Comics

Anatomy of a Betrayal in 'Superman #43'

Lois Lane's betrayal is troubling, but underwhelming.


John Romita Jr.

Superman #43

Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Release Date: 2015-08-26
Amazon

It takes many years of work and dedication to build trust. Conversely, it takes only seconds to destroy. It's akin to a wholly unfair law of physics. It takes a master artist years to craft a beautiful painting or a sculpture whereas it takes an idiot with a hammer or a blowtorch just a few seconds to destroy it. Trust is like a work of art that everyone tries to create. For Superman, however, this work of art might as well be in a museum surrounded by pyromaniacs and drunks.

Despite his dedication to helping his adopted home, Superman does not readily trust others with the intimate details of his personal life. It's how he maintains both an alien and a human persona. And for decades, this has been a big part of his identity. Being able to live both lives helps anchor him to humanity, even though he's an alien with the power to bench press a planet. Now, one of those lives is shattered and the other is severely wounded. And it hits him in way that makes a bath in liquid kryptonite seem relaxing.

Of the very few people that Superman has trusted over the years, Lois Lane is the trustworthy equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. Whether they're married or just respected co-workers, few relationships have been integral to the Man of Steel's mythos than the trust he has in Lois Lane. She's the one who helped introduce Superman to the world. She's the one who helped create the very concept of Superman. Like Steve Jobs and Apple, Lois Lane helped create the iconic brand of Superman, minus the turtleneck and jeans.

Yet in Superman #43, she's the one who does to most to undermine that concept. She betrays a trust that was once as implicit as a dog and his bone. It's this betrayal that gives weight to the, but that weight turns out to be hollow in some areas. The main purpose of this story is to put Lois Lane in a position where she has to be the one to expose Superman's identity. By that most minimum of standards, it succeeds. Anything beyond that, however, requires the story to be graded on a curve.

Even without that curve, the details of the story still warrant a passing grade. The entire first half of the story is dedicated to reaffirming the trust and bond that Superman and Lois Lane share. It's a trust and bond that circumvents the usual romantic undertones and in many respects, that helps make it more genuine. Superman and Lois trust each other in a way that isn't clouded by emotion. It's built heavily on mutual respect. When the concept of every romantic comedy and 70 percent of all sitcoms revolve around friends becoming lovers, it's a refreshing moment.

It's this moment that gives Lois' actions a sense of impact. It's also a moment that adds complications to the ongoing conflict between Superman and Hordor. It's a conflict that began with Hordor revealing that he knows Superman's identity as well and is using it to extort him. It has already put Superman in a difficult position, one of which ended up with him waking up naked in a bed next to a fully-clothed Lois. The idea that it could lead to some much more volatile situations isn't too much of a stretch, especially for someone dating Wonder Woman.

The circumstances are in place. The details of the story are present to give Lois' actions significant emotional weight. Like all the ingredients to a good turkey dinner, everything is in place. But when the time comes to put these ingredients together, the end result isn't as savory as it could've been.

The main issue with the cooking process of this story is that it was rushed. The clash that unfolds between Superman and Hordor seems to skip multiple steps, some of which might have involved pre-heating the proverbial oven. Superman basically goes from confronting Hordor to doing exactly as he says, not making a significant effort to work around it or find another way. For most heroes, that could be understandable. But this is Superman. Even if he's at half-strength, he's still more resourceful than an army of Angus McGuiver clones.

Because this process is so heavily rushed, Lois Lane essentially follows suit. She skips those same critical steps, never stopping for a moment to contemplate another way to remedy the situation. Instead of trying to find a more cunning way to stop Hordor from extorting Superman, she essentially jumps the gun and exposes his identity. And even though she told him earlier in the story that she would keep his secret, she does it in a downright callous manner. It gives the impression that Lois Lane treats her promises the same way Donald Trump treats bankruptcy.

This is the biggest shortcoming of the story. It doesn't give the sense that Lois revealing Superman's identity was the only solution to the problem. And even if those details where present, there's nothing emotional or dramatic about Lois' decision. She just assesses the situation, shrugs, and goes through with it. That is the impression she gives. It's not outright cold, but it is still callous on a level more befitting of Hillary Clinton than Lois Lane.

Even with this shortcoming, Superman #43 still accomplishes its main goal. It creates the circumstances in which Lois Lane has to be the one to expose Superman's identity to the world. Those circumstances aren't wholly unreasonable. It's just the execution of those circumstances that limits the impact of the story. It doesn't create the impact of an unavoidable tragedy. It just creates the sense that Lois Lane is a lousy friend.

There is still merit to the story in Superman #43 in that it makes an effort to establish an impact. It effectively asserts that even in a world where Superman and Lois Lane are not Shakespearean star-crossed lovers, there is still a powerful connection between these two. It's a connection that is now heavily damaged, but not completely shattered. However, it's probably going to be a while before Superman trusts Lois with anything other than his shoe size.

6

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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