-->
Comics

Horse of a Local Color: "Storm Dogs #1"

In the most unassuming way, Storm Dogs reignites to the American idealism of the Clinton Years…


Storm Dogs #1

Publisher: Image
Length: 22 pages
Writer: David Hine, Doug Braithwaite
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-01
Amazon

In the first issue of Storm Dogs, released last week, you'll find a very easy, very flawless example of why writer David Hine and artist Doug Braithwaite are at the top of their respective games.

Hine evolves a classic city mouse/country mouse scenario. Imagine if you will, Dear Reader, investigators from off-world land on an Old West-style mining planet to investigate a largely trivial crime--the death-under-mysterious-circumstances of seven laborers-cum-petty-criminals. They're at such a great distance, technologically speaking, they may as well be from the future of Amaranth, this distant mining colony planet. And worse still, these investigators need to unplug from The Weave (their internet of the mind), and dial back their tech by some hundred-something years so as to not pollute Amaranth's own technological progress.

The coalition isn't an easy one for Amaranth either. Why would the distant government send a crack team of investigators to uncover the reason behind the deaths of largely uncared about individuals? For the hard people of Amaranth, the answer to the deaths is a simple one--they that died lacked the fortitude to endure. And the off-worlders being here now, well more and more that's beginning to seem like meddling. And meddling will disrupt an already hesitant relationship between Amaranth and the government.

Braithwaite, as artist, unfolds a glorious drama of propositions. Rather than simply situate readers (in the opening pages) with the locals and their idle target practice they make of the great preponderance of lifeforms on Amaranth, Braithwaite zooms out from the lifeforms themselves. Interspecies competition is simply negated by the locals who uses those species as target practice. Just as brewing rivalries between the locals are rendered meaningless after the arrival of the off-worlders. Just as boiling tensions between the locals and the off-worlders are invalidated by the weather conditions on the planet.

Braithwaite is able to find the absolutely perfect angle and a sophisticated pacing that mirrors perfectly the drama of evolving scale that Hine's narrative leads us into. Scattered throughout the story, we encounter beings, creatures, characters, come to be defined more and more by their situational contexts, than by their inherent tensions and biases.

It's this synchronization between the drama of context and the drama of evolving scale, synchronization that is so elegantly articulated by the diverse strengths of Hine and Braithwaite, that forms the core of Storm Dogs. Moreover, it's this synchronization of the two dramas that makes Storm Dogs feel like necessary reading, particularly in the wake of the last few weeks that have stood witness to both Sandy and the Presidential Election.

There are parts of New Jersey lost to the sea, in the wake of Sandy. Yet very few have articulated the need for a three-phase plan that would see disaster relief followed by reconstruction, followed by the building of new infrastructure that would make the North East heavy weather-ready. Watching news broadcasts and commentary, more and more, it seems like action is being discounted in favor of what amounts to name-calling. President Obama's strong collaboration with Republican Governor Chris Christie stands in stark distinction to what has become the usual cynicism--the foreboding that no compromise may be reached on essential issues, that America is growing ever more localized, more provincial, and the fear that the greatest threat to national security might be the impending dissolution of "e pluribus unum" as high concept for the nation.

In a strange twist, Storm Dogs returns us to Chris Carter's unexpected hit TV show, X-Files, and asks of us, could Carter's unmitigated and surprising success be repeated? At its heart, behind and beyond the search for evidence of extraterrestrial incursions and paranormal events, X-Files was a show about a deep optimism. Two young investigators grow wizened over the course of nine years of story-time. The find themselves at a crucial nexus--on the on side, elements of a power elite have bartered away American destiny, and sold out to alien overlords, on the other, regional interests find it easier to disengage from the idea of the Union. X-Files mirrored the America that entered onto the world stage from President Grant to FDR, where Washington DC was perpetually being reclaimed by those who promoted the idea of a national identity, a national consciousness, a More Perfect Union.

In a crucial way, Storm Dogs evolves those ideas in the original X-Files that over time have come to seem ever so light more naive. Storm Dogs isn't the story of young investigators attempting to reassert an idealistic, "stronger, loving Washington" and bridge the gap between that Washington and Middle America. What we've come to understand in the decade or so after 9/11, is that events and larger contexts shape us. And what taking down both Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden has taught us, is that we're at our best when we assert ourselves as active participants in shaping that larger context. As we approach the fiscal cliff, and the ostensible decay of the idea of "e pluribus unum", Storm Dogs reminds us that we are actors of global consequence. And that we shape the contexts that shape us. Unassumingly then, Storm Dogs is the evolution of not only X-Files but of the kind of American idealism seen during the Clinton Years.

7
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

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

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image