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Review Group: Phonogram: The Singles Club #2

1reviewgroup.gifKing Impulse had the pick for new comics shipping April 29th and he selected Phonogram: The Singles Club #2 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson.

The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together each week to discuss comics and post our reviews for a comic that we each take turns selecting.  Our threads can be found in The Outhouse’s Newstand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.

It's been many a moon since we've seen the group as polarized as we did this week.  Phonogram has split the group into two factions, love it a lot or not even a little.  Defying all expectations as per usual, Punchy falls somewhere in the middle.  Also, be sure to check out this week's thread as we had a guest appearance by Kieron Gillen.
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Review by King Impulse

Music is Magic, you already knew that, yeah? In Phonogram, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie take the metaphor and make it real. Theirs is a world where ‘magicians’ called Phonomancers understand the magic of music and can use it to their own ends. In the first volume of Phonogram (Rue Brittania, in shops now), we saw a jaded Britpop fan quest to save what he believes in, only to find he believes in nothing but it doesn’t matter, because it’s his nothing. Volume Two is a different beast altogether. Set in a single night in 2006, in a club in Bristol dedicated to playing only female singers, we see events take place from different protagonist’s eyes each issue, with each installment being wrapped around a different ‘indie’ song.

#2, based around ‘Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above’ by Cansei de Ser Sexy stars Marc, the object of affection from #1, as he is forced to relive a bittersweet night in the very same club during the very same song, where he met and fell in love with a girl he hasn’t seen since. Most reviews I’ve read talk about how The Girl isn’t named and that’s important because she could be any girl. I disagree, The Girl couldn’t be any girl, she is The Girl, Marc’s girl and Gillen infuses her with so much personality, we can relate to it because if you’ve ever had your own Girl, you know very well that there’s no other girl like her in the world

Gillen’s use of flashbacks is really well done, I’m really enjoying watching his progress as a storyteller, at certain points we watch the same two characters interact at different points in time in the same panel and it’s never confusing. It’s really interesting in a larger picture sense as well, when you read #1, Marc just comes off as a dick towards Penny, but after this, you feel sorry for him (I actually had an ‘I want to dance. Just not with you’ moment recently, it went pretty much the same way.) In #1, you kinda like Laura but after she tries it on with the guy she knows her best friend likes, she comes off as a bit of an insecure bitch (and I’m sure opinion will change when I read her issue, she can’t be all that bad, she loves The Long Blondes). Gillen plays will multiple timelines and multiple angles of the same story like someone who’s been doing it for twenty years and you can tell he knows his way around a comic book and what makes comics a unique and special storytelling form.

What can I say about Jamie McKelvie’s art? Hell, what can’t I say, the guy gets better every time his pencil hits the page. I can’t imagine how good his art’s going to be by Phonogram V3. He draws real people incredibly well, I love looking at the faces in McKelvie crowd scenes and study the expressions, the reactions. He has an attention to detail that just astounds me and ever since he started working with Matthew Wilson colouring him, his art is damn near the best on the shelves.

The whole extra content is worth $3.50 on it's own. The two back-ups are beautiful and excellent insights into the deeper world of Phonogram with beautiful and excellent art by Vieceli and Heard, the glossary is a must for anyone that might feel lost, and I appreciate that the time is taken to include it. Not only do we get that, but we get an essay by Gillen on the subject of music and memory, and a short interview with a member of CSS. Talk about bang for buck.

As a whole, it’s far more inclusive than its predecessor, very few people know of Kenickie and how much they mean to certain people, but everyone knows what it’s like to hear that one song that tears your heart open with memories of a past love. Phonogram: The Singles Club is a rare thing in my eyes, a comic that speaks to everyone, a universal comic, and the score may seem high but damned if it wasn’t one of the best comics I’ve read this year.

Story – 10
Art – 10
Overall - 10
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Review by 48THRiLLS


So, I read this 3 times just to be fair... I did not like the first issue and would not have gotten this if it were not for the review group.
It's about a dude that bangs a skank then cannot man up and get over it when he hears the song that reminds him of her the next time he goes to the club. I am not saying that there are not songs that I hear that remind me of ex's but I do not sulk about it and I definitely do not ignore the attention of cute blonds. In between all these pages of woe are pretentious references to indie rock bands that comes off as a writer showing off his great music taste and throwing it in the readers face... and any comic that has "annotations" at the end to help you understand the comic is a poorly written comic.
I liked the art.
...Yoni was right.

STORY - 2

ART - 9

OVERALL - 3.5
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Review by guitarsmashley

My god that was bad and pretentious. The art was great and in color this time around. Seriously the art cannot make up for the amount of wanking that went into that issue. Perhaps the most self-indulgent I'm better than you pretentious comic I've read since The Black Dossier.

1
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Review by starlord

I apologize in advance, but this is not going to be a long review at all, basically because there wasn't much good for me to say anything real positive. The art was well done, loved that. Not much for the story or dialogue, to be honest. Compared to last week, this really fell flat for me. I'm sorry...

Story: 3
Art: 7
My Score: 4.5
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Review by Punchy

Story - I'm having a bit of trouble formulating this review, because after 3 reads of this book I'm still not really sure what I think of it. Basically, I like it, but I also don't, it often makes me angry at how fucking hard it's trying, it's good, but it's not as good as it thinks it is, and that makes it less good... if you know what I mean. Yeah, I don't either.

The basic premise of Phonogram is that 'music is magic', it's a kind of nebulous term that I don't think has been fully explored or explained by Gillen, why is it? How is it? What can these Phonomancers do? Mainly they seem to drop references and quote lyrics. What amazing magic. But I do think this issue is the clearest expression of how one aspect of the music as magic thing works, as it takes something from real life (songs reminding us of stuff from our pasts) and making it a tangible thing, as the character Marc is cursed to a flashback of some Manic Pixie Dream Girl with oh so funny foreign speech patterns. It's a good idea, and it's clearer than whatever David Kohl's powers were in Volume 1 and what Penny did in the first issue, but that female character was a fucking cliché and a half, she's so free-spirited and fun! 'Dancingman' Ugh and indeed Blerg. It was just the kind of self-involved stuff Gillen does so often. I did like how the flashbacks were structured though, with them happening concurrently to Marc and the annoying European commenting on it.

Perhaps the best thing about this issue is how it links in with and expands on #1. Gillen is going for something like that movie 'Go', you know, the one with Katie Holmes, and all the different issues of the story take place in the same club night and mix together, so we saw Marc and Lloyd (Sorry, Mr. Logos) in #1, and Penny from #1 is in here, and Emily Aster from #3 is seen in both issues. This is a fun idea, but it does end up making each issue feel incomplete, so it's hard to judge it all until it's finished, but Gillen structures it well, like, if you'd only read last issue, you'd think that Marc was a total fucking dick, but this issue, well, it doesn't show that he's not a dick, just that maybe he's slightly less of a one, and more goes into his decision not to dance with Penny than meanness, he's cursed or whatever, still, he's so self-involved! Get over yourself!

So this is kind of a ramble isn't it? Sorry, but since the book veers from good to bad, so shall this review. What else was good? Hmm... I did like Lloyd, he was a dick, but unlike most of the characters, it's probably intentional. Other stuff... the references to music, I didn't have that much of a problem with it as I got pretty much all of them, but I do think he goes overboard, like the character of Laura Heaven, who speaks almost entirely in quotes from the Long Blondes' first album, I like that band, love that album, but it's actually annoying, and a bit too arch and knowing, I think Gillen needs to focus on telling a story and stop trying to show how much he knows about music, too often his job as a Music journalist (for pretentious magazine Plan B, which my brother has a subscription, oy) seeps into this comic.

Overall then, how is Phonogram #2? It's decent, I probably would recommend it, but if you're not as into music as Gillen is (I certainly aren't anymore) and are willing to put up with indie moaning and poorly explained magic, it's an enjoyable, if not as good as it thinks it is experience.

Art - Now this was the best thing about the book, McKelvie is amazing, and he's gotten even better since he's made the jump to colour, his work here and on his own book Suburban Glamour (take the best things Phonogram says about youth, take away the pretension and add monsters) is amazing, distinctive and just plain ace. Matthew Wilson's colours also deserve a nod, they fit with McKelvie's art, and while a lot of the backgrounds are blank, he puts some interesting stuff there. He also uses more muted colours to differentiate between the present and the flashbacks, the art in the back up stories by Emma Vieceli and Daniel Heard was excellent too. I didn't mention them in the story section, because... well they didn't have a story.

Best Line - 'Why does no-one understand my genius?' Sometimes it seems to me the whole book is Gillen shouting that at us.

7/10
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Review by amlah6

I love music. I love comics. I love Phonogram. I love McKelvie's art. I love the annotations. I love the afterwards. I love the B-Sides.

I think the idea of a 'cursed' song and how it can trigger memories of loves/times past is infinitely relatable regardless of your music preference and it's place within Phonogram's 'music is magic' construct is pitch perfect. The way this issue and the first fit together have me very excited for future issues. My only gripe would be while girls with piercings and pink hair who speak in broken English are infinitely hot in real life, the broken English doesn't read very well in a comic book.

Did I mention that I love Jamie McKelvie's art? His growth from the first Phonogram album to this issue is fairly stunning and the color's by Matthew Wilson just make everything pop.

I guess Phonogram often gets stuck with that label of not being for everyone, but I really wish that wasn't the case. I wish the series was as much fun for everyone else as it is for me.

Story: 8
Art: 10
Overall: 9
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Review by thefourthman

This was the first issue of the series that I would call bad. It just doesn't work, love the series, not in love with this issue.

For thefourthman's full review, click here

Story 3
Art 10
Overall 5 (the art don't save it enough for an average)
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Review by McKegan

Just to get it out of the way, big Phonogram fan, big fan of britpop and MSP which is why I loved the first volume so much, and a big fan of McKelvie's art and his Suburban Glamour series.

Pull Shapes was great but this issue fell a bit flat for me. First, I hate when scenes from a prior book are repeated. It just irks me. It was just a few panels here, but I always feel like I'm getting charged again for something I already paid for.

The story was okay. It just felt a bit infantile. It reminded me a bit of poems and stories a lovelorn 16 year old me would have written. Not a good thing. Maybe a little too ernest, dare I say, emo. In many ways, particularly in looking how music can be so tied up with how we see ourselves and how we express our emotions, Phonogram reminds me of Local.

No complaints about the art. And the backmater was great as always. It's those kinds of touches that show the creators have so much love for a project.

Story: 6
Art: 10
Over-all: 8

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Review by Mr. Black

Despite having absolutely no idea of the backstory of this comic, I really enjoyed it. It was character driven, so despite not fully understanding the "phonomancer" plot device, I could relate to the emotional trauma that the main character was going through. This is the type of story that bears repeated reading, and I'd like to sit with it for a while again when I have time. The art was very, although I was not a fan of the coloring; it looked a little too slick and digital.

Story: 10
Art: 8
Overall: 9

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That gives Phonogram: The Singles Club a group score of 6.33, which makes me kind of sad, but my inner smug and pretentious hipster knows that King Impulse, Mr. Black and I are right and everyone else is wrong.

For further discussion about this issue and our reviews, feel free to join us in this week's thread (http://www.theouthousers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=22845) found in the Newstand forum where you are also invited to join the group by posting your own review.
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Daringd has the pick for May 5th and he has selected Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1 from DC Comics.  Look for the new thread after it becomes available Wednesday morning to join in on the fun.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1

Written by Matthew Sturges
Art by Freddie E. Williams II

The Human Flame is a dead man. Literally just waking up after the events of FINAL CRISIS, he realizes all the heroes in the DC Universe target him as the lowlife who taped the murder of the Martian Manhunter with his cell phone. On top of that, all the villains in the world want to kill him for selling them out to Libra. He's powerless and penniless, and his only chance for survival is to run! This 6-issue miniseries examines the underbelly of the DCU and what happens when the wrong choices catch up with you. Nothing can prepare you for this chase.

 


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