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Review Brew: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist: Jamie McKelvie

Colorist: Matthew Wilson

Backup Artists: Sarah Gordon, Clayton Cowles, and Kelly Fitzpatrick

After books like Wicked and The Divine and Young Avengers, when I hear that Gillen and McKelvie are working on a book together, I make space for it in my reading. When I heard they would be returning to the Phonogram series, a very personal feeling book especially for Gillen, I had to run to read it. While I haven’t gotten a hold of the second Phonogram series, I loved the first, and the study in music and coming of age, or really how people work in tandem with music, is some of the most fascinating comics being made.

To be totally honest, I feel that a lot of this goes right over my head. While I love the music that drives the main characters of this book, there’s a level of knowledge that goes with it in this story. In that, this music, especially in England, where the book takes places, has an almost mythology to it. Due to not being totally immersed in that culture, I’m sure there are some things I missed. That being said, I really loved this issue. It’s hard to summarize the issue, but we are basically following the journey of Emily (Claire) in the music scene in England. In the end, we get a somewhat seasoned Emily working for what I took as a Pitchfork-like company. What makes this story so special is how Gillen shows how Emily grows as a human in response to the music she bases herself in. There is a sense of magic (in the story literal, but in a greater sense metaphorically) in the music, and while we always talk about it in an almost cliched way, there’s no denying it, and Gillen works this beautifully. As Gillen says in his letter in the back, there is so much of him in this story. While there are ridiculous or crazy parts of our past, it shape us. Even when looking at the back up stories, Gillen shows how music can be used to bring back old memories, and how bands that seem locked in a generation can affect even those from a totally different one. Really, Gillen just shows how important music is. Side note, if you remember Aha’s Take On Me, just get this issue now.

McKelvie is a special artist in comics today. To me, he’s the modern day Steve Dillon (take that as you will, Dillon was essential to me as I got into comics). The characters in the book are rendered so confidently and real, it just nails this story down. It takes an almost lofty idea and grounds it into the real world. Take a character from this story, literally any, and that’s just what the people in my generation (I would also extend that to the generation before me a little) are. He has a swagger in his style, in his rendering, which is just perfect for a book like this. On top of this, Matthew Wilson is the perfect pairing on colors for McKelvie. Like the story, the colors almost seem airy, but it just heightens that sense of a world driven by music. The back ups were their own treat. In the first, Sarah Gordan really heightened the trippiness, showing visually how music is used almost as a drug. I’ve never encountered her work before, but I definitely hope to in the future, as the storytelling is solid and the style is very very unique. Lastly, the Cowles pencils seemed to be the most traditional, but I still thought it was solid panel to panel, and Fitzpatrick is an awesome colorist. She really made this one pager for me, as her palette just took me to the concert the characters were in.

If you’re a music lover, this is an absolute must read. In terms of comics, Gillen and McKelvie have done it again, and you do not want to miss it.


5 Music Videos out of 5

About Brett I (152 Articles)
Born in Philadelphia and currently residing in Portland OR, Brett has been reading and collecting comics in some capacity since 2008 and is now fully immersed. Also, Brett is an avid follower of Professional Wrestling since the crumbling of The Alliance. Philadelphia/Chicago Sports consumed here.
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