So full disclosure: it’s my birthday. I am old. Tonight I am looking forward to enjoying the company of some of the fantastic people that I am lucky to know and enjoying some delicious food and drink. But before then I thought I’d drop a quick column featuring a bunch of great pop culture offerings that I was fortunate to delve into lately. And then I will go get free birthday pancakes. With that plan in mind: let’s go!
With Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, DC Comics has given one of my old favourites a new twist. I love the two Deadman miniseries that had come before — 1989’s Deadman: Exorcism and 1992’s Deadman: Love after Death — in part because of the weirdness of the character and in part because the Prestige Format gave me the impression that it was more ‘important’ than other books that were coming out. And they were fantastic stories, dark and mysterious, full of love and longing, starring the ghost of a murdered acrobat and daredevil. The kind of thing I love about the less-visited corners of corporate superhero books. What Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love does is take the themes of those previous series and give them a modern shot in the arm. In this new series Deadman is only part of the story that features a non-binary queer love triangle, a haunted mansion with a confused and frightened ghost, and adventures in antiquing. I loved Lan Medina’s soft art, so different than what I associate with a Deadman book but something that fits with the gothic romance that Sarah Vaughn has dreamed up. By the end of the series I had chills, which the exact feeling I want to get from a Deadman book. Romance, horror, and a ghost in red tights. I can’t ask for much more than that.
This week I watched all of the Garfunkel and Oates television series on Netflix (CANCELLED TOO SOON!) and followed that up with their 2016 Trying To Be Special special. I love Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci’s blend of music and comedy, and their special is a great showcase for their wit, charm, and talent. I’d never seen any live footage of their performances before, and their high-energy delivery is infectious. Combining performances of some of their most impressive songs (including my favourites “Pregnant Women Are Smug” and “29/31”) with original music videos and memorable behind-the-scenes footage, it’s a great watch for people unfamiliar with the group and for die-hard fans.
Fans of gorgeously-filmed ultraviolence have probably already flocked to see John Wick Chapter 2 but if you haven’t seen it yet: GO ALREADY. Much like many sequels it’s not as tight and powerful as the original but there’s still a lot to recommend about it. Keanu Reeves is still a force of nature, and the fight scenes are still so good that any one of them could be the main set piece of a lesser action film. The most impressive part to me, though, was Dan Laustsen’s cinematography. Practically every quiet shot in that film is a painting, and part of what makes the action so powerful is the way they’re shot. That’s right: John Wick Chapter 2 is art. Art and carnage, sure. But art nonetheless.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is Jonathan Hickman’s secret history of the Marvel universe. It features the Egyptian high priest Imhotep fighting off a Brood invasion in the 27th Century BCE, Galileo defeating Galactus and da Vinci travelling in time, and Isaac Newton discovering the dark secrets of the universe. If that’s not enough, artist Dustin Weaver almost outdoes Hickman’s high concepts with what could be a masterclass on the layout of the modern comic book page. A formalist corporate superhero story inspired by graphic design and putting Tony Stark’s and Reed Richards’ dads in a story with Nostradamus and Zhang Heng. It’s too weird not to love.
And speaking of formalism: last week Mike Birbiglia delivered another home-run comedy special with Thank God For Jokes. Birbiglia’s style is more storytelling than traditional stand-up comedy, but the man loves comedy, and in this special he examining the power of jokes, talks about growing up Catholic, and the time he told a joke about David O. Russell at an event where Russell was getting an award that caused the director to walk out. Track it down on Netflix, and then watch Birbiglia’s previous special My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, which is basically perfect. And then watch the rest of Birbiglia’s stuff, because the man is basically a comic genius.
It’s a little self-serving, sure, but the most recent episode of Matt Bowes and Erin Fraser’s Bollywood is for Lovers features Variant Edition’s Danica LeBlanc talking about two Bollywood movies about dance competitions, Happy New Year and ABCD2. Also: I am in it. Don’t let that stop you from listening, though! We had a great time recording it, and Erin and Matt and Danica are fantastic people, as you probably already know. Go get it!!
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That’s going to do it for me this week! Until next time, enjoy fried bread products smothered in sweet syrup. Because that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll see you in seven days!