Monday, August 21, 2006


The first issue of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's Phonogram is out (Image Comics, Inc.) and it's every bit as slippery as you expect if you've read what's on their site. Any comic that starts with the lines: "…image is the first dogma of the Faustian process – but I'm all too at home with that" is bound to get under some people's skin. Gillen certainly isn't shy about flaunting – hell, flaying – his hipster vocabulary. The comic is packed with phrases like "post-Britpop" and quotes from the Afghan Wigs. Gillen is obsessed with Kenickie (a four piece from Sunderland, Engerland named after that Grease character. They recorded two albums and then broke up) and it's this obsession that drives the book. He's not just obsessed with the band. He's obsessed with the idea that the music that Kenickie makes changes lives. While Kenickie maybe other-worldly or even Godly for Gillen, all music has some sort of hyper-real effect on people in the book. Summarily music is magic. And the characters reflect that. Literally. They use music – be it post-Britpop or feminist folk – as magic. It's a fantasy, see.

A great idea. Gillen doesn't play up any of the potential scientific edges. He doesn't go for harmonics or the enchantment of melody. It's simple enjoyment of what Gillen considers fine music that allows his characters to interact with a hidden world behind ours – post Dick-ian to be sure. And they don't use this magic to fly around or stop bank robberies or defeat Bush. (It would be cool to see a magnus with a boom box blasting Tindersticks to magically stop terrorists.) Gillen's cast settles for trying to get laid and invoking some sort of earth goddess. (I'm still not clear on that point.)

Gillen's clever and crafty. His writing is sparse, intellectual. Never dull. Every now and then he gets caught up in too much meta-fictional blabber but you can identify with his characters. McKelvie's art is fantastic. Simple but very expressive. Almost like if Bashki rotoscoped a Williamsburg nightspot. Hot women with mascara and tats. Slick men with thick framed glasses. Actually, just one guy – David Kohl – who once famously ground up and snorted a Sebadoh LP. Cheers. Looking forward to the next issue.

No comments: