It’s Wednesday, and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (and preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM! Studios, Archie, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Action Lab, and more!
Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie (backups by Sarah Gordon & Clayton Cowles)
Colored by Matthew Wilson (backup by Kelly Fitzpatrick)
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
It’s not every day you pick up a book that makes you change the way you read comics. When I read the Perfect Records pieces that we run on this site, I’m always reminded of the first time I read Phonogram: Rue Britannia. I was a freshman in college, just discovering my real interest in comics, and I picked up the book at a sale in the college bookstore (to this day, no one can tell me what it was doing there). It oozed cool, and I finished it in two days and immediately started it over. I read it again and again, looking up the songs they referenced on YouTube. This book, about a group of people for whom music really is magic, came alive in your hands if you knew the songs they were talking about. The second volume, The Singles Club, had the same powerful effect: put the music on and feel that much closer to the image and words on the page. Jamie McKelvie’s figures really seem move to the beat of this Blur single, or that Supremes jam, and the effect was, for me at least, magical.
Ever since then, comics and music have been inextricably linked. I’m always listening to something when I read now, and I’ll actively seek out the music that writers and artists talk about influencing their work. I feel like it helps me better understand the mindset a comic was created in, and that’s especially important for really personal works, like Phonogram. Kieron Gillen basically writes himself into the book as phonomancer David Kohl, whose particular brand of magic is activated by Britpop music. Kohl’s friends and fellow mages make up the rest of the ensemble cast. Among these is Emily Aster, the leader of Kohl’s coven who seems to have sold one of her two personalities in a sort of Faustian pact. The Immaterial Girl picks up here, where we learn that the pact was made not with the usual medium of music, but with something inside your television, a spirit of the MTV era.
While this issue is great, I have to say it’s probably not a very good jumping-on point in the series, especially for people who pick it up on the Gillen/McKelvie name. Anyone hoping for something like The Wicked + the Divine are going to find a much denser, more pensive read, and I definitely recommend reading the first two volumes to get the full experience here. Whereas WicDiv is broader in scope, examining the nature of society and pop culture right now, Phonogram is more personal and retrospective, examining Gillen’s past and his influences. Rue Britannia and moreso The Singles Club were period pieces, discussing a very specific period in time and the music he associates with it. The Immaterial Girl looks further back, to the mid-to-late eighties, while also taking place in the not-too-distant past. It’s neat to see how Jamie McKelvie’s art has matured as he’s worked on this series, and his more subtle hand is clear here: characters have aged visibly, and you can see the difference even in flashbacks. He also does his best Patrick Nagel on the Duran Duran-influenced cover, and it’s great.
Phonogram is a real treat of a comic, and it’s a deep cut, definitely. But under the right circumstances, with the right music in mind, it opens up to you, and the experience is transformative, unlike anything else in sequential art. This third volume is no different. The first issue is a great hook, and the ending will have you asking if video really can kill a radio star. If you’re already a fan, you’re already buying this. If you’re not, catch up first, then get on the bandwagon.
– Adam Pelta-Pauls
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
The Eltingville Club #2
By Evan Dorkin
Colored by Sarah Dyer
Over twenty years after they first appeared in Instant Piano, Evan Dorkin brings us the final story of The Eltingville Comic Book, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Role Playing Club, and good riddance to those assholes. Not to say this comic isn’t equal parts horrific and hilarious, but it’s a window into a side of fandom that is all too real for this book to be a comfortable read. Reuniting at Comic Con ten years after the previous issue, the former club members seem to have carved out lives for themselves within the fandoms they love. While these guys are the worst that fandom has to offer, through this comic you can see how that type of fan has shaped the pop culture. They are all at the lowest rungs of the industry, and only the truly insane are willing to “eat shit” for years just to gain entrance to the industry and poison it from the inside.
The story itself if full of fun callbacks to old stories of the club, and is a treat for those of us who have read most of their adventures over the years (and for those who haven’t, there’s a hardcover coming early next year collecting everything). Dorkin’s art here is impeccable. His exaggerated, cartoonish style has never looked better, especially in the several massive crowd scenes he draws here. This is a comic that is wall-to-wall dialog, but the art does great work at breaking it up and leaving you feel like you aren’t reading just massive walls of text with some pictures thrown in. That said, when the book does burst into violence, it’s bloody and hilarious.
As I said, this comic isn’t a comfortable read. It’s easy to look at these characters as cartoonish caricatures, but life on the comics internet has shown me that these guys are all too real and not even the worst out there.There are some good laughs to be had here, but as a fan you’re left with the uncomfortable knowledge that you’re laughing at yourself.
– Jason Urbanciz
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)