This week’s entry is going to be a bit of a short one. I’m feeling a little low on gas this week and in my downtime I’ve been primarily doing the emotional version of gorging myself on comfort food, i.e., watching my Blu-Ray copies of The Flash and knitting. However, even though I feel a little stuck in the mud, I did manage to find a few highlights that I thought might be of interest. Eacdh made me sit up and take notice, in their own different ways, and for that I was very grateful. Hopefully I can spread that gratitude around a little bit!
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For me this week’s biggest comics dive was the first four volumes of Revival from Image comics. The story seems straightforward on the surface: one day, in the small town of Wausau, Wisconsin, people came back to life. Not as zombies, and not exactly as they were either. There was something different about them. A little off. It might be something spiritual, or some unknown scientific phenomenon, or it might even have something to do with the glowing, grotesque humanoid figures that patrol the woods. In the aftermath of “Revival Day,” the federal government has quarantined Wausau, leaving the town’s small group of police officers in over their heads. One of these officers, Dana Cypress, is coping with more than her fair share, including sharing custody of her son with his deadbeat father, struggling to work with her liaison from the Center for Disease Control, and helping her younger sister (who is secretly one of the Revivers). As much as I like the book’s supernatural elements, it’s the way this unbelievable event effects the citizens that really interests me. Revival‘s subtitle is “A Rural Noir,” and I find that to be the most interesting part of the story. Sure, a story about the mysterious return of the undead is all well and good. Give me the average person at the end of her rope in a situation she can barely keep hold of and I will turn the pages eagerly to see how the pieces fall.
With Revival, creators Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash, Grayson) and Mike Norton (The Waiting Place, Battlepug) have created something truly special. There are over a dozen important named characters whose stories weave together and drive the plot almost more than the mystery of how these people have come back from the dead in the first place. Norton, in particular, is a star. I have always been a fan of his ability to create figures with a solidity and sense of space, and his knack for crafting expressive facial features. In Revival he takes that skill, amplifies it, and then rips off the knob. His figures don’t just convey action and emotion, they are an important part of the character. Every time I see Dana or any of the other characters I feel like I know exactly what they’re thinking, without the benefit of thought balloons or narrative boxes. The story unravels slowly but masterfully, as Seeley knows how to keep all of the plot’s many plates spinning. I’m in it for the characters, and with each issue they draw me in more and more. (I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Jenny Frisson’s exquisite covers, each one a glorious, moody painting.) The series just wrapped up this month with issue 47 (plus one glorious crossover with Image’s sci-fi thriller Chew), and now that it’s officially over I’m excited to see how it all plays out. Since it’s a noir, I’m sure it has a happy ending…
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania is a vibrant twist on a classic story: a young man and a young woman, opposites in almost every way, meet, hate each other, then slowly fall in love. The joy of this movie isn’t due to any kind of twist to that formula (there really isn’t one), but in the charisma of the two lead actors and the refreshingly open way the film deals with modern relationships. Varun Dawan plays Rakesh “Humpty” Sharma, a scoundrel and playboy who lives every day trying to keep ahead of the problems from the day before. One day he meets Kavya Pratap Singh, played by Alia Bhatt, a young woman who has come to Dehli to buy a designer gown for her arranged wedding. As one might imagine, after his initial advances are rebuffed he agrees to help her raise the money for her dress, at which point they each come to realize that, gosh darn it, they are perfect for each other. The film is bright and energetic, with vibrant cinematography and dazzling dance numbers. And of course, Dawan and Bhatt are magnetic performers that held my attention the whole time, even when the movie started getting a little bogged down in the third act. Third act problems aside, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania is a fun romp with plenty of laughs and attractive people being attractive at each other. Nothing more and nothing less than satisfying cinematic entertainment.
For someone with a love of Old Hollywood in general and Elizabeth Taylor in particular, I found How To Be A Movie Star utterly engrossing. Author William J. Mann tells Taylor’s story a little out of order — starting with her affair with Richard Burton during the filming of Cleopatra, then zipping back to her days as a child star vying for the starring role in National Velvet — in order to make it clear to the reader that this is no ordinary woman. Elizabeth Taylor was someone who had no memory what it was like not being famous, whose entire life and persona was crafted by the movie studio, who expected to be treated like royalty because she knew no other way to live. Mann sometimes protests a little too much on his star’s behalf, but he gives her a fair shake, which isn’t something that can be said for other Taylor biographers. The book contrasts the familiar story of her public life, mostly gleaned from gossip columns and fan magazines, with a great deal of insight to how things were going behind the scenes. Plus it puts Elizabeth Taylor right at the center of the collapse of the old studio system, relishing her role in the destruction of the machine that made her a star. I tore through this book quickly and heartily, loving every moment I was sunk into it, and don’t be surprised if an Elizabeth Taylor film or two pops up in the column in the next week or two.
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That’s going to wrap things up for me this week. Until next time, I hope you find something that brings you a little spark of joy, whether that be a Bollywood dance number, a walk in the woods, or a smile from someone that loves you. Maybe even something else, though I really do recommend that Bollywood dance number. I’ll see you in seven days.