Devin R Bruce is a friend to Variant Edition and to all good-hearted creatures who roam the Earth. In each installment of This Column Has Seven Days, Devin discusses his favourite pop culture experiences of the past week in an effort to share the joy of an overlooked gem, an old favourite that’s bubbled up to the surface, or a classic work that he’s finally gotten around to. Comic books, movies, television, novels, podcasts, music, Old Time Radio: there’s something for everyone. Here’s what he’s been up to this week.
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The biggest pop culture surprise for me in the past month or so has been DC’s Hanna Barbera initiative. A couple of weeks ago I gushed about the first volume of Future Quest, and now, it’s time for me to sing the praises of the Green Lantern/Space Ghost Special. Written by James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela with art by Ariel Olivetti (who also illustrated the 2005 Space Ghost miniseries), it’s a fun oversized issue filled with action, adventure, and heart. At the start of the issue, Hal Jordan travels through an interdimensional barrier to an unexplored corner of the universe, in response to a distress call. Apparently, there’s a weapon of vast power out there, threatening to destroy a world. and it’s up to the Green Lantern to put a stop to it. Problem is, nobody told Space Ghost, who just so happens to be in the neighborhood fighting the forces of his evil locust archnemesis, Zorak. Unsurprisingly, there’s a confusion as to who’s on what side, and the reader is treated to the inevitable “fight between two heroes” trope before the two heroes realize that they’re both interstellar peacekeepers, and that the planet they’ve crashed on is the one that sent the distress beacon in the first place. Their mix-up corrected, the two team up to save the day in the most inspirational manner possible.
Green Lantern/Space Ghost is a by-the-numbers superhero crossover, but it’s a fun read because it tackles the tropes with style and heart. Tynion and Sebela play the cocky, quippy Jordan off against the serious but earnest Space Ghost with ease, highlighting the characters’ similarities and differences through dialogue. One of my favourite lines in the issue is when Hal Jordan compliments Space Ghost about how good he is with kids; Space Ghost simply responds “I’m good with everyone.” The same line could have come out of Hal’s mouth as a wisecrack, but from Space Ghost it shows how straightforward (and also a little full of himself) the character is. There’s also a great moment when each hero has to fight with the other’s weapon, further showing their different approaches to their duty.
Ariel Olivetti’s art is terrific, as usual; our heroes look like paragons of strength when busting up an army of robots, and the beauty of space is gorgeously rendered. I honestly was a little disappointed that the story didn’t dig into the characters’ rogues galleries; it would have been fantastic to see Hal Jordan squaring off against Brak while Space Ghost tackled a fleet of Red Lanterns. But my own personal wishes don’t negate the fact that this issue was fun on a bun, and looks great to boot. This book will make a great addition to my Green Lantern collection, and stands alone as a modern update to the classic Silver Age superhero team up.
The television series Human Target has little in common with the comic book it’s based on other than the name of the main character and the fact that he’s a bodyguard. In the comics, Christopher Chance takes over the identities of the people he’s been assigned to protect, losing a little of himself in his client’s identity, and making himself the target of the intended attack. In the television show, Chance (as played by Mark Valley) is a bodyguard that inserts himself into his client’s life, getting close enough to them to be able to put himself in the way of the bullet. There’s really no comparison at all. In fact, the show Human Target has more in common with 1970s and 1980s action-adventure tv shows like The Rockford Files, The Fall Guy, and MacGyverAnd that’s really the reason I like it so much.
Human Target is a great homage to those old shows. Each episode features at least one special guest star, often from the world of genre or action television; the first season boasts Tricia Helford, Sam Huntington, Grace Park, Amy Acker, Moon Bloodgood, Sean Maher, and Lennie James, among others. (It was also shot in Vancouver, so it’s extra-fun for me when I see a Canadian actor pop up in a supporting role.) The plots can be a little thin, but the stunts are great. Mark Valley is solid in the role of Chance; he’s handsome and built to be an action star, and can handle the moments of drama and humour the show needs as well. He’s also ably supported by two great co-stars who elevate his performances by being fantastic themselves. Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies, Boston Public) is fantastic as always as Winston, a former cop and the face of the operation; Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, the Nightmare On Elm Street reboot) is intimidating as the ruthless and well-connected Guerrero. Is it a little testosterone-heavy? Absolutely, yes it is. But it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s a good thing, because when it wears its throwback influences on its sleeve it transcends homage. It reminds me of the kind of show I could have watched every Friday night with my dad when I was a kid, and that’s just the kind of thing that does it for me right now. Haven’t been able to catch the second season yet, but I finished all 13 episodes of the first season in less than a week. I think that makes Human Target worth a shot.
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That’s going to wrap things up for me this week. Until next time, sink yourselves into an update of an old classic. Nostalgia isn’t bad 100% of the time, after all. I’ll see you in seven days.