Comics

Justice League: Rise and Fall Saga

Trigger Finger: Green Arrow steels himself for crossing a moral line.

"One will Rise, and one, Fall", J. T. Krul pens a story the equal Jim Thompson's noir classic, "The Killer Inside Me".


Justice League: Rise and Fall One-Shot, Green Arrow #31, The Rise of Arsenal #1

Price: $3.99
Writer: J. T. Krul
Contributors: Mike Mayhew (artist), Diogenes Neves (artist), Frederico Dallocchio (artist), Geraldo Borges (artist)
Publication Date: 2009-05
Amazon

The Empty Threat.

With Justice League: Rise and Fall One-Shot, the special that kick-starts the twin storylines of "Rise of Arsenal" and "Fall of Green Arrow", there is just the right kind of raw, unrequited emptiness.

In the wake of events chronicled in the closing stages of Cry For Justice, the League must deal with the consequences of an artificially detonated earthquake that blasted Star City. While the threat has passed, danger remains. The supervillains responsible remain at large, but the city itself threatens to splinter into riots, muggings and lootings. Nowhere seems safe, and members of the League interdict in situations on the ground to prevent the loss of life. It is in this nightmarish hell that fleeing villains make one final attack.

"Rise and Fall", a storyline which has its prologue in both the closing stages of Cry for Justice and Green Arrow #30, commences properly with Justice League: Rise and Fall One-Shot. This book details the single worst tragedy to befall Roy Harper, formerly Arsenal, erstwhile kid sidekick Speedy to Oliver Queen's Green Arrow, and current Justice Leaguer, Red Arrow. For Roy Harper it is the worst of days, following on from murder of his daughter Lian in the wake of the Star City disaster, villainous mastermind Prometheus breaks into the JLA Watchtower and succeeds in dismembering Roy's right hand.

Although the one-shot has a strong focus on Green Arrow, his protégé, and the relationships both have built up during their time spent with various incarnations of the League, writer J. T. Krul does manage to craft a fine and resonating story of the Justice League itself.

The conversation between Wally West's Flash and Rich Grayson's Batman, formerly Kid Flash and Robin, both (along with Roy Harper) founding members of the Teen Titans, is one of the most haunting in recent comics memory. Not only is there a solidarity with Red Arrow, but also a questioning of their legacies, and their individual choices to adopt the roles, and mantles of their mentors. Krul's dialogue here can easily be read as a comment on the apparent intergenerational obligation to continue being comics readers.

Three's Company: Three recently resurrected heroes confront each other in the rubble of Star City

The conversation between the recently resurrected Green Lantern of Hal Jordan and recently resurrected Flash of Barry Allen, equally taps an emotional vein. Beyond the troika of Bruce Wayne's Batman, Clark Kent's Superman and Princess Diana's Wonder Woman, Krul passionately shows how the League has always been about its slightly less mythological characters. Silver Age Flash and Green Lantern are unique and important contributions, not only in terms of their powers, but also their temperament. Barry and Hal's conversation as they hunt down Prometheus, is doubly telling when contrasted against Wally and Rich's.

After the one-shot, the "Rise and Fall" storyline splinters into two; "The Fall" continues in the pages of Green Arrow issue #31 onwards, while the "The Rise" continues in the four-parter, The Rise of Arsenal.

To Krul's credit, the sense of devastation never abates. There is a moral bleakness in telling a tale of superheroes fighting against ordinary people to stem the loss of life, while at the same time needing to stare down tragedies of their own. The anguish of Roy Harper seemingly reliving psychotropic flashbacks from his time addicted to heroin, begins an almost perfect story of an upward swing that will mark his "Rise". But while Roy Harper is on the cusp of the elevation of his spirit, Oliver Queen's Green Arrow is getting ready for a fall.

Unable to process what has happened to his protégé, Oliver Queen taps a primal hunter which originally formed the basis for his superhero alter ego. The Green Arrow as the Longbow Hunter. In the opening stages of the Rise and Fall one-shot, he takes it upon himself to murder Prometheus, the mastermind behind the plot to cripple Star City, murder Roy Harper's daughter Lian, and take the Red Arrow's arm. While the rest of the League interdicts in Star City and hunts down the escaped villains, Oliver's intention is to find the Electrocutioner, the trigger-man for the devastation, and murder him as well.

The Rise of Arsenal #1 reads like it should; the continuance of devastation from the city-wide into the personal. Green Arrow #31 however, which kicks off the "Fall of Green Arrow" storyarc, reads surprisingly like police procedural. But that absolute focus, and lack of distraction, that unflinching certitude becomes stark when readers realize that this procedural will not end in capture and justice, but in murder. In one swift blow, J.T. Krul has become the equal of Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me.

6

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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