Paradise lost in Shangri La

I wanna see this movie: It’s the film of a washed up rock star who’s better off dead than alive. A contract is made. A hit is planned. But then things go wrong. The assassin is normally one who can be trusted. Her service thus far is stellar.
But when she sees who her target is, she can’t do it. Corey Stinson? She’s her favorite singer ever. She is president of his fan club. For the first time ever, she bolts. She grabs her target and they run.
Her bosses set another hitman on the case. One who’s a bit derranged and obsessed with country music. Those two character traits give him an almost unnatural drive to destroy the fruity rock star and his protector.
And that is the essence of “Shangri La,” a 2004 graphic novel by Marc Bryant and Shepherd Hendrix.
Essentially a buddy picture, “Shangri La” drops Corey Stinson, the prissy and arrogant rock star (who reminds me a bit of Scott Weiland), and pairs him with Jetta Helm, the by-the-books, cross-trained assassin (who reminds me a bit of Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully). Together, they just try to stay alive, despite Stinson’s recklessness.
While it’s a fairly normal narrative, the graphic novel does get derailed every once in a while when the readers are zapped to Shangri La, a sort of afterworld hangout for dead rock stars. It’s there where dearly departed muscians watch and comment about Stinson’s struggles. Unfortunatley, those scenes are a little bit of a jarring, not because they arecreepy, but they’re just not very well explained. It’s a great idea, and it certainly could work —  it just needed to work a little better. Given a bit of an editorial massage, “Shangri La” would have been flawless.
Artist Shepherd Hendrix does a great job giving his characters just the right emotion for every panel. Stinson is a sort of haggard fellow who wears his emotions on his sleeve. On the other hand, Jetta tries to stay calm and cool even in the thick of a hellacious firefight. From every action scene to every moment of clarity, Hendrix’ work certainly shines.
Along with that glow, Marc Bryant provides a witty script where you understand how hero worship can cloud anyone’s judgement. Yes, Jetta loves what Stinson can do on stage, but he’s a real dick to hang around with.
Yep, it’s a buddy picture through and through.
And someday, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a chance to see this pair together again, whether in a follow up graphic novel or a deserved jump to the silver screen.



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