Comics

Infinite Crisis #1

William Gatevackes

Comic book publishers have had to walk the delicate balance of paying back loyal fans for their years of devotion by giving a nod to history while not alienating new readers with too much of a focus on years of continuity.

Infinite Crisis #1

Publisher: DC Comics
Contributors: Phil Jimenez (Artist), Andy Lanning. Colors: Jeremy Cox (Artist), Guy Major. Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano (Artist)
Price: $3.99
Writer: Geoff Johns
Item Type: Comic
Length: 40
Publication Date: 2005-12
Amazon

Continuity has been an albatross around the neck of comic companies for years. Long-time fans demand that attention be paid to the character's history. They expect each character's past to be referenced in every story and never, ever contradicted. But the weight of decades of continuity makes it hard for new readers to understand what's going on. So, comic book publishers have had to walk the delicate balance of paying back loyal fans for their years of devotion by giving a nod to history while not alienating new readers with too much of a focus on years of continuity.

Continuity plays heavily into Infinite Crisis, an ipso facto sequel slash anniversary celebration to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Crisis on Infinite Earths was the 1985 maxi-series written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Pérez created to try to streamline and simplify 50 years of continuity by drastically cutting down the cast of the DC Universe and starting many characters almost from scratch. Infinite Crisis makes no claims about doing similar, but the series' devotion to past continuity makes it almost unapproachable to anyone but the most rabidly dedicated DC fan.

Infinite Crisis is in no way a stand alone series. Not only do characters and concepts listed in Crisis on Infinite Earths make a reappearance, but it also draws on the 20 years of history that has come between the two series. On top of all that, DC has been building for this storyline for the past several years. Infinite Crisis is the culmination of several "events" that have happened during this time, specifically last year's Identity Crisis mini-series, this year's Countdown to Infinite Crisis one-shot, the four mini-series that immediately preceded it, The Omac Project, Day of Vengeance, The Rann/Thanagar War, and Villains United, the Sacrifice arc that ran through the Superman and Wonder Woman books, and various issues of DC series like Teen Titans and Outsiders.

That's a lot of books. And each of the above comics plays a crucial part to Infinite Crisis. Therefore, any new reader or even any loyal DC fan that didn't pick up any of the above mentioned books, or couldn't afford to, will be hopelessly lost.

And the first issue of Infinite Crisis does little to explain what has come before. Of course, it is hampered by only having 32 pages of story to work with. And, to be fair to Johns, over 60 heroes and villains are featured in the issue, 39 of them with speaking roles. It's impossible for him to shoehorn more than a perfunctory introduction to the themes leading up to this series before plot advancement needs to begin.

But if you have invested the time (as well as a sizable amount of money) to read the books leading up to Infinite Crisis, then this issue is a good payoff. Not all questions that were raised are answered, but you begin to see how all the divergent storylines come together. For comic fans who love continuity, this book does follow logically all that has come before. The payoff for all the months of reading and waiting begins here, and the final resolution has the potential of being sweet.

Where Johns really shines is in the conversation between DC's "Big Three", Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The scene is the break up of three friends, each who have done something to cause them to betray the ideals of the other two. The characters speak to each other in a way that seems logical and believable based on the way they have developed in the past twenty years. When they each leave separately, you believe the rift is real, and quite possibly permanent.

The art work is quite outstanding. If Geoff Johns' writing reminds one of Marv Wolfman's, then the only modern artist who should pencil the series would be Phil Jimenez. His work bears more than just a passing similarity to that of George Pérez. Both pencil with a fine line, include richly detailed backgrounds, and can draw hundreds of characters on a page with the reader being able to determine who each character is. Andy Lanning provides inks which enhances Jimenez's pencils without overpowering them.

Of course, all of this is only meaningful if you are up to speed with the story. And since Infinite Crisis is rumored to be a series that will have a lasting effect on the entire DC Universe in the years to come, the series will be picked up by a number of new readers just to see what changes will be made. Judging by the first issue, they will be in for a long and confusing ride. More of an effort should have been made to explain the previous continuity to make the story more accessible to new readers instead of aiming the book to long time readers already familiar with said continuity.

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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