Review: MPLS Sound

MPLS Sound
Cover by Jen Bartel

The phrase “put in the work” is often thrown around as an end-all/be-all take on success. What it actually entails, what it looks like, isn’t always clear. Joe Illidge, Hannibal Tabu, and Meredith Laxton’s MPLS Sound, a book about a fictional band trying to contend with the presence and influence of musical icon Prince, offers a good example of what that phrase means.

The book follows Theresa Booker and her Prince-inspired funk band Starchild as they rise through the Minneapolis music scene while also finding their place in it. Should Prince be an inspiration or a mold to shape one’s self into? What’s identity in music and how does one honor a legacy without being devoured by it? These questions follow Theresa and the band throughout the fast but contemplative story.

While not a requirement, having some background knowledge on the life and legend of Prince guarantees a more enriching reading experience. Some stops along the road of Theresa’s musical career are ripped straight out of Prince’s story.

The expectations of growing up the child of a musical family (if only on one side), demo recording at an early stage, a burning desire to make it big quick, dealing with the label of musical genius, among other things help fans connect the dots on just how much more of a Prince book MPLS Sound truly is.

This isn’t to say Theresa’s character mimics Prince entirely, but there’s a spiritual connection that’s hard to ignore. In fact, the book leaves you no choice other than to get sucked into the funkadelicness of that connection, especially with Laxton’s recreation of key musical spots in the the Minneapolis scene, including the Capri Theater and Sam’s (where he played to a sold-out hometown crowd in 1981). The locations are imbued with a sense of grandeur and magic that one can instantly recognize as belonging to Prince.

MPLS Sound

Illidge and Tabu’s script does a fantastic of adding historical flair to the storytelling, helping Laxton conjure up the required magic such places accrued as their legends grew. Tan Shu’s colors keep to a palette that celebrates purple in its various forms and all its glory, adding to the mystique of Prince’s presence all throughout the book.

An important note, though. Those expecting Prince to be a constant physical present as the plot progresses in the book might not be happy to hear the Artist’s ‘screen time’ is limited. Now, this doesn’t mean he isn’t present in every page.

The Prince character is more a vibrant and ever-present force that reminded me of the power Dracula holds in the classic Bram Stoker novel. Dracula’s interventions are limited in the book, but his presence can be felt in every page, often influencing character behavior and even the decisions they make. Prince plays almost the same role, being both inspirational and overwhelming at the same time.

Theresa and Starchild pose a lot of questions as to what’s expected of them being that Prince’s influence can either make of break the band’s identity. Of course, this is where Illidge and Tabu’s script takes the opportunity to focus on the value of going through the process, of putting in the work.

MPLS Sound

MPLS Sound presents the band’s growing pains as not only necessary but also as a kind of test to see how well the connective tissue between the band members holds when tensions arise. It’s all about the music, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing a band has to work on. As the creative team puts all of story elements together, the idea of hard work becomes this multidimensional endeavor that demands one’s commitment entirely. Nothing comes easy, a sentiment Prince both embodied and conquered.

Any excuse to pop in a Prince album and get lost in the sounds of his unique brand of funk is a good one. MPLS Sound doesn’t just give a good reason to do that, it gives the perfect reason to do so. The book invites a deeper understanding of music, craft, and of legendary musicians themselves, but also never at the expense of fun and excitement. What’s here possesses the stuff that makes certain comics go beyond greatness, an accomplishment worthy of the Artist that inspired it.

Script: Joe Illidge and Hannibal Tabu Art: Meredith Laxton
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy, along with the entire Prince discography

Humanoids provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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