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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There’s a war going on, behind the scenes, right under our noses. For years now. Millennia, even. A secret war, with unkillable soldiers; assassins who never really die but reincarnate in a new body. See, everyone in the world comes back when they die, but only this subset of humanity, the Sequels, remember their past lives. They’ve organized themselves into factions, and the killers among them are doled out in pairs, destined to kill each other and come back through multiple lifetimes. But given enough time, and enough lives, could a pair of immortal enemies take this bond and transform it into a different kind of connection. What if two of these soldiers ended up falling in love? What would that mean for the shadow society that depends on them?
Those questions are a main part of 2015’s Welcome Back. An eight-issue miniseries from Oni Press (collected in two volumes), Welcome Back is a story about love, immortality, war, and destiny. Written by Christopher Sebela (writer of such books as High Crimes and Dead Letters, and co-writer of the fantastic Green Lantern/Space Ghost one-shot), and illustrated by a variety of artists, Welcome Back is a layered, complex read, full of spectacular action and psychological thrills. Mali Quinn is a young woman who is trying to escape from her previous life; her father was a notorious serial murderer who was finally apprehended when Mali was a teenager. Ten years later, she’s on her own and trying to rebuild a life, but she’s haunted by dreams where she’s in different bodies, fighting ancient battles. Of course, she soon learns about the Sequels, as well as the woman whose destiny is tied to hers: Tessa, a Sequel from a rich family in South Africa, who has been trained since the age of five to kill her. Mali doesn’t buy into the whole “destiny” business, though, and tries to do things her way — potentially upsetting the secret world order in the process. Sebela slowly deals out information about this secret underground society in every issue, layering it into the real world and re-explaining some of history’s most significant conflicts through the lens of the Sequels.
The first issue hits like a ton of bricks right out of the gate (if I can be allowed to mix m metaphors). Artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and colorist Carlos Nicholas Zamudio create a vision of pop-punk art that’s exciting and visceral, and sets a great tone for the series. On issue #3, Sawyer makes way for the thinner, crisper lines of Claire Rowe, who brings a more controlled style while sacrificing little in the way of high octane thrills. Welcome Back is a high-concept, high-adrenaline thrill ride, with plenty of romance and humour thrown in as well. I wish it was a longer story but I’m more than happy with what I have.
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Going to be a bit of a short one this week. Once the Edmonton Fringe Festival is over I’ll have more time for other pop cultural pursuits. Until next time, go enjoy some live art, if you’re able. If not, well…I guess you’ll have to settle for dead art? I’ll see you in seven days.