Comics

Missed Directions: Small-Ville, Big Run

Nine years on, and Smallville has shed its history as a Dawson's Creek clone like an unwanted skin, and is now ready to fly...

It’s almost time for a full-on celebration of all things Smallville as it ends its ninth season and has already been greenlighted for its tenth. While the show began as a the Dawson’s Creek of DC Superhero adaptations, it has emerged, in the eyes of this writer, as the most legit adaptation of the Man of Steel since Superman: The Motion Picture.

Come Together Right Now, Over Me: Without Superman, Smallville's heroes prepare to repel a full-scale invasion

Moreover, the show has, in many, ways surpassed the movie in terms of complexity and character development. The creative team on Smallville has been able to transition characters well from adolescence to adulthood. This creates a vehicle that could see the show continue to run almost indefinitely. But let's hope it's at least for another five seasons.

But right now the show is facing one of two possible directions, both of which seem equally appealing. In many senses, behind the Dawson's Creek mascara, and the beneath the "no tights, no flights" blush, Smallville has always painted a far darker vision of the DC universe. In many senses the world is broken, not in the least because Superman has not yet appeared to inspire a generation.

Behind You: Even as the nascent Justice League begins to grow, Clark Kent discovers a heroic legacy

But things are being shaken up in Smallville, Clark Kent is taking his first steps into reconciling his Kryptonian heritage with his human life. And already heroes are beginning to gather. Aquaman, Green Arrow, Flash, Cyborg and Zatanna have already appeared. Many have banded together to face extraordinary threats. And a Watchtower already exists, all the necessary groundwork has been laid for a Justice League to be formed.

So it’s also possible to phase the show straight into a Justice League spin-off or let it become straight-on Superman--abandoning its original "no tights, no flights" philosophy.

This Kryptonite-proof adaptation can still run faster than a speeding bullet. And missing out on it now, will definitely be a Missed Direction.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

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