Reviews

We All Got Drawn Here: "The Multiversity: Guidebook #1"

This book is a wonder. Oh boy, is it a wonder.


The Multiversity: Guidebook #1

Publisher: DC
Length: 71 pages
Writer: Grant Morrison, Marcus To, Paulo Siqueira
Price: $7.99
Publication Date: 2015-03
Amazon

There is a scene near the end of Grant Morrison's latest entry in his unfolding tale of the DC multiverse.

It is easy to miss. I think that I would have missed it if it hadn't been pointed out to me. The Batman from Earth-17 has just arrived at Monitor Watchstation -- at Valla-Hal, the House of Heroes, the Multiversity. Like the rest of us, he is lost and confused.

Bloodwynd, by way of explanation, says the words that I almost missed. To this newcomer-Batman he says: "We all got drawn here, just like you."

And I wonder how much this Bloodwynd knows; I wonder what he means by this turn of phrase.

Of course, it is probably nothing. He probably just means that he and all of the other heroes who now find themselves lost between the worlds were brought there by forces beyond their control. Drawn. Lured. Pulled. Persuaded. Forced.

But he could mean something else, couldn’t he?

It is possible that he knows the truth, our truth, that he is nothing but a character in a comicbook. Drawn. Depicted. Portrayed. Pencilled. Inked.

After all, it is something that everyone is quickly learning: The Professors Sivana know; The Batmen know; BIOMAC knows and Prince Tuftan knows and Kamandi knows.

Is that what Bloodwynd means? And is it true for us as well? Was he talking to us, the readers, when he spoke those words? "We all got drawn here, just like you," he says. And he is looking right at me.

And I know what he means. I've read Socrates and Kierkegaard and Richard Rorty. I am familiar with irony, with critical self-awareness, with the mystery that comes from holding deep and heart-felt convictions (in my case, western liberal ones) while all the while recognizing the contingent historical circumstances that put me in this place, that gave me these convictions, that made me who I am.

We all got drawn here.

Yes, indeed we did.

It is hard to know what is going on in The Multiversity: Guidebook #1. It feels as if I have missed something, as if I have been dropped into the middle of things. It's like picking up a comicbook halfway through a storyarc. You're not sure who the players are, not sure what has gone before. In that way it is like life, I suppose, into which we find ourselves plunged without preparation, forced to spend our days putting the pieces together, connecting the dots, drawing conclusions on the wall.

It is how I read comicbooks as a child, dropping in and out of continuity. Morrison has made this connection himself, admitting that part of what he is doing is trying to evoke that sense of mystery that he remembers from childhood, that I remember from childhood, when I picked up one issue of The Avengers and then didn't get back to them for months, when I had to try and put it all together, make up my own back stories, assign my own names and histories to the characters I did not recognize, resolve the stories for myself, imagine my own endings and my own beginnings.

But, of course, what Morrison is doing here is different from that, and different too from life, for in both cases there are back stories to be discovered, even if we have to wait until we're grown before we can figure it all out, researching our ancestry on some online database or shelling out big bucks for trade editions of those long-ago story arcs. In this case, in the case of The Multiversity there is nothing else to read. The missing issues don't exist. We haven't missed anything . We have missed everything.

There is the anticipation of something more, then the let-down of knowing that this is all there is. The back story is just an illusion, a dream in the reader's mind, like life and the world in the mind of the solipsist.

Morrison lays out most of the 52 worlds of the DC multiverse in this Guidebook. He shows us some things that we already know and some things that we have not yet seen. And I want to feel exuberant, like I did when I first flipped through the Who's Who of the DC Universe. But then I don’t. Because so much is left out of this telling, so many fictional worlds that I know for a fact exist but don't appear here, so many stories that have taken place above and beyond these 52, in the long, long history of Superman and his kin.

And, on the other side of this, I feel that too much has been told instead of too little. Worlds filled (no, not filled, anything but filled) with heroes and stories; worlds made (no, not made, anything but made) to fill the 52. But they are not heroes, they are not worlds, until their stories have been told by artists and writers working over the decades, writing and drawing, month in and month out, to meet the deadlines and sell the books and keep the paychecks coming (paid by the page!) and fill the world with stories of supermen and superwomen and supervillians and world upon world colliding and in crisis. Morrison's Guidebook tells the big stories, but that is no substitute for telling all of the little ones, the thousands upon thousands of little ones that are necessary to build a universe, to build a multiverse. (Morrison surely knows this better than I. He has told countless of those little world-building tales in his day.)

A multiverse can't be built in nine issues. Can't be built by one author and one author alone.

But this book is a wonder. Oh boy, is it a wonder.

For more than a moment Morrison made me believe that there was something more to his story, made be believe that there is something more to my story.

It is a fabulous fake.

It is so much less than it appears to be. And so much more.

It is maddening and irresistible.

I read it and find myself and I suspect that you do the same.

I am drawn here. Do you know what I mean?

Drawn.

10

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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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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