Comics

"Patty Hearst Heard the Burst": Joshua Dysart's Unknown Soldier, the Faceless Thompson Gunner

Kevin M. Brettauer
Just No Getting Away From It: In Joshua Dysart's hands, the highly recognizable bandaged face of DC's Unknown Soldier becomes a scalpel for examining other face icons.

It’s impossible, while reading Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli’s superlative Unknown Soldier, to not think of the late, great Warren Zevon’s ballad of Roland, the so-called “headless Thompson gunner”, and his seemingly endless battle. Perhaps there's a reason for that.

“God had given you one face, and you make yourself another.”

--William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Stress is a very powerful psychological condition that has always been largely underestimated by those outside of the psychological community. It can cause bodily problems, mood swings, insomnia and more.

For Dr. Moses Lwanga, the titular figure of Joshua Dysart’s Vertigo reworking of the DC Comics staple Unknown Soldier, the overwhelming stress of seeing what his home country of Uganda had become after years away, combined with a brutal attack from gun-wielding lunatics, led the good doctor to carve off large portions of his own face and wrap what was left in bandages.

Though a startling, thought-provoking work of fiction, Unknown Solider manages to shine a light on a portion of the world that Western news typically ignores. To most Westerners who aren’t in the know, reading Unknown Soldier is probably like watching a Jason Bourne film. To those citizens of the world who are painfully aware of Uganda’s terrible difficulties, it’s like reading an illustrated newspaper. Sometimes we forget that child soldiers, burning villages, sexual violence and abuse, dictatorships and oppressive hopelessness are not works of fiction. Sometimes we need a wake-up call, and Joshua Dysart brings his Soldier to the front lines of a war to wake us up for all time.

Using stress in a similar way to how Brian K. Vaughan did in Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina -- that is, simultaneously elevating the stress levels of the readers, characters, and plotlines -- Dysart has created a stunning tale of immediacy that demands attention, and woe to anyone who doesn’t read it, because as it was once noted, “it can never happen here.”

And we all know how true that isn’t.

This week in The Iconographies, we’ll examine Joshua Dysart’s Unknown Soldier and what it has to say about stress, as well as its remarkable similarities to a beloved Warren Zevon track.

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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Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

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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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