Tag Archives: kieron gillen

Review: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

PhonogramIG_04-1_362_557_s_c1I was so blown away and overwhelmed by another outstanding issue that I made a fan mix. I’m ecstatic for the return of Laura Heaven Black and Lloyd Mr Logos, two of the best characters from The Singles Club— the second volume of Phonogram. This issue’s dynamic fight scenes (the most fighty- fight scenes of any Phonogram comic) and power ranking graphics heavily reference Scott Pilgrim. Now, I’m only familiar with the Scott Pilgrim movie and haven’t read the graphic novel but I got along swimmingly reading this. However, I cannot imagine what it would be like to read this comic if you haven’t read Phonogram: The Singles Club. Drop everything. Go read it. Laura and Lloyd are two of the best characters in that collection and I am so thankful we got to revisit them here.

We get to know Lloyd even better through this issue. Lloyd with his Mod revival suit and “how the fuck do I deal with having kinky hair when the subcultures I identify with are all about straight hair?!” hair. I know. It’s really fucking hard. His combination of obsessive music research and conceptual creativity butts up against his self-loathing, turning him in to a wonderful, miserable monster that I’m 95% sure I’d get along with because we like enough of the same bands.

So while I’m not so quietly working away on my next great Phonogram magnum opus (you’ve read my first one, right) I couldn’t let this issue pass without some mention of my love.
I made a fan mix for Lloyd on Spotify

I don’t have as much of a handle on what music Laura likes other then The Long Blondes first album. I don’t really speak 90s-00s Brit-Pop. I do speak Mod, Mod Revival and associated genres. So here’s a thing I made for Lloyd who truly loves and understands Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Unfortunately, the utterly essential “How Does it Feel To Feel” by 60s mod gods The Creation is not on Spotify. But it is what Lloyd would be hearing while Laura dances. Patti Smith’s “Ask the Angels” takes its place in the playlist for channeling the right feeling but with a totally different sound.

So there you have it.
I worked hard on this fan mix. Listen to it. It is my review.

Oh and the first back-up story “I Hate Myself” with art by Julia Scheele is the best back-up yet and a mini-masterpiece.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review, and a copy was purchased (because it’s that good).

The Wicked + The Divine #16 review: “I Was a Teenage Wear-Wolf”

WicDiv cover16Every aspect of this series is rich and deliberate. Now, I was a goth teen in the mid to late 90s. I took 20 skill points in Knowledge: Goth. I’m listening to Christian Death’s 1985 album “Ashes” as I write this. So at last, I feel prepared to write a review of this series that I enjoy so much, which up until now, I had been intimidated to cover. Once you begin to pick apart the layers, you can’t stop examining them.

The Wicked + The Divine #16 artfully presents Morrigan and Baphomet’s origin stories as Marian and Cameron. They go from roleplaying as masters of darkness in a live action roleplaying version of Vampire the Masquerade, to actually becoming them as a real war/death goddess and her consort. Being young involves a lot of role playing, sometimes in literal ways— like LARPing and painting miniatures. But it also involves trying out roles of who you want to be. Marian and Cameron’s pantheon powers mean that their role playing became real and that their teenage identity will be their final identity.

Their lives are now a retort of “No Mom, I won’t grow out of it!” and growing out of anything is not even a choice anymore.

The first panel we see of Baphomet and Morrigan in this series was at the end of issue 2. The godsmacking image of Baphomet holding up Morrigan’s seemingly decapitated head. Knowing their history as role players together, this first appearance becomes no surprise at all. Of course they are role playing to scare the straights — because they have always been role playing and trying to scare the straights.

In Vampire the Masquerade the vampires’ efforts to hide their true nature and infiltrate in mortal society is referred to as “The Masquerade”. So technically speaking, both the game players and the characters that they play are performing in the Masquerade.

In this issue Cameron/Baphomet frequently refers to “The Game”. He says Marian was always the best at it. Cameron always overplays his hand— trying to paint his miniature in an advanced method even though he was a beginner. Trying the so-called Prometheus Gambit. But Marian was the best at roleplaying games when human, and is best at giving the underground what they want now that she’s a goddess.

Morrigan’s stylized dialog has always worked far better then it should. She even monologues to the reader in the final scene’s hamburger reveal. In the end, Baphomet is ground up hamburger “Bapho-Meat”. Perhaps a symbol of things to come.

Technology is comparatively quiet in this issue. Odd for a comic which regularly uses cellphones and social media as storytelling devices. I think tech is less apparent here because this issue is self-admittedly so closely tied to writer, Kieron Gillen’s own teen goth years. When we were teens there were no cellphones.

The only thing that indicates the events in this issue occurred recently are the trendy man-bun on Marian’s passed-out friend and the singular cellphone call that marks the death of Cameron’s parents (ok, and his choice of ringtone). Ok, ok, and the pile of Phonogram comics from the early 00s in his room. But otherwise, everyone’s gothic outfits pre-deification, would have blended in at any point in goth history from the 80s till today. Having the right clothes from your musical subculture was HUGE in the 20th century (how you dress doesn’t seem to have to match the music you listen to these days) so it’s edifying to see the artists get that right.

This issue confirmed a popular theory– one I figured out on my own damnit: that Baphomet isn’t really an equal member of the Pantheon. Because he was chosen by Morrigan and not discovered by Ananke he is probably best described as a demigod, or even just a Sacral King.

FullSizeRenderHis name was the giveaway– Baphomet isn’t the name of a deity anyone worshipped historically. The name “Baphomet” was a Western corruption of the name of the Prophet Muhammad. When the Knights Templar returned from the Middle East, Philip IV of France accused them of worshipping an “evil eastern deity”. The Medieval French Crown got the name and the notion wrong (probably because they were busy being bigoted and also stealing their stuff) and accusations of the Knights worshipping Allah emerged through the other end of a medieval game of telephone as accusations of them worshipping “Mahomet” “Baphomet”.

And then no one cared for a while and then Alistaire Crowley and later Anton Levay made blasphemy hip and next thing you know everyone is listening to Black Sabbath (which is metal, not goth and my inner teenager really needs you to know that. Goth came later.)*

Having our suspicions confirmed about Baphomet being Morrigan’s creation feels right. That is where the narrative weight has been heading and contrary to popular belief Gillen doesn’t evoke shock for its own sake. Having a fan theory turn out to be true is good storytelling here.

For now, we get to savor our moment of rightness. This all too real flashback to Marian and Cameron before they become Morrigan and Baphomet was exactly what I craved. Many grownups, like myself, reading this comic will find mirrors of our youth in various guises. It feels good to have the comic get mine right.

At the end of the flashback sequence, Morrigan’s shadow looms into Cameron’s window when she arrives to offer him a deal— some of her power in exchange for him dying in two years. Her feathers have never been more wing-like then in those panels. She is a black winged fallen angel inviting him to fall with her. His choice to accept the deal is clear now that we know he was still in morning from his parents’ death when this happened. Yes, he was always goth. But yes, he was also going through a trauma.

I had my pick of covers (thanks Forbidden Planet) for this issue and I chose the one by guest artist, Leila Del Duca. I chose her version because of how Morrigan holds Baphomet’s head and looks into the readers’ eyes. It’s the perfect cover for this issue. Del Duca’s art is so good throughout the book, every character has their own face, their own nose. She handles the transitions between Morrigan’s three personae with fearful symmetry.

Minerva’s relationship with self appointed big brother Baal continues to be charming. This is the first time we really get to see her smarts as she figures out a key clue everyone had missed. I’ve been wanting to see more from her and I have a feeling that she’ll be our next detective.

The final page of this issue is from series co-creator, artist Jaimie McKelvie. It is a demonstration that the rumors about Morrigan’s powers are true: if you try to take a photo of her you just see an image of your own death. So at least someone’s powers are what they say they are.

I’ve wondered before if the series’ iconic title pages has been lying to us. It situated Baphomet as a pantheon member and he isn’t quite. We never saw Laura’s Persephone graphic in there (I’m not convinced that Laura was actually a god, so this omission could work in either direction). So what else have we been mislead to believe in?

Footnote: * My history is fast and loose but you get the idea. Go listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcast if you want to learn more about The Knights Templar.



Reading Kieron’s writers notes reminded me that I forgot to talk about the significance of Morrigan’s use of the title “King-for-a-Year”. If I know my English mythology from watching 70’s pagan-daytime-horror-folkmusic-cult-movie-masterpiece The Wicker Man a lot (and I do, and I have not read The Golden Bough) a King-for-a-day is a fool who is treated as a king for a day, then used as a ritual sacrifice. So yeah. Foreshadowing.

Writer: Kieron Gillen Art: Leila Del Duca, Jamie McKelvie
Colors: Mat Lopes, Matt Wilson, Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Story 9.5 Art 9.5 Overall 9.75 Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review, but Elana buys it anyway. It’s that good.

Star Wars: Vader Down #1 – Your First Look at the Epic Crossover!

Two of the biggest comics in the world collide this November as Star Wars and Darth Vader cross over for the first time! And it all starts right here! Today, Marvel has released a first look at Star Wars: Vader Down #1 – the kickoff to the blockbuster six-part crossover. Chartbusting writers Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen join forces with fan-favorite artists Mike Deodato and Salvador Larroca to combine both titles in the mighty Marvel manner!

Vader’s TIE Fighter has been shot down. Seeing this as their one, best chance to take him down once and for all, the Rebellion is ready to throw everything they have at him. Alone, outnumbered and outgunned, Darth Vader must now face the entire might of the Rebel Fleet. But the Rebels are about to learn the true unrestrained power of the Dark Side of the Force.

To defeat their greatest enemy, the Rebel Alliance will risk it all. Yet with it all on the line, could this risky gambit cripple their forces in the fight against the Empire? Find out at this can’t miss crossover event begins on November 18th in the oversized Star Wars: Vader Down #1 and continues in the pages of Star Wars and Darth Vader!

Written by JASON AARON
Variant Cover by JOELLE JONES (SEP150829)
Connecting Variant A by CLAY MANN (SEP150828)
FOC – 10/26/15, On-Sale – 11/18/15


DARTH VADER #13 (SEP150830)
Part 2 of VADER DOWN
Connecting Variant B by CLAY MANN (SEP150831)
FOC – 11/02/15, On-Sale – 11/25/15


STAR WARS #13 (SEP150832)
Part 3 of VADER DOWN
Written by JASON AARON
Action Figure Variant by JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER (SEP150834)
Connecting Variant C by CLAY MANN (SEP150833)
FOC – 11/09/15, On-Sale – 12/02/15


On Phonogram and Breaking Up with Bands


We need to talk about how Emily/Claire handles her depression in Phongram: The Immaterial Girl. It is central to the whole story. Her first solution was to revel in it– black is what she wears on the outside because black is how she feels on the inside (that joke is in the actual comic, right?)  She even had a dependence on self-harm. Her later solution was to excise depression from her body– by making the deal with The King Behind the Screen to take away the vulnerable, sad part of her personality. That choice has come back to haunt her. Ok, worse, it’s come back to destroy her.

In issue 3 she uses her grimoire/fanzine to travel back in time to confront Emily and Claire debate each otherher pre-teen self. There, we finally get the debate between both halves of the character’s personality over which has the best interest of her early pubescent self at heart. Each of her halves ask her pre-teen self: would you rather have success or integrity? Brilliance or Decadence? Decadence or Tasteful Decadence? What does barely pubescent Claire decide? She blows the question out of the door. She will be something better.
On the one hand depression absolutely gets in the way of living your life the way you’d like to. It’s not glamorous. On the other hand, completely compartmentalizing yourself is generally not regarded as a healthy approach. But on the third hand– and this is my favorite hand– do we even really believe in an “authentic self” anymore? If there is no authentic self then why not get rid of the parts of yourself that aren’t serving you well.

Perhaps, Emily’s real problem is that she’s decided to be mean. Perhaps compartmentalizing her depression away isn’t actually the problem at all.

You could argue that if she doesn’t love herself (herself which includes her depression) how could she love anyone else. But who’s to say that darkness is the important part of her personality? Aren’t her wit and her enthusiasms a more important part of her personality? She can be witty and have impeccable taste in indie music while still being a good friend. She just chooses not to and that’s the problem.

But as I said in my last review, I can’t talk about Phonogram without talking about my personal relationship to music because that’s what the comic is about.

Anyway, this scene above, of Emily/Claire ending her friendship with Indie Dave, and The Immaterial Girl #3 in general, reminds me of when I stopped listening to Leonard Cohen going in to my senior year of college. His music made me sad. I had too many sad associations with his songs. I also stopped listening to The Smiths not long after that. Before that The Smiths had been VERY important to me.

The first time I played The Smiths again in years and years was when I was first started dating my husband. We spent an inordinate amount of time teaching each other our music. Still do. I hadn’t played The Smiths in a lifetime but it was my responsibility to his cultural education in the ways of goth and indie that he get to hear them. So I put on the tape (yes, tape) and I sang along. And to quote Lou Reed “it was aaaalright.”

Today, on those rare occasions when I’m not pushing for full cock-rock-bombast I’ll sing a few songs by The Smiths songs at karaoke. I’m really good at them and it doesn’t make me sad anymore. It makes other people happy because I’m A. good and B. they remember being a teenager. But I still don’t listen to Leonard Cohen. In both cases I made the right choice. It didn’t require any surgery though. Just pruning my music collection. And spending less time with depressing people and more time with people that make me happy.

Anyway I’ll be back with a new essay about Phonogram probably right around when it concludes. Here’s my earlier piece covering issue 1 and 2 with nods to the earlier series. I promise that essay is waaay less introspective and way more informative.

PS: I’m that jerk who doesn’t like Total Eclipse of the Heart. Except when it’s a joke in The Mighty Boosh. I love that bit. But I won’t begrudge you playing it. I know that I’m the one that’s wrong.

(Oh, hey, it’s Spiral from X-Men! Because I made jokes about having three hands! Also Spiral is the best!)

Also, I was googling for a definition of “Authentic Self” to link to for those unfamiliar with psychology. Don’t google it. The internet is dark and full of new wave horrors. Just visit Spiral’s Body Shoppe. What could possssibly go wrong?


The Wicked + The Divine will feature variant cover by Leila del Duca

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine #16 will feature a variant cover by Shutter artist Leila del Duca. This dark, haunting cover will be available to order with Diamond Code SEP150550.

The Wicked + The Divine #16 takes a gothic turn with The Morrigan at center stage. The issue also features backup stories by series artist McKelvie and colorist Matt Wilson.

The Wicked + The Divine #16 will hit shelves on 11/11 and can be ordered with Diamond Code SEP150549. Keep an eye out for the special Leila del Duca variant (Diamond Code SEP150550) which will be available on the same day. Final order cutoff deadline for retailers is Monday, 10/19.

Wicked Leila del Duca

Review: Siege #3

Siege3The last 2 issues have led to this….the Ultron Perfection has come to tear down the Shield, the wall that protects Battleworld from the zombies and robots that want to lay waste to the planet.  And leading the charge against Abigail Brand is her old colleague, now part of the Perfection himself…Nick the Fury.

We open to a chaotic scene as the forces of the Shield rush headlong into battle to protect the wall from Ultron’s forces, and The Fury leading the attack.  The Endless Summers are having little effect against the horde, and Abigail pulls them back as Kang tells her that he is not able to access the timestream to help in the battle.  Abigail goes back to the robots she is holding prisoner, who warned of the coming battle, to see if they have any information to help in the battle.  It is revealed that the ‘prisoners’ actually enjoy being together in their cell, as they are in love and get to spend every day together.  Abigail is happy for them, but points out they are now going to die together, when the robots reveal they have a hidden ability…they are able to talk to robots; technohacking they call it.  They are willing to risk their lives to save the peace they have found together.

Nick the Fury is easily taking down the meager forces of the Shield, Ms. America and Katherine Bishop giving all they can, but to little effect.  One of the robots arrives on the scene, and “tells” The Fury to aim his gun at his head and shoot…which he does, seemingly taking him down.  Much to everyone’s disappointment, The Fury gets up and destroys the robot.  The second one goes out, now prepared for a suicide run after losing their love, and instructs The Fury to hold Kangs hand, who appears behind him and pulls the Fury into the timestream.  While there, Kang directs the Fury to hit the chronomines that are set up throughout the timestream, making it extremely difficult to navigate time travel.  Given this chance, Abigail does her best to rally the troops she has left…when suddenly help arrives in the form of Magik and her lover, Leah of Hel, riding the back of a giant Colossus and leading a demon horde into battle against the Perfection.  This quickly turns the tide and the invading forces are defeated.  Abigail welcomes Magik and Leah back to the Shield, but the two of them inform her they only returned to help her out…and leave once again, back to their place in the badlands.  Kang emerges from the timestream, with a now destroyed Nick the Fury…and both receive applause from a newly arrived guest….Thanos.  He tells them he has arrived to talk, and surrenders.

This was a really fun issue, finally seeing the battle that has been threatened to come since issue 1.  Everything happens fast, and the battle scenes are really great to see (especially the splash page of a pride of “kitties” attacking, along with a giant Lockheed).  What I really enjoyed the most about this issue was seeing this group of characters come together and work as a team.  Kang, who has hinted at having his own agenda, steps up and is integral to the defeat of The Fury; the robots, now revealing their true intentions, sacrificing their love to see it possible to continue; and the Endless Summers are treated more then just cannon fodder, but as valued members of the Shield.  Kieron Gillen has definitely kept the momentum of this book going, bringing us a great story of battle and, for the day at least, a victory.  He’s shown that these characters really are more then prisoners assigned to protect the Shield, but a team that have come to rely on each other.  Filipe Andrade’s art is still on point in this book, conveying the franticness of the battle and the elation of the victory.  Also, the double page spreads of the battle really bring the heat of battle to life, thanks to Julian Totino Tedesco, Juan Jose Ryp, Andy Troy, Michael Wm. Kaluta and Rachelle Rosenberg.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this Secret Wars tie in, and this issue did not disappoint. This is still very much an Abigail Brand book, but I really liked seeing more of the other characters and how they all came together to defend the Shield.  And now that Thanos has arrived, as foretold from the beginning, I can’t wait to see what this means for Abigail and the wall.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Filipe Andrade
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5  Recommendation: Buy

Phonogram the Immaterial Girl: Ready to Start a Coven About It

PHONOGRAM THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1Everyone who loves music needs to buy Phonogram. Even if the music you love isn’t Brit Pop. Even if it’s not pop. Even if everyone hates the music you love.

Remember being a little kid and your first time falling in love with music that was truly your own, rather than just listening to whatever your parents were playing? It is a formative moment in shaping your identity. You probably wrote in your journal something like “music is magic!” and maybe you drew ornate hearts and stars around it.

No? I doubt that Kid Elana was the only one, especially when the title page of this very comic, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie also says “Music is magic.”

That’s the central conceit of Phonogram: that music actually IS magic. Phonomancers use music to do powerful magic that shapes their lives and sometimes shapes reality beyond them. They certainly use phonomancy to shape the cultural consensus around music.

Gillen and McKelvie are masters at building fantastical metaphors for growing up and developing your sense of self. Their metaphors feel more real than any more “realistic” or literal narrative could ever be.

The new (and sadly final) story arc in this episodic series focuses on Emily Aster and how the too cool to be kind, all angles and snark, queen bee of the London coven got that way. Earlier in the series we’d seen that Emily used to be Claire –vulnerable, depressive and listening to The Smiths. Who ever went through a phase like that? (Cough, a lot of us, cough). Claire used magic to excise away the soft, sad, part of her personality emerging as Emily Aster a self-described “obsidian swan with wings of flame”. In issue 1 of The Immaterial Girl we learn that she did this by making a deal with “The King Behind the Screen”, a deity made of TV static and a Michael Jackson glove. With this deal she exiled her depressed teenage psyche to the netherverse beyond the mirror/monitor.

The self-invented Emily Aster that emerged from the deal didn’t just listening to pop music (gasp!) but rigorously espouses the doctrine of poptimism while (ironically enough) mercilessly mocking people who don’t get with her program. Meanwhile, Claire, her old goth self is coming back to haunt her. By making a “full faustian” deal with the devil Emily/Claire made herself her own worst enemy.

phonogram scan Emily is grabbedIssue 1 ended with Claire, her sad old self, dragging Emily through the screen of her TV into a-ha’s “Take On Me” video . Mirrors or screens are used to signify the division between this plane and the other-worldly going back to Lewis Carroll and to Surrealists like Jean Cocteau. Phonogram packs layers upon layers and references galore, but if you don’t catch some each issue ends with a thoughtful glossary. You can look up any band in the series on Spotify if you choose. Not required. But it’s really part of the fun.

In issue #2 Claire is finally out in the real world and trying to destroy the life Emily invented for herself. Meanwhile Emily is still trapped in the dark world behind the video screen. She’s chased by the iconic a-ha video’s animated pencil sketched thugs. She eludes them only to be slowly consumed by the tuxedoed dance corps[e] of Madonna’s “Material Girl,” some wearing the faces of her friends. Interestingly both Claire and Emily like Madonna. 80’s Madonna is one of music’s great unifiers. She’s a baseline consensus of quality music even if you (like me) don’t care for the lesser pop she inspired.

McKelvie’s art directly references the 80’s music videos that Claire/Emily fell in love with before she made herself who she is today. The cover of issue 1 is an homage to the work of 80’s pop artist Nagel. Nagel is famous for his art deco inspired, utterly flat graphic art of beautiful black-haired women often with cold or distant expressions. Expressions like Emily’s. You probably recognize Nagel’s art from the cover of Duran Duran’s album Rio.

McKelvie’s art, especially his clean line work and graphic faces already bares strong similarity to Nagel’s style so this explicit homage means something more. There’s an overall flatness to both Nagel and McKelvie’s style that acts symbolically here. Emily is a mask. Becoming a two-dimensional person was a choice she made to reduce the pain of being imperfect and misunderstood. But you know what else would help ease that pain? The togetherness of a shared musical experience. Fandom. That’s why we are teen goths together, not teen goths alone.

Gillen has said that Phonogram IS music criticism. As such it’s hard for comics critics like me, to write about Phonogram without talking about their own personal relationship and history with music.

Whenever I write a review in which I include my personal stories I get self-conscious about whether or not readers are actually going read them or just bail on me before reading the full review.

But I realize now that it is impossible to write about Phonogram without talking about one’s personal relationship to music.

Phonogram is about our personal relationship to music. You really can’t talk about Phonogram without talking about yourself.

And I think that is one of the strengths of the book. I think it’s why we love it so much. That and the beautiful art.

In fact, Phonogram may be causing some actual magic in real life. Honest to god this happened:

I was walking down the street explaining the series to my Husband. I suddenly heard a bell tolling a few times. I figured it was the church near by. But then a familiar, crunchy guitar riff began “dunuh dunuh duuuuh” and I asked “is someone playing For Whom the Bell Tolls?” Ask not For Whom the Bell Tolls, because it tolls from my iPhone. It had spontaneously started playing the 3rd track off Metallica’s 2nd best album, Ride the Lighting. It was as if the song was conjured by the “God of Thunder” and rock and rolllll to remind me that what I listen to is as much a part of the story as what is contained in the pages of Phonogram.

Characters within the text debating what music is good, what music is relevant, and where music should be going is a constant in the series. Even though David Kohl, ends Rue Britannia telling the next generation it’s ok to like what they like, even if they like The Libertines. The conversation never ends with that.

“Being an indie kid is a little like Catholicism. You never quite get over it” said David Kohl. It’s true. Even if the first music you fell in love with never called itself indie.

Claire probably scoffs at mainstream taste. Emily scoffs at indie. I’m not sure if Claire/Emily’s Rockist vs Poptimist debate is a legitimate intellectual argument these days but perhaps the future holds a reconciliation of both instincts. Throughout the series characters reconcile the stories they tell themselves about the music they enjoy with the reality of the music they do enjoy — which doesn’t always match their professed philosophy or what they want to be seen as loving. I’m a leftist but most of my musical taste is pale, male, belligerent and before my time. I’m all off-message. So I understand their struggle.

phonogram scan seth bingo punchIt is so hard to break from the “us vs them” attitude of pop cultural affiliations, but it’s an important part of growing up (which is something else this series is about). In The Immaterial Girl #1 we go back in time to see The Myth, their coven leader (a character I really enjoy) lead their very first coven meeting. He preaches being accepting of other people’s taste and accepting that it’s ok to love the music that speaks to you whether it is mainstream, hip or obscure. He says he tried to hate The White Stripes but he couldn’t. If it makes you feel magic it’s good.

Dear DJ Seth Bingo: after reading issue #1 I tried listening to the Sugababes. I found them dull even for Top 40’s, but then I’m not the audience. Don’t try to punch me like I’m Indie Dave. I’m not Indie Dave. I just listened to Black Sabbath. They wrote some of the catchiest, heaviest hooks of all time and so if music is magic I’m pretty sure I can take you out with my right hook (in a drop C# tuning).

PS: The backup stories in each issue featuring other artists make Phonogram feel like a fanzine in all the best ways. The story about Mr. Logos in the back of issue 1 just kills me. I’ll never understand why he gets stuck on a Taylor Swift song but I understand the concept of getting caught in a “curse song”. I’ve been there.

PPS: I totally respect that we can’t listen to Sabbath at your weekly dance party. The “only songs with girl singers allowed” rule you enforce is pretty radical. I’ll try it. I will. It’s how to stay young.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy it. Buy the whole damn series.

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

PhonogramIG01_CoverEveryone who loves music needs to buy Phonogram. Even if the music you love isn’t Brit Pop.

The central conceit of Phonogram is that music actually IS magic. Phonomancers use music to do powerful magic that shapes their lives and sometimes shapes reality beyond them. The new and final story arc in this episodic series tells the story of Emily Aster and how the too cool to be kind, all angles and snark queen bee of the local coven got that way. Her past is now literally catching up with her.

The series began in 2006 and was the first major collaboration between Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, the team behind beloved series The Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine. The first two volumes of Phonogram are among the most emotionally resonant and beautiful to behold comics I own. You should go and get them right now.

The first issue of volume 3 is coming out on Wednesday and I while it benefits from your reading the earlier two books I don’t think you’d be completely lost starting from here if you absolutely need to.

The cover harks back to the work of 80’s pop artist Nagel, famous for his art deco inspired, utterly flat graphic art of sexy black haired women often with cold or distant expressions. You probably recognize his art from the cover of Duran Duran’s album Rio.

McKelvie’s art bares similarity to Nagel’s style already so the reference has been there all along. For the first time the series also has two back-up shorts from guest artists. In the first issue they are Sarah Gordon and then Clayton Cowles. It’s a real treat to see additional artists creating comics in the Phonogram world.

It’s a world I’d like to spend more time in. I’ll have an essay taking a deeper look at the series coming out soon.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Color: Clayton Cowles
Additional Art: Sarah Gordon and Clayton Cowles
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation Buy!

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Siege #2

Siege2“There is no win here.  We just can’t fail” – Abigail Brand

These words from issue one ring even truer here in issue two as we see how the individuals who were sentenced to protecting The Shield, the planet long wall designed to protect Battleworld from the robot, zombie and annihilating hordes that would consume the planet, step into the front lines to defend the wall with their very lives, but ultimately know they will not win the war.

Leah has made the decision, against Abigail’s protests, to head out into the Deadlands in search of Thanos, the figure who they have been warned about who will bring about the fall of The Shield and ultimately the planet.  But Leah is also hoping to find her lost love, Ilyanna Rasputin, who has not been seen in some time since going out to defend the wall.

Fifteen days pass and Leah doesn’t return to The Shield.  Ready to take up her place as commander of the Hel Rangers, Kang proclaims he is ready, and more suited, to take up the newly vacant position.  Noticeably shaken by the seeming loss of Leah, Abigail orders one of the Summers to hand her gun…which she more then willingly points at Kang.  Summers stops her from following through, which to Kang, shows him how soft Abigail is. Summers enlightens Kang just how wrong he is, when they are alerted that Leonardo da Vinci has come across information regarding Thanos.  It seems there are many who fit the name Thanos on Battleworld, but the one that Leonardo says fits more closely to who they are looking for, is a Thanos spending his time trying to assemble some sort of glove.  Not knowing where to go next, Abigail decides to question two robots; defectors from Ultron, who are know prisoners of The Shield, but also able to access information from across the planet.   Abigail doesn’t fully trust the robots, but gives them permission to reach out and find what they can.  At that moment, they are alerted to an army that is headed straight for the wall…and was dispatched the moment the robots went looking for information.  Abigail accuses them of setting the attack up, but they vehemently deny any traitorous actions on their part.  Abigail quickly assembles her force and they prepare to engage….when Abigail finds out that a face from her past is leading the charge against them.

This book is so different in tone from any other from the Secret War tie ins.  We are seeing characters who know that their fight will never lead to a victory, and yet they go on, throwing themselves into battles that may very well be their last.  This issue gives us a deeper look into some of the characters.  Leah and Abigail’s friendship, and Abigail’s loss when Leah does not return; Kang wanting to serve his own intentions and agendas, despite the impending doom; and the Summers clones who give their all to the cause, but understand how disposable they really are.  We are given some small, lighter moments, with Lady Katherine charging in, stating to not be scared of the oncoming battle.  America quickly reminds her that she is a one-time hero, who will go down in battle and not be seen again; but reassures her that she will not be left behind.

Kieron Gillen again brings us a great story, really focussing on the characters and showing us what it means to endure loss on the wall.  Filipe Andrade‘s art definitely fits the tone of this story, along with darker shades and colours used throughout.  Again, we get flashbacks of past battles through beautiful splash pages provided by guest artists Yasmine Putri, Kyle Strahm, Jesus Aburtov and In-Hyuk Lee, which help us see what Abigail has gone through to make her the wall commander she is today.

Overall, I am really enjoying the story being told in this book.  There is no happy ending to look forward to, and I’m ok with that. This is a tale of a group of people who wake up every day knowing it could be their last, but wake up anyway to face it.  They can’t win…but also can’t fail.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Filipe Andrade (and guest artists)
Art: 8 Story: 9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Read

Review: Siege #1

SiegeIf the title of this book has you thinking this is a new region of Battleworld where the Siege of Asgard plays out daily, with a new and different cast of characters…you would be wrong. With Secret Wars giving us new tie in books weekly, this title is not a re-envisioned look at characters and events, but rather a story taking place that could have dire consequences for all of Battleworld.

From an opening flashback. we’re introduced to Abigail Brand, who is in charge of The Shield, a 200+ foot wall that stretches across the entire planet, protecting all of Battleworld from the dangerous Deadlands and the various threats that dwell there. Brand is awakened by her second in command, Leah (who calls herself a shieldmaiden) and alerted to a threat that the forces of The Shield must prepare for.  Anyone who is a fan of Abigail will see that she hasn’t lost her wit and sarcasm in this new world, and she quickly takes charge and begins preparing for the coming threat.

Called together to execute Abigail’s plan, we are introduced to a very eclectic assembly of heroes to take up the fight; Leah the shieldmaiden, Leonardo Da Vinci , Lady Katherine of Bishop, Ms. America, Kang the Conqueror and the Endless Summers (what appears to be a large squadron of what I’m guessing are clones of Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers).  We see Abigail interacting with the various members of this team, and through past entries of her ‘battle journal’ we see the various threats that have faced The Shield and how she has dealt with them. Kang questions Abigail’s ability to effectively led The Shield to victory, and with her smart mouth and straight to the point attitude, she points out that there is never victory on The Shield, they just can’t fail. Just then, another Kang warps in through a time field, badly injured he gives Abigail a dire warning before dying and disappearing in another temporal shift.

I didn’t really know what to expect when jumping into this book, but I am so glad that I did. I have always been a fan of Abigail Brand, and I was glad to see she was the same as I remembered her; smart mouth, fiery temper and ready to jump head first into action. I really enjoyed the cast of characters brought together for this story, seeing just how different they all are and how they interact.  For the most part, they are all battle ready and grim, no doubt from their time on The Shield, but Lady Katherine and Ms. America were a brief breath of fresh air, bringing in a youthful, optimistic view of the coming battle.  Kieron Gillen does a fantastic job of weaving this story, bringing the seriousness and dire tone to the situation, but as mentioned, able to break it up with a few lighter moments through characters.  I didn’t mind Filipe Andrade’s art, though I found his characters were drawn with sharp, hard angles. I also found that the colours seemed to be muddy throughout (although, the guest artists who contributed to the splash pages of past battles did a good job, brightening up the pages with their work).  An argument could be made that the sharp style and muddy colouring added to the tone of the story, but it definitely didn’t wow me or stand out.

Overall, I was thoroughly satisfied with this story, and I can’t wait for the next issue. I love the characters and want to see more from them, and the warning of what’s to come has me eagerly anticipating the continuation of the story and see how this band of heroes come together to face it.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Filipe Andrade
Story: 9 Art: 7 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Read 

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