Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie return to the series that put their unique brand of humor and horror/thriller on the map. The Phonogram series tells the tales of the magic power behind the music that so often shapes our lives and emotions. Magic often comes with a price though...as Claire/Emily Aster is about to find out
What's Happening: Emily Aster used to be named Claire. That was when she was a little girl. Before the recession of the 1980s caused her family to have to give up their satellite TV, Claire gorged herself on music television. Being offered a chance to live life as a "better me," Claire gave up half her personality to the "king behind the screen"-a fuzzy poltergeist-like entity that lived behind the TV "snow" of the time. Every action has consequences though, and Emily is about to discover that some things, even when given up freely, hang around to haunt you.
The Writing: Kieron Gillen is one of the most talented of the current crop of highly talented and influential sequential art writers currently producing some of the best books of independent comics' new golden age. The Phonogram series has been a delight thus far, and The Immaterial Girl just might take it to the next level. Putting aside the interesting story of Claire/Emily and her evil twin/dark side lurking just on the other side of the video screen, Phonogram The Immaterial Girl #1 is one of the funniest comics I've read in quite a while. I'm particularly tickled by a mildly sarcastic sense of humor (much like that permeates everything that the also brilliant Fred Van Lente writes) and Gillen's trademarked brand of music industry/fan centric humor is in classic form here. Everything from jabs at The White Stripes-part of the story is set in 2001- ("Though you should know upfront, you're never gonna get it. Not this time, not ever. It'd be like sleeping with my brother, and not in a hot are-the-White-Stripes-incesting? way." retorts Emily to Kohl-a series regular) to hipster music snobbery ("What is your take on the Babes of Suga?/The Sugababes? My real take or ironic?") to jokes about music critics and music criticism in general ("We will...share serious insights about unserious things."). Mix this witty sense of humor about popular music, as an industry as well as from a fan standpoint, with the mild horror/magic elements and Gillen makes The Immaterial Girl funny and profound at the same time on many levels.
The Artwork: Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen go together like Lennon/McCartney and Madonna and sex, without the rivalry between the former nor the past-its-prime incredulity of the later. In other words, they make the most beautiful music together on the page. Long term fans of Phonogram and The Wicked and Divine are well aware of this fact. New readers though are to be envied, as they will be experiencing something akin to hearing Revolver or Nevermind for the first time when they pick up The Immaterial Girl #1. His artwork is as sharp as a Jonas Akerlund music video in segments and as grainy as an Anton Corbjin one in others.
The Verdict: Fans of smart music commentary and criticism (which IS actually a pretty serious thing to some) and great supernatural thrillers will love Phonogram, but that's rather un-ironically obvious...don't you think?