Confronting the Self as an Idea, Time and Time Again: "Action #18"

Grant Morrison's almost magical insight into storytelling crescendos in his final installment of Action…what if the only real struggle was to confront the idea of yourself, over and again through time…

Action #18

Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Grant Morrison, Rags Morales
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-05

Grant Morrison’s unique narrative style values surrealism and complex ideas over clarity and straightforward storytelling. This approach is significant because the man produced some of the most brilliant comicbooks tales in the past 25 years. Morrison never looks to fundamentally change the characters he writes, only to add his own sense of wonder and mysticism into the mix. For Animal Man, that meant shedding the character’s humorous exterior to find the true hero under the silly gimmicks. For Batman, it meant pitting the Dark Knight against a scorned lover with more power and influence than nearly any individual on Earth. And for Superman, Morrison makes the Man of Steel confront and overcome the idea of himself. There are varying degrees to this narrative concept, and Action #18 gives readers a phenomenal look at just how all of it connects to the Last Son of Krypton and his place in the universe

The showdown between Clark and SuperDoom—the unofficial name of the otherdimensional amalgamation of Superman and classic villain Doomsday—reflects this idea, that Superman must defeat a horrific alternate version of himself to save the entire world. While this interpretation isn’t terribly difficult to understand, it’s Morrison’s deeper meaning that gives the face-off between these two titans such gravity. SuperDoom is the perversion of the concept of Superman—created by a corporation, composed of a patchwork of ideals and vague ethical boundaries, and meant to be a symbol of power and order. Obviously, things didn’t work out so well, and the malicious Vyndktvx seizes the opportunity to exploit this terrible failure by sending SuperDoom through the multiverse to kill off other versions of Superman.

As explained last month in Action #17, the fifth-dimensional nature of Vyndktvx gives him the ability to attack Superman at various points in his life simultaneously. While the death of John and Martha Kent is the one example of Vyndktvx’s handiwork in the past that Morrison has chosen to show us, it’s more than implied that a majority of the negative events throughout Clark’s life—past, present, and future—are either directly or indirectly caused by Vyndktvx’s meddling. The biggest flaw of this plan is that, technically, Vyndktvx only stages a single attack. The imp from the 5th Dimension has spent years planning and orchestrating this intricate endgame, while Superman has been experiencing it as the darkest moments of his life—basically, different perspectives on a nonlinear event. At the end, though, it starts to become clear that the little 5D magician has lost sight of his goals—Morrison finishes his run without ever giving context to the catalyst that started Vyndktvx’s simmering hatred for the Man of Steel. Perhaps it’s like the decades-long blood feud between the families Montague and the Capulet, and Vyndktvx simply cannot recall why he’s so angry at Superman. Maybe it was the years of planning and intricate navigation of five different dimensions that caused his initial discontentment to fall between the cracks of his memory. Or maybe he’s just so blind with rage that he cannot accept his own hubris.

In the end, Grant Morrison’s Action is about the concept of “Superman”, nothing more and nothing less. If our Superman is supposed to represent the best of humanity, then SuperDoom symbolizes the darkest of our species’ thoughts and desires, the idea that corporate interests trump those of the people. Then there’s the subtle social commentary Morrison sprinkled throughout Action #18 concerning Superman and how he exists in a world (ours) where he is nothing more than a character in a book of sequential pictures. Superman’s red Kryptonite acid trip really exemplifies this concept, as Vyndktvx taunts Clark with images of the name ‘Superman’ exploited for financial and political gain. In a way, this is perhaps a veiled jab at DC for their ongoing feud with the Shuster Family over the rights to the character of Superman. Superman is a symbol of good, simply put, and this is exactly how Morrison makes his point: Superman has the ability to inspire the best in people, not only in comicbooks, but in real life as well. It’s only when the Man of Steel can overcome the polar opposite of this ideal—SuperDoom—that he’s able to stand victorious. Even Vyndktvx’s query of “Was that a punch? Or an argument?” provides an example of how Superman’s humanistic ideals are just as impactful and important as his physical prowess.

Grant Morrison’s Action has been comicbook quality of the very highest caliber. The man’s awe-inspiring narrative structure and storytelling style have as much or as little affect as he wants them to. All-Star Superman was set outside DC continuity so Morrison could play around with the Man of Steel more than ever before, while the first two acts of his expansive Batman saga were firmly planted in DC’s main continuity. Morrison’s work on Action is a gem because it’s the combination of the two ends of the spectrum—it had to exist securely within the New 52, but since this was a new origin story, Morrison was allowed to take things to the extreme and redefine the Man of Steel for the 21st century. Superman has always be a symbol of truth, justice, and good triumphing over evil. Now, there’s real meaning behind those ideals, which makes Superman a better character than he’s ever been before.


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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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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