopranos has always invited this response – it's pretty much built into the premise - because psychiatry, much more than gangsterdom, is, and always has been, at the show's heart – a ceaseless search for answers to the great conundrums of life, the universe, and everything (and nothing); questions for which there are rarely easy answers, and sometimes no answers at all. Just more questions carried across the sky by a great wind. Who am I? Where am I going?
Tony Soprano wasn't alone in therapy. Arguably, we were in there with him. Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Tony's long-standing and long-suffering psychiatrist, was the Greek chorus, our entry-point into Tony's world, but she was also, in a sense, our psychiatrist. She interrogated our motives for watching the show, just as much as she questioned her own motives for continuing to treat Tony. Or, as Seitz and Sepinwall put it: "The series is sometimes as much about the relationship between art and its audience as it is about the world the artist depicts."
We saw more of Tony's life than Melfi ever did or could – the very worst of his trangressions, from the inconsiderate to the murderous, and still kept following him down the rabbit-hole of his broken soul. Much of the reason why we did this – exemplary writing aside – was Gandolfini, the jaded, gentle giant with the hang-dog face and the little boy's heart, whose "humanity shone through Tony's rotten facade" to gift us what was, in all likelihood, the most complex, compelling, complete, and completely human character ever to be committed to the screen (I'm not ashamed to admit, not being a gangster myself, that Chase's eulogy to Gandolfini, included in this book, made me cry).
I haven't re-watched The Sopranos for years, but that's set to change as a result of The Sopranos Sessions, which has re-invigorated – and deepened – my love for the show. You may not be as intense a fan of The Sopranos as I am, and that's okay. This is a perceptive, lucid, engaging, and above all versatile book that could serve as a series companion, a read-me-in-the-toilet tome, or a TV-studies textbook depending upon your level of interest, and fluency, in the show. There's something for everyone.
All legacies fade, but until Chase's prediction for The Sopranos comes true - not for another few million years or so - Seitz and Sepinwall deserve to be part of that legacy.
The Sopranos Sessions is out now. You can buy it on Amazon.
Netflix will be bringing Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone series to television with Bird Box writer Eric Heisserer as show runner.
In its ongoing bid for total media domination, Netflix is turning to one of the oldest kinds of media: books.
The streaming giant announced today that it would be adapting the Grisha fantasy trilogy. The Grisha trilogy comes from American author Leigh Bardugo and is made up of the novels Shadow and Bone (2012), Siege and Storm (2013), and Ruin and Rising (2014). Another novel, Six of Crows was released in 2015 and is set in the "Grisha-verse." Netflix specifically mentioned Shadow and Bone and Six of Crowsin their announcement as the books being adapted.
The as of yet unnamed Shadow and Bone series will be eight episodes and Netflix has brought out their creative big guns for it. Eric Heisserer (the writer of Netflix's uber hit Bird Box) will produce the series and serve as showrunner. Shawn Levy via his 21 Laps imprint and Pouya Shahbazian will produce the series as well. Levy, who previously produced Netflix's other uber hit Stranger Things, also produced Heisserer's Oscar-nominated sci-fi film Arrival. Pouya Shahbazian has experience with fantasy books, having produced the Divergent series.
The amount of impressive in-house Netflix talent on Shadow and Bone could prove useful, as the story is pretty massive. The official logline reads:
In a world cleaved in two by a massive barrier of perpetual darkness, where unnatural creatures feast on human flesh, a young soldier uncovers a power that might finally unite her country. But as she struggles to hone her power, dangerous forces plot against her. Thugs, thieves, assassins and saints are at war now, and it will take more than magic to survive.
Bardugo modeled her fantasy world after the Russian Empire of the early 1800s, rightfully identifying Tsarist Russia as a prime template for a fantasy setting based around darkness.
The Grishaverse books have sold 2.5 million copies in English and have been trasnlated into 38 languages. The story continues later this month with the publication of King of Scars.
The Grisha series was previously acquired by Harry Potter producer David Heyman via Dreamworks to be adapted into a film series in 2012 but clearly nothing has come of that. That's all well and good, as Netflix seems to have a solid handle on this whole book adaptation thing anyway.
Alec Bojalad is TV Editor at Den of Geek and TCA member. Read more of his stuff here. Follow him at his creatively-named Twitter handle @alecbojalad
Get a first look at the new novel set in the world of She-Ra: Princesses of Power.
For the honor of grayskull! After a very successful first season for the Netflix reboot of She-Ra (which we loved), the series is now getting its own novel! That's right, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is entering the book world and we've got the scoop on the cover, description, and an excerpt! The book will be titled She-Ra: Origin of a Hero and will be written by Tracey West (writer of Pokemon chapter book adaptations). Below you'll find a description of the novel, including some details about how this book isn't just retelling!
The iconic heroine She-Ra is back! Discover the origin of a hero in this first chapter book set in the world of She-Ra, just in time for the reboot of the series on Netflix.
She doesn't need a hero. She is a hero. On a planet called Etheria, two forces battle for control. The Horde, with its skillfully trained soldiers and advanced technology, has one goal: to conquer all of Etheria in the name of Hordak. The other force, the Rebellion, is made up of princesses and has been fighting to maintain harmony and freedom for all of Etheria's people. Hidden among them all is a hero to be. Her destiny was written by the First Ones a thousand years ago. Now she is about to rise again.
Discover the origin of a hero in this first chapter book in the series! This book expands on the plotlines of the first two episodes, giving readers a deeper glimpse into their favorite hero's backstory. With illustrations in each chapter, these books are packed full of friendship, humor, and heart!
Expanding on plotlines from the first two episodes? We're sold! Any more info we can find on the world of She-Ra is worth giving this a read.
Below we have the cover for the novel, which features new artwork!
Want an idea of what the chapter book will be like? Here's that excerpt!
The World of Etheria
On a planet called Etheria, two forces battle for control.
The Horde, with its skillfully trained soldiers and advanced technology, has one goal: to conquer all of Etheria in the name of Hordak.
The other force, the Rebellion, is made up of princesses from across the planet and has been fighting to maintain harmony and freedom for all of Etheria’s inhabitants. But a series of heartbreaking defeats left their alliance broken, with the princesses looking out for their own kingdoms instead of working together.
Hidden among them all is a hero to be. Her destiny was written by the First Ones a thousand years ago. Now she is about to rise again, and the future of Etheria lies in her hands. As her story unfolds, meet her and some of the characters who will help determine her fate . . .
She-Ra: Origin of a Hero is on sale April 30, 2019.
Each month, the hosts of our Star Wars podcast, Megan, Paul, and Saf, take on the latest topics in the Expanded Universe, on television, and in the theater on Star Wars Blaster Canon.
With the Cassian Andor television series coming to Disney +, our Star Wars podcast hosts revisit Rogue One and Cassian’s character in particular on this month’s episode of Blaster Canon. What might the TV show be about? What is the “secret weapon” that makes Rogue One so good?
We take another look at the symbolism in Rogue One, particularly the contrast between Jyn and Cassian. Additionally, we examine how Rogue One takes a unique look at the Force, and discuss whether the movie might actually have a more “Force-ful” story than The Force Awakens. Plus, how could Rogue One have gone differently if Cassian had made different choices?
In other Star Wars news, we cover the newly confirmed cast of The Mandlorian, upcoming books including Thrawn: Treason, and the Flight of the Falcon middle grade series, including Pirate’s Price and Lando’s Luck.
In the world of comics, Age of Republic is knocking it out of the park with in-depth explorations of Prequel characters like Obi-Wan and Darth Maul, and we take a look at what writer Jody Houser brings to the Star Wars canon. It’s the calm before the storm as we gear up for Celebration news in April.
As 1993's The Death Of Superman completes its journey to the screen, we look at the various adaps of the Man of Steel's not-so-final battle
This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This feature contains major spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Justice League, among other Superman films and TV shows.
Superman has died before and he will probably die again. And yet, despite having been adapted for the screen before, the release of The Death Of Superman animated movie and its sequel Reign Of The Supermen (which will screen in theaters in a special double feature this week) marks the end of a long journey through development hell for one particular version of the Man of Steel's demise.
DC Comics' penchant for Elseworlds, “What If” imaginary stories, and other out-of-continuity escapades mean that writers have been killing off the seemingly invulnerable hero for a long time. For instance, Superman#149 tells an entertaining imaginary story in which Lex Luthor formulates a cure for cancer, seemingly just to gain Superman's trust and get close enough to eventually murder him.
Although that kind of story is better written and executed, the iconic "Death Of Superman" story is the 1992-1993 arc of the same name, which attracted an unprecedented amount of mainstream media coverage when it was first revealed. In terms of story, the arc saw Doomsday, a monster contrived purely for this story, arriving on Earth and making short work of the Justice League before going mano-a-mano with Superman. In front of the Daily Planet building, the two finally exchange lethal blows.
January 1993's Superman #75, an issue comprised entirely of splash pages, sold more than six million copies as a result of the hype surrounding it. Unsurprisingly, sales fell off for the rest of the arc. If everyone had kept reading, they'd have found out about the emergence of four would-be Supermen, ranging from John Henry Irons' Steel to the alien Eradicator. That's before the real Kal-El makes his inevitable return, because comics.
Published during a period in which stories were partly been driven by the booming speculators' market for comic books that featured momentous stories or the first appearance of particular characters, The Death Of Superman is the definitive blockbuster arc of the era. And that has definitely been reflected in the disproportionate amount of times it has been adapted since then.
The trouble is, for all that it's an iconic story, it's not an especially interesting one. The demise of one of the most beloved and recognisable characters in fiction at the hands of a brand-new monster, which the writers specifically created to knack him, over the course of a four-issue brawl still feels deeply uninspired.
Still, more than 25 years since it was published, the arc's status as a landmark has been cemented in the Superman canon, and with that status, there have been several attempts to adapt the story for the screen. Some came to fruition, some spectacularly did not, but in all cases, we have to wonder – what does it mean to kill Superman?
Death and Returns
Certainly, when Warner Bros bought the film rights to Superman back from producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind in 1993, they were looking for a hit to match 1989's Batman. With Superman #75 so blatantly in the pop culture consciousness at the time, a project labelled Superman: The New Movie quickly became Superman Lives, the definitive tale of development hell in modern motion picture history.
As detailed in the excellent 2015 documentary The Death Of Superman Lives – What Happened?, the big-budget project would have used the death and return of Superman as the start of a fresh new take on the character. Counter-intuitive as that seems, it also had to be “toyetic”, the dreaded made-up adjective that turned Batman & Robin into, well, Batman & Robin.
With Tim Burton set to direct and Nicolas Cage signed up to star, the project was ultimately cancelled just three weeks before production was set to start. Having languished in pre-production for years, the project had already cost Warner Bros millions at the point when they decided to cancel it, meaning that they also had to honor pay-or-play contracts for Burton ($5 million) and Cage (a whopping $20 million) for not making the film.
After a period of courting different takes on the origin story and even developing the earliest version of a Batman versus Superman movie, Warner eventually greenlit 2006's Superman Returns, which adheres more to the pre-existing film canon. The film was warmly received upon release and it washed its face at the box office, but was still said to have “underperformed”. Then again, its reported $300 million budget included all of the development costs of the previous years as well.
It's not surprising to note that all of the different takes on Superman Lives were fairly loose in adapting the story. Kevin Smith notably wrote a draft that fastidiously integrated elements like Doomsday and the Eradicator, but it's also a distinct story from the comic itself. Popular villains Lex Luthor and Brainiac appeared in most of the drafts of Superman Lives, usually manipulating events from the sidelines.
This followed in the first animated adaptation too. As the vanguard of DC's direct-to-DVD animated original films, 2007's Superman: Doomsday has to fit a 75-minute running time, so it's got a good excuse for not having much of Doomsday in it. However, it also dispenses with Steel, Eradicator and the rest of the bunch, by having a single Luthor-created clone of Superman emerge instead.
Affecting the look and feel of the Bruce Timm-produced cartoons while also changing the voice cast and upping the content to a PG-13 rating, the film does at least have a borrowed sense of the world in which these events happen. As the makers of the live-action film eventually discovered, it's folly to try and start a fresh new take on Superman in which the hero dies at the end of act one.
While Doomsday is a staggeringly dull creature in the pages of the bestselling comic where he originated, the character provides enough of a blank slate for various Superman media to use outside of the main thing it was designed to do. To that end, prequel shows Smallville and Krypton have both used Doomsday outside of a death-and-return story, with the former basically turning the character into Glory from Buffy season 5, in a body-share with Sam Witwer's Davis Bloome.
'Do you bleed?'
Even Zack Snyder, whose faithful adaptations of 300 and Watchmen were picture-perfect next to the comics that inspired them, cherry-picked from The Death Of Superman when it came to Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Borrowing its title fight from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, another bestselling comic series but one with a much better story, Snyder's film has a lot going on in it. That's why the third act introduction of Doomsday feels like a hat on several other hats.
In this iteration, the monster is reimagined as a homunculus of Luthor and General Zod's DNA. Introduced in the final half-hour, the part-Kryptonian final boss was one of the least praised aspects of a film that wasn’t massively celebrated to start with. But Doomsday gonna Doomsday, and at the end of a CG-heavy battle, Henry Cavill’s Kal-El takes an elbow spike to the heart.
Even more bafflingly, the trailers revealed that Doomsday would be in the film well in advance of release, so this wasn't a surprise. Aside from showing that the two title characters eventually put aside their differences, it's a massive spoiler because unlike in, say, Smallville, it's a film in which one of the main characters has already spent most of the movie trying to kill Superman.
There were many reasons to walk out of Batman v Superman feeling sad, but no one can argue that the film had anything close to the cultural impact that the original comic did. Granted, you only get to kill Superman for the first time once in any medium, but as far as live-action movies go, there’s a feeling that they’ve already had their chips.
Here, Superman's demise is a means to an end, as Snyder intended for it to spur a remorseful Batman to come out of isolation to unite the Justice League in the sequel. As conceived,Justice League would be a two-part epic that saw Superman return to help the newly formed League stave off a prophesied invasion by Darkseid.
Beset by unimaginable production difficulties, Justice League clearly isn't the film it was originally intended to be. Although nobody was especially happy with what came out, there's an effort to make Cavill's Superman more personable than in the previous films, an effort which is unfortunately marred by his digitally shaved upper lip.
During pre-production, Snyder decided against having Supes wear the comics-faithful black version of the super-suit, which was briefly glimpsed in a deleted scene. Even though the finished film initially goes down the "Pet Sematary" route of having Superman come back wrong and attack our heroes, the film at least does a better job of making us glad he's back than Dawn Of Justice did of making us sad that he was gone.
An iconic story?
In a way, that's the nub of the problem with The Death Of Superman in retrospect. It's affecting to see the classic superhero meet his end, but it can't be repeated after a point where we know that death isn't permanent for him.
Some readers called the whole story a publicity stunt once Superman was resurrected at the end of the arc. If you read and enjoyed the comic and felt the impact of that story, that probably seems reductive. But at the very least, it feels as if the story's elevation to iconic status over the last quarter of a century has been fuelled more by the desire to capture lightning twice than by the need to tell a classic story.
Looking back at the comic's release though, it must be seen that its bestselling status was the product of morbid curiosity, rather than an indicator of its quality as a story. While Superman's apparent invulnerability is one of the most complained-about aspects of his character in terms of story stakes, we'll take that over the certainty that any injury is only temporary, up to and including death.
The fact that he dies and returns doesn't make him more human. It makes him more like Jesus. Even putting aside how Moses is the far more fitting biblical analogue for Superman's origin, it's not so compelling to watch filmmakers and producers attempt to pull the same trick again and again.
Following Superman: Doomsday and Batman v Superman, The Death Of Superman was the third screen adaptation of the story in little more than a decade. That's not to say that you can't tell a good story in which Superman dies (as anyone who has read Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman will attest), but it feels as if there's been this crazy drive to humanize Superman by making him physically vulnerable, rather than focusing on his personality.
At the very least, it'll be exciting to see what Reign Of The Supermen brings to the DC Animated Universe canon, as the first proper adaptation of the “return” part. But as to the preceding bit of the story, it's plain to see that the best, most relatable screen versions of Superman have been the alive ones.
Jon Kent is back and Superman #7 is going to tell us what he's been up to.
One of the biggest mysteries left from Man of Steelis what's been going on with Jon, and it looks like, from this exclusive firs look at Superman#7, we're about to find out.
The nice thing about Brian Michael Bendis coming to DC is that he's got enough juice that he can walk into the DC offices and say "Tim Drake is Robin again and I'm doing a Young Justicebook and have you met my friend David Walker?" Okay, fine, that's only one of the nice things.
Next up for Bendis and friends is this week's Superman #7, which answers the question of what Jon Kent has been up to since the events of Man of Steel. Here's what DC has to say about the issue:
SUPERMAN #7 written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
art by IVAN REIS, JOE PRADO and BRANDON PETERSON
cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO
variant cover by DAVID FINCH It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: the shocking return of the son of Superman! A year spent traveling the stars changed Jon Kent. Are parents Clark and Lois ready for the all-new, all-different Superboy? Secrets are revealed, a new look debuts and Superman’s world is changed forever!
Check out these exclusive preview pages!
Another one is that he's putting fresh eyes on DC's oldest, biggest character and then immediately shifting the focus to everything around him. His Superman comics have taken two tracks since the end of Man of Steel, his big entree into the DCU. They seem to follow the two different threads of Superman's identity: Action Comics, which is the Clark book, that focuses on Metropolis and the Planet and the Earth-bound life that he leads; and Superman, where we follow his superhero adventures.
The focus of each book has followed a similar pattern In Action, he's taking a ground level view on why Superman is who he is - giving us peeks at why the people of Metropolis love him the way that they do (or in the case of the villains, how they get around him). Superman, however, is the introspective book, the one that shows us why Clark does what he does and how he perceives his world.
It is also where a lot of the over the top superhero action is - the last arc had Earth zapped into the Phantom Zone and Superman teaming up with General Zod to slow-mo punch the bejeezus out of Rogol Zaar. Not gonna lie, that was pretty satisfying. It looks like we're getting a little bit of a pivot here, though.
That was an uncomfortable segue-plus-page-preview. Let's try that again. It looks like we're getting a bit of a pivot here.
There we go. That was MUCH less uncomfortable.
For more on Superman, including parts where Jon isn't walking in on his parents' foreplay, stick with Den of Geek!
Check out these covers!
Robert Venditti walks us through the new revelations about the history of Hawkman coming up in the latest issue.
Robert Venditti has been a major part of DC’s murderer’s row of writers since the New 52 era, having steered the fate of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps for years. But as of late, Venditti has risen in the DC ranks to become one of the most innovative voices at DC Comics. Recently, Venditti and Bryan Hitch's Hawkman has become a top of the pile read.
The new series cuts through the confusion of Hawkman’s complex history and presented a genre-bending, character-driven, cinematic look at Carter Hall and the multiple lives and worlds the titular hero has inhabited over the millennia. Along with superstar artist Bryan Hitch, Venditti has found a direction for Hawkman that makes the character one of DC’s A-list heroes. We had the pleasure to sit down with Mister Venditti to discuss Hawkman and some of the future plans at DC Comics for this timeless winged hero.
What is coming in up in Hawkman?
We have issue eight which is going to be on the stands this coming Wednesday the 16th. Throughout the series, Hawkman has been trying to uncover the mystery of his past lives. In the first issue, he realizes he didn’t just reincarnate across time as he previously thought. He reincarnated across space as well. He’s had past lives on Thanagar, and Rann, and Krypton. He’s been flipping through past lives and through time.
He’s trying to figure out the mystery of a group called the Deathbringers who are trying to destroy Earth because of him. So in issue eight, he goes to Krypton and encounters a past life known as Catar-Ol. Like Carter Hall, Catar-Ol was a historian. But he’s on Krypton and he witnesses the death of Krypton. As Carter, he remembers being Catar-Ol, so he now remembers the death of Krypton. This motivates Carter into a huge conflict in the first third of this story. He encounters the Deathbringers and now, having re-witnessed the death of Krypton, Carter now understands what could happen to Earth. Hawkman realizes he can never let this happen again.
Tell us about the Kryptonian Hawkman. What does he want? What stands in his way?
Now we’ve created the House of Ol, which is awesome. The Kryptonian Hawkman knows more than Carter Hall about the Death Bringers. He has been trying to craft a weapon to destroy the Deathbringers. That’s what Carter Hall thinks he’s going to encounter when he gets to Krypton. He thinks that’s what all the clues have been pointing to. He thinks he’s finally going to get this great weapon that’s going to destroy the Deathbringers. That’s what Carter wants on Krypton and that’s what Catar-Ol has been devoting his life to doing, to creating. How that situation ends up, readers will discover.
They’ll be some hiccups along the way that will lead Carter to some big realizations that are building towards a huge moment coming up in future issues that we’ve been planning since the moment he realized that he’s been reincarnated across time and space in issue one. We’ve been building towards this moment. Catar-Ol and Carter Hall’s experiences on Krypton will play a huge part in bringing that to pass.
Talk about working with Bryan Hitch. He seems like an unlikely but obvious choice for the character. He usually is on a core character but his cinematic style lends itself so well to Hawkman’s world of endless possibilities. What does Hitch bring to the table?
He brings everything. It’s not just Hawkman’s world, it’s Hawkman’s worlds. If you look at what we’ve done in this series, we’re going to be eight issues in, we’ve been to Gorilla City, the ruins of ancient Egypt, Dinosaur Island, Thanagar, the Microverse, a past life of Hawkman from the beginning of our universe, and now to Krypton. That’s eight issues. And Bryan Hitch has drawn all of that. He’s fleshed out all those cultures. He’s established the look of all those things. All while drawing, not just penciling but inking, lots of the pages and not missing an issue. He’s already finished with issue nine. It’s extraordinary to see him work.
The most important thing for a character like Hawkman, who I didn’t know a lot about except he had a confusing continuity, the most important thing about the series is that it be easily understandable. That people can grasp the changes we’re making and link the entire history of the character together. A huge part of what makes comic books understandable is the visual storytelling. For Bryan to be able to render all the action and all the character moments across so many different cultures and so many different locations and to do it in a way that’s so fluid and easy to read… it’s just extraordinary. I can’t think of a better person to work on this book and to build this story out. Our hope is we’re setting a template for what Hawkman is going to be going forward, a character that can reincarnate across time and space and fit in any storytelling possibility across the universe. We would love to see other storytellers pick up those threads.
Where’s Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman; can you catch up with Kendra and/or Shiera’s status in the Rebirth era?
Yeah, by far, the character we’ve talked about the most is Hawkwoman/Hawkgirl. We’ve had so many discussions about that character even before the first issue. Right now, obviously, Hawkgirl is in the main Justice League series that Scott Snyder is writing, and I’m in contact with Scott. We talk about what we’re doing and what our plans are on all those kinds of things. He’s got some exciting stuff over in that series.
For me, I felt it wasn’t a bad thing to have the characters separated. It would be one thing if Hawkgirl wasn’t anywhere else in the DC Universe because she’s a great character and she should be in a book somewhere. But with her being over in Justice League, it allows readers to see who she is without Hawkman around. Our series allows us to see who Hawkman is without Hawkgirl around, which allows us to establish who they are in their own adventures before bringing them together. Throughout their history they’ve always been together so let us establish them and let them stand on their own two feet.
Who is Hawkman to you? What attracts you to Hawkman and his worlds?
Hawkman to me, the thing I find most relatable about him, is that through all these lives he’s had he’s always been an archeologist. To me, it’s something that struck me from the very beginning, is that why would someone who can fly, who has these giant wings, why would he choose a profession that would necessitate being underground and in closed spaces, you know? What I settled on is that this sort of compulsion he’s had throughout his lives to explore, to discover, to dig into the past. It’s really been one big journey of his own self-discovery to understand who he is. I think that’s relatable to every single person. We all spend our lives discovering who we are and discovering our own identities. That’s what he’s been doing.
It’s a very relatable concept that lends itself, once you bring in the time and space angle, to so many storytelling possibilities. It can be earthbound, it can be cosmic, it can be present, it can be future, it can be sweeping and epic or it can be very personal. It can be all those things, and there are not a lot of characters that lend themselves to that sort of variety without it feeling forced. But Hawkman is one of them, and that makes it such a fun series to work on and we’re holding nothing back. We’re going to all those locations and doing all those things.
Talk about how you got the book. Did you pitch or did DC approach you?
DC asked me if I’d be interested in pitching for the character. I didn’t grow up on comics; I started reading them when I was in my mid-twenties. I didn’t know much about Hawkman except that he had a reputation for having a convoluted history and a sprawling continuity. Within my first hour of reading up on the character…I said to myself, “Oh, he reincarnates across time and space. That’s pretty cool.” I kept reading issues waiting for that to be said and it never gets said. So I thought, “That’s what we’re going to do. That’s how we’re going to tie this all together.” We’re going to say that the Thanagarian and the ancient Egyptian is the same person that just never realized they were reincarnations of the same person until now. Then we’re going to expand that which could mean Krypton. I put a pitch together based on those ideas and submitted it to DC, and they liked it.
Can you tease what’s coming up in Hawkman after the Krypton storyline?
Carter Hall is going to have a big revelation which brings him back to Earth with his confrontation with the Deathbringers. That’s going to be so much action, you know, I’m looking at some of the art that Bryan is turning in daily, and I’ve lost count at around ten thousand of the number of figures that are on these pages. It’s a huge story.
We have a moment that’s coming up that we’ve been waiting to do before we began writing the series. This is going to leave the character in a new place, and set up for new adventures. Like I said, there would be nothing we would want more than other creators to pick up these threads and pull on them and weave Hawkman into the DC Universe. The same way we’re saying Hawkman is part of the Kryptonian mythology and linked to the Superman mythology, and knowing Jor-El, and being a teacher to Supergirl, there’s so many opportunities for other writers and creators to weave the Hawkman mythology into the DCU. I think that will be how we get Hawkman back to a place that he deserves to be: a foundational character in the DC universe that is part of everything. He’ll be the living historical document of the DCU.
Can you share some conversations or ideas you shared with any of the DC higher ups about how they view the character’s place in the DCU?
I wouldn’t want to reveal too much, except to say that Hawkman is a character that they very much wanted to bring back. To try and elevate the character to what he means to the DCU. It’s definitely something DC is interested in, and there are some very significant plans for the character beyond just in my book that will take place at various points. I don’t know how much I can say. I’ll just leave it at that, there are definitely huge plans for the character in the DCU and everyone should watch out for that.
Hawkman #8 his stores on Jan. 16.
Heather Graham entrances ABC with Liane Moriarty’s Hypnotist’s Love Story.
“How do you make a man do something without nagging? That is the billion-dollar question," Liane Moriarty wrote in her novel The Hypnotist’s Love Story. Writing, directing and starring in your own movie might help. Which Heather Graham wrote did for the romantic comedy Half Magic. Graham worked her magic on ABC, which will adapt Moriarty's book into a series, according to Variety. Moriarty wrote the best-selling novel Big Little Lies, which was turned into an Emmy-winning series starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman for HBO, as well as the best-sellers The Husband’s Secret, Truly Madly Guilty.
ABC officially ordered a pilot for The Hypnotist’s Love Story adaptation, according to Variety. This is the first pilot season order for ABC’s new entertainment president Karey Burke, as well as her first pilot order. The series is being produced by ABC Studios and David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Laurie Zaks of Mandeville Television. Graham will star in and executive produce the series along with Katie Wech (Star), who will write the series.
Graham will play Ellen O’Farrell, a "professional hypnotherapist who works out of the eccentric beachfront home she inherited from her grandparents," according to the book's official synopsis. "It’s a nice life, except for her tumultuous relationship history. She’s stoic about it, but at this point, Ellen wouldn’t mind a lasting one. When she meets Patrick, she’s optimistic. He’s attractive, single, employed, and best of all, he seems to like her back. Then comes that dreaded moment: He thinks they should have a talk. It turns out that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend is stalking him. Ellen thinks, Actually, that’s kind of interesting. She’s dating someone worth stalking. She’s intrigued by the woman’s motives. In fact, she’d even love to meet her."
Graham has come a long way since she got her License to Drive in her debut film in 1988. Graham is best known for her roles the films Drugstore Cowboy, Boogie Nights, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Fire Walk with Me, The Hangover and Bowfinger. She appeared on the TV series Get Shorty, Twin Peaks, Scrubs, Californication, Law & Order: True Crime, Angie Tribeca and Flaked. Graham starred in the 2006 ABC romantic comedy series Emily’s Reasons Why Not, which was cancelled after one episode. She wrote, directed, and starred in the romantic comedy feature Half Magic, which came out on February 23, 2018. Graham was one of the women to speak out against Harvey Weinstein.
There is no word yet on when The Hypnotist's Love Story will premiere.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City's Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.
The Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer is here! We've dissected the footage and found some interesting clues about the movie.
The Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer is finally here! As Peter quickly points out, he won't be a "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" in this one, as for the first time in cinematic history, a Spider-Man movie is taking Peter Parker out of the country for his adventures. Among other fun things, the trailer reveals who the high-profile Marvel Cinematic Universe guest star is in this one, and it also reveals Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio.
Before we dive in, here's that trailer again:
First and foremost, that’s an A+ use of The Ramones. Henceforth, all Spider-Man movies must be accompanied by at least one Ramones tune. While “I Wanna Be Sedated” is an all-time classic, it would be nice to hear some more deep cuts in one of these flicks, too. Still, this is a great sign for what else we might hear in the movie. Spider-Man: Homecoming had a low-key excellent use of punk and new wave and indie tunes, and this would indicate they’ll follow that here.
In case you were wondering how Aunt May took the revelation that her nephew was Spidey at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming, here's your answer. May working for assorted homeless charities and shelters is right on the money with some of her activities in the comics over the years, once she stopped being impossibly elderly and constantly on the verge of death.
You have to love how hard these movies lean into the “Aunt May is hot now” thing, which so irritated the internet when Marisa Tomei was first cast.
Well, they sure are going full blown Peter and MJ in this, and that's just fine with us. Hopefully, they don't rush this too much, but it's great to see them connecting further.
Go to sleep, Ned!
Nick Fury keeping tabs on Spider-Man was a feature of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, where Fury told young Spidey that he was essentially going to be “drafted” into SHIELD service at the age of 18. Nick’s less than friendly appearance here would seem to lean into that pretty heavily.
The red and black Spider-Man design was popular in the early '90s and was fairly interchangeable with the traditional reds and blues. And the web wings were part of Steve Ditko's original costume design and were a regular feature of the suit for nearly a decade, and they've made sporadic appearances since then.
Wait...is that Sandman? Nahhhh...
Hey, we're even getting a version of Spidey's stealth suit in here!
Wait...is that Hydro-Man?!? Nahhhh…
Meet Mysterio! Quentin Beck is a former movie special effects wizard, and here he is posing as a superhero. As the kids point out later in the trailer, his look here is a perfect amalgamation of assorted Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero costume elements.
It's a safe bet that this particular master of illusion is responsible for all the elemental horrors terrorizing Europe, and he's posing as a superhero for his own ends. You can see how Mysterio in this movie could be a continuation of the theme introduced by Michael Keaton's Vulture in the first film, about regular working folks feeling useless in the rise of superheroes. Seriously, how exciting could special effects possibly be in a world where Thor and Iron Man exist?
And it’s great that he goes full on “fishbowl head” when he leaps into action.
As for the rest?
Flash Thompson idolizing Spider-Man goes all the way back to the very earliest days of the Spider-Man comics. This is a perfect updating of it and a great way to end it all on.
Frank Castle is back to dispense his own brand of justice in The Punisher. As a refresher, here’s what happened in season 1. Spoilers...
This Punisher article contains spoilers. It comes from Den of Geek UK.
The Punisher is back for a second and likely final season at Netflix. It’s been over a year since we last saw Frank Castle in action, so ahead of season two, here’s a look at what happened in his debut solo outing and where the characters – at least, the ones we’ll see again – left off…
The Punisher Story
The first season of The Punisher sees Frank Castle continuing his hunt for the men who killed his family, after discovering that the man he previously dealt with – his former commander, Colonel Schoonover – was part of a much wider conspiracy inside the CIA. Drawn back into a vigilante life, he finds himself tracking down “Agent Orange” and his former brother-in-arms, Billy Russo, who are both wrapped up in it.
Along the way, Frank partners with “Micro,” another victim of the conspiracy who faked his own death to focus on bringing it down. As Frank and Micro partner up, they are tailed by government agents, including the obsessive but brilliant Dinah Madani, who is clean – though her bosses may not be.
As you’d expect, Frank eventually takes down Agent Orange and his subordinates, culminating in a final battle which sees Russo and Frank face off in the funfair location where Frank’s family was originally killed. After beating Russo and smashing his face into a mirror, Frank delivers him to Madani whose investigations have put her on Frank’s side.
With the conspiracy beaten, Micro is free to return to his family, and both he and Frank are pardoned by the authorities. Assuming, of course, that Frank stays out of trouble.
No prizes for guessing how that’s going to go…
The Punisher Characters
We last saw Frank attending a PTSD support group, having acknowledged that he was… unwell. Of course, part of the problem was that having achieved some kind of justice for his family, he just didn’t know what to do next with his life. Whatever happens next, you can be sure Frank probably won’t be pursuing justice for his family as his primary goal, but it remains to be seen whether this rather optimistic ending will be undone as he spreads his war on crime to everyone else, or whether he’ll be dragged back into a fight against his will.
Billy Russo (Jigsaw)
When we met Billy, he was the head of a “private security” firm called Anvil and living the sweet life free from his past. Once a close friend of Frank's, he’s set to be one of the main villains of this series, even though he starts it comatose. Russo has lost everything he treasured – his job, his good standing, and his looks – it’s safe to say he’s going to blame Frank for that.
Although she helped bring down the conspiracy, Madani paid a lot for her crusade. Hooking up with Billy Russo certainly didn’t help when she found out he was bad – especially since he killed her partner, Agent Sam Stein, and then tried to shoot her in the head. If and when Russo wakes up, Madani’s going to be ready to take him in. Will she be keen to partner up with Frank, however? Probably not, since she was the one who got him his new life. That’s not something you can keep doing for a person after all…
Having already developed a rapport with Frank after he came into conflict with Daredevil, newspaper reporter Karen Page helped Frank out several times in the past and is sure to do the same again in Punisher season two. Of course, Karen was fired from her newspaper in Daredevil season three, and assuming Daredevil isn’t going to continue anywhere else this could be the character’s final appearance.
One of Frank’s few loyal friends from the military, and one of the few people who knew he was alive when the rest of the world didn’t, Curtis also ran the PTSD group Frank attended. Frank saved his life multiple times, including from Russo. Again, when Russo wakes up and can’t find Frank, it’s likely he’ll go to Curtis first. He might even just go there to settle a score…
The Punisher season 2 will debut on Netflix on Jan. 18.
The next Batman game could see the Dark Knight face off against the Court of Owls!
It's been the talk of the town for quite a while that WB Montreal, the studio behind Batman: Arkham Origins, is working on a new game starring the Dark Knight. According to a series of rumors over the past few weeks, including one sparked by an employee at the studio, it seems that the new game will see Batman face off against the Court of Owls, a criminal organization made up of the wealthiest citizens in Gotham City.
The Court of Owls rumors began when production coordinator Valerie Valdez posted a picture of a t-shirt with an owl-themed logo that's similar to the one used by the villains in the comics:
WB Montreal did not comment on the game at the time, but the rumor mill is back at it today thanks to new images revealed by digital artist Eddie Mendoza, who uploaded three pieces depicting Batman fighting Talons, the Court of Owls' elite assassins, to his ArtStation portfolio. According to Games Radar, Mendoza took down the images, which he claimed he'd done just for fun, a short time later, causing the internet to only grow more suspicious. Were Mendoza's pieces actually concept art for an upcoming Batman game?
In a statement to Games Radar, Mendoza clarified that "the images are just fanart [and] I am not affiliated with WB or WB Montreal." The artist explained that he took down the paintings to "adjust the lighting." The images have not been re-uploaded as of this writing. We're not going to post the art here, but you can find them elsewhere if you look hard enough.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the Court of Owls, the criminal organization (although you could probably call it an owl cult?) made its debut in 2011 in the early days of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's fantastic run on Batman. The Caped Crusader faced off against the Court in a battle that almost cost him both mind and body. Along the way, Bruce discovered that he had a bigger connection to the Court than he could have ever imagined, a shocking twist that still leaves me breathless just thinking about it so many years later. Needless to say, the story is worth a read, especially since the Court still shows up in current DC books and has even made an appearance on Gotham. It's a group worth knowing.
WB's upcoming superhero projects have long been the subject of scrutiny from anxious fans. WB Montreal is said to be working on two separate DC games. If one of them is this Court of Owls game, then the other might be a Damian Wayne game first uncovered by Kotaku. The studio was previously working on a Suicide Squad game, but that was canceled in 2016.
Recently, Rocksteady co-founder Sefton Hill shut down rumors that the Batman Arkham studio is working on a Superman game. There are also reports that the team is working on a Justice League game, but take that with a grain of salt.
We'll keep you updated as we learn more about the next Batman game! In the meantime, here's a guide to every upcoming superhero game.
Deadly Class, an assassin high school show, is coming to Syfy courtesy of the Russo Brothers. Here's what we know so far.
Rick Remender and Wes Craig's graphic novel, Deadly Class, has received the adaptation treatment courtesy of the Russo Brothers and will now be airing on Syfy.
The graphic novels, which debuted for Image Comics back in 2014, follow a group of teenagers as they make their way through San Francisco's late '80s punk scene and also a high school for assassins. The book focuses on Marcus Lopez, a homeless Nicaraguan teen who gets recruited for the school. His first decision as a student is to kill Ronald Reagan, and that's somehow the least bad decision he makes in the entire book.
Deadly Class the series is set in a dark, heightened world against the backdrop of late ‘80s counterculture, following the story of Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth). Syfy's official synopsis describes him as "a teen living on the streets who is recruited into Kings Dominion, an elite private academy where the world’s top crime families send their next generations. Maintaining his moral code while surviving a ruthless curriculum, vicious social cliques and his own adolescent uncertainties soon proves to be vital."
Deadly Class Episode 1 Trailer and Release Date
Deadly Class starts on January 16, 2019 and will air on Wednesdays at 10/9c on Syfy after The Magicians. Syfy decided to do an early digital release of the first episode a few weeks ahead of its premiere. Here's a trailer:
Deadly Class Reviews and Episode Guide
We'll be reviewing Deadly Class as it airs on Syfy. Check back each week for episode descriptions, air dates, and links to reviews as they're written.
Deadly Class Episode 1: "Reagan Youth"
A disillusioned teen finds purpose and fights for survival at an elite academy for the Deadly Arts. (air date: January 16, 2019)
Deadly Class Episode 2: "Noise, Noise, Noise"
Marcus, dealing with guilt of killing Rory, has a party at Shabnam's and all the school is invited. (air date: January 23, 2019)
Deadly Class Episode 3: "Snake Pit"
Marcus navigates a prank war between the Rats and Legacies, as everyone prepares for the big dance. (air date: January 30, 2019)
Deadly Class Episode 4: "Mirror People"
Saya and Marcus have to survive an attack on the school when Saya's past comes back to haunt her. (air date: February 6, 2019)
Deadly Class Cast
Syfy revealed the full Deadly Class cast list back in September, after its initial order for the pilot. They consist of the following:
Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) is Master Lin, the headmaster of the School for the Deadly Arts. "Deadly and feared. He's an ever-changing chameleon who keeps his students desperate for his approval."
Benjamin Wadsworth (Teen Wolf) is Marcus. "At one point we were all Marcus, an awkward outcast full of social anxiety struggling to find his place in the cold and brutal world of high school. Marcus is bottled rage, if his life had been normal this kid might have been an artist, even a poet. Instead he’s had to survive life on the streets of San Francisco. His eyes show it. He’s morally centered in an unethical world."
Lana Condor (X-Men: Apocalypse) is Saya, "mysterious and guarded with a deadly reputation. Saya was banished from one of the top Yakuza clans in Japan, sent to the School for the Deadly Arts to redeem herself. Driven to be the valedictorian, nothing will stand in her way."
Maria Gabriela de Faria (Yo Soy Franky) is Maria. "One minute Maria’s an extrovert and an exhibitionist, a tornado of ever changing emotions—fierce, charming, beautiful and oozing femininity -- the next she’s murderous, feral, and crippled by rage. At the School for the Deadly Arts her instability is treated like a super power."
Luke Tennie is Willie, "a hardened gangster, but underneath is an honest and thoughtful person who would rather be reading comic books and listening to music than engaging in blood work. Forced by his mother, leader of an LA gang, into the School for the Deadly Arts, he is under endless pressure to become the thing he hates most."
Liam James (The Family) is Billy, "skater punk, son of a corrupt cop and now a misfit at the school. He's off kilter and high energy. Billy combats every situation with sarcasm and humor. Always a glimmer of mischief in his eye."
Michel Duval (Señora Acero) is Chico, "scary, muscular, son of a cartel drug lord. Everyone knows not to mess with Chico. The only one who can hurt him is his girlfriend."
Guest stars will include Henry Rollins as Jürgen Denke, Taylor Hickson as Petra, Siobhan Williams as Brandy, Sean Depner as Viktor, Jack Gillett as Lex, and Ryan Robbins as Rory.
The pilot adaptation will be written by Remender and Miles Feldstott. Adam Targum, lately of Banshee and Outcast from Cinemax, will shworun, while Lee Toland Krieger, who directed a number of episodes of Riverdale, will direct the pilot.
The show has strong source material to draw from, both narratively and aesthetically. Craig's art looks like a cross between David Mazzuchelli on Batman: Year One and Frank Miller on Daredevil. Colorist Lee Loughridge gives every scene a distinctive look and mood, and Remender is a master at cutting his schmaltz with cynicism and his cynicism with genuine, heartfelt emotion. If the pilot is half as good as the first trade of Deadly Class, the show should be very good indeed.
Deadly Class Key Art
Syfy has released the following key art for Deadly Class (see below). Pretty snazzy...
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.
A Blink episode and some twisty plot developments put The Gifted back on track.
This The Gifted review contains spoilers.
The Gifted Season 2 Episode 12
I'm old. Not an ancient, wizened, hobbling crusty old hermit (even though I do live far from civilization and occasionally step gingerly after I run or sit for a long time). But I'm old enough where I've run out of patience for plot contrivance, shows that have sudden character swerves to put people in a spot where the show can advance their overarching story. So a good chunk of tonight's episode of The Giftedhad me very frustrated, because I know that they can do better. And I know from the other half of tonight's episode.
Another development that comes with my old age, and this is just me and not "being old," is that I really just want to watch characters communicate effectively and be well adjusted. Blink, to me, is the perfect X-Man on the show: she's smart, wry, and competent. She's generally well-adjusted, with a realistic view of the world around her. We get a deeper dive into her character this week, and it just reinforces how great she is for the show.
In the cold open and a few times again through the episode, we get flashbacks to her childhood, hanging out with her foster sister talking about how hot the sparkly Twilightvampires are until their drunk stereotype of a foster dad comes home. Blink and her sister escape the house using one of her newly developed portals, but we find out later (as a means for Clarice to break up with John) that her sister went back in to try and defend some of the kids they left behind. Her sister was killed by her abuser when she went back, and Clarice tells John as their relationship is crumbling that "Running into a battle you're gonna lose isn't brave, it's selfish." And then she skips out to join the Morlocks, leaving John and the dog crying on the floor of their hovel.
Clarice has her act together. She smelled BS about the plan to railroad all the Underground leaders into something by Evangeline Whedon, and she was comfortable saying so to the people she cared about. Nobody was really in a position to do anything about it - the meeting was coming up too fast to change it, and she was apparently whipping off-screen attendees whether John and Marcos were onboard or not, but it was nice to have someone on the show express at least some of the same reservations that I felt at home. This meeting was clearly BS from the start.
Meanwhile, The Giftedcontinues to resemble an X-Men comic in the way it juggles the 9,426 plots this season still has unresolved: by bouncing back and forth between character groupings. Lauren popped Andy in the mouth in a shared dream, so the Inner Circle has decided they want to try and bring her in. Andy knows they're going to do it by having the Cuckoos rewire her brain, so he fights it a little, but only for the chance to convince her to join of her own free will. Kate decides to go visit her brother and see if he can use his Lexis account to find out more on Reva and the Purifiers, and Lauren decides to go with her to get away from the creepy music box that's making her want to hold hands with her brother.
Also, I think Kate might be on cocaine? She's doing some kind of hobo crossfit in the Underground's secret dillapidated apartment base and she talks really fast to Reed when she is trying to convince him to let her go visit her brother. Reed is also listening to the music box, and it's making his powers flare up. And Lorna is trying to spy on the Inner Circle and figure out what Reva's new terrorist squad is going to target - she catches them on their way to blow up the Underground, but she hasn't figured out their big plan yet. There was legitimately a ton going on this episode.
The thing is, everything's coming together for what I assume to be the season's endgame. Kate's brother got tagged by Sentinel Services almost the second he started sniffing around on Reva, and we saw her and Shane Hannity working together last week. She infiltrated the Purifiers, and she infiltrated the Government, so who's to say she hasn't also infiltrated the Underground? Or the Morlocks?
Blink is underground with the Morlocks now, and while everybody at the Underground bought it, we never saw a clear body, and this writer's room is versed enough in the comics to know that means that these characters are all at worst in Schrodinger's Holster (it's where you keep Chekhov's Gun), alive or dead, waiting for the most opportune time to be publicly mourned/pop out of a closet and shout "BETRAYED"? All I'm saying is don't be surprised if a dragon is flying around Inner Circle HQ in the climax of the last episode. I certainly hope Blink's there, too.
LOOSE GENETIC MATERIAL
-Thunderbird is covered in open wounds and half dead, but he's still answering emails. Hard same, friend.
-I can't believe I only just made this connection, but Dallas, where the infamous "7/15" happened, was in the comics the site of the X-Men's story in Fall of the Mutants, a quasi-thematic crossover in 1988. In Uncanny X-Men(which was, along with New Mutants and X-Factorthe main book of the crossover), the X-Men fight the Adversary at Forge's loft in Dallas, and then appear to die as they head off to Australia to adventure for a bit.
-What's the deal with the music box? Speculate in the comments.
-Just a stray observation, but Kaitlin just left her brother out to dry with Sentinel Services. He was just standing there while new, hyper-violent Lauren chopped up a couple of APCs, threw up a shield and then drove off with her mom in their new super-effective getaway car, a *checks notes* 2005 Subaru Outback.
-Next week: Sibling hunt! The Cuckoos are ready to brainwash her, but Andy wants to bring her over to their side. Guess who's going to win...
Jake Gyllenhaal's supervillain (or is he?) is revealed in the new trailer for the Spidey sequel. Here's everything you need to know
This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
So, the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer has arrived, finally giving us our first proper look at Jake Gyllenhall’s Mysterio. And while he seems to be playing a friend to Tom Holland’s Peter Parker (“He’s like Iron Man and Thor rolled into one!” his classmates enthuse), we’re not quite sold – Mysterio’s comic-book background suggests he’ll wind up being much more of a foe.
Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, is one of Spider-Man’s oldest and most iconic arch-enemies. He’s a Hollywood stuntman and FX technician who becomes disillusioned with the industry, and so decides to put his skills to good use as a supervillain instead.
Ahead of the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home this summer, here’s everything you need to know about the sequel’s most prominent new character: from his comic-book origins and villainous pursuits to his previous flirtations with the big screen and how he could fit into this particular Spiderverse.
He and Spidey go way back
Ol’ fishbowl made his first appearance in 1964’s The Amazing Spider-Man #13 in a story called “The Menace Of Mysterio”. Much like our fleeting glimpse of Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio in the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer, Beck introduces himself as a hero. After framing Spidey for a spate of robberies – and even convincing Peter Parker himself that he might have developed a subconscious dark side – Mysterio vows to take down the webslinger on behalf of New York City. It’s not long before he’s revealed as the real villain, though, kickstarting a long-running conflict between the two. Basically, Mysterio is not one to be trusted.
He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve
Beck might not be gifted in the superpowered sense, but that hasn’t stopped him from throwing down with Spidey and other heroes over the years. His stage combat training makes him a skilled fighter, while his background in special effects and illusions helped him to engineer an innovative (and natty looking) super-suit, concealing tech such as holographic projectors, sonar tracking and hallucinogenic chemical weapons. Oh, and he does a mean (in both senses of the word) sideline in hypnosis, too. You don’t want this guy messing with your mind...
He’s no stranger to nefarious schemes
Don’t trust Gyllenhaal’s nice-guy act in the trailer, which sees him siding with Spidey to take on the monstrous Elementals. In the comics, Mysterio has hatched more than a few evil plots – most of which involve using illusions and mental trickery to manipulate and try to kill Spider-Man. He was a founding member of supervillain team the Sinister Six, and even had a major run-in with Daredevil (in Kevin Smith’s “Guardian Devil” arc) in which he played a key role in the death of Karen Page. Don’t be surprised if Spider-Man: Far From Home’s fantastic beasts have a lot to do with Beck’s scheming.
He’s nearly been on the big screen already
If Sam Raimi had had his way (and Spider-Man 3 hadn’t spiralled into the big-budget mess that stalled his Spidey franchise), it’s likely that Mysterio would have been one of the antagonists – alongside the Vulture – in the ultimately abandoned Spider-Man 4. It’s no secret that Raimi was a big fan of the Silver Age Spidey villains – hence his sympathetic takes on the likes of Green Goblin, Doc Ock and Sandman, and his...well, the less said about Venom the better.
Illustrator Jeffrey Henderson unveiled Mysterio’s planned involvement through some beautiful early concept art, while it was heavily rumored that Raimi favourite Bruce Campbell (who had cameoed in each of the previous installments, and that concept art would seem to indicate this was indeed the case) would wear the fishbowl helmet in the film. “It would’ve been one absolutely kick-ass movie,” Henderson revealed. “We all really wanted to help Sam take Spider-Man 4 to another level so he could end the series on a high note.”
He’s a perfect fit for this Spiderverse
Thematically, Beck as a villain fits comfortably within the world of Holland’s Spidey and the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, in which Earth-bound threats are escalating just as fast as those from outer space. Take Michael Keaton’s Vulture, the main antagonist in Spider-Man: Homecoming– a hard-working average Joe who’s fallen on hard times and adopts fantastical technology to enact revenge against a society that idolises the Avengers. It seems like Spider-Man: Far From Home could see Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio build on this concept and take it to the next level.
Spider-Man: Far From Home opens on July 5, 2019. The full schedule of upcoming Marvel movies can be found here.
Superman writer Brian Michael Bendis talks to us about his upcoming changes to Superboy.
This Superman article contains spoilers for the latest issue. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
Before I ask my first question, Brian Michael Bendis says it for me: “Why?” Why age-up Jon Kent, aka Superboy, in this week's Superman #7? And then there’s the follow-up question: Is this the real Jonathan Samuel Kent?
Although the second question is slightly more complicated given Superboy’s backstory, Bendis’ answer is simple. This is still Jon Kent.
“Yes … it’s him. It is real. It’s really happening.”
The super son -- absent from Superman comics since Bendis sent him packing on a cosmic road trip with a resurrected Jor-El in The Man of Steel weekly miniseries last year -- returned in a surprising fashion at the end of Superman #6. In Superman#7, readers learn years have passed for Jon even though he has only been gone from Earth for three weeks. In the time away, Jon has become a super young man, and Lois and Clark have missed out on pivotal moments in their son’s life. But the reunited Kents don’t have long to catch up because Superboy warns his parents that Grandpa Jor-El is insane and needs to be stopped.
In the following interview, Bendis talks to us about Jon’s return in “The Unity Saga” arc, how it is going to impact the DCU, the ways in which his absence has changed him, what adventures he has been on in the stars, and, simply, “why” the writer decided to do this to the young Kent.
Den of Geek: My first question is …
Brian Michael Bendis: Why?
This is a Superman family adventure. This is a Superman family crisis. This is the kind of stuff that would only happen to Superman, but I think does reflect what a lot of parents and a lot of families go through which is, “Stuff happens that we don't expect and you deal with it.” There's a Superman version of that, and this is it. It really is about how the family's going to deal with something they didn't see coming. It is about vivid emotions of parenting and being a kid.
I think a lot of people are wondering, is this the real Jon Kent? We all expect Superboy-Prime.
My instinct as a storyteller is to not tell you if it's real or not real because I want you all to discover it in the story. But on the same notion, I know that a lot of these characters come with a little bit of that baggage of, “Could it be a reboot or evil from another dimension?” It's not, it's him. It's real. It's really happening. I'm breaking my rule of telling people that because I want them to actually enjoy it for what it is and not worry about the other stuff.
What is Jon’s story arc here?
He's about 17. He has not been artificially aged. He lived all the years he's been away. We spend a lot of that time developing and telling that story, so I'm going let that play out in book by the beautiful Brandon Peterson. That's the story Jonathan's come to tell his father, where he's been, what's happening, and what they need to do next. It is big, and it's different and, for Jon, it's very exciting. I mean ... He was raised by two of the best people ever and then he had the old trial by fire as far as puberty went. He really had to do it on his own. He really became his own person, so we're going to meet that person.
And how well did those Ma and Pa Kent and Superman values hold up?
So many people are worrying he's turning into like an evil, homicidal maniac who’s going to go Injustice on everybody. That is not the case. This is the story about two parents who work hard to instill values in their son and then when push came to shove, those values not only held, but inspired him to do better and get home.
How do you view this as a Superman story?
When we hear his story about what Jon has been through, and how impossible it is, and how many opportunities he had to betray his core values, and never did, I think people are going to see that it is the most honoring of the Superman legacy of any story I'll tell. It is a brand-new story. It allows the family to deal with each other in a completely different level, but it also gets to show Lois and Clark what kind of parents they were and are, and may I say, beyond Jon's quest, which is quite enormous, this is something for Superman that -- This hurts.
About Jon’s time away, will you be revealing what he went through in flashbacks, or are we moving straight into, "Jor-El is insane and we have to go after him"?
Well, we're doing both. I couldn't even imagine how unfair it would be not to show the audience. I couldn't imagine any fan not wanting to have a dramatic recounting of where they've been and what they've done. So, in every issue, for the next four issues, Brandon Peterson will be illustrating the flashbacks and dealing with the highlights of where they've been.
Going back to how this hurts Superman, he experienced only three weeks but missed these formative years in his son’s life...
It is going stay with them for a while. Both Superman and Lois lost a few years of their kid's life and it really hurts. Any parent can tell you. Any person in the family gets that. Can you imagine just losing years, and then having to regain that connection, and regain everything, and re-understand each other? It allows the family dynamic to really deal with each other in a new way, but hopefully in a spectacularly healthy way. But boy, for Lois and Clark, this is just a devastating loss that they will be dealing with together for a long time.
As it is, it seems like Superman carries around a lot of guilt.
That guilt part is something that people don't always associate with Clark, but he has a great deal of it. Just that feeling of responsibility; it’s enormous, and he's now looking right in the face of either his biggest failure or his biggest triumph. He has to decide which of those ... When I started writing it as a parent, is that it was easy to tap into the emotions of what it would feel like. I have four kids, and if you miss any little thing, you feel so frustrated. Missing years of something can be devastating to Lois and Clark, and it's going to change their perspective on things as well.
This young man has been gone so long and is a different person than the child who left. Will you explore how these relationship dynamics have changed?
Doesn't that sound like every family? When we talk about Superman's relatability, this is the kind of story that can be told with his family, and his dynamic that reflects what a lot of families go through. People change and people must reevaluate the relationships going on.
It sounds like you’re drawing a lot from parental experience with this story.
All my kids are different ages, and I look at my teenage daughter, and we have an amazing relationship. I'm immensely proud of it. When she was little, it was a completely silly relationship. She was the goofiest little girl, and she made me laugh all day long. Now our relationship is like creative, and intelligent, and philosophical. We have a lot of very deep conversations, so I think about the difference in our relationship. It's enormous, and if I had to skip a few years, I would dream that evolution, I would be thrown. I would have to reevaluate everything about how I speak to her. Telling a story like that seems oh so exciting.
Even though the Kent family principles have held with Jon, how is he a different Superboy, super man, than his father?
He's immensely proud of himself for getting home. He kind of shows you what kind of Superman he is, and then he's going to describe that in the flashbacks. Jon and Clark/Kal are going to head back out into the cosmos to deal with Grandpa. And just because he's been through a lot, he's still a teenager and he's still going through things, so he's not fully baked as a human being yet. He's still in process. If anything, Clark gets to come in just as he's getting really interesting and try to do be the father that he needs to be for him. You're going to find out what kind of man Jon is becoming.
Speaking of Grandpa Jor-El, he must be dealt with, but doesn’t Kal-El already have a lot on his plate with Zod, Rogol Zaar, etc.?
Kal-El has a lot to deal with on his end, right? This is a family crisis. "What did Dad do? Why did he do it, and what do we do now?" These are very big questions that we'll have a big answer in the next few issues of Superman and lead to, may I say, an enormous story. I've been telling people this saga builds and builds, and I think now you can see this extra piece of Jon, and where Jon and Superman are going must go deal with what happened with Jor-El. You can kind of see how big the story could get.
Are we approaching a culmination of all your Superman stories so far?
Yeah, we got Jor-El, we got Rogol Zaar, we have the conspiracy around Krypton. This is all wrapped around that as well, so all of these plots that have been started since the very first pages of Man of Steel #1 are all going to be trickling together towards the big finale of “Unity Saga,” which is not the end of my Superman run, but it's the end of my first very, very large story. That will then set a table for Superman and Lois and Jon that's another status quo change that's going to really define what they do going forward. We're right at the beginning of the next big Superman status quo change.
And Jon plays heavily into that?
Absolutely. Jon is in every single issue.
Changing Jon this way will affect the entire continuity. Will we get to see a little bit of those ripple effects, including how things will look between him and his formerly older buddy Damian Wayne?
First of all, not a little bit. Out of all the ripple effects, the only reason to do something like this is to feel the ripple effects so we can have those dramatic moments between the characters that we never thought we'd see. They get to really experience each other in a new, exciting way. So, yes to all of that, and it won't be little. It'll be enormous.
Aaron Sagers is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.
Frank Castle may be this slick, overly-competent killer of bad guys, but even he gets embarrassed from time to time.
Even though The Punisher is now the star of his own Netflix series, let's not forget that Frank Castle has been building bodycounts for over forty years. He’s starred in many fantastic storylines and has become one of the more iconic heroes in Marvel history.
He’s had several movies, a handful of video games (including one of the best arcade brawlers ever), cartoon appearances, and more. He’s taken up the mantle of Captain America, been a black man, became an angel, became a Frankenstein, befriended Archie Andrews, and even killed Gwar.
Okay, they were called “Warg,” but same thing.
The thing every Punisher writer – especially Garth Ennis – always has to push is how unflappable and badass Frank is. He’s the coolest guy ever and punks out everyone in his way. When he does lose, he at least goes down with his dignity, whether it’s via losing a knock-down-drag-out fight with Daredevil or simply refusing to fight back against Captain America. His pride has almost as much plot armor as he does.
Still, there are some times where Frank Castle gets clowned and looks like a fool. Moments that he’d choose not to remember. Here are 15 of those moments...
TAKING BAD ADVICE
Amazing Spider-Man #129 (1974)
Gerry Conway and Ross Andru
Frank’s first appearance is a wonderful debut. He’s tricked into going after Spider-Man, thinking him to be a criminal. They fight a couple times, things get relatively smoothed out, and they go their separate ways with Frank focusing on THE WAR.
It’s just...man. Nobody’s perfect and we’re all susceptible to misinformation, but look at that guy. Look at the Jackal. Imagine that guy trying to convince you that Spider-Man is a bad guy who needs to be murdered. Imagine taking his word at face value without questioning how you’re getting your intel from St. Patrick’s Day Gollum.
You dropped the ball, Frank.
SUDDEN HULK FIGHT
Incredible Hulk #395 (1992)
Peter David and Dale Keown
In at least two alternate realities, Frank’s been able to actually kill the Hulk. One time he snuck up on him while he was asleep in Banner form and the other time he shot him through the eye with an arrow tipped with one of Wolverine’s claws. In terms of main continuity, Frank’s first meeting with the gamma giant didn’t go so well.
Hulk, in his Banner-minded phase, returned to his old alter-ego of Mr. Fixit, the Las Vegas bodyguard. The Punisher was in town, after the same threat, but heard rumors of the legendary Mr. Fixit and figured he was probably worth shooting down. Frank isn’t about wasted motion.
When they finally clashed, Frank opened fire and was a bit surprised that Fixit’s “body armor” could withstand his bullets. He kept upping the ante on his weaponry until flinging a grenade at him. One of Hulk’s buddies knocked it back and it certainly would have blown Frank to kingdom come had the Hulk not snatched it out of the air and stared him down.
Too bad we can’t see things from Hulk’s point of view. I’m sure Frank’s expression was priceless.
Anyway, Hulk then proceeded to knock him out with a flick of a finger.
STAY OUT OF GOTHAM
Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights (1994)
Chuck Dixon and John Romita Jr.
The Punisher has crossed paths with Batman a handful of times during Marvel/DC crossovers. In the '90s, they had two team-up stories. One was actually about Frank working with the Jean-Paul Valley version of Batman and later coming to blows with him. Frank got the best of EXXXTREME Batman and found himself admitting – almost as if realizing it was an editorial mandate – that he did it via cheating.
The follow-up story had Bruce Wayne back as Batman as the two of them went up against the alliance of the Joker and Jigsaw. While Batman took down Jigsaw, Frank cornered Joker with intent to put a bullet in his brain. Batman stopped him and let the Joker run off into the distance. He was letting the worst criminal free, but he wasn't letting him die.
Frank, understandably, dropped his gun and punched Batman in the face.
Batman responded by claiming that, “I let you have that one because you probably think I deserved it.” As childish as that sounded, Batman backed up the claim by easily catching the next punch, throwing the Punisher into a pile of boxes, and telling him to get out of his city or else he’d be going to Arkham.
Frank sulked off, claiming that Batman and the Joker deserve each other.
Wolverine #186 (2003)
Frank Tieri and Terry Dodson
Ugh. Just because I’m writing this list doesn’t mean that I think every entry is actually good or well done. For instance, this one.
Garth Ennis, who is a fantastic writer much of the time, has a tendency to write stories about how a military-trained antihero badass is able to humiliate and outright destroy any and all tights-wearing superhero pretty boys. It happened a LOT with the Punisher and Wolverine tended to be a regular target. This included a team-up in Punisher’s book that ended with a fight where Punisher shot Wolverine in the balls, blew his face clean off with a shotgun, ran him over with a steamroller, and then left him there. Ennis just savaged him there.
But turnabout’s fair play and at the time, Frank Tieri was writing Wolverine’s comic. He decided to respond to Ennis by having Wolverine get his win back. Now, bringing in Tieri to counter Ennis is like bringing William Hung to a rap battle and it already started off a bit petty with the bullshit claim in the recap that Wolverine tends to beat up the Punisher more often than not. Uh huh.
The entire issue was dedicated to a fight between Castle and Logan in an empty mall and it’s actually a fun and great-looking battle. The two humorously beat the crap out of each other and tossed insults until Wolverine won out by tossing Frank through a window.
Then, with Frank motionless on the cracked sidewalk, Wolverine proceeded to discover – much to Frank’s sudden embarrassment – that some magazines of dudes in speedos had fallen out of the Punisher’s bag. Despite Frank’s desperate claim that they were just suspects (a reference to Murder by Death) Wolverine made fun of him and left him to be taken in by the authorities.
Seriously, Tieri’s best comeback to the excessive steamroller beatdown was, “Yeah, but...but the Punisher’s totally gay! So there!”
JLA/Avengers #1 (2003)
Kurt Busiek and George Perez
JLA/Avengers was the final Marvel/DC crossover before the two companies turned their backs on each other for good. The comic treated it as the first meeting between worlds, so when the Justice League looked through the Marvel universe, it was a bit eye-opening for them. Green Lantern and Aquaman saw the horrors of Dr. Doom’s rule in Latveria. Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman saw the ruins of Genosha. Superman saw the aftermath of a Hulk rampage.
In each instance, Batman told them to stay the course and NOT interfere.
Then he and Plastic Man saw the Punisher gun down drug dealers in New York City. Batman decided to go against his own advice. According to Plastic Man on the next page, Batman spent twenty minutes beating the crap out of the Punisher, just to save the lives of those criminals.
I'LL BE DAMNED. VAMPIRES.
Marvel Team-Up #8 (2005)
Robert Kirkman and Jeff Johnson
The first meeting between the Punisher and Blade was sort of adorable in terms of how in-over-his-head Frank was. The two watched a mob deal go down below. Blade, an admirer of the Punisher, tried to explain that one of the parties was made of vampires. Blade explained that he too is a half-breed vampire and is essentially to vampires what the Punisher is to criminals. While Blade was pretty jazzed to be on a rooftop with Frank, Frank was a bit too close-minded.
Vampires? Don’t be ridiculous. Blade was probably just a violent nutjob, no better than the mobsters below. Frank even shot him in the back to very little effect. Blade shrugged it off and Frank figured it was merely Kevlar. Blade spent minutes trying to explain who he was to Frank’s unbelieving ears.
Then the vampires started feasting on the human mobsters. Blade’s targets took out Frank’s targets. All the while, Frank just glared wide-eyed and shocked at the carnage. He finally broke the silence to ask Blade if he wanted help. Blade simply smiled and jumped off the rooftop.
“No. I got this.”
BLEEDING HEART PUNISHER
Mark Millar and Jim Mahfood
There have been a handful of joke What If stories done based on turning the Punisher concept on its head. One time he was a stern figure who made the Blob go to sleep without dinner while Dr. Doom had to sit in the corner and think about what he did. One time his family survived instead and became a family of gun-toting sociopaths.
In Wha...Huh? Mark Millar got to do a two-page story where Frank ranted in his narration about the rich owning the poor, sweat shops, and how hurtful such labels as “criminals” are to people who live without privilege. All while watching an old lady get stomped on by two armed gang members. Frank tried to see eye-to-eye with them, but then suffered from a literal bleeding heart as they opened fire on him.
Frank died, feeling bad that these poor youths would have murder on their souls for the rest of their lives.
Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness #2 (2007)
John Layman and Fabiano Neves
Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness had Ash Williams tossed into the ill-fated Marvel side-universe while shit went down. Zombie Sentry infected the Avengers and the Zombie Avengers went on to devour anyone in sight while spreading the virus. Amongst the early madness, Ash came across the Punisher, who seemed kind of dismissive about the whole apocalypse going on.
Proving himself a bit too close-minded from his lack of humanity, Frank proceeded to gun down a collection of mafia-based villains even after Kingpin explained that they needed to work together to survive the zombie outbreak. He even chose to ignore the plight of Thunderball, who despite being a villain, was shown to be a buddy of Ash’s.
With a wave of zombified heroes and villains coming at him, Frank told Ash to stand to the side and toss him a loaded gun when commanded. Ash figured he had enough of Captain Kill-Happy and ran off to do his own thing.
Frank didn’t notice this until running out of ammo. He was swarmed and infected immediately.
SHE’S A LITTLE RUNAWAY
Runaways #26 (2007)
Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan
Joss Whedon openly hates the Punisher and here we get to see that play out in a comic.
The Runaways went to New York to meet with the Kingpin under the guise of a criminal syndicate. The underaged team was cornered by the Punisher, who had no qualms with shooting teenagers, admitting it wouldn’t be the first time. As he argued with Chase and pointed a gun at him, Molly – a mutant tween with super strength – surprised Frank with a punch to the gut.
While Frank underestimated the Runaways, Molly overestimated Frank and figured he had powers himself. Instead, he stood there, paralyzed in pain with only his military willpower keeping him standing as he declared to himself that a soldier doesn’t fall. All the while, Molly pleaded for the others to forgive her, though they each had their own opinion on whether or not to be proud of her actions.
Several issues later, as the arc finished up, Frank was shown to STILL be struggling to remain on his feet.
Eminem/The Punisher (2009)
Fred Van Lente and Salvador Larocca
For some reason I may never understand, there was a Punisher/Eminem team-up comic that involved them taking on Barracuda. On his way to take down Barracuda (who Eminem grew up with), Frank shot up Eminem’s entire entourage. Soon after, Eminem beat Frank down with a pistol and unloaded it into Frank’s chest.
Turned out Barracuda was hired by the Parents Music Council to assassinate Eminem. Through a little indirect teamwork, Frank and Eminem were able to defeat Barracuda and seemingly kill him with a chainsaw. Then Frank abandoned Eminem on top of a sheet of ice over a frozen lake and offered to go kill the Parents Music Council for hiring Barracuda.
Yeah, you may have stood tall at the end, but you still got punked out by the Real Slim Shady. That’s on your permanent record, man.
Punisher Annual #1 (2009)
Rick Remender and Jason Pearson
Early on in Rick Remender’s Punisherrun, the Hood resurrected a bunch of dead supervillains and gave them an ultimatum: either they killed the Punisher within 30 days or his magic would wear off and they would go back to being dead. Two of those villains included Letha and Lascivious, a pair of female wrestlers/villains who were killed by Scourge back in the day. Letha was granted the power to make people aggressive and Lascivious could make people fall in love.
Their powers failed to work on Frank due to his emotional emptiness. Luckily, when Spider-Man entered the fray, Letha was able to set him off and make him want to murder Frank. Punisher vs. Spider-Man wasn’t a new concept, nor was mind-controlled hero vs. hero. In the end, it didn’t work out and it returned to the old trope of Spider-Man going, “I’m not going to let you kill them!” while Frank rolled his eyes.
That’s when Lascivious figured to make Spider-Man fall in love with Frank and never let him go. While Frank was very, very uncomfortable with what was going on, the two wrestler ladies escaped and remained as free as their ass cheeks.
While Frank certainly had a bad time, he got it better than Spider-Man. Without getting into it, Spider-Man may have had sex with a Doc Ock tentacle in broad daylight.
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #4 (2012)
Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic
There was a miniseries called Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe which...that’s actually pretty self-explanatory. An alternate universe version of Deadpool became aware of his fictional status, went violently insane, and decided to take out every hero and villain over four issues. It wasn’t very good.
Deadpool killing the Punisher was the cover image for the final issue and it made sense. Frank already starred in Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe back in the '90s. It was like a passing of the torch.
As the fourth issue began, various villains were shown mindlessly committing a mass suicide. Punisher took advantage of the madness by sniping Deadpool through a window and rushing to the scene before he could regenerate. Instead, Frank found the dead body of the Puppet Master dressed up like Deadpool.
Deadpool appeared behind Frank with one of the Puppet Master’s voodoo dolls with a tiny skull insignia on the chest. Helpless to stop himself, Frank was compelled to put his own pistol to his head and pull the trigger.
Afterwards, Deadpool bragged about being better at “killing the Marvel Universe” by using a Puppet Master doll of Galactus to cause some damage on a cosmic scale.
AND MORE DEADPOOL
Uncanny X-Force #29 (2012)
Rick Remender and Julian Totino Tedesco
Uncanny X-Force was about a team that would go around killing threats to mutantkind before they could act first. Deadpool was somehow the conscience of the group. In one adventure, they ended up decades into the future, where the world was run by X-Force in a Minority Reportsense. If anyone was even thinking about committing a violent crime, X-Force would hunt them down.
One member of the future team was an elderly Frank Castle. At one point he warned Deadpool (present version) about an incident that would start a huge war. Rather than come up with any other kind of way out of it, Frank told him to kill Daken, kill the kid version of Apocalypse, and kill the never-before-mentioned son of Archangel. Deadpool groaned at this advice and proceeded to make fun of all this kid-killing.
Then it got personal.
“Look, for what it’s worth, I always hated you. You are a boring, two-dimensional, self-serious relic from the ‘70s. Oh, and Chuck Bronson called – he wants everything he ever did back.”
Frank angrily pulled a gun on him and Deadpool was able to stop him by pointing out the kind of havoc that would cause through history.
Thunderbolts #22 (2014)
Charles Soule and Carlo Barberi
I easily could’ve made this list into just “dumb Punisher stories” because “Punisher was in a dumb story” means he theoretically should be embarrassed. But it doesn’t really work like that because usually characters don’t admit that they’re in a bad story and if they do, it’s after the fact. It’s not like in Grounded, Superman was all, “Man, this is the stupidest shit ever. I miss fighting Zod.”
Even though the brief status quo in the '90s where Frank Castle was reborn as an angel who went around shooting demons was indeed silly, at the time, Frank acted completely on-board with it because the guy writing it at the time thought it was super cool. Granted, once it was passed on to the next writer, Garth Ennis quickly buried the entire concept while going back to “mortal who shoots mortal criminals” storyline.
Years later, Frank joined the Thunderbolts. In one story, Frank fought the unstoppable goddess Mercy and got beaten by her so badly that his body was mangled beyond medical hope. The rest of the team returned from an adventure in Hell (which involved screwing over Mephisto in a legal agreement) and realized that there was nothing they could do to help him.
Said Hell adventure involved Deadpool sneaking into Heaven to steal an angel feather to go with his new pimp hat. Don’t ask. The feather reached out and healed Frank completely.
None could understand it. Deadpool pointed out that it was like the angel feather recognized Frank and wanted to be with him. Almost like there was some kind of history between Frank and angels.
Frank simply grumbled, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
DON’T MOCK THE SHOCKER
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #17 (2014)
Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber
Superior Foes built up the Shocker as a big loser in the villain community and...well, he pretty much is. His name is Shocker. You can’t live that down no matter how cool your costume looks.
In the final issue of the series, the various mob factions in New York were converging for a big battle for supremacy. Like a moth to light, the Punisher made his way there (and may have stopped for a cronut after hearing good things from his Uber driver) to wipe out the whole lot of them.
Instead, the Shocker arrived, in a Shocker version of the Spider-Mobile, while yelling, “DON’T MOCK THE SHOCKER!” If you’re wondering, that was a direct reference to the bizarre, kid-friendly Spidey Super Stories comic from the '70s.
Shocker then used his gauntlets to blast the Punisher off into the distance before bringing unity to the NYC underworld.
There isn’t a single part of that scenario that didn’t hurt Frank.
Like everyone, Frank Castle isn’t perfect. No matter how badass and serious he’s supposed to be, he can’t be the best of the best in every single situation. Even the ultimate soldier has to stumble now and then. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you get disrespected. But you keep on with your mission and hold your head high because at the end of the day, you still have dignity to your name.
Yes. Exactly. This guy knows what's up.
Gavin Jasper has his fingers crossed for Franken-Castle in Daredevil season 3. Follow him on Twitter!
Oscar-nominated Charlotte Rampling will join the cast of Villeneuve’s Dune as the galactic emperor's Truthsayer, Gaius Helen Mohiam.
In a brilliant bit of casting, Dune has found its Reverend Mother Mohiam in the form of Oscar-nominated actor, Charlotte Rampling. For those familiar with the Frank Herbert sci-fi classic that may be unfamiliar with Rampling's award-worthy role in 45 Years, it’s probably enough to see her image at the top of this article to realize how perfect the French actor will be for the role of the Emperor’s Truthsayer. Legendary Pictures will produce Dune with famed director Denis Villeneuve at the helm.
The role of the Reverend Mother is a key one in Dune, as the character is the head of the matriarchal Bene Gesserit religion which tests young protagonist Paul Atreides to see if he may be their long-sought Kwisatz Haderach, the messiah figure her order seeks to breed and control. The mantra that has become famous from the Herbert novels and the multiple adaptations includes the recognizable, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.” Siân Phillips played the Reverend Mother in the 1984 film, whereas Zuzana Geislerová played the role in the 2000 miniseries on the Sci Fi Channel.
The announcement of Rampling’s casting now sits alongside other exciting additions such as Dave Bautista, Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Stellan Skarsgard. Dune has built plenty of buzz with its cast news even though filming has not begun on the film. Speculation is that Villeneuve will wisely choose to break the daunting first novel into several parts to honor the epic nature of the story, something which the Lynch film famously failed to do and which Jodorowsky sadly was never able to attempt.
Dune tells the story of warring nobility on a desert planet known as Arrakis whose sole export is a rare spice that gives its users greatly enhanced mental powers, to oversimplify it. The project will begin filming on location in Budapest and Jordan this spring, according to THR. The release date is estimated to be sometime in 2021.
Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and voices much of our video content.
Anne Hathaway will play a major role in this upcoming adaptation of the Roald Dahl story, The Witches.
Anne Hathaway has signed on to star in Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of The Witches.
At this time, it's being reported that Hathaway will play the role of Miss Ernst or the "Grand High Witch." This role was previously played by Angelica Houston in the 1990 adaptation of the Roald Dahl story. That adaptation was directed by Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth, Don't Look Now). At this time, there is no word regarding who will be playing the other major roles in the upcoming adaptation.
This adaptation of The Witches seems to finally be on the right path after a few setbacks. Guillermo Del Toro was originally set to adapt the story, but he stepped away from the project. The reasons why aren't entirely clear, but it's believed that Del Toro simply had too much on his plate and wouldn't be able to give the project his full attention. He's now producing the film alongside Alfonso Cuaron.
Of course, it's hard to complain about Robert Zemeckis getting the job. While Zemeckis' work over the last decade or so has been decidedly hit and miss, he still brings an undeniable amount of talent and experience to the table.
The question now is whether or not Zemeckis is going to be able to live up to the weirdness of the 1990 original that has helped it live in infamy over the years. The Witches may have been billed as a children's film, but its grotesque effects and generally mean nature ensured that no young viewer who saw the movie will ever be able to forget it. Indeed, the infamous horror of the original made many fans of that adaptation excited by the possibility of Guillermo Del Toro choosing to direct this upcoming project himself.
In any case, everyone who signs on to this project (including Anne Hathaway) is going to have some big shoes to fill.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.
The Deadly Class premiere pulls viewers in with its unique premise, but only a few of the characters show enough depth to make us care.
This Deadly Class review contains spoilers.
Deadly Class Season 1 Episode 1
The Deadly Class premiere is difficult to judge. Like any show, it should be evaluated on its own merits in terms of the kind of story it’s trying to tell and the type of fan it’s supposed to appeal to. As an adaptation, it brings the Rick Remender/Wesley Craig Image comic to life in spectacular fashion, and it is as about as successful as anyone could hope — no surprise given the original writer and artist are attached to the project. But as a tale unto itself, it’s a bit uneven, yo-yoing between Master Lin’s profound motivation for establishing King’s Dominion, the school for assassins around which the series centers, and the students’ unapologetic stereotypes and predictable bluster.
That’s not to say the ensemble of teenage assassins in Deadly Class isn’t delightful — it is! As comic book exaggerations of brooding angst, they capture our imagination and invite us to learn more. When Marcus Lopez, a homeless nihilist with a tragic past played by Benjamin Wadsworth, is recruited to join the secret school for the deadly arts, his initial cynical refusal is refreshing, reminding us that King’s Dominion isn’t anything like Hogwarts. Likewise, the fact that a kiss from Saya (Lana Condor) changes his mind makes sense for a lonely drifter like Marcus, even though he is told quite early on that Master Lin, the head of the school played wonderfully by Benedict Wong, brooks no disobedience, drugs, or sex.
Maria, the sugar-skull-faced Mexican beauty with the bladed fans played by María Gabriela de Faría, assures Marcus that there are ways around that last one, and right away viewers know that part of the drama will center around classmate infatuations, not surprising or unwelcome in a drama of this sort. However, the manner in which the various gangs size Marcus up leading to a minor social infraction blown out of proportion by the leader of Soto Vatos, just as Maria is trying to recruit the Nicaraguan newcomer, seems like a tenuous faux pas to hang a murderous vendetta on.
In fact, the pettiness of the students’ cliques feels at odds with Master Lin’s stated goal for his assassins school: “to give peasants the power to overthrow their corrupt masters.” While Lin is clearly rationalizing the nobility of revenge because of the death of his own wife and daughter, we soak up his aphorisms with relish, trying to give the Dixie mob, the Hessians, and the Kuroki Syndicate the same charm as Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Lin realizes that we, like Marcus, may worry about right and wrong, but when he says, “Once you shed your fear, you’ll find that strength is better than weakness,” we’re eager for Marcus to make that journey of discovery to give it all a deeper meaning.
In that sense, the social Darwinism is only disconcerting because of the simplistic motivations it ascribes to most of the school’s attendees. It’s hard to care about caricatures. That’s why Luke Tennie’s Willie enters the scene like a breath of fresh air. As the leader of the Final World Order gang, he latches onto Marcus as his lab partner for AP Black Arts, in which they must kill someone who deserves to die. In addition to the inarguably relatable and humorous debate over Flaming Carrot and Uncanny X-Men, Willie is the first character to admit his vulnerability when he tells Marcus he’s secretly a pacifist. That confession is so much more interesting than anything the other would-be assassins had to say.
That includes Marcus’ own assertion that he’s going to kill President Reagan because he cut funding to mental health, allowing a released suicidal schizophrenic to jump from a tower onto his parents, killing them both. The fact that he is willing to kill homeless bully Rory, unlike Willie, gives us a glimmer of his deadly potential as does his schoolyard defiance of Chico, head of Soto Vatos, but in the end our picture of Marcus is colored by the mystery of what he did at the boys’ home and the loneliness that pulls him towards Maria while he pines after Saya. It all makes him more confusing than complex.
But then again, it’s only the pilot! We shouldn’t expect all of the character development to happen in the first episode of Deadly Class. If future storylines find a clear focus for Marcus and back off on the exaggerated jailhouse feel of the school, we have plenty of characters that will bring viewers back for more. Hopefully the show will capitalize on its unique premise (Henry Rollins and Erica Cerra as teachers were perfect!) and make its antiheroes into people we want to root for.
Keep up with all of the news and reviews for Deadly Class here!
Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and voices much of our video content.
The Punisher season 2 introduces a very different version of Jigsaw to the Marvel Netflix universe. We get back to his roots...
You ever see a list of the top Punisher villains? Probably not, because, thanks to the skill and dedication of Frank Castle, most Punisher villains tend to die very quickly in really horrible ways. It’s difficult to maintain a functioning rogues gallery when your whole mission involves blasting them into bad guy McNuggets at every oportunity.
There are some exceptions, however, the most notable of which is Billy "Jigsaw" Russo. Last season, Punisher’s arch nemesis Billy Russo had his visage horrifically carved up in the season finale, and he returns in The Punisher season 2 as a very different take on Jigsaw. His entry to the world of the sadly dwindling Marvel Netflix series of shows should be memorable and potentially violent.
Played by Ben Barnes, TV’s Jigsaw is very different than the comic book Jigsaw, but despite that, it is still fascinating to look at Jigsaw’s history to find hints and clues of what might be coming in the second season of Marvel’s Punisher. So let’s look book at some must read Jigsaw stories of the past and find out how this horrid killer has survived the Punisher’s war for so long.
The First Appearance:
The Amazing Spider-Man #162 (1976)
As you can see from the above, Jigsaw was co-created by the great Len Wein, the writer who also happened to co-create Wolverine and Swamp Thing, and the legendary artist Ross Andru. In this issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, a sniper is loose in New York City and the police believe the marksman killer to be the Punisher. This case leads Punisher into a conflict with both Spidey and another Wein co-creation, the mutant Nightcrawler. When it becomes clear the Punisher is being framed, superhero, gun crazy vigilante, and X-Man all team up to find the sniper.
You can probably guess that the sniper was none other than Jigsaw who was out for revenge because the Punisher hideously scarred the murderous madman by smashing his face through a plate glass window. Sound familiar? Jigsaw was a walking, killing, raging reminder that the Punisher’s methods had consequences. And look, it took three legendary Marvel heroes to bring down Jigsaw in his first appearance, so the legacy of Jigsaw gets off to a blazing start!
Punisher Year One (1995)
Jigsaw’s origin is revealed in 1995’s Punisher Year One series. In this hidden gem of a mid-90s series (see not all of the '90s sucked, kids), Jigsaw’s dark origin plays out as writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (co-creators of the modern Guardians of the Galaxy) introduce Billy “The Beaut” Russo. Billy is assigned by his mob bosses to assassinate Frank Castle after the gangland slaying that left Castle’s family dead. Russo plants a bomb in Castle’s home, but Frank does what he always does, he survives, and goes after Russo.
Castle tracks “The Beaut” and in their first confrontation, readers see the fabled plate glass window spot that Wein and Andru teased in Jigsaw’s Amazing Spider-Man debut. Castle smashes Billy’s handsome features into the window essentially turning “The Beaut” into rotten hamburger. Punisher Year One combines the origins of the Punisher and Jigsaw, essentially narratively linking the two arch foes forever, much like the Netflix series does.
A Deal with the Devil
Punisher #35-40, 55-56 (1990-1991)
In these hard hitting issues of The Punisher, Jigsaw teams up with a faux holy man drug lord named The Rev. The Rev has the powers to heal and finally cures Jigsaw’s mincemeat visage. That doesn’t make Jigsaw any less deadly as he continues to be obsessed with killing Frank Castle. The once again handsome Billy Russo goes after the Punisher and ends up getting himself killed.
Not wanting to lose his special little guy, The Rev makes a deal with the demonic entity known as Belasco to resurrect Russo (for those not in the know, Belasco is a one armed literal devil who is primarily a foe of the New Mutants and the X-Men). Russo goes after the Punisher again, but during a jungle battle, Castle gleefully tears apart Russo’s face. Who says Frank doesn’t have any hobbies?
If You Can’t Beat Him, Become Him
Punisher v3, #4 (1996)
Jigsaw’s obsession with taking down Frank Castle grows so deeply rooted, that when Frank Castle is arrested and seemingly executed, Jigsaw becomes embittered and begins murdering everyone involved with the Punisher’s demise. Donning a mockery of Castle’s Punisher gear, Jigsaw begins murdering all witnesses to the Castle execution.
It turns out the Punisher wasn’t actually dead so Punisher and his sometimes pal Daredevil team up to bring down Jigsaw. Jigsaw is absolutely overjoyed when he sees the Punisher is still alive. A weird cat, that Jigsaw.
That Time He Beats Up Tigra and Films It
New Avengers #35 (2007)
Wait, what? Jigsaw has been a puke inducing foe to many heroes of the Marvel Universe. In this particular tale, a story that will make you scrape your skin off with lye soap just to feel clean, Tigra prevents Jigsaw from robbing a bank. Humiliated, Jigsaw turns to the so-called Kingpin of Super Criminals, the mystically powered Hood, for revenge. The Hood and Jigsaw attack Tigra in her own apartment. As the Hood pistol whips and humiliates Tigra, Jigsaw films the whole thing. This leads to an alliance with the Hood and an attack on the Avengers.
Jigsaw stoops low enough to try and snipe the infant daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Thankfully, Spidey shows up and prevents this heinous act. But, jeez, poor Tigra. This non-Punisher appearance in New Avengers serves to solidify Jigsaw as one of the biggest scumbags in the Marvel Universe.
Punisher: In the Blood #1–5 (2010-2011)
Here, Jigsaw teams up with a similarly scarred dick named Stuart Clarke. Together, Russo and Clarke become the Jigsaw Brothers and hire the HYDRA hitwoman named Lady Gorgon to impersonate Punisher’s long dead wife Maria. Of course, being the ultimate scumbag, Jigsaw betrays and murders Clarke and is seemingly killed by the Punisher while Jigsaw fights the skull-chested vigilante atop Jigsaw’s burning HQ.
The Punisher v7, #61–65 (2008)
The mature reader world of Punisher MAX is notorious for copious amounts of violence and gore. So you know when Jigsaw, the ultimate Punisher foe, shows up, things get turned up to the (dons sunglasses, looks into camera) max ("yeahhhhhhhhhh!"). In this storyline, Jigsaw is a drug lord that kidnaps women and children from nearby border towns to use as disposable slave labor in his meth lab. The families turn to Punisher for help.
Jigsaw tries to drive the Punisher insane by fooling the vigilante into believing he accidently shot one of the children. Punisher is forced to perform an autopsy on the murdered child and finds that the bullet didn't come from his weapon. Needless to say, Frank is not happy and takes the fight to Jigsaw, burns the drug lab, frees the captive, and seemingly kills Jigsaw. Of course, like a horribly, horribly scarred penny, Jigsaw returns again and again to push the Punisher, an anti-hero already at the edge of sanity, even further over the edge.
The Punisher season 2 arrives on Netflix on Jan. 18.
Nicholas Hoult stars in Tolkien, a biopic focusing on the celebrated author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
The major works of John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien were adapted in an epic manner in contemporary film by director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and, years later, in The Hobbit Trilogy, with grandiose (allegedly exorbitant) television series plans in the works over at Amazon Studios. Yet, an upcoming biopic will cover another story connected to the influential author, namely his own life story.
While the biopic, titled Tolkien, stayed in the pipeline for a few years, things finally came together with director Dome Karukoski, who helmed this movie about the mind that made Middle Earth, which is headlined by Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins.
Tolkien Release Date
Tolkien has ventured there and back again to finally set its release date for May 10.
Deadline reported the date news.
Tolkien explores the circumstances that shaped Tolkien into becoming the author of the world's most famous fantasy novels. The film will show how the marriage of young Tolkien to Edith Bratt was interrupted in 1914 by World War I. After deliberation, Tolkien enlisted, experiencing four years of the world-altering global conflagration. The experiences would become the inspiration for Tolkien’s conception of 1937’s The Hobbit; a mythology he would expand exponentially with 1954-1955’s The Lord of the Rings novel trilogy, along with several supplemental Middle-earth-based stories, many of which would be published posthumously under the editorial stewardship of his son Christopher.
Tolkien certainly has compelling source material to utilize in telling the iconic author's story, which was wrought in not only war, but a quirky romance. Moreover, it will be interesting for fans, both casual and passionate, to witness the events that drove a certain young second lieutenant in the British Army to conjure the magical, ethereal, quasi-medieval world of Middle-earth and weave the intricate details of its sprawling mythology.
Nicholas Hoult took the biopic's title role as one the 20th century's most celebrated authors, J.R.R. Tolkien. While Hoult has become a perennial blockbuster actor, playing Hank McCoy/Beast in the current X-Men films and was a catchphrase-coining standout in 2015’s apocalyptic franchise revival Mad Max: Fury Road, this prospective role in Tolkien won’t even be his first experience playing a famous author, having played the role of the reclusive J.D. Salinger in September’s Rebel in the Rye. While he fielded an uncredited role reprisal as Beast in Deadpool 2 last year, he'll be back properly in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which is set for June.
Lily Collins will play Edith Bratt, the love of Tolkien's life. She was a central figure in his life during the horrors of the First World War and would eventually become his wife, who in turn inspired Tolkien to create the graceful elvin characters of Middle-earth, including Arwen, the character played by Liv Tyler in Peter Jackson's adaptation of Lord of the Rings.
Colm Meaney plays a crucial figure in the life of J.R.R. in Father Francis Xavier Morgan. An overseer of the Birmingham Oratory, Morgan was frequently cited in Tolkien’s memoirs as a profoundly influential figure in his life, specifically when it came to charity and forgiveness amidst the darkest of circumstances; themes that are reflected in his Middle Earth novels.
Meaney, a veteran Irish actor, has seen and done it all on the screen and stage. Yet, he is best known to genre fans from the Star Trek television franchise as (transporter) Chief Miles O’Brien, first recurring on Star Trek: The Next Generation (starting in the pilot,) and later crossing over to the main cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; a role that, astoundingly, lasted 12 years (1987-1999,) uninterrupted. He recently appeared on TNT’s young Shakespeare series, Will, as impresario James Burbage. He also fielded a lengthy, fact-based, 2011-2016 run as the shady, yet enigmatic railroad entrepreneur, Thomas Durant, on AMC's Hell on Wheels.
Craig Roberts plays a character named Sam, a close friend of J.R.R.’s who served with the would-be Middle Earth-maker during the horrific, trench-trapped experiences of World War I. Of course, the name Sam will certainly raise flags for fans of Tolkien’s work, since, by no coincidence, it is the shortened name of Frodo’s unflinchingly loyal companion, Samwise Gamgee, in The Lord of the Rings, a character portrayed in director Peter Jackson's film trilogy to iconic, pathos-packed perfection by Sean Astin.
Roberts, a Welsh actor, is coming off a recently-completed run on the Amazon comedy series Red Oaks, with appearances in films such as The Fundamentals of Caring, 22 Jump Street, Neighbors, Submarine and The First Time. Interestingly, Tolkien will facilitate an onscreen reunion, since Roberts appeared opposite star Nicholas Hoult in the 2015 musical comedy film Kill Your Friends.
Dome Karukoski will direct Tolkien, working off a script by David Gleeson (The Front Line, Cowboys & Angels) and actor-turned-writer Stephen Beresford (Pride). The Finnish director Karukoski is known for films from his home country such as 2017’s Tom of Finland, 2014’s The Grump and 2010’s Lapland Odyssey. With that creative crew set into place, casting for Tolkien is reportedly starting under the auspices of production company Chernin Entertainment at the behest of Fox Searchlight.
This, coupled with the rumblings about prospective star Nicholas Hoult was the first major movement on the J.R.R. Tolkien biopic endeavor since last fall, when the same trade reported that the project – then-titled Middle Earth– had tapped James Strong (Broadchurch, Downton Abbey) to direct, working off a script by a burgeoning screenwriter Angus Fletcher. However, the premise of the project in its current form as Tolkien seems to be the same, chronicling the author’s youthful experiences in which friendships, love, and an outcast status at school all lead to the horrors of the trenches in the First World War.
Like Man in the High Castle, United States of Japan & Ninth Step Station use dystopian alternate Japan to tell their sci-fi stories.
On January 9, Serial Box launched their newest title: a science fiction drama set in a war-and-disaster-torn future Japan. Ninth Step Station, created by Malka Older with a writing team that includes Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and Curtis C. Chen, is part cop drama and part political thriller, pushed along with a solid dose of weird science fiction. New "episodes" are released every Wednesday.
In Ninth Step Station's version of 2033 Tokyo, sci-fi elements like body modification (cosmetic and weirdly functional, like cybernetic eyes that privately access digital information and infrared vision) and sleeves that work like tablets, cell phones, and ID rolled into one, are commonplace.
Our future is filled with wars and disasters that haven’t happened, but, in reading Ninth Step Station, it’s easy to imagine that they could and: an earthquake could rock Tokyo, and an invasion of Japan by China could leave parts of the nation contested. In fact, the future feels so immediate, the characters so relatable, that it’s easy, despite the weird tech, to forget that Ninth Step Station is science fiction at all.
That being said, it’s always clear that Ninth Step Station is set in a dystopia. And, in that, along with its overarching sense of two oddly-paired investigators trying to get to the bottom of a crime, it shares a common lineage with another recent speculative fiction work that uses alternate, dystopian Japan to tell its story: Peter Tieryas’s United States of Japan.
I’ve raved aboutTieryas’s 2018 title Mecha Samurai Empire, and the novel inspired me to catch up on Tieryas’s previous book set in the world: a Man in the High Castle-esque setting in which Japan and Germany won World War II and carved up the United States between them, and now face each other in a cold war.
While Mecha Samurai Empire shows a brighter vision of the future of the United States of Japan, United States of Japan, set only a few years earlier, spends more time in the corrupt aspects of the setting, reveling in the dystopia. Although United States of Japan takes place in an alternate 1988, it feels like a future: people carry tablet-like porticals, drive electric cars, and indulge in body modifications (such as a flesh-phone, used by couriers for the ultimate in secure connections).
While both the novel and the serial exist independent of each other, reading them in tandem creates an interesting subtext about power, trust, and truth—and because Ninth Step Station’s season has just started, it’s worth picking up United States of Japan while waiting for new episodes.
United States of Japan: A Japan in Power
United States of Japan opens with the liberation of one of the Japanese internment camps in 1948. The mistreated Japanese-Americans (and other Americans suspected of Japanese-sympathies) are thrilled to be freed—but there’s little rosy shine on the Japanese Empire when they realize almost immediately that there will be no freedom of speech. To criticize the Emperor means death.
Fast forward forty years: the George Washingtons are the last American hold-outs, rebelling from their base in a destroyed San Diego. Beniko Ishimura, a censor of video games, becomes involved in the investigation of the death of Claire Mutsuraga, daughter of General Mutsuraga, formerly Ben’s commanding officer and currently suspected of creating a wildly popular and scandalously anti-USJ game, USA.
Akiko Tsukino, a member of the Tokko, or Japan’s secret police, treats Ben alternately like a suspect and an asset—until a turn of the tables puts them both on the run from the Japanese authorities. They have to find General Mutsuraga to clear their names—and for other, hidden reasons that don’t become clear until the narrative’s climax.
United States of Japan isn’t an easy novel to read. The setting is grim, the violence is graphic, and the fear of stepping out of line vivid even for members of the secret police. It’s also utterly brilliant. Tieryas’s narration takes care never to reveal too much at once, so that while the narrators always feel trustworthy, it’s also clear that they’re never revealing their full hand—not to the world, and not to the readers. The novel revolves around the concept of sacrifice, and the ultimate conclusion is powerful enough that it will stick with readers well beyond when they’ve finished the book.
And of course, in the middle of all of the twisting narratives that drive closer and closer to the truth, there’s amazingly cool tech, from the video games to the weird body modifications to the occasional appearance of mecha. United States of Japan doesn’t create a picture of a place I’d like to visit, the way Mecha Samurai Empire did, but it created a story I had to continue reading, because I needed the puzzle pieces to click into place.
Ninth Step Station: A Japan at the Mercy of Enemies and Allies
Ninth Step Station puts a futuristic Japan in exactly the opposite position of power: rather than being an empire that occupies large portions of the world, Japan is torn, parts occupied by China, and its government is only barely functional. The nation has never recovered from the earthquake that made it vulnerable to invasion. And while the world is at peace—for now—there’s no telling what small spark could set that fragile peace ablaze.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police force is working with a limited budget and a fraction of the resources they used to have—their facial recognition and fingerprint databases were fractured by the earthquake and much of their data never recovered. But, despite the limited resources, Detective Miyako Koreda is anything but thrilled to hear that she’s being paired with a US peacekeeper, Emma Higashi, as her new partner.
Essentially on loan to the local police, Emma’s not exactly thrilled with the assignment, either—she’s nominally working with the Tokyo police to improve the allied-US’s understanding of Tokyo, but she wonders if part of her position isn’t meant to keep her eyes on her allies, as well as their enemies. Despite their reluctant team up, Miyako and Emma end up complimenting each other well, and as the serial (which I’ve read in an advance format) progresses, they solve a number of cases, including several murders and a kidnapping.
While the core story of each episode would fit well as a developing buddy-cop drama on television, with all the right tropes and cues, it’s the ongoing world-building and political intrigue that keeps the story fascinating. Emma and Miyako are both compelling characters, and—reminiscent of the narration in United States of Japan—while the readers think they know them both well enough to sense their motives, the suspicions they have of each other may leave readers wondering if their loyalties are really clear. When Emma is told that there’s a leak to China in the police force, she’s forced to wonder if that leak could be her partner. And when Miyako comes into information that would be relevant to US interests, the fact that she keeps it to herself may further undermine their relationship.
All this is set against a backdrop of drones, cool personal tech, and a weird black market of body shops—as well as a mysterious resistance with motives that aren’t clear. Are they rebelling against China’s occupation alone, or is there a part of their own national government they’d like to bring down? Watching the story unfold involves some of the same puzzle-piece placing that makes United States of Japan so good, and may leave readers wondering just who to root for.
Despite their differences, both United States of Japan and Ninth Step Station give a strong sense of Japanese literary heritage (in the eyes of this non-Japanese, long-time manga-reading reviewer). And though the timelines are completely different, the atmosphere of the worlds, the uses of innovative technology, and the questions they pose make them excellent complements to one another.
Alana Joli Abbott writes about books for Den of Geek. Read more of her work here.