Heroes & Villains: ‘Sweet Heart’, ‘Star Trek: Picard’

Comics wait for no one. As I type this I am freshly returned from C2E2 and still in the process of recovering. While I had a great time, the convention reaffirmed that I can no longer hang like I could when I was 20. Unless you’re in peak physical form the con-going experience can be incredibly gruelling and I cannot even fathom doing it in a costume.

That said, I look forward to doing it again next year.

SH1Variant.jpgSweet Heart
Dillon Gilbertson (W)
Francesco Iaquinta (A)
Action Lab: Danger Zone

From the synopsis: Being hunted is an everyday risk in Ellicott City and the town itself is designed to make life comfortable for its citizens while being actively stalked by the eerie, insatiable creatures that live among them. But when Ben is chosen by one of the creatures near his home, his mother struggles to cope with the certainty of her son’s death.

This week I had every intention of NOT looking at a new comic and maybe just taking a knee until I got all the C2E2 out of my system. But then I got an advance copy of Sweet Heart in my email and I was BACK IN THE GAME.

Without getting into too much detail, I was incredibly sucked in by the premise of the book. The creatures mentioned in the synopsis are presented in such a way that the reader doesn’t know if they’re actually there or a figment of the protagonist’s imagination until it’s almost too late. The creatures are accepted as a part of life in the town and that’s what really hooked me. I want to know about them, I want to know what they are and what their purpose is.

Sweet Heart is incredibly atmospheric and it cleverly depicts what it’s like for a person to just live with something for their entire life. The press material I received notes that the concept began as a “thinly veiled analogy” for Gilberton’s life with diabetes but managed to become representative of a number of other issues.

Sweet Heart is out TODAY and I’ll be looking forward to seeing where this one goes.

Picard

Star Trek: Picard

When I was about 3 or 4 my father sat me down on one sunny Saturday afternoon in front of the TV and said, “Watch this.”

And my life changed forever…is how these things usually go.

The “this” he was referring to was one of the local UHF stations running an episode of the original series of Star Trek. It was an episode entitled “The Man Trap” in which Dr. McCoy is nearly killed by an alien salt vampire that takes on the form of his ex-wife (any kind of subtext was lost on me). I was hooked and Star Trek became regular viewing for me.

(It was also around the same time that he pulled the “watch this” trick on me but it was the movie Forbidden Planet. Yes, I’ve been conditioned since childhood for this stuff)

Jump forward a to 1987 and Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered. It was a big deal in our household (well, for me and my dad) and it quickly became required weekly viewing. Shortly after the premiere, I recalled my dad speaking to a couple of my uncles with great enthusiasm about how cool the show was. The conversation mostly centred on the character of Data and how good an actor Brent Spiner was in his portrayal of him. I share my father’s quiet and reserved nature so seeing him get excited about some (let alone something that I was into) definitely stuck with me.

It’s worth noting that I’m currently the same age my dad was when Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered. My father watched Star Trek during its original run in a house on Riopelle street in Detroit, Michigan and a decade or so later shared it with me. I imagine what it was like for him to have a show that he loved come back bigger and better when he was an adult.

That’s what Star Trek: Picard was like for me.

Over the last couple of decades, we often would watch The Next Generation and its various spin-offs together. We both checked out during Voyager and Enterprise opting for Stargate SG-1 for our weekly fix of sci-fi, but we always made it a point to see the TNG movies as they came to the theatres…until they rebooted the Star Trek franchise; then we saw those instead.

Star Trek: Nemesis was kind of an “ehh” entry in the franchise history and wasn’t quite the send-off we were hoping for. It’s been almost twenty years since that movie so it was a complete shock when Patrick Stewart showed up at a Star Trek convention nearly two years ago to announce that CBS had pitched an idea to him and that Jean-Luc Picard was coming back.

The announcement alone was enough to bring tears of joy to a fan (can confirm) but bear in mind that star of stage and screen Patrick Stewart was delivering the news and it catapults it into the legendary category. There are few actors out there who can hold a room like Stewart.

So, how IS the show anyway? There’s a larger conversation here about ageing heroes coming back, facing grim reality, and what that says about the artists and the audience…but that’s for another, better thought out piece. The show is great and Stewart is turning in a career-best performance as Picard. I’d willfully watch him read the phone book, of course, but the creative team behind the show has given him something real to work with. There’s a weight to what he’s doing and as an audience, we’re getting to see the character (ahem) go where no one has gone before.

Picard had one of the best first episodes of a show that I can recall in recent memory. There’s no huge sci-fi spectacle to be had, but it gives us a slower more character-driven story that really drives home what Picard has been up to over the last couple of decades. It’s a refreshing direction for Star Trek and I’m really enjoying the strange new worlds they’re showing us.

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