Comics

JLA/Hitman #1-2

Shawn O'Rourke

Garth Ennis once said in an interview that he could have written Hitman forever. I know I speak on behalf of fans everywhere when I say we would have read it forever.


JLA/Hitman #1-2

Publisher: DC Comics
Contributors: Artist: John McCrea
Price: $3.99
Writer: Garth Ennis
Length: 32
Formats: Single Issues
Issues: 2
First date: 2007-11
Last date: 2007-12
Website
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If someone were to ask me which comic writers I think will be able to penetrate the non-comic reading world the way creators like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Frank Miller have, I would have to argue that Garth Ennis would be on that list. Like Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, and Brian Michael Bendis, Ennis has the creative energy and originality that cannot be contained by one medium. Crass, witty, funny, and very vulgar at times, Ennis is one of those writers whose unique style has left its mark on the comic book medium. His numerous contributions to comics are varied and unique, but all retain a style and flair that are uniquely Ennis. He is able to interject ridiculous concepts into serious stories without breaking the narrative; he is able to make the tragic and grotesque funny and interesting; most importantly, he is able to do this without losing the heart and humanity the keep readers coming back for more. Essentially, he is the Judd Apatow of comics. And with his iconic and groundbreaking series Preacher soon to be an HBO original series, you can definitely say that his star is on the rise. However, if you really want to know what makes Ennis truly an amazing creator, there is one book that typifies his strengths more than any other: Hitman.

Hitman was a sixty-issue series starring Tommy Monaghan, a super-powered assassin-for-hire with a sense of morality and an intense loyalty to his friends. Replete with excellent characters, recurring jokes, and hugely entraining storylines, the book was enjoyable on multiple levels. The final run ended with Tommy and his best friend Nat the Hat getting killed, and fans were forced to say goodbye. However, we were all treated to a wonderful surprise when DC announced that Tommy would be returning in a 2-part mini-series written by Ennis and illustrated by original artist and amazing comic talent John McCrea.

The miniseries begins with a young writer speaking with Clark Kent about an autographed picture of Superman that hangs on the wall in a bar Tommy used to hang out at. The writer is curious as to how a murderous thug like Tommy ever met Superman. Clark begins to narrate a story that takes place sometime in Hitman continuity before he is killed. The two-issues focus on an alien attack on a spaceship by the same aliens who invaded Earth in the "Bloodlines" crossover in the late 90's. These are the very aliens who gave Tommy his powers. In order to fight the new threat, the JLA need someone who was exposed to their powers already, and that person is Tommy. As the heroes race to save the astronauts aboard the spaceship, each is eventually neutralized by the super-powered parasites. Tommy is forced to save the day and in the end, utilizing methods not approved of by most members of the JLA.

The plot of JLA/Hitman is not really very important. While the dialogue is entertaining and Tommy's hip shoot 'em up style is in stark contrast to the stuffed costumes of the traditional superheroes, that is not really the point. The book is a direct dialogue between Garth Ennis and the fans who supported Hitman for all those wonderful issues. The majority of the jokes and plot devices rely on the reader being familiar with the old series. The quick cameos by favorite characters aren't about fleshing out a story for new readers; they're about letting the long-standing fans catch a glimpse of old friends. The reference to two specific Hitman storylines (issue 34 where he meets Superman and issues 11-12 where he teams up with Green Lantern) were some of the most introspective and enlightening commentaries on the superhero mythos and will only be appreciated by the fans that actually read those comics when they came out.

Currently DC has not kept the trade paper backs of Hitman in print, much to the anger of fans and the irritation of several prominent retailers who know that there is money to be made in the collected editions. From this context, the main goal of the JLA/Hitman series becomes clear; it is a reminder that the book was there. That

despite the ending of the series and the death of most of the main characters, Tommy and his friends have left their mark indelibly inscribed in the annals of comic continuity and, most importantly, on the fans. The final page of the comic aptly sums up the metaphorical message of the mini-series. Tommy, while using the JLA bathroom, was unable to resist the temptation to leave his own mark. He pulled out a sharpie and wrote a quick bit of graffiti by the sink. Later, after part of the base on the moon is destroyed by the alien attack, Superman insists that the destroyed bathroom, with Tommy's message, is left alone. Those three words which are left as a silent monument concisely say what the book was meant to remind us: "Tommy was here."

Ennis is a name I think the non-comics community will be hearing more of. While he is a respected and extremely popular comic creator, it is the hope of fans that the adaptation of his series Preacher will give the gifted writer the mainstream attention that he deserves. Hopefully his TV show will be a success and prompt an interest in his previous body of work. It is my hope that readers of the JLA/Hitman miniseries will become curious enough to seek out the books that came before and maybe write a letter to DC telling them to bring the series out in trade. Either way, it was nice to take a walk down memory lane and revisit old friends; something that in comics is often an impossibility. Garth Ennis once said in an interview that he could have written Hitman forever. I know I speak on behalf of fans everywhere when I say we would have read it forever.

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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