The Demon Knight Rises: "Demon Knights #11"

Jay Mattson

Reading Demon Knights it's easy to discover to true, healing power of stories to motivate and inspire us all. A power that taps the most humanizing elements of mythmaking…

Demon Knights #11

Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves
Price: $2.99
Publication Date: 2012-07-11

DC made a very smart decision by including historically based series under the New 52 banner. Titles like All-Star Western, (the current arc of) Action, and the upcoming Team 7 give readers important and meaningful context for various characters and places throughout DC’s universe. Demon Knights, so far, recounts the adventures of seven heroes that all existed during the age of Camelot, though, King Arthur’s legendary city is less a physical place that existed in a set time period, and more an idea of what the perfect kingdom should be, no matter how many times it falls and rises again.

Camelot as a fluid, narrative mechanism originally came from Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers mega-series, wherein the revamped Shining Knight had to come to terms with the Camelot she found not being the city she once knew. Paul Cornell keeps this mythology intact and takes the idea one step further by introducing the Once and Future King this month in Demon Knights #11. Camelot represents the idea that nobody has the same experience--no matter how similar we are, each human being has a unique life experience. In the same way, each member of Cornell’s ‘team’ has experienced Camelot in a different way.

At the end of last issue, the team was bathed in a mysterious magic that apparently turns them into monstrous versions of their former selves. After a little observation, Al Jabr recognizes that they’ve all been transformed into what they want the most. Jabr becomes a giant head, forsaking the body for true wisdom and hyper-intelligence. The Horsewoman morphs into a centaur. Etrigan attains his potential and becomes a Demon King, “who would never condescend to rhyme”. Exoristos’ desire to make her companions aware of her shame turns her into an ugly troll. Ystin is a true Shining Knight, while Vandal Savage basically looks the same, albeit with some animalistic features added on for vanity’s sake. Xanadu is the only one spared due to her connections to Avalon.

The zombified corpse of King Arthur leads Xanadu and the others to healing waters that will purge the evil magic and would eventually drive them all insane. What follows is the beginning of an honest debate (or as honest as a comicbook about supernatural heroes in medieval times can be) about the effects of fighting fire with fire, so to speak, and whether to keep their newfound abilities.

Unfortunately, Arthur cleanses them all before any real insight is made. Sure, Al Jabr and Ystin didn’t want the ‘healing’ then were thankful for it afterwards, but that’s in character for both of them. Savage, Horsewoman, and Etrigan are still outraged at losing their new power so quickly. Fortunately, Arthur himself is also healed, giving him back his more human appearance just in time to fend off the rage of Etrigan.

Cornell does a fascinating job weaving classic medieval storytelling with universal human stories such as the hero’s quest, redemption, the thirst for knowledge, and living under impossible circumstances. Xanadu’s ongoing deception with Jason Blood and/or Etrigan gives the character such a benevolent edge, while Vandal Savage’s utter indifference for anyone or anything other than himself points to the danger of dulled emotional connections.

And this is truly the heart of this unique book; how Paul Cornell manages to weave the actual mythic from disparate human tales and to find those disparate human tales in second-tier DC characters who would perhaps have been ground under the heel of history. It's the idea that lies at the very hear of DC's New 52--the idea that ideas themselves are currency, and that they will resurge time and again. We see this notion play out with the appearance and reappearance of Camelot, again with the reemergence of Arthur, and primarily at the level of Paul Cornell's storytelling. It's the idea that better ideas will always win out, that secret gem of geek culture, that we fight with the mind.

Now allied with the “knights of the demon”, Arthur Pendragon plans to lead them into Avalon to resurrect the greatest wizard of all time, Merlin. It's an outward adventure, and an inward quest. Exactly like the original Arthurian romances.


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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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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