Comics

It's Not that Nothing Happens…: "Green Arrow #14"

Jay Mattson

When I reviewed The Savage Hawkman #13, I explained that “Hawkman: Wanted” actually showed some potential under Rob Liefeld’s iffy plotting…


Green Arrow #14

Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Ann Nocenti, Freddie Williams II
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-01
Amazon

I don’t really understand what DC’s plans are for “Hawkman: Wanted”. It started last month in The Savage Hawkman #13, and continues here in Green Arrow #14, then it's on to Deathstroke #14 and The Savage Hawkman #14. It’s a lot of jumping around from title to title without much reason. Deathstroke hasn’t even been seen in the first two issues of this arc, yet his series is part of the story? I’m disingenuous and still trying to figure out why Green Arrow’s been wedged into this flimsy tale.

When I reviewed The Savage Hawkman #13, I explained that “Hawkman: Wanted” actually showed some potential under Rob Liefeld’s iffy plotting. I enjoyed the debut of Hawkwoman, and it felt like this could actually be a chance at character building for Carter Hall. Instead, Green Arrow #14 cements this arc’s lack of necessity by ignoring any of the story developments from last issue and making Green Arrow a terribly uninteresting supporting player in his own book.

The main problem with Green Arrow #14 is that nothing is accomplished. I’m not talking about actual events – a fight breaks out and finishes, and a little more information is given regarding Hawkman’s status as a criminal. Ann Nocenti fails to accomplish anything this issue because all the major players from The Savage Hawkman #13 are nowhere to be found. It might sound a bit like nitpicking, but if DC wants me to buy issues of multiple series just to get one complete story, I expect said story to actually make sense as an ongoing narrative, and when you drop the central antagonists in the second chapter, it comes off as lazy and unfocused, more than that even--unstructured and poorly planned.

At the end of The Savage Hawkman #13, Carter Hall and his female companion, Emma, were on the run from the Warhawks, an elite group of Thanagarian soldiers tasked to bring Katar Hol back to Thanagar--just like Hawkwoman was. Where were these Warhawks before and why did they decide to wait until after their commander (Hawkwoman) was defeated to attempt an extraction? Green Arrow #14 picks up exactly where The Savage Hawkman #13 left off, only now Green Arrow is in on the game, for some reason. There’s no explanation as to why or how Hawkman came to meet Green Arrow--it would seem that Nocenti simply decided they would meet by chance, the least believable and most notoriously overused cliché in comicbook history. I expect a bit more form the New 52--it’s supposed to be a symbolic playground where creators can come up with fun new ways to have characters interact. Instead, Nocenti takes the easiest route with a ‘random encounter’ meeting. It’s boring.

The rest of the issue is rife with fighting, as Hawkman teams up with Green Arrow to find a way to stop the seemingly unstoppable Warhawks. I’m not a huge fan of Oliver Queen in the New 52, mostly because he relies so heavily on a support staff to make his rich-kid dreams of being a vigilante come true. In Green Arrow #14, this premise is taken so far past it’s natural place that I nearly wanted to put the issue down. Queen and his staff are trying to find a way to pierce the Warhawk armor and Jax, Ollie’s weapons expert, apparently has such a qualified knowledge of alien technology and physiology that he’s able to synthesize a chemical to dissolve the Nth metal armor worn by the Warhawks, but not the armor worn by Hawkman. Even by comicbook standards, this is a total shark jump.

It’s easy to see why DC is putting Jeff Lemire on Green Arrow starting with issue 17. Ann Nocenti (as well, JT Krul and Dan Jurgens before her) has failed at finding the right voice and tone for Oliver Queen in the New 52. It’s somewhat understandable, Green Arrow #14 being only one part of a longer narrative, but there’s still a chance to present quality material in a package meant for something bigger. At the end of the issue, there was no reason to include Ollie’s support team, there was really no consequence in the battle with the Warhawks, and the direction of the story is surface-level intentions at best. I’ve heard “Hawkman: Wanted” is supposed to somewhat add to the upcoming Justice League of America by making Hawkman and Green Arrow work together. In reality, the two characters barely interact outside barking their strategic plans to each other in the middle of battle. I’m confident JLA will be good, but I’m also confident that “Hawkman: Wanted” is a big waste of time.

4

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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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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