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Bandai officially reveals its ‘Age of Ultron’ Figuarts line

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Bandai has officially unveiled its Figuarts line of action figures for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which apparently doesn’t include Black Widow or Hawkeye. However, along with the previously revealed Iron Man Mark 43, there’s those stalwarts Captain America, Thor and the Incredible Hulk, as well as the Iron Man Mark 45 variant.

The fully poseable figures come with interchangeable heads and hands. Iron Man Mark 43 arrives next month, but you’ll have to wait until August for the variant. Captain America and the Hulk go on sale in July, followed by Thor in September.

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Dark Horse to publish ‘Planetes’ omnibus edition

planetesDark Horse will release Makoto Yukimura’s acclaimed hard sci-fi manga Planetes in an omnibus format, debuting in December. The listing was spotted on Amazon by Brian Ruh, and then confirmed by Anime News Network.

The series centers on the crew of the Toy Box, orbital debris collectors tasked with snaring and disposing of any “trash” — from screws to old satellites — that could possibly damage or destroy space stations and spacecraft. Both the manga and its anime adaptation won prestigious Seiun Awards for speculative fiction.

Tokyopop previously licensed Planetes in North America, and published all four volumes between 2003 and 2005.

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UN Women hosts comic competition focused on gender equality

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Taking on the issue of gender equality, a United Nations organization has launched a competition intended to spotlight women’s rights through comics.

Organized by UN Women, with the help of the European Commission, the Belgian Development Cooperation and UNRIC, Gender Equality: Picture It! is open to residents of the European Union ages 18 to 28. “Show us what comes to your mind when you reflect on women’s rights and empowerment and on the relationship between women and men,” the website states.

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R2-D2 searches for love in heartwarming ‘Star Wars’ fan film

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R2-D2 has captured the hearts of millions of Star Wars fans over the past four decades, yet he still runs into problems when it comes to finding that special someone.

In the wonderful short “Artoo in Love,” Evan Atherton, TRUE MVMNT, Grant McKinney and Sargam Atherton depict the little astromech droid’s pursuit of romance in a galaxy not so far away. He experiences a setback along the way, but if R2-D2 is anything, he’s determined.

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Reflecting on the end of ‘Blade of the Immortal’

Blade of the Immortal 31Blade of the Immortal, Hiroaki Samura’s samurai tale, reaches the end of its long run this week with the publication of Volume 31. Dark Horse began publishing the series in 1996, at a time when manga was not only flipped but chopped into single-issue comics. The world has changed a lot since then, and so has Blade. Samura spent almost 20 years writing and drawing the series, and his storytelling style evolved quite a bit over the years.

Samura’s superb art belies the startling violence of his story: Manji, a renegade samurai, cannot die because his body harbors bloodworms that heal every wound. To shake the curse of immortality, he must kill 1,000 evil men. This task gains focus when he teams with Rin, the daughter of a dojo master whose father was slain in front of her; she seeks not only to avenge his death but also to stop his killers from slaughtering the members of the other dojos to consolidate the power of their own school of fighting, Ittō-ryū. Samura fills the pages with baroque villains and and elaborate weapons of his own invention. The early volumes have a punk feel to them, but eventually he settles into a more traditional style.

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‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ limited-edition PS4 console revealed

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For devoted gamers and Dark Knight fans, Sony this morning unveiled the limited-edition Batman: Arkham Knight PlayStation 4 bundle.

Priced at $449.99, the bundle includes a Steel Grey PS4 system chassis with a custom faceplate, matching DualShock 4 wireless controller in Steel Grey and, of course, the finale of Rocksteady Studios’ hit Arkham trilogy.

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Hot Toys unleashes life-size ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ statues

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If you think Hot Toys’ 1/6th-scale figures are mind-bogglingly — maybe even unnervingly — realistic, you should see the life-size versions.

As part of its “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron Exhibition,” which tours Asia from April through July, the company is producing full-size statues “that will embody the meticulously crafted details” fans are accustomed to seeing in the collectible figures. Those include replicas of Captain America and Thor that could easily be mistaken for Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, and entire teams of  nearly 10-feet-tall Hulkbusters and 8-feet-tall Ultron Primes.

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Comics A.M. | Parent to appeal school district’s ‘Palomar’ ruling

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Libraries | A parent plans to appeal a decision by a New Mexico school district to keep Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar on the shelves of the Rio Rancho High School Library. Catrenna Lopez complained in February after her 14-year-old son brought home the acclaimed hardcover, insisting it contained “pornographic” images and promoted prostitution. A review committee appointed by the superintendent of Rio Rancho Public Schools voted 5-3 last week to retain the book. In response to the decision, Lopez said, “To me, this book is kind of like having a Hustler magazine in the schools.” If she follows through with her plan, the appeal would go to the school board, which would take a public vote on its decision. [KRQE]

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Square Enix’s new ‘Star Wars’ figures are wonderfully insane

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Looking at Darth Vader, Boba Fett and the Stormtrooper from Square Enix’s Variant line of Play Arts Kai figures, I’m reminded of Marvel’s 1977 adaptation of Star Wars, with its frequently wildly off-model characters. Here, of course, the deviation is purposeful — the Variant collectibles are all reimagined — and it works pretty well.

Sure, all three original designs are classic, but it’s kind of fun to see each of these armored warriors souped up, their looks taken more in a mech-infused direction (although as Star Wars reimaginings go, it’s tough to top Bandai’s samurai-styled Darth Vader and Stormtrooper).

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Supreme Court won’t hear Stan Lee Media appeal

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The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Stan Lee Media’s case against Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment, bringing to a definitive end at least one part of a legal battle that’s been waged for the better part of a decade.

The action lets stand the 2012 dismissal of a lawsuit seeking million in profits and ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Lee, co-founder of the failed dot-com. Stan Lee Media had argued in its petition to the justices that the Ninth Circuit erred in October when it upheld the lower court’s decision.

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Humanity faces extinction and sea monsters in ‘Rim City’

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Humankind was born looking up at the stars, but what if its last hope is deep in the ocean?

That’s the conceit of Rim City, written by Alessandro Apreda and illustrated by Daniel Orlandini, the inaugural title from anew Italian comics company Atomico. Melding seemingly the inspiration of Neon Genesis EvangelionHalo with undersea sci-fi like The AbyssRim City hits a familiar tone, albeit in some unfamiliar surroundings — and with top-notch artwork that would make any publisher jealous.

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Lobo co-creator Roger Slifer passes away

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Lobo co-creator Roger Slifer, who was seriously injured in a 2012 hit and run, died this morning while on the way from his nursing home to an emergency room. He was 60 years old.

“It is especially sad because in the last month he was making great progress,” his sister Connie Carlton wrote on Facebook. “He was writing words on his new whiteboard that I bought with money his friend Larry Spears sent for Christmas. He was nodding yes and no to questions. A couple weeks ago they put a passey muir device (speaking valve) in his trach and he said ‘yes, no, and hi.’ They were getting ready to start him on speech therapy and occupational therapy. Things were finally looking up for him. But God needed another angel.”

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Hair-raising magic with teen witches in ‘Witchy’

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What if there were a world of magic where your powers were based on your hair? That’s what’s happening in the engrossing new webcomic Witchy by Ariel Ries.

Witchy follows a young woman named Nyneve who grows up in a world called Hyalin, where magic powers are based on the length of your hair. After her father was killed for rebelling and letting his hair grow out too long, Nyneve is conscripted into the Witch Guard — a army of magic users who were partly responsible for her father’s death. Witchy is a decidedly non-Western approach to fantasy, pulling more from Asian story-forms and anime such as Hayao Miyazaki.

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DragonCon speaks out against Georgia’s ‘religious freedom’ bill

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Organizers of the Atlanta-based DragonCon announced Thursday they’re lobbying Georgia lawmakers to stop a so-called “religious freedom” bill similar to one signed into law last week in Indiana.

“We have great faith that our state’s leaders and legislators will, eventually, do the right thing for all Georgians,” organizers wrote in a statement. “Legislation that hurts one of us, hurts us all.”

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‘Naruto’ spinoff unveils new character art

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The first illustrations have surfaced for Naruto Spinoff: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring Month, the miniseries by Masashi Kishimoto debuting in the April 27 issue of Weekly Shonen Jump.

Posted on Comic Natalie, the character designs depict Naruto’s son and Sasuke’s daughter Boruto (Bolt) and Sarada (Salad), who appeared in the final chapter of Naruto, as well as Naruto himself. Kishimoto concluded his fantasy-adventure epic in November after 15 years.

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