Tag Archives: kieron gillen

Criticism and Fandom Duel it Out in Phonogram: The Singles Club #6

Phonogram: The Singles Club #6

From what we’ve seen in Phonogram: The Singles Club so far, Lloyd is more concerned with telling various phonomancers about his “plan” to show pop music’s dark, hypocritical subtext by combining new public domain melodies with “hyper-lewd post-spank-rock sex lyrics”. He’s more critic than an artist or even fan (Except for the Dexys Midnight Runners.) in those five issues. So it’s fitting that Phonogram: The Singles Club #6, Lloyd’s comic, is in zine form and takes place after the revelries are over in his bedroom where he writes about them in his grimoire, er, zine.

In the past, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson show that Lloyd is all about theory, not praxis as evidenced by his awkwardness around dancing and wanting to fanboy over David Kohl instead of having drinking and having a good time at the club. Now we get to see these events from his POV, and it shows that he definitely is all about analysis calling music “sublimated emotion” and his grimoire “sublimated thought”. Lloyd has all these ideas about music, bands, and even people, and he uses writing to basically exorcise them and get them out in the open from his thoughts on David Kohl’s mortality (Their chat was chat was apparently an “interview”) to an essay on why Dexys Midnight Runners means so much to him and finally a poem about Penny on the dance floor.

The Dexys essay really brings out that push and pull between fandom and criticism as Lloyd puts on their single “Plan B” to help him calm down after a very emotional car ride. McKelvie does a fantastic job of showing his pain on the first place as he wrinkles his eyes and puts his fist on the door before throwing a vase of flowers, a classic symbol of love and devotion. However, once Lloyd gets to his room he’s all business, putting on a record, and then pulling out his typewriter and getting to work on his grimoire. I can definitely connect to him finding comfort through putting his thoughts about a certain topic in order, and it’s something I have done myself after a tough breakup or a tough emotional bit. Like, I’m taking a break from that part of my brain and going to use the other one.

I get that kind of analytical vibe from Lloyd as he basically reports on events of Phonogram: The Singles Club usually mainly prose, but also collage and even a really fun comic to illustrate his “master plan”, which honestly works more effectively than the multiple times he told folks about it. It’s also interesting that the three people in the band look like stick figure versions of him, Penny, and Laura Heaven. And Lloyd totally still wants Penny to be the frontwoman as he does an extra little ritual before writing out her response to his plan as well as the aforementioned poem. Gillen captures Lloyd’s eloquence in describing how Penny dances to “Pull Shapes” with some killer lines like “My mocking words are turned to chalk and dust by her every step…” It’s the perfect verbal companion to the splash page at the end of The Singles Club #1, and it’s nice that Lloyd got to enjoy that moment too. In theory, never in practice although that will change by the end of this issue.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #6

On the other end of the spectrum is Lloyd’s relationship with Laura Heaven. (And, no, we haven’t seen the last of it.) Gillen and McKelvie truly understand the tragedy of a missed emotional and intellectual connection with someone as Lloyd waxes poetic about he and Laura are on on the same page about his plan, but then she leaves the cab, and then he starts ripping up the zine page. They have a kind of chemistry, and it’s all dashed to pieces as Lloyd falls on the band surrounded by sigils with McKelvie giving him an aimless stare. Wilson keeps the color palette a neutral sepia because it’s a little bit of a flashback as Lloyd is thinking back to last night, but mostly, he’s not feeling super magical.

But the magic returns in the final four pages of Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 as Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson capture the euphoric feeling of listening to a song by a new band for the first time. (A band that you will probably fall in love with.) They kick it off with a tight, six-panel flashback of David Kohl basically nudging Lloyd to expand his horizons beyond Dexys and suggesting Los Campesinos!, who had just started during the events of this story, released two albums before the publication of The Singles Clubs, and are considered indie legends today. Instead of overanalyzing his personality, Kohl and Lloyd have a nice chat about music, and it leads to Lloyd going on MySpace (So much nostalgia!) and streaming “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives”.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #6

What follows is a love story in motion as Lloyd dances all around his bedroom to the track, only moving to headphones when he gets a noise complaint, and his new grimoire is inspired by them. McKelvie shows the progression of his interest in the artist as he clicks on the song, starts moving his hands around and makes a comment about the lyrics, and then finally goes into full dance mode. In a single panel, Lloyd demonstrates more vigor and physical energy than in the previous five issues, and it’s redemptive for him as he’s genuinely a fan of good indie and pop music and not just a critic stuck in a niche, or worse, a rut. He had a rough night, but now he has some new tunes and a new lease on life and his grimoires/zines. As a comics critic, it’s the equivalent of stepping outside of your usual beat and creators and enjoying some new kind of work.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 is all about how a new artist and/or song can be quite refreshing, especially if you’re prone to overanalysis like poor Lloyd. (I was probably a little too hard on him last article.) Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson also craft a homage to fanzines and the power of putting passion into words and images like Lloyd does in this issue before burning it all down to be consumed by a new song. And the dancing at the end is really a nice transition to the final and arguably best issue of Phonogram The Singles Club even though Lloyd and Kid-with-Knife are polar opposites.

Underrated: Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: JDie: Fantasy Heartbreaker.


Believe it or not, I’m not the biggest reader of Kieron Gillen‘s work. The author has some critically acclaimed works that frankly I’ve never gotten around to reading – not because I’m not a fan of his work, but largely because I never make a conscious effort to hunt out the author’s work. More often than not, I end up reading Gillen’s writing as it falls into comics I would naturally gravitate toward; case in point the subject of today’s column.

According to Goodreads Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker is “a pitch-black fantasy where a group of forty-something adults have to deal with the returning, unearthly horror they only just survived as teenage role-players.” Perhaps the easiest way to describe this is as a dark version of Jumanji as six D&D players disappear for two years as they start up a special kind of game. The story takes place almost thirty years later as they’re forced back to the fantasy world as the very characters they played as initially – only this time they have lives they want too return to.

The first volume of Die is heavily influenced by D&D and roleplaying games in general – but if you’re not a fan of that type of entertainment then have no fear because you don’t need to be intimately familiar with the ins and outs of character creation (though as with anything paying homage to something, knowledge of D&D character creation will likely give you a laugh or two when the players go through the same process, but again, it’s by no means essential). The comic is set up in that if you’ve ever played any type of game where you interact with non player characters (videogames, roleplaying games, choose your own adventure type books), and have wondered what happens in the world when you turn off the game, then you’ll find something to enjoy in the premise. That’s to say nothing of Gillen’s writing or Stephanie Hans art as she brings to life the fantasy world in Gillen’s imagination.

It feels odd to highlight the work of the man partly responsible for The Wicked + The Divine, but this is one of those books that I don’t see enough people talking about. Until I picked up the first volume at my comic shop (for all of $10!), I’m fairly sure it had been on the shelf for some time – at the very least I hadn’t heard anybody asking for it in the same way as other works by creators not published by the big two. Die is a dark book, and through this Gillen explores whether we’d truly be heroes in a world of no consequence, whether we would give way to our inhibitions and become the worst versions of ourselves or whether we could rise above.

The more I thought about the book the more I enjoyed the layers Gillen had woven into it; although they were only teenagers when they first entered the game, the six players spent two years in the fantasy world – and three decades later, they’re facing the consequences of actions they took, relationships they forged and the decisions made during those two years. Some of these people are still haunted by their time in the fantasy world, and how that’ll play out across the next two volumes is something I’m super excited to find out.

You should be able to find this at your LCS, or online, easily enough.


In the meantime, Underrated will return to highlight more comic book related stuff  that either gets ignored despite it’s high quality, or maybe isn’t quite as bad as we tend to think it is.

Your First Look at Once & Future #15

BOOM! Studios has revealed today a first look at Once & Future #15, continuing a new story arc in the critically acclaimed series from New York Times bestselling writer Kieron Gillen, Russ Manning Award-winning artist Dan Mora, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and letterer Ed Dukeshire, about retired monster hunter Bridgette McGuire, her unsuspecting grandson Duncan, and their intrepid ally Rose who protect their nation from legends and myths risen from the grave to battle for dominion over the land.

Bridgette and Duncan return to a familiar place to pick up Lancelot’s trail, while Rose comes face to face with another member of the McGuire family she was not expecting to see…

Once & Future #15 features main cover art by Mora and variant cover art by Eisner Award-nominated artist Matías Bergara and a black and white variant of Mora’s main cover. It comes to store shelves on January 20, 2021.

Once & Future #15

Phonogram: The Singles Club #5 shows the emptiness of referentiality

Phonogram: The Singles Club #5

“The boys wanna be her. The girls wanna be her. I wanna be her.”- “Boys Wanna Be Her” by Peaches

Laura Heaven is terribly pretentious and a terrible person, and after dropping hints about her throughout Phonogram: The Singles Club, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson give her center stage in issue five. To quickly sum her up, she is the female equivalent of that Harvard grad student that gets spit roasted by Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting , but with pop music instead of colonial American history. Nearly every line of dialogue or narrative caption for her is a reference to something else whether that’s a lyric by her obsession du jour the 2000s English indie rock band The Long Blondes or a really hacked out quote from Airplane that causes the equally referential Lloyd (Never Logos) to go Arthur fist in the next panel. It’s also why Phonogram: The Singles Club #5 comes across as the wordiest of the series so far even though I haven’t done any actual analysis on it.

In Phonogram: The Singles Club #5, Laura Heaven has to critique and commentate on everyone and everything, and of course, there’s footnotes. This because it’s her entire personality, and she can’t come up with anything original. You could even call her a parasite, and her interactions with Lloyd along with the black eyes McKelvie draws her with seem to back this up. For example, in previous issues, there’s been zero lingering on the simple act of getting drinks at the bar. It’s just something you do at a club night, everyone has their go-to libation, no harm, no foul. However, Laura creates an entire backstory for the bartender based on one panel of her disdainfully serving Marc a drink. Almost like a screenplay, she talks about how she’s a symbol of overall coolness thanks to her tattoo sleeve and piercing, and how she wants to be and be with her. (Laura gives off total frustrated bisexual vibes, especially around Penny B.)

Phonogram: The Singles Club #5

This methodical, yet erotically charged stream of consciousness is just how Laura views the world, and Jamie McKelvie does an excellent job of matching facial expression to whatever she’s thinking at the time. He and Kieron Gillen create layers of subtext as Laura balances being both critical and jealous. The scene where she smokes a cigarette while dressed in her get-up that’s basically Kate Jackson (The frontwoman of Long Blondes) cosplay while looking dolefully at Penny B and Marc is a textbook example of that. She misreads (He’s still hung up over an ex.) that Marc is interested in Penny not her, and her captions on why she likes the Long Blonde and how Kate Jackson is basically a BDSM switch act as a half-baked distraction from her feelings. McKelvie draws a close-up of Penny’s hand on Marc’s back while she talks about how Long Blondes’ references to other bands and general intertextuality has made her feel and connected her to new/old music when she really wants to connect with another human being and be wanted.

And the emphasis is on “wanted” and desire and not on any kind of healthy, two-way relationship, hence, the issue’s title “Lust Etc.”. (Of course, this is a Long Blondes song title.) She has huge crushes on both Penny B and Marc that are exposed through her angry expression while they chat at the club, and later on when she chats with Emily Aster in the bathroom. What starts as a condescending “bless your heart” kind of moment where Emily teases Laura for her love of Long Blondes and unoriginality turns into the closest Phonogram: The Singles Club #5 gets to heart to heart throughout the entire issue. (I almost jumped in the ocean.) From a quick glance, Emily understands what Laura is trying to be and adjusts her beret while nailing her character in one sentence, “You’re a bad person. That’s not so bad.” There’s also the context of issue three that makes it seem like Emily sees a lot of her previous self (The self-harming, indie girl in the mirror.) in Laura, and that she needs a bit of a nudge to break out of her “chrysalis”.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #5

This not as bad side comes out in the conclusion of the issue when the night ends, and Laura (As one of the “dregs”) shares a taxi with Lloyd, who gets another screenplay-esque play by play just like the bartender. Gillen and McKelvie reveal that Laura’s loathing for Lloyd comes from her seeing a lot of her worst qualities in him. (See The Smiths quote/flirt along when they get in the taxi.) And speaking of The Smiths, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson, who brings a dark palette to play, show that having a passion for a certain kind of music isn’t the formula for a meet cute and do a nihilist spin on the mid-2000s indie romantic comedy. McKelvie draws Laura’s body posture as flirtatious, and there’s even an “almost kiss” panel. However, it’s Laura knowing that she won’t be Kate Jackson or the femme fatale in Lloyd’s painfully misogynistic pop project so she decides to verbally castrate him instead and concludes by jumping out of the taxi and butchering one of The Smiths’ best lyrics, “It takes guts to be gentle and kind” while running into the night. The last few pages of Phonogram: The Singles Club #5 truly are an evisceration of the toxicity of the indie scene, and by extension any passionate fandom, as Laura and Lloyd substitute emotional openness with empty referentiality as deep down, they’re the only ones they care about.

Circling back to the beginning of the article, Laura Heaven could be a one-note indie poseur/parody character that other more developed characters make fun of or just to push to the background. However, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson treat her with both sympathy and contempt. McKelvie gives her these longing, earnest looks, like the lyrics in The Smiths’ best choruses, and I really empathize with her a lot when she’s watching Penny have a good time on the dance floor or realizing how much cooler Emily Aster is than her.

Despite her pretentiousness (Read: acting like a total asshole.), Laura is a relatable character to me as she uses her interests as a shield in tough, emotionally fraught situations or even to avoid small talk. Also, I could definitely apply the aforementioned captions about why she likes the Long Blondes to the music I discovered or rediscovered while reading Phonogram Rue Britannia and The Singles Club. For example, I didn’t know my Manic Street from my Preachers and had only been to one gay bar in a small college town at the time so Robyn was also a foreign concept to me. I did know Crystal Castles because one day I randomly looked up their music because they had the same name as an arcade game I liked as a kid.

However, Laura also uses her passion and propensity for quoting her favorite songs during untimely moments to mask that she’s a little bit of a terrible person and incapable of having a good time as she snarks and snipes at her so-called “friend” Penny B at the club. And there’s of course the bit with Lloyd at the end. If she continues with her interest in vintage music and fashion and maybe branches out a little bit, Laura Heaven could definitely end up being a “terrible person with great taste in records”, and this is why it’s so awesome that Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson explore what happened to her, Lloyd, and the rest of the Singles Club crew in the arguably the best issue of Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl.

But, for now, she’s a lonely young woman with “the records and books that [she] own[s” running into the darkness in a sequence that is the antithesis of Penny B dancing in heavenly light to “Pull Shapes” in Phonogram: The Singles Club #1.

Review: Eternals #1

Eternals #1

Out of the numerous bodies of characters that exist within the Marvel universe, there’s no one more unknown to me as the Eternals. The characters have more-or-less relegated to their own title and seldom pop out for other appearances. The Eternals are not the types that pop up in your monthly summer events. Somehow, the stars aligned in their favor and there’s an MCU movie on the horizon for them so it’s the perfect time to reintroduce these godlike characters to readers this week with Eternals #1.

Eternals #1 starts with a resurrection. Apparently, the Eternals were dead but are alive again, thanks to the machine that works within the confines of their lives. Ikaris, leader of the Eternals, ends up chasing around another Eternal that’s a bit more of a pain in the ass in Sprite. While their superpowered game of tag concludes with them seeing where humanity has gotten to in the Eternals’ absence, there’s one thing staring them down; the death of another Eternal has happened and they cannot wait for his return to get down to it.

I think my only problem with this book was my own confusion about the Eternals themselves. It’s a bit easier to jump into an Avengers or FF relaunch when the characters are fairly much the same from one book launch to another. Eternals #1 gives Marvel the chance to establish these characters in a new light while keeping true to what Jack Kirby envisioned and I think that’s pulled off quite well. They brought in Kieron Gillen to pilot this book and I think the end result speaks for itself. The starting cast is small and Gillen is able to allow those present to have their own voice while not throwing a lot of characters at the reader.

Esad Ribić delivers an absolute stunner on art. It’s a really beautiful book from cover to cover. It’s weird to say this but as much as I loved how this book looked, and I did, I cannot wait to see him delve into the inner workings of the Eternals and show us the Celestials, or, I’m hoping we get to that with Ribić still on the title. His style has so much detail to it that I really enjoy what I’m looking at. Really, I get a bit nervous when Marvel launches something new because you never know what direction they’ll go artistically.

I think going into this, I didn’t have that high of hopes but I enjoyed this a lot and plan on continuing the adventure of the Eternals. I think if Marvel can keep this creative team on the book, it’s going to help with keeping readers interested in the Eternals. I’m sure the upcoming movie will help, too, but in the pages of the comics is where the work needs to be done and Gillen and Ribić are the right team for it. This book has way too many variants but that should also mean it’s an easy book for potential readers to find a copy of.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Esad Ribić
Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer/Designer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Phonogram: The Singles Club #4 Features the Character Find of 2009: Silent Girl

PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB #4

For the most part, Phonogram: The Singles Club is the comic book equivalent of a TV bottle episode with most of the action happening on a single night in a single location: a night club in Bristol. However, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson make the location/format constraints even tighter and tell the entire story from the POV of Seth Bingo and Silent Girl’s DJ booth using only six panel grids in Phonogram: The Singles Club #4. It features their commentary on the songs they’re playing, the incidents of the first three issues, and a relationship that is close, yet strained. Also, Gillen and McKelvie craft Singles Club and maybe Phonogram‘s breakout character in Silent Girl using the power of poptimism and body language as she is very skilled at rebuffing Seth’s snobbishness and getting back to the point of this night: enjoying music with female vocalists for the hell of it with no magic, grimoires, or overanalysis needed.

In a way, Phonogram: The Singles Club #4 is very metafictional. Seth Bingo and Silent Girl craft a musical experience for the club-goers with built-in restraints just like Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson craft a comic reading experience within the six-panel grid until they literally pull away the gutter for a double-page spread featuring all the characters we’ve met. This is complete with the gold color tone that Wilson uses for the Blondie record, “Atomic”, that Silent Girl picks from her record collection like a nuclear technician extracting uranium from the core, or whatever the hell Homer did in The Simpsons. McKelvie’s linework fades out into flat colors as Silent Girl retrieves the record, and the next page is just Seth and Silent Girl dancing to this absolute banger behind the DJ booth with choreography that would put Tik Tok to shame. To get back to the metafiction, it’s a character beat landing perfectly, a visual that conveys emotion without the need for a block of text, or to move to another medium, it’s a needle drop that makes a scene in a film or television stick in your mind. It’s a peek behind the curtain that leads to Penny B’s energy in The Singles Club #1 (She makes a word balloon cameo in this issue.) and Emily Aster, David Kohl, and Kid with Knife’s group dance in the previous issue.

Phonogram: The Singles Club

Metaphors for creation and curation aside (This would later be a major theme in The Wicked + the Divine.), Phonogram: The Singles Club #4 is actually a pretty funny comic thanks to the interplay between Seth Bingo and Silent Girl. It’s overreaction versus underraction at its finest, and lot of the humor comes from McKelvie drawing Silent Girl’s reactions, which make her one of the most endearing Phonogram characters. For example, she’s actual friends with Kohl and plays a record by short-lived British indie duo Johnny Boy and goes through the motions of putting the record on while Seth wildly gestures. (At least, he doesn’t have steam over his head or spit coming out of his mouth like in other panels where McKelvie uses these classic comics idioms.) It’s a relationship in miniature and is compounded as Silent Girl gently smiles during the Johnny Boy track while Seth holds his head and channels Pitchfork’s review of the album. (Apparently, it only merited a 5.2) The smile turns into a shit-eating grin as Seth throws a tantrum, and the scene segues into Penny B requesting The Pipettes. Of course, Silent Girl likes them.

Towards the end of the comic, Silent Girl provides much needed perspective on the indie night and breaks Seth out of his holier-than-thou tastemaker/phonomancer doldrums when the worst thing happens: the record skips. And it’s a good one, “Who’s That Girl” by Robyn, a rare artist beloved by both DJs (And yours truly.) as evidenced by them playing the whole Robyn album at a previous gig. What starts out with Seth and Silent Girl dancing to the track a la “Atomic” turns into quick, ninja-like moments as they get the record off the turntable before the dancers demand a refund. Seth lights into a long monologue about being hexed by Emily Aster, and McKelvie draws him with downcast posture. However, Silent Girl gives him simple, yet wise advice to enjoy the great music they’re playing as Gillen and McKelvie break the rhythm of the six panel grid and introduce a little negative space to the page with a slightly overhead shot of Seth and Silent Girl at the DJ booth saying “No magic. Just music.”

Phonogram: The Singles Club

The great facial expressions for Silent Girl and their indie DJ/comedy team routine makes Phonogram: The Singles Club #4 very entertaining as well as proving a kind of bird’s eye view of this infamous night of revelry. Characters who we think we know from previous comics turn up in a different light like Kohl going from being the star of Rue Britannia to lugging Seth’s crate of records under the harsh house lights. (Mathew Wilson nails that jarring feeling of the lights coming on after a club night.) The Singles Club #4 also has a really hopeful, if slightly saccharine message of enjoying music for it’s own sake and not using it to talk shit to other people or lord over them like Seth Bingo has done this entire miniseries. Silent Girl definitely embodies that poptimistic outlook, and she and Seth are at the nexus of that final double page spread bringing enjoyment and inspiration to all of the denizens of the dance floor, or what Gillen calls “magic enough”.

A DJ mixing in bangers that you know with some enjoyable new tunes as well as being generous, yet not overwhelmed by requests is truly magical and also something that can still happen in an age of closed venues and clubs thanks to the magic of streaming music and Zoom.

Preview: Eternals #1

Eternals #1

(W) Kieron Gillen (A/CA) Esad Ribic
Rated T+
In Shops: Jan 06, 2021
SRP: $4.99

NEVER DIE. NEVER WIN. ETERNALS.
What’s the point of an eternal battle?
For millions of years, one hundred Eternals have roamed the Earth, secret protectors of humanity. Without them, we’d be smears between the teeth of the demon-like Deviants. Their war has waged for all time, echoing in our myths and nightmares.

But today, Eternals face something new: change. Can they – or anyone on Earth – survive their discovery?
From the thought provoking minds of Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine, Uncanny X-Men, Thor) and Esad Ribi? (Secret Wars, King Thor) comes a new vision of the classic Marvel mythology!

Eternals #1

Review: Eternals #1

Eternals #1

The Eternals are an interesting group of characters. Created by Jack Kirby, there’s a certain pedigree about them. But, despite the talent that birthed them, it’s never been a group or characters I’ve cared much about. There’s been some good moments, like Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr.’s take, but overall, it’s a group of characters I can’t say I’ve been excited about. And due to that, I’ve been rather excited to read Eternals #1 by Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribić.

For those catching up, the Eternals are beings created to serve the whims of the Celestials. They’re at odds with other beings called Deviants. It’s all interesting but never quite clicked for me.

Well, Gillen may be changing that. Eternals #1 is a hell of a start. It brings the characters squarely back into the Marvel Universe and doing it in a way that it makes sense. The beauty of Eternals #1 is that it catches new readers up. It explains the characters so well it feels like they’ve just always been around and characters and concepts I knew about. But, on top of that, it drops readers into a familiar type of story that it’s easy to enjoy while doing so.

Eternals #1 is a hell of a balance and beginning. Beyond the introduction to the characters, the issue also moves things along with an intriguing murder mystery that also plays into teaching readers about this world. It’s an interesting mix in that it feels like a video game whose opening is both cinematic and geared towards teaching players the fundamentals of it all.

Esad Ribić’s art is fantastic. That’s not too surprising at all. Ribić is joined by Matthew Wilson on color and letterer/designer Clayton Cowles. The designs of the characters are solid but it’s the world that’s really amazing. The locations, the presentation of the world, it’s all beyond impressive. Much like the current X-Men, comics, Eternals #1 uses diagrams and info drop pages to help make the information from being too overloading. The locations presented are amazing and really make the series stand out from the rest of what Marvel’s putting out currently. It’s a unique series in so many ways.

Eternals #1 clearly takes a lot of inspiration from the relaunched X-Men. The inclusion of info dump pages and the tone itself feels very inline of that entire line of comics. That’s not a bad thing because it works and works REALLY well. Eternals #1 is a highly anticipated comic for 2021 launching the year and if this is any indication of what we can expect for the year, it’s going to be a very good one. The comic sets a high bar for what follows in its path and easily meets the expectations for this debut. It’s a must get and a great way to start the new year.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Esad Ribić
Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer/Designer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Phonogram: The Singles Club #3 shows the impossibility of Escaping Past Insecurities

“Oh, make me over! I’m all I want to be. A walking study in demonology.”- “Celebrity Skin” by Hole

Content warning: self-harm mentions

PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB #3

Asymmetrical haircut, perfect quip at the ready, timeless sense of fashion, and an air of superiority. Emily Aster is the epitome of “cool girl”, and she even makes inhaling carcinogens indoors look cool. She rules the roost in Phonogram: The Singles Club #3 where Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson show an indie night at a club in Bristol from her perspective. The story begins with her admiring her “reflection” in the mirror (We later learn that, like a vampire, she doesn’t have one.) and wraps up with her having mindless casual sex with Kid-with-Knife, who would much rather be dancing to Wu-Tang Clan than Elastica. Along the way, she imposes her ego on every person she comes into contact with at indie night from frenemy David Kohl to the DJs Seth Bingo and Silent Girl plus Laura Heaven in one panel, and most spectacularly, an old friend from high school, who knew her as a self-harming sad girl named Clair, who was more into The Smiths than taking over a dance floor.

Thematically, Gillen and McKelvie follow a similar throughline in Phonogram: The Singles Club #3 as the previous issue with Emily Aster, like Marc, being haunted by a specter of her past. However, Emily’s specter is herself. It’s not until page ten until we find out that she doesn’t have a reflection, but Gillen and McKelvie hint at the reveal through dialogue and art placement. Emily basically breaks the fourth wall and shows the audience’s perception of herself. She immediately switches to second person in her narrative captions, and McKelvie draws her from different angles and never straight on like looking in a mirror. Gillen’s writing exudes confidence until we get a close-up and a “Get out of my head, right now”, which is a recurring theme as Emily tries to run away from Claire as quickly as possible.

If you have to say you’re not insecure, you probably are. (Sorry, them’s the breaks.)

In her mind, Emily has no past just a present and future. This is why she scoffs at the whole concept of “indie night” and being into music from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s like David Kohl, and especially, Indie Dave, who really hasn’t moved beyond Joy Division and the Manchester sound of that time and appeared in the previous volume as well as The Singles Club‘s B-sides. Later, in the issue, Emily starts energetically dancing to an Elastica song with Matthew Wilson’s palette capturing the glow of nostalgia. But, in the very next panel, she sees the reflection of Claire, there’s a repetition of “get out of my head”, and she leaves to do the most un-Claire thing possible: have a one night stand with Kid-with-Knife. Even though Emily’s dialogue is full of punch and ego and her posture is self-assured, everything she does is to piss off her past self. She might think that she has put that behind her, but her near-photographic memory of events that happened when she was a teenager shows that it still matters to her.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #3

And speaking of near-photographic memory, Emily’s most devastating and sadistic moment happens in the bathroom just before Penny B enters it to cry about Marc not dancing with her. Even though Emily denies knowing her, she runs into a high school classmate, who knew her as Claire the self-harmer. (In a bit of dark, deadpan humor, Jamie McKelvie draws Claire showing the scars on her arm.) Emily starts serious with metaphors for self-harm helping her transform into the woman she is today before reeling off an eight-panel monologue about the classmate’s car accident that took her brother’s life. McKelvie draws Claire casually re-applying lipstick and even includes a beat panel to show her pursing her lips to see if it looks good. However, Gillen’s dialogue is anything but casual and is utterly cruel as Emily forces this woman from her past to relive the saddest moment of her life in a club bathroom sandwiched between remarks about 1990s hip hop one-hit wonders. She really is a bad person with great taste in records, and this bathroom encounter with Claire/high school acquaintance ends up being the engine of the story that is Phonogram: Immaterial Girl where Emily totally loses control over her current self-identity.

In the end, Emily doesn’t have a good night at the club as her egotism (What she hypocritically accuses Seth Bingo of being.), casual cruelty, and fixation on past insecurities ruin the one song she wanted to dance to (And this issue’s song/cover): “We Share Our Mother’s Health” by The Knife. There is a fluidity to Emily’s movements when she’s having a good time with Kohl and Kid-with-Knife for exactly one panel, but McKelvie draws her a little more rigidly when The Knife track comes on and Wilson uses shadowy colors instead of the intense (or ethereal) ones he uses for most dancing scenes. This is because Emily is “… living proof that sometimes friends are mean” and is too busy being smug and showing how much she has changed since the indie nights of the past to have a good time. Of course, she blames Kohl for the night sucking and turns her back on him, but from her actions throughout the comic, we know it’s her fault.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #3

As someone who has has played around with different identities, personas, and occasionally even looks, (See Emo Nite 2018) I can relate to Emily Aster (Uh oh!) and empathize with her even though she’s really a terrible person and crossed all the lines in her bathroom chat/monologue. I hate talking about and thinking about my past self and live in fear of running into someone I knew from high school now that I’ve moved back to that area thanks to a great career opportunity. So, I understand the deep insecurity that is connected to “coming home” (Even if “home” was never actually home), and by extension, Emily’s perspective in Phonogram: The Singles Club #3. I hate to say it, but I agree with Seth Bingo that she’s “the most evil woman in the world”.

However, he really doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. Honestly, Kieron Gillen via Emily Aster put it best when he wrote “Everyone I know is a bad person with great taste in records”. This is an apt descriptor for basically the entire cast of Phonogram, who definitely introduced me to some great tunes (I owe my standom of Manic Street Preachers and Robyn to the series.), but is chockfull with some interpersonal toxicity as illustrated in my past, present, and future essays on Phonogram: The Singles Club.

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