Comics

Oversights and Afterthoughts: "Uncanny Avengers #22"

A story that had everything going for it ends with a deafening whimper.


Publisher: Marvel
Price: $3.99
Writer: Rick Remender, Daniel Acuña
Comic Book: Uncanny Avengers #22
Publication Date: 2014-09

It’s easy to get distracted and not just because we live in an age of Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and Netflix. In the heat of a conflict, it’s easy to focus too much on certain aspects of that conflict and allow important details to fall to the wayside. When bombs are going off and guns are shooting, the little things that don’t involve the immediate impact of shrapnel and bullet wounds naturally become less relevant. In the Marvel Universe, a major villain gaining the power of a god is one of those conflicts that demand a higher level of emphasis. But there is a point where this emphasis ends up negating other pressing conflicts.

That’s not to say that Kang the Conqueror wielding the power of a Celestial isn’t the most pressing conflict of Uncanny Avengers #22. Kang has already revealed that he has had his hand in every aspect of this conflict that began with the Apocalypse Twins and doing a victory dance within the remains of a dead Celestial. However, there are other battles, personal and otherwise, that have helped make Uncanny Avengers the site of some of the most epic struggles in the Marvel Universe that don’t involve Skrulls, Thanos, or a botched spell by the Scarlet Witch. While some of these struggles have been hopelessly convoluted by an overuse of time travel and a blatant rip-off of X-men: Days of Futures Past, this doesn’t make them any less important.

Unfortunately, the importance of these struggles are essentially lost in what was set up to be the final showdown between Kang and the Unity Team. The battle between Kang and Havok is the only part of the struggle that gets any meaningful depth. Everything else involving the battle against Kang’s dimensionally displaced army, the looming Celestial looking to turn Earth into stain on its shoe, and the Apocalypse Twins gets tossed to the wayside like a dress shirt that is worn once to a wedding and never worn again. There were so many battles converging in this conflict, but none of them had anything that wasn’t completely forgettable. Consequently, the whole impact of these battles fell flat, acting as empty calories in what was supposed to be a full-course meal.

This is what makes this final battle so jarring compared to the battles throughout this story. Since the struggle against Kang and the Apocalypse Twins began, every battle and conflict was filled with the depth and detail that made it so compelling. There was a personal and emotional dimension. It wasn’t just a bunch of random characters fighting, trying to fill an explosion quota typical of a Michael Bay movie. There was meaning and depth. Aside from the battle between Havok and Kang, there was little reason to pay attention to the other skirmishes. In the end, they really didn’t make much of a difference. They might as well have been Brett Favre’s backup quarterback.

And while the battle between Havok and Kang had an emotional element with Kang holding Havok’s daughter hostage in the timestream, the emotions never got all that intense. There was plenty of burning hatred on Havok’s part, but there was little else beyond that. It’s not like Kang is a difficult person to hate in the first place. Adding to it makes about as much a difference as him throwing a lit match into a raging bon fire. There is a clear effort made to make Havok’s daughter the driving force the emotional center of this battle. However, the underlying circumstances make this next to impossible.

The problem with using Havok’s desire to save his daughter as the emotional center of this struggle is that she’s the product of a relationship that is too recent. Havok and Wasp as a relationship is younger and less developed than a standard fling at a summer camp. They’re not Reed and Sue Richards. They’re not Cyclops and Jean Grey. Wolverine has had one-night stands that have been subject to greater development than these two. There are little to no fan clubs, Tumblr groups, or fan fiction stories surrounding these two, yet they’re presented as though they are the most iconic couple since Superman and Lois Lane. Convoluted time travel and retcons can account for a lot of poorly constructed concepts, but they can’t give a relationship depth when it has no legacy to build on.

There were still plenty to work with in terms of making this final battle as epic as it was set up to be. But any chance of this battle measuring up to all the various plots that finally converged was lost when the struggle ended abruptly, leaving more conflict than resolution. There was no final gasp or Rocky Balboa style triumph. Kang just up and left. Despite having the power of a Celestial and boasting how he outsmarted everyone, he just shrugged and left when it stopped being easy. It amounted to the most epic battle of the conflict ending with an epic whimper.

Every other major element from this story played little to no role in the resolution, having been lost in the less-than-final showdown between Havok and Kang. The Apocalypse Twins, who at one point had been such an overwhelming foe, are taking out of the picture with just one shot. All those dimensionally displaced characters, both allies and enemies of Kang, disappear as casually as him. Little gets resolved. It’s like the finale of an action movie ending when everyone decides to have a coffee break.

That’s not to say that there weren’t meaningful moments. The concept and themes of this final battle were all present. They just lacked refinement and organization. There were some character moments, but they were painfully few and exceedingly underwhelming. Uncanny Avengers #22 had so much to work with. Too much was overlooked and too little was developed. While it didn’t throw everything away, it didn’t do nearly enough to make for a satisfying conclusion to the conflict.

5

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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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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