Phonogram: The Singles Club #1

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie, Laurenn McCubbin, and Marc Ellerby
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I liked Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s original Phonogram mini-series. It was a clever comic, with Britpop being used as magic in a story that served as both a musical and magical history of the UK. Both have gone on to other comics, like McKelvie’s Suburban Glamour and Gillen’s Newuniversal and X-Men Origins one-shots for Marvel. Now that they’ve reunited for Phonogram: The Singles Club, though, I’m not only happy that they’re back together, but I’m tentatively saying that this new Phonogram mini-series may well knock the socks off their earlier collaboration.

Seth Bingo and the Silent Girl are hosting a club night, and Penny B can’t wait to go. She’s a Phonomancer, one whose powers come through dancing. Once Penny and her friend Laura get to the club, though, they’re hardly the only Phonomancers present. And as Penny tries to get the man (and dance song) of her dreams, she’s about to discover that she is hardly the only person who is trying to accomplish something that evening. How successful she is will almost certainly have to do with not only her own actions, but that of everyone else present…

Phonogram: The Singles Club is taking a much different tactic than the first Phonogram mini-series. Here, instead of one long story told through multiple issues, we’re getting seven different characters whose paths and stories all intersect at the same club. Each issue taking a different Phonomancer’s perspective of the night, the idea is that every issue will stand along on its own, but the more you read, the more you will discover about all of the different stories and how they interconnect. Now, I can’t say how well the latter works just yet, considering that this is only the first issue. In terms of how well each issue can stand on its own, though, I think it’s safe to say that Phonogram: The Singles Club #1 is the one that most crucially needs to work in this manner. After all, if the first issue is incomprehensible, the chances of readers coming back for #2 is slim to none.

Happily, that doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. I really feel like we’ve got a full story about Penny here, admittedly one that’s entirely from her perspective. But Gillen writes a story that begins and ends with her, and even as you want to see just how some of the other characters are really feeling and interacting with Penny’s self-absorbed nature, it does indeed stand on its own as a strong story. It’s a really promising beginning to Phonogram: The Singles Club and it makes me feel that the remaining issues will be that much stronger once the other pieces begin to slot into place.

McKelvie’s art in Phonogram: The Singles Club is unsurprisingly good. I’ve always felt that McKelvie is good that he not only draws people well, but has a real eye for how people look and what they actually wear, and that’s on display here in full force. Because Phonogram: The Singles Club is primarily set in a dance club, McKelvie’s visuals will determine how realistic that setting is. Honestly, I could look at McKelvie draw modern fashions all day long; all of his characters look like they have their own wardrobes from which to make choices from, and Phonogram: The Singles Club is no exception to that rule. It’s also nice to see McKelvie’s art in color again; as accomplished as I think he is with black and white art, getting to use color means just one more aspect to pay attention to with how he draws his characters, even if that just means a flannel shirt will have red checkers instead of white.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #1 also has two back-up stories written by Gillen. “She Who Bleeds For Your Entertainment” is a sharp, cutting comment about emo music and its treatment of women. Honestly, I’d like this story if only for the use of the word “emosogynist” but it’s a short, to the point, good piece with strong illustrations by Laurenn McCubbin. It’s definitely a memorable story, and one that makes me hope that the theoretical collection down the road of Phonogram back-up stories can become a reality. (Until then, whenever that might be, the only place to get the back-up stories is in the issues themselves.) “Murder on the Dance Floor” with art by Marc Ellerby is a bit of a throw-away, a fun little joke about wedding reception songs, but it made me laugh a great deal. It doesn’t have the same punch as its other back-up compatriot, but I appreciated its levity and was just the right note to end the first issue upon.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #1 is a great comic; a very strong main story, two good back-up stories, plus lots of historical footnotes from Gillen at the end of the comic. I love that Gillen’s following the route of people like Matt Fraction’s Casanova in that he’s making each individual issue of Phonogram: The Singles Club a fun little event in its own right, not just a waiting zone until a collected edition shows up. Gillen, McKelvie, and company are putting out a really great comic here. Highly recommended.

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