The Geekender July 17-19: Batman vs. Robin, Ernest Cline's Armada, Black Mirror, and more

The weekend is upon us, and with it a chance to sit back, relax and consume massive amounts of sci-fi, fantasy and horror pop culture. In The Geekender, our writers share a bit about what they're reading, watching and playing -- and we want to hear from you. Let us know what's on your plate in the comments!

Matt Dorville: I don't know if you know this about geeks, but we definitely have "comfort food" when it comes to shows, comics, movies or videogames. When I was young, it was the game Bubble Bobble (which is plain genius). Today, it is the Syfy show Defiance.  If you haven't seen it before, it's about a city built over the ruins of St. Louis, full of different species that must learn to live together. The show has soap opera elements and the main character is a little bit of a Han Solo character, but for me, it's like tomato soup on a rainy day: plain comfort.  This weekend I'm going to be catching up on Season 3, which I've only heard good things about, so I'm very excited. And who knows? If it rains. I'll make some soup as well. 

Trent Moore: While Marvel Comics tears its world apart and puts it back together, I've been digging into a fantastic 'book that tells a story (mostly) far away from all the Secret Wars insanity: Silver Surfer. The ongoing series, written by Dan Slott, with art by Michael and Laura Allred, takes a pop art vibe into the weird and wacky world of deep space. It follows the iconic Silver Surfer and his new pal, Dawn Greenwood, who stumble into all kinds of trouble while touring the universe. More than just about any comic on the market these days, this series is pure, smart fun. It also brings a level of humanity that Norrin Radd has rarely seen, and is worth the price of admission alone for the vibrant and gorgeous art. Update your pull list accordingly.

Aaron Sagers: Ernie Cline tapped into the 1980s generation with the fantastic novel Ready Player One in 2011, and he returns to level up with the new sci-fi novel Armada. Imagining a world where every alien invasion movie and videogame was essentially preparation, and training, for humanity to accept and fend off an extraterrestrial threat, Cline delivers a great adventure centered around a high school ho-hum-turned-hero. The book once more includes well-known and obscure geek culture references, as well as the heart and humor that Cline excelled at in Ready Player One.

Don Kaye: While at Comic-Con, I picked up two trade paperbacks of a comic book series called Letter 44. The story takes place more or less in the present, with the president-elect of the United States being handed a letter by his predecessor revealing that there is an alien presence lurking in the solar system, which the government has not disclosed. A secret mission sent to intercept and investigate them is getting close to its destination. Everything the new president has planned to tackle may have to be put on hold. I was so fascinated by the premise that I bought both volumes on the spot (something I do, occasionally). Hopefully, I won't regret that decision after reading the first one!

Krystal Clark: After this week, I'll finally be caught up with the DC Animated Universe. The last film on my list is Batman vs. Robin. A few weeks ago, I watched the Caped Crusader try to connect with his estranged son, Damian (in Son of Batman), with mixed results. Unfortunately, his attempt at fatherhood was too little, too late. In Batman vs Robin, Damian and Bruce butt heads on a professional and personal level. As crime fighters, their different ideologies continue to cause problems, so much so that a dangerous group called the Court of Owls use it to their advantage. Dun! Dun! Dun!

Ernie Estrella: Right before Comic-Con, I picked up the first five issues of Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane's They're Not Like Us, which tells the story of gifted Millennials. It's been compared to the magic era of Marvel's Silver Age X-Men, and now I have the time to see if that's true. I know it seems like the vault in your mind devoted to superheroes can be too full to welcome a new title outside the Big Two, but I'm always applauding brave attempts. Given Marvel's de-emphasizing of their X-Men line, I'm ready for a new dive into the teen mutant pool with fresh ideas, as well as Stephenson's commentary on today's youth. UK indie artist Simon Gane flexes his guns here, and with Jordie Bellaire's always bringing her A-game on colors, I know I'm in for a treat.

Dany Roth: This week marked the PS4 release of last-year's PC indie darling, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. I've only played a few hours of it so far, but, dare I say it, I find its Lovecraftian charms to be far more engrossing than anything out of Arkham Knight. Sure, AAA games are fun, but Carter's slow-paced, first-person explorations are such a perfect blend of wonder and dread that it's already done enough for me to think "Batman who?" And just in case the game's totally foreign to you, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is about a detective with psychic abilities who is taking on his final case -- investigating the disappearance of, well, Ethan Carter.  The secrets he unlocks in the sleepy town of Red Creek Valley, Wis., are equal parts beautiful and unnerving. Did I mention there's an entity known only as "The Sleeper" and that it control the minds of the citizens of the town? There is, and it can. It's Weird Tales meets Myst, and someone's legs get torn off by a train in the first half hour. So, yeah. It's a good time.

Matthew Jackson: It's not technically sci-fi, fantasy or horror (though Louise is pretty scary), but the FOX animated comedy Bob's Burgers is unquestionably geeky. Its tone is very specific, its worldbuilding is off the charts, and its sense of humor is definitely the product of a bunch of weird kids. So this weekend, I'll be rewatching some of my favorite episodes.

Jeff Spry: This weekend at the lake, I'm cracking the cover on a virgin copy of James S.A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes to prep myself for Syfy's The Expanse, which airs in December.  I was weaned on classic '70s space opera in movies, cartoons and comics, so I can't wait to launch into it. I'm also anxious to see what Syfy (Blast's parent company) does with its TV adaptation, and how faithful it remains to the five-book series.  I'm also a huge fan of Thomas Jane, who stars in the show as a fedora-topped corporate detective.  He's always solid, ever since his charismatic pool party entrance as flaky male dancer Todd Parker and his classic specs spiel on Dirk Diggler's new Competition Orange Corvette in Boogie Nights.  So, as summer dragonflies are dancing above the water, I'll be immersed beside the campfire in Leviathan Wakes' asteroid belts, space stations and alien molecules.  Pass me another marshmallow!

Carol Pinchefsky: Some friends of mine are coming in from out of town (happy birthday, Laura!), so I'm going to show off the Rose Center for Earth and Space in the Museum of Natural History. Much of the space there is dedicated to a spiral walkway with a globe in the center. Each placard on the walkway asks you to shift your perspective, so you have to imagine the globe as the size of an atom in one step, and farther down (or up) the ramp, the globe is the size of Earth. It's a neat combination of science and imagination. Einstein would be proud.

Evan Hoovler: I finally found a site that lets me play Zork Zero online. I will binge through this nostalgia during most of my free time this weekend. Also, I'm catching up on Black Mirror. This innovative, Twilight Zone-style show is available on Netflix. While I'm doing that, I'm going to stay up late making pirate-themed puzzles for the ARG I run online. I've mentioned it before: It's a lot like the party games Werewolf or Mafia, with a couple of twists. The problem is, this is the ninth run-through of the game I've led, so making original puzzles just gets harder and harder. Of course, I can re-use old puzzles, updating them to fit the pirate theme, but I've been leaning on that hard these last few years. Tell me your favorite type of puzzle in the comments, please, to provide inspiration (and if you want in the ARG, feel free to comment as well).

Lisa Granshaw: My only knowledge of Daredevil, frankly, comes from the 2003 film, which is probably why I didn't rush to watch the new Netflix series before now. This week, after returning from Comic-Con and needing something new to watch, however, I decided to start the series. While I found "Into the Ring" hard to get into at first, by the end I was looking forward to watching the second episode. I am really enjoying how gritty it is, and I like how the Avengers references aren't blatantly obvious, but if you catch them, they make it clear this show is connected to the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. I will definitely be binging on the rest of Season 1 this weekend!

Adam Swiderski: A couple weeks ago, I stared into the mouth of madness and decided to re-read/read Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series -- I read the first three books years ago, but never kept up with the rest, and now that it's over and done, I want to ingest the whole thing. This weekend, I kick off the second installment, The Great Hunt. I'm already re-annoyed with protagonist Rand al'Thor (it's all "Burn me!" and whining about his lot in life as the SUPER-POWERFUL CHOSEN ONE), but the rest of the universe in which Jordan sets his epic is so rich, I think I can get past it, Light willing.

You've read our picks -- now let us know what you'll be geeking out over this weekend in the comments!


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