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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Universally acclaimed when it was first published in 2015, The Omega Men is a comic book that knows exactly what it is, but tries to convince the readers that it’s something else. It’s constantly challenging the reader’s assumptions about what they expect from a DC book that stars a Green Lantern, who is also apparently murdered by The Omega Men in the first issue. Writer Tom King doesn’t pull any punches with his take on The Omega Men, casting them as a group of misfits who are fighting for their freedom against a tyrannical government. It sounds like it could be a familiar outer space romp, like Star Wars or Guardians of the Galaxy, but King has loftier things on his mind. He uses Kyle Rayner (at this point in DC publishing history, the White Lantern) as the reader’s point of view, the character who is full of hope and compassion, and cements him in a moral quagmire where the “right side” isn’t clear. If it even exists.
King’s artistic collaborators, including pencillers Barnaby Bagenda and Toby Cypress, play with the familiar superhero comics form as well. Omega Men uses the nine-panel grid as the backbone of the series, which generally evokes the aesthetic of classic comics. But it’s a trap. More often than not, the grid is used to keep the reader on their back feet, altering and shifting the panels to highlight different aspects of the story without distracting from it. I had to read whole issues twice through before I really saw what the creative team was doing with the layout, and how it worked seamlessly with the plot. The Omega Men is a modern classic from start to finish, a book that transcends the genre, and one that makes the reader think about more than just the big upcoming company-wide crossover.
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Tai Chi Master (also known as Twin Warriors) is one of the most fun movies I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s also unexpectedly funny. Junbao and Tienbo (played by Jet Li and Chin Siu Ho) are two monks who grew up together in the Shaolin Temple. Tienbo has come to the temple to learn martial arts to gain power, while Junbao simply wants to live simply and get enough food. As they get older, Tienbo nearly kills a fellow monk who cheats against him in a martial arts competition, and Junbao comes to his aid. For breaking the rules, the two friends are expelled from the temple, and have to make their way in the big city. Eventually their paths diverge, with Tienbo enlisting in the corrupt governor’s army, and Junbao falling in with the rebels who want to overthrow the governor. The film also stars Michelle Yeoh as Siu-lin, a musician looking for her lost husband, and Fennie Yuen as Miss Li, a streetwise pickpocket. All the performers are fantastic, but none better than Jet Li, whose comic timing is nearly as spot-on as his fighting skills. And speaking of fighting: there is a lot of it, and all of it is spectacular. Director Yuen Woo-ping (who directed Jackie Chan in Drunken Master and did the action choreography for The Matrix, Kung Fu Hustle, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) knows how to set up an action set piece and get the most out of it, whether it’s Junbao and Tienbo fighting dozens of staff-wielding monks or Siu-lin taking down a wrathful soldier with a chair and a table. Hard-hitting and surprisingly hilarious at times, Tai Chi Master is a must-see for action movie fans.
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That’s going to do it for me this week, friends. Until next time, make sure you’re drinking enough water. It’s summertime here in North America and you have to stay hydrated. I’ll see you in seven days.