This week at the old Pop Culture Ranch, I managed to round up three different pieces that all deal, in different ways, with the concept of reincarnation. That was entirely a fluke, but I say when you find a hidden theme, I say go with it.
* * * * *
Hawkman has one of DC Comics most notoriously complex continuities, a combination of Egyptian mythology and sci-fi alien on the brink of was all wrapped up with a little reincarnation. It’s something that really should make for a compelling and interesting character, but it falls apart when a reader really looks hard at it. It’s the kind of situation that often drives unfamiliar readers away from the character, which is unfortunate because on its own merits, 1989’s Hawkworld miniseries is a fantastic comic series. It’s a late 80s-style comic book, dealing with “realistic” issues in an unsanitized and unflattering way, but I really like it.
Written and illustrated by Timothy Truman with inks by Enrique Alcatena and colours by Sam Parsons, Hawkworld is a gritty sci-fi comic book set on the planet Thanagar, a planet whose native population have become rich and pampered mainly by conquering and looting other less fortunate planets. The main character Katar Hol is a young man of privilege who joins the Wingmen, the militaristic Thanagarian police force, because he believes he needs to give something back to his people. But as these things usually go, the idealist descends into the gritty underbelly of his society and uncovers corruption in the system, is forced into exile, and then has to decide if he wants to make his way back. There are enough twists to keep the story from becoming entirely cliche, though, and the originality in the art more than makes up for it. Despite being set in a world that is undeniably part of the DC Universe, it’s not a superhero comic at all. Rather, it’s an allegorical sci-fi dystopia mixed with a little Count of Monte Cristo. It reminded me a lot of Nexus, the classic 1980s sci-fi adventure series from Mike Baron and Steve Rude, than it did any cape-and-cowl series I’ve ever read. Truman puts together a powerful sledgehammer of a book, effectively paced and tautly constructed, and Alcatena’s inks give real depth and texture to the figures and settings. Hawkworld scratches the same kind of itch in me that Judge Dredd, Blade Runner, or Brave New World do, and although it might not rise to quite the same highs as those other stories, that is tremendous company to be in.
This last Friday I visited my friends Matt and Erin (who have a great podcast called Bollywood is for Lovers that you should be listening to), and I watched a movie that they bought specifically to show me, which was a great honour. Even better: it was a great movie. Om Shanti Om is a bright shiny movie that loves movies so much that if it was a person I would want to be friends with them. A smash Bollywood film that combines romance, comedy, supernatural thrills, action, and musical numbers, Om Shanti Om tells a story of love and revenge that surpasses time and death. Basically, it has everything I want in a movie and then some. It stars the King of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, and Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone in film debut, and it’s a brilliant showcase for their incredible talents. As the film is set in two different time periods — the film industry of the 1970s and the 2010s — each actor plays two roles, and though the focus is very clearly on Shah Rukh Khan, it’s Deepika Padukone that is the real star of the film. Young and eager and bursting with energy, she invigorates every scene she is in, and her dancing is so perfect she makes Khan look like he’s still struggling with the choreography. Not that Khan’s a slouch, by any stretch of the imagination. He’s fiery and furious when the revenge plot revs up, but I honestly prefer him when he’s playing the comedy. He’s hysterical in a satirical number that expresses the pain of unrequited love through sexy disco dancing, and his best moment in the movie is a sequence where his 1970s character performs in a low-budget film that I wished were a real movie. It’s a great movie for people who are newcomers to Bollywood but love movies, and writing about it makes me want to watch it all over again.
Two episodes in and I’m not entirely sure what I think of AMC’s Preacher series, but I know I don’t hate it and am interested in watching a third episode, which is honestly higher praise than I thought the show would merit given my lukewarm reception to Seth Rogen projects. The comic book Preacher, created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, is a blackly humorous series featuring a small-town Southern preacher named Jesse Custer, who becomes possessed by an otherworldly creature that gives him The Word of God, the power to compel others to do whatever he says. Along with his ex-girlfriend Tulip and best friend and Irish vampire Cassidy, Jesse stumbles his way through a series of increasingly disturbing and blasphemous adventures involving a memorable cast of supporting characters and adversaries. Though there are some strikingly familiar plot points and characters — especially Joseph Gilgun’s Cassidy, who is practically the comic character brought to life — the tv show makes some significant changes to the source material that sometimes has me back on my heels. The most significant change is Ruth Negga’s Tulip, who is significantly more confident and badass and less defined by her relationship with Jesse, and the more I see of her the more I appreciate the redefinition of her character. One of the things I liked the most about the comic book, though, was the sheer impiety and profanity of the subject matter, and so far the show is erring on the side of reverence. I don’t mind a Jesse Custer that is trying to do good, but some of my favourite things about the comic book are when Ennis & Dillon start butchering sacred cows with sadistic glee, and I’m not sure that this series is going to be able to do that. However, that’s me comparing the show to the book, and on its own merits the television series is on some pretty decent footing. It’s more of a reinvention than an adaptation, and I’m interested to see where the story goes given their already significant departures from the source material.
* * * * *
That’s going to do it for me this week, I think. Until next time, do at least one good deed: it might not make your next life better, but it’ll make this one better for someone else. I’ll see you in seven days.