Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles
Phonograms has a special place in my heart. I bought both previous collected volumes of the series directly from creators Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson several years ago, and I’ve made it a point to re-read the 2nd volume at least once a year ever since. I’ve been asking Gillen about the long teased 3rd volume at conventions as far back as 2012, and I’m beyond thrilled that it’s finally here.
That being said, if you’ve never read Phonogram before, this is not the book to jump on with. Gillen has said the series is always been a mixture of self-indulgence and autobiographical, and that’s very much the case with the first issue of The Immaterial Girl. Gillen points out that this issue is probably the most read single issue of Phonograms to date, which is ironic to me, because I honestly think you need to read The Singles Club (volume 2) at the very least to get a basic idea what’s going on with this book.
As someone who’s read both volumes, I was very pleased with what I got, despite it feeling weird to be reading this book in a single issue format. The Immaterial Girl’s lead is Emily (or possibly Claire, it’s complicated to explain without getting into spoiler territory), who got obsessed with music videos at an early age, and struck some sort of deal with a magical deity. In case you’re not in the know, music is a type of literal magic in the world of Phonograms, and mucking with it tends to lead to bad times.
Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson skills have come a long way since the last installment of Phonograms, so this book looking as good as it does doesn’t come as surprise at all. While it’s been cool to see McKelvie delve into super heroes over the last few year, seeing him draw an urban fantasy book like this just feels right to me. Wilson has always killed on whatever he’s colored, but him working with Jamie usually results in the best things from the both of them. What I found interesting about this collaboration is that for the most part it’s actually pretty straight forward & traditional story telling, versus some of the more experimental stuff that we’ve seen from the pair on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine. That is until we hit the final 2 pages of this book, where McKelvie completely changes his style to channel a iconic music video. It’s incredible, caught me completely off guard, despite it being something set up early in the book.
As for the words, as I said earlier, this is Kieron Gillen at his most Grant Morrison. He assumes everyone is operating on the same level as he is, with little disregard for those who aren’t. I love it when creators expect readers to get on their level, as the comics that result from those expectations are generally excellent. In Gillen’s defense, he does include a glossary at the end of the issue to explain some locations and bands he name drops in this comic, BUT it doesnt cover everything and everyone. BUT if you’re caught up to Phonograms at this point, you should be able to enjoy this book well enough, even with it being VERY much part autobiography. Letterer Clayton Cowles is put to task this issue, but he absolutely delivers, and does some cool things with the narration boxes that falls together nicely towards the end of the book. Cowles, along with Kelly Fitzpatrick and Sarah Gordon contribute to some fun and brief B-stories at the end of the issue, which are cool little additions to this comic.
The first issue of The Immaterial Girl is a incredibly well crafted comics that’s for serious Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson/Cowles fans only. I adored it, but I imagine not everyone is going to spend some time of Spotify researching the bands name dropped in this game. But if you’ve read Rue Britannia and The Singles Club, get on it ASAP, unless you’re waiting for the trade or some junk.