Reviews

The Fury of the Moment in 'Savior #6'

Savior #6 tells a powerful and moving story. It is a story told in moments, as human beings stand face to face, bump into one another at coffee shops, gather together in mourning, respond to tragedy and faith.


Savior #6

Publisher: Image
Contributors: Clayton Crain (artist)
Author: Todd McFarlane and Brian Holguin
Price: $3.99
Length: 29 pages
Issue: #6
Publication Date: 2015-09-09
Amazon
In the fury of the moment,

I can see the Master's hand.

In every leaf that trembles,

In every grain of sand.

-- "Every Grain of Sand" by Bob Dylan

There is a lot going on in the marvelous mini-series by Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin and Clayton Crain. Savior is a mesmerizing mystery all wrapped up in human tragedy; it is an exploration of America's reaction to tragic events; it is a meditation on the nature of faith in the face of both the horrible and the mysterious.

The story began with a terrible and deadly airplane crash onto a crowded highway outside of the small town of Damascus. The nation reels. The town of Damascus is devastated. The press is there with cameras and interviews and non-stop commentary. The masses descend to share in the grief, to witness the spectacle, and to bring the fiery condemnation of God upon victims, survivors and the mourners alike. McFarlane and Holguin show us a clear-eyed picture of America's reaction to tragedy: the rapacious appetite of the 24-hour news cycle, the irrational need to place blame and assign guilt, the religious spirit that seeks answers in the face of the unknowable, the tragic, and the uncanny.

Into this mix is thrown something more, a superhero or sorts, a savior. A mysterious stranger wanders naked from the corn fields carrying a young victim of the crash, a victim healed by his magical touch. This savior seems as confused and bewildered by his power and identity as are those he touches. His presence, and absence, bring together journalist and police officer, two women from Damascus who have followed different paths but still wound up at the same place, together at the foot of this cross.

There is a lot going on here. There are questions about the meaning of life and the meaning of faith, questions about the role of the news media in this modern world, questions about America's incoherent response to national tragedy, and, yes, questions about the kind of stories that comic books can tell.

With all of that important stuff going on, this is the most important thing: McFarlane, Holgun and Crain are telling a powerful and moving story, a story about people. It is a story told in moments – as human beings stand face to face, bump into one another at coffee shops, respond to tragedy and faith.

Crain is particularly good at these powerful human moments. Faces come into and go out of focus. Against the masses, the individuals stand out, catch our attention, demand our respect.

Witness the media interviews with protestors, supporters, and mourners. One man is there looking for a national savior, a Donald Trump who walks on water. One woman comes to show her support, to stand with strangers against tragedy and against the madness of faith gone wrong. One woman speaks for the mourners, confronts the media to demand that they all just be left alone.

Witness the memorial service for the victims. Light streams through windows in a cavernous cathedral. The priest is broken but hopeful, tired but faithful, a grizzled Socrates in vestments and robe.

Witness the mysterious stranger himself and his quiet, meaningful conversation with a man on the street, a man who finds signs of luck in the very act of losing.

Witness a coffee shop conversation, old friends – or at least acquaintances – who nearly come together and then spiral apart. Witness as "I know exactly what you're feeling" quickly becomes "I'm not sure."

Witness the savior himself, when his powers do not work, when his faith is too weak, when death itself is too strong.

In every case, the story lingers, holds the moment close. In one moment Crain gives us faces in shadow and then faces in light, faces in focus and then faces all a blur. In one moment we hear truths and then, perhaps, lies.

There is a lot going in the pages of Savior. Death and mystery and anger and grief. It is a big story about human suffering and the nature of faith. Planes fall from the sky. God walks the Earth.

For all of that, it is story told in moments, human moments. Death. Anger. Faith. Doubt. In a way, I suppose, the moments are all that really matter.

"In the fury of the moment," Dylan told us long ago, "I can see the Master's hand." Of course, the moment passes, as all moments do, and Dylan's believer faces other moments when faith is not so sure. Dylan, himself now a Socratic old priest, shows us that moment as well.

I hear the ancient footsteps,

Like the motion of the sea.

Sometimes I turn, there's someone there.

Other times it's only me.

-- "Every Grain of Sand" by Bob Dylan

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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.

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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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