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.
* * * * *
Some people might look at a title like Tarzan on The Planet of the Apes and dismiss it immediately as a ridiculous concept for a crossover that would most likely be terrible. I would like to tell those people: you are only half-right. Now granted, I am a huge mark for anything Planet of The Apes-related, so when I saw that this Boom! Studios-Dark Horse co-production existed, I leapt in heedlessly and hoped only for a mild diversion. Thankfully, this comic is much more.
It’s 2016, and a gorilla army is about to execute a group of wild humans. Just before they open fire, they’re beset by a man in a loincloth, wielding a knife and howling for vengeance. (Spoiler alert: it’s Tarzan.) Cut to Equatorial West Africa in 1901, where the boy Tarzan is playing in the trees with a talking young chimpanzee named Milo who happens to be wearing a very familiar green tunic. Then, they’re nearly trampled by a herd of triceratops. That’s all in the first four pages, folks. Co-writers Tim Seely and David F. Walker don’t waste any time with this story, and they trust the reader enough not to spoon-feed answers right away. How did Tarzan get to the future? How is an intelligent chimpanzee living with the Mangani, the tribe of apes that adopted Tarzan? Those answers are given in time, and they’re imaginative and brilliant, but the writers know where their priorities are. First: dinosaurs. Then: the rest.
The book has a very pulpy feel, which befits the origins of both properties. Melding low-budget 60s sci-fi and turn of the century adventure stories with a modern storytelling style, artist Fernando Dagnino and colourist Sandra Molina put together something very special with this book. Two very different aesthetics come together thanks to the loose but assured pencils and watercolour-like effects. Dagnino makes characters familiar without being slavish to photo-references of models or actors, and keeps the action smooth and clear without sacrificing any sense of dynamism.
Tarzan on The Planet of the Apes is a fun, over-the-top idea that ticks all my boxes for what a great crossover could be. If anyone has even the slightest interest in the title, I can guarantee that once they hit the last page of the book, they’ll be pleasantly satisfied.
* * * * *
I would recommend The Shape of Water to literally anyone who likes movies, monsters, or love. I’m aware that this is probably not the first time anyone has heard of the movie, but it’s one of the best times I’ve had at the theater in the last year or more. Guillermo del Toro is not a subtle filmmaker, but sometimes subtlety is overrated. When a movie looks this good, is this emotionally raw and vulnerable, and features such a diversely creative cast and crew, the story doesn’t need to be dripping with subtext. It’s enough just to make a mature, thoughtful, creative movie that also features a monster in a lab.
* * * * *
This might be the recommendation that destroys my last shred of credibility with some people, but I’m going out on a limb: I am flabbergasted about how poorly reviewed Son of The Pink Panther is. Granted, I watched all 11 movies in the Pink Panther/Inspector Clouseau series in the month of January, so my judgement might be a little skewed. There are some truly awful stinkers in that pack of shaggy dogs. But Son of The Pink Panther is not one of them. I suppose it might have to do with a reviewer’s impression of Roberto Benigni, but I think he’s a very gifted physical comedian who does a fantastic job in the role of Jacques Gambrelli, a.k.a. Jacques Clouseau Jr. The movie itself suffers a little bit from 1990s grim action movie syndrome — terrorists with machine guns seem a little out of place in a Pink Panther film, even if one of them is played by the great Robert Davi — but the movie is full of fantastic gags and jokes, including one that had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. This movie’s reputation as a bomb is entirely undeserved and I think fans of the original Pink Panther and A Shot In The Dark who may have avoided it should give it a chance.
* * * * *
That’s all for me this week! I have to start getting ready for the Edmonton A Cappella Festival that I’m helping to organize for Saturday night. If you’re in town, please come by and say hello! I will be handing out high fives like they’re going out of style. If they haven’t already, that is. Until next time, try something a little out of left field and see if it suits you. I’ll see you in seven days.