Hope ’n Death

What is hope? Hope is an essential part of life, the conviction that even when things are at their worst, better times are inevitably ahead. Bad times it seems are as finite as good ones, yet sometimes when our outlook seems grim and suffering unbearable, it doesn't seem as though the bad times WILL end. Conversely, it is very common to take good things for granted and be crushed when they inevitably end.

When I lay weak from blood loss in a hospital bed, suffering from an as-yet undiagnosed malady a few years ago, my music teacher's wife and daughter stopped by. He was in the hospital for an ailment of his own and when his family bumped into my folks in the hallway, they came and shared words of encouragement: ”This too shall pass.” In the grand scheme of things, the eleven days I spent in the hospital and the subsequent four-week recovery from surgery were but a chronological drop in the bucket of my life, an eyeblink in hindsight. But while I was there it was an eternity of neverending misery, between the possibility of death and release, and my normal life. Eventually the doctors reached a diagnosis, but I remember one scary morning waking up in the ICU hearing them argue over what each had looked up the night before on Web MD. Through the ordeal I retreated into my mind, away from the pains of my mortal shell, and looked ahead to the future, to a time when it all was behind me. I held on to what they said among other things.

Can hope be considered the opposite of death? So long as we have desires, and look forward to things and pursue them, are we in essence “living”? The question is further complicated by one's definition of death, and varying beliefs regarding the possibility of an afterlife. To a Christian, for example, death is but the end of THIS life, and so long as there is faith in God hope does not necessarily end with mortal death. Deep questions to be sure, but the only fact I can explore with certainty is that the answers are not to be found in the movie Lady Death.

I'd never read the comics though some cards and posters I'd picked up as convention samples over the years featured artwork by the late Steven Hughes. I actually was not aware of the artist's passing until researching this article, and it's interesting that I should come across it so soon after the world lost another talent in original Flash creator Harry Lampert. Art can sometimes be an immortality with a price, and creations tend to be better known than creators. Chaos Comics, who originally published Lady Death, went bankrupt in 2002 but former president Brian Pulido, the writer who co-created her with Hughes, continues her story through Avatar Press.

The animation is on par with most good Japanese animation, and certainly faithful to Hughes' design. From what I've read, the story and concept are still in essence what Pulido originally wrote, but the execution was painful. Hope, a young girl in a small village in an undisclosed part of Europe learns her father is Lucifer after he collects her boyfriend's soul. Clearly the guys Al Bundy tossed out his front door had no idea what it meant to say, “My girlfriend's father is from hell.” Lucifer beats a hasty retreat after naive Hope catches him flushing souls down a portal, and fries all the townspeople who also arrive to confront him, conveniently sparing a priest who moments earlier was using his staff as a weapon. Hope, a God-fearing victim is rewarded for her innocence by being sentenced by the priest to burn. Tied to a stake, her pretty blonde tresses chopped off, she begs God for forgiveness and mercy. Her doomed lover appears in the flames and persuades her to pray to her father, and demons carry her charred body into Hell, where it regenerates. Once she sees how stupid it is that the devil's shapeshifting court jester Joker/Violator ripoff was impersonating her lover, she begins writing a bad review in her mind, in blog form. Or possibly that was me.

What she does do is cry a lot and get brought before her father and his demon lesbian consorts. She rejects his offer to join him and is tossed over a cliff, hitting some rocks on the way down before landing in a deep river. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she weighs the implausibility of her survival against the phrase “demon lesbian consorts” being used in a coherent sentence. Eventually she washes ashore and faces two ferocious wolves. Fortunately, you can only push someone so far in hell before she learns to repel attacks with bursts of energy. Sometimes when I'm tired on Sunday I zone out during mass, so I bet that's when they covered superpowers in the afterlife. Lucky for Hope she finds a teacher in Cremator, a reject Masters of the Universe character who trains her vigorously. We learn that swordfighting with a cheesy demon in an elapsed-time montage can bleach a girl's skin and hair, remove unwanted pupils from her eyes, and add a cup size. Who knew? With the new name of Lady Death, she embraces her father's philosophy that “desire equals power” and leads a revolution against his minions, picking up a very big sword from a Golobulus wannabe along the way.

Is Hope the opposite of Death? Even though I added a star for the animation when rating the disk at Netflix, I was still hoping for the film's inevitable demise....


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