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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I recently read the first two volumes of the Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walt Simonson collection, and while a little uneven, there are some truly brilliant issues contained in there. Specifically, I am thinking of Fantastic Four #337-341, where Simonson tackles both writing and art chores. It’s a tour-de-force of creativity and excess, with Simonson embracing the over-the-top wildness of FF stories of decades past while still making the book feel contemporary (if I can use the word “contemporary” to describe comics first published in 1990). In these five issues, Simonson sends the Fantastic Four, accompanied by Iron Man and Thor, into the future to solve a crisis in the space-time continuum. where they encounter interdimensional bounty hunter Death’s Head, the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, and the Council of Cross-Time Kangs, Oh, and Galactus and a long-forgotten Celestial, for good measure.
It is big, fun comics concepts to be sure, perfect for the Fantastic Four. But these five issues are even more striking because of Simonson’s artwork. Aided by colourist Max Scheele and letterer Bill Oakley, Simonson creates bombastic splash pages and geometrically intricate panel layouts that expand the scope of the story. It’s a story that wears its Jack Kirby influences on its sleeve without ever becoming a carbon copy of that work.. Simonson has always been an artist I admire and this handful of comics only reinforces that admiration. Later on in the series there are also stories of an alternate earth that’s on the brink of nuclear annihilation thanks to President Dan Quayle and robot Stalin, and an island out of time full of dinosaurs where our heroes have lost their powers. It’s all fantastic stuff. But with #337-341, Simonson put his stamp on the Fantastic Four for all-time.
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In case anyone hasn’t seen What We Do In The Shadows yet: get on it. Co-written, co-directed by, and co-starring Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, What We Do In The Shadows is a hilarious mockumentary about four vampires who live as roommates in a house in New Zealand. It’s hilarious, sure, but there’s also a ton of great filmmaking technique that I wasn’t expecting from what I imagined would simply be a talking-heads documentary. Plus, the performances are a hoot, with each character not only being a spoof of a previous cinematic vampire but a character in their own right. The way the performers bounce lines and ideas off each other is truly impressive. It’s a tremendous film that has made me even more excited for Thor: Ragnarok (also directed by Waititi) than I already was. It’s easily the best New Zealand vampire mockumentary I’ve ever seen.
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And that’s going to wrap things up for this week. Until next time, think big thoughts and then make them even bigger. Be impressive, even if it’s just for a moment, in your own mind. I’ll see you in seven days.