Variant Edition | This Column Has Seven Weeks #131 // Yeah, I Said Weeks
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This Column Has Seven Weeks #131 // Yeah, I Said Weeks

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…lately.

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Oh hi! It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, actually. Normally I sit down to write at least once or twice a day: journaling, making random lists of things, poetry, story ideas that will never see the light of day. But for the past few weeks I’ve been suffering through a drought of words. Just sitting around, in front of a blank screen or an empty page, hoping for inspiration to strike. But then I remembered: inspiration isn’t something that just falls out of the sky. You gotta make it yourself. So let’s see what I can highlight from the last seven weeks.

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Cover to Scarlet Traces: The Great Game #3 by D’Israeli

If anyone’s in the market for a spooky steampunk sequel to H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds, then do I have a comicbook series for you. Ian Edgington and D’Israeli’s Scarlet Traces takes the ending of Wells’ classic story, where the people of Britain hold off a Martian invasion thanks to the common cold virus, and creates a shocking but believable alternate history of the 20th century. It’s 1908, ten years after the botched invasion, and Britain has been completely transformed thanks to the technology that the Martians left behind them. Hansom cabs have been replaced by eight-legged carriages; Martian heat rays have been transformed into home heating systems; public transportation is revolutionized by elevated Overground trains. This technological supremacy has elevated Great Britain into a true world superpower, unmatched by any other country in the world. Oh, and also, a dozen dead bodies have been discovered in a pile of filth on the banks of the River Thames, drained of all their blood. The affair draws the attention of Major Robert Autumn and his manservant Archie Currie, two veterans-turned-adventurers, and as the two men navigate this strange new world, they threaten to unravel everything that’s propping up the seemingly-unstoppable British Empire.

A 2006 sequel, Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, is set thirty years later. Britain has declared war on Mars and has sent platoons of soldiers to the planet in an attempt to destroy the former invaders once and for all. The rest of the countries of the Earth are, unsurprisingly, not entirely thrilled that Britain has effectively dragged the entire species into this conflict, and the war’s not terribly popular among the people of England either. Plus, there is the fact that despite reports claiming human victories on Olympus Mons and other Martian landmarks, no front line soldier has ever returned from the war. Journalist Charlotte Hemmings sees the opportunity to crack this story wide open. All she needs to do is sneak onto a troop transport ship headed for the red planet.

Both series are a blast to read, in large part due to D’Israeli’s imaginative and vibrant artwork. (A third series, Scarlet Traces: Cold War, was published in 2000 AD recently, but I haven’t gotten my hands on it. Yet.)  They’re fantastic and imaginative, a horrifying steampunk adventure and a worthy successor to the classic story. Scarlet Traces is now officially my favourite comic book sequel to The War Of The Worlds. Sorry, Killraven, but it’s true.

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I am a huge fan of Edmonton singer-songwriter Lindsey Walker, and last week she released her new album, this desolate bliss. Nine songs long, this desolate bliss. is edgy, dark, and thickly orchestrated, a perfect setting for Walker’s rich voice and sharp lyrics. There are so many standout tracks on the album I almost don’t know where to begin. Every track is a standout, from the haunting, raucous “St. Petersburg” to the delicate cover of “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” to the epic build of the darkly sexy “In Your Light.” I love this album and it deserves to be heard by everyone, far and wide. Go get it, already.

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Last month one of my coworkers turned me onto the A Way with Words podcast, and it’s been one of my best podcast discoveries of the year. Hosted by journalist Martha Barnette and lexicographer Grant Barrett, each episode of A Way with Words features conversations with curious listeners about the linguistic oddities of the English language. Barnette and Barrett have great chemistry as well as a knack for making linguistic history accessible and fun. In the past few episodes I have learned about German antwiz (hilariously silly anti-jokes), the toxicity of jimsonweed, gender-neutral swing dance terms, the comic strip origins of the word ‘jeep,’ and goat rodeos. It’s an entertaining and educational hour of radio. And I always get a kick out of how they greet everyone who calls in to the show by saying “Hello, you’ve got A Way with Words.” It’s that kind of attention to detail and nerdy wordplay that made me an instant fan.

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Cover to Mister Miracle #1 by Mitch Gerads.

Three issues in and DC’s new Mister Miracle is everything I wanted and more. Tom King and Mitch Gerads have not only put together a book that Kirby himself would be proud of, but also takes a long, honest look at mental illness. In a mainstream superhero book. I know that books featuring Fourth World characters sometimes seem overwhelming to the new reader, but Mister Miracle works for novices and Kirby-heads alike. The first issue is hugely accessible, clearly laying out the character’s status quo, and with each subsequent issue the story and themes layer on thicker and thicker. Issue #2 is a particular standout, featuring the horrifying tyrant Granny Goodness in a role I’ve never seen her in, but still undeniably one of the most vicious characters in the DC Universe. Mister Miracle is a phenomenal book, and based on Tom King’s previous work it’s only going to get better as it goes along.

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That’s going to do it for me today. Until next time, just be cool. Like you always were. I’ll see you around.

AUTHOR: Devin R. Bruce
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