Comics

There's More Than Zombies vs. Robots in Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies #2'

Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies is about more than an army of Ultrons battling an army of zombie supervillians, as cool as that sounds on its own.


Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies

Publisher: Marvel
Length: 19 pages
Writer: James Robinson, Steve Pugh
Publication date: 2015-09
Amazon

I know a great idea for a comicbook when I hear one. And this is a great idea.

Take two of Marvel's most popular crossover events of recent years and toss them together into one book. Mix 'em up and see what happens. If the end result just happens to be a tribute to IDW's classic Zombies vs. Robots then that's all the better. Put talents like James Robinson and Steve Pugh on the book and you can’t go wrong. It's a great idea.

The robots in this story are, of course, Ultron and his army. Comicbook robots don’t get much better than that.

And the zombies? The zombies are a whole cast of Marvel villains: Magneto, Electro and Sabretooth, just to name a few.

I knew when I heard the premise for this book that I was going to like it. I knew that it was going to be fun. Robots. Zombies. Good, mindless, summertime fun.

Then Marvel, and Robinson and Pugh, did something to surprise me.

Much to my delight Robinson and Pugh drop good old Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne into the mix. Not the Hank and Janet from the mainstream Marvel universe, but Hank and Janet from the Old West town of Timely and the year 1872.

But Robinson and Pugh weren't finished yet. Not by a long shot.

They give us the country of the Deadlands, home of the zombie hordes. They give us the land of Perfection, Ultron's robot world without human flaws. They give us something more.

They give us the land of Salvation. They give us a zombie of another sort. They give us robots of a different kind.

Hank Pym, of course, is the inventor of Ultron. Well, not this Hank Pym, but another one. Ultron did his own share of creating. He created his own android servant, a servant that would betray him and go on to become my favorite Avenger of all time. He created the Vision.

The Vision did not spring fully formed from his master's mind. His android body was based on that of Marvel's original Human Torch, Jim Hammond. His android mind was taken from the brain waves of the then deceased Simon Williams, Wonder Man, the same Wonder Man who would be brought back from the dead, first to battle the Avengers as a zombie and then to join their ranks as a superhero in his own right.

(Think about it. When we consider the fact that creator Roy Thomas based the character of the Vision on the '40s superhero of the same name, that the character is connected to the World War II era Human Torch, and that his origin's are linked to two other important Avengers characters, Ultron and Wonder Man, a case can be made that the Vision is Marvel's ultimate legacy character.)

Much to my surprise, Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies is about more than an army of Ultrons battling an army of zombie supervillians, as cool as that sounds on its own. Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies is a higher stakes game than that. It is about Marvel's two greatest robots, the Vision and the original Human Torch, and Marvel's most compelling zombie, Wonder Man.

After two issues, Robinson is still establishing characters and building worlds. When I was expecting to see just robots vs. zombies, I imagined that the groundwork would be laid quickly and the story would move at a rapid pace: rotting flesh battling A.I. killing machines. Instead, it looks as if Robinson is taking the time to lay a proper foundation, which means that after two issues the story still isn’t at full speed. Hopefully, it also means that there are even better things to come.

Steve Pugh is also excellent here. His zombies are frightening and decayed; his Ultron army, shiny and menacing; his heroes, fine-lined and heroic; his flashbacks, cool and retro.

I know a great idea for a comicbook when I hear one. And this is a great idea.

Ultron and his army versus ravaging supervillian zombies. Add cowboy versions of Ant-Man and the Wasp. Then bring in Wonder Man, a Marvel zombie from way back when they were called "zuvembies". Finally, give us Marvel's two most important robot heroes: the Vision and the Human Torch.

What a great idea.

8

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Features

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton



9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton



8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge



7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

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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Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

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8

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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