Tuesday, January 27, 2009

PROPAGANDA Reviews: Phonogram - The Singles Club Issue 1

Dance till the stars come down from the rafters
Dance, Dance, Dance till you drop.
-W.H. Auden

Phonogram: The Singles Club #1

by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

Image Comics

I loved the first series of Phonogram (see the review here) and thought Gillen and McKelvie’s black and white comic was a fantastic debut series. Quite amazingly good. But this second series confidently, effortlessly and quite breathtakingly blows away that first series with just this first issue.

All seven issues in the series are going to be self-contained tales that will all create a larger, more complex tale across the series, each issue featuring different characters yet taking place across one night in one particular club. If Gillen pulls that off after this absolute peach of a debut issue, we’re in for a fine treat because this first issue does something very special indeed. Every line of dialogue sparkles and shines, every action dazzles and the music wafts above it all, wave upon wave of it. The comic just dances. And we dance with it, invited to do so by the characters themselves.

(If she asked you to dance, you’d be up on the dancefloor before you knew what was going on, admit it. Penny B, phonomancer, dancer, about to get in trouble.)

But dancing in Phonogram isn’t something we watch, it’s something we’re being invited to experience. I’ve never read anything in comics that manages to thoroughly express that sheer joy of being young and beautiful as this comic does, nor anything that captures the ecstatic moment when the music becomes too much and you just can’t help but give yourself over to it and get up and dance. That’s something that should be nigh on impossible to put to words. But Gillen does it so very well.

So join Penny B and Laura Evans, two phonomancers (magicians who use music) on a night at the coolest nightclub in town. Penny B dances like an angel, and will make you feel like dancing as well, whether you want to or not. But the nightclub she’s in has just three rules: One; no boy singers: Two; you must dance: Three; no magic. She’s fine with the first two. But the last one’s going to get her into so much trouble tonight.

(Meet Penny B. Epic covered in sparklers and win-flakes indeed. From Phonogram: Singles Club issue 1. Published Image Comics.)

The story is more than matched by Jamie McKelvie’s art. He was impressive enough in the first series, improved no end in his own series Suburban Glamour (review here) and now eclipses everything he’s done before with absolutely beautiful artwork in Phonogram The Singles Club.

In an attempt to win over those of us who wait for the collection, The Singles Club also boasts plentiful annotations and backup strips / B-Sides written by Gillen and featuring a variety of artists, starting off with Laurenn McCubbin and our old friend Marc Ellerby:

(Marc Ellerby’s art from Kieron Gillen’s story as one of the two B-sides in the first issue of Phonogram; Singles Club.)

Phonogram The Singles Club is one of the best single issue comics I’ve read in a long while. Issue 1 is already set for a second printing, but once that’s gone, then you’ll have missed out on something very special indeed; a comic that not only wants you to dance, but leads you onto the dancefloor and starts playing just the right tunes to make it impossible not to.

As is usual in these things, all concerned are online:

Phonogram blog (with sample pages and more on future contributors to the B-sides, Gillen’s blog, McKelvie’s blog, Marc Ellerby, Laurenn McCubbin.

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