If the bullets aren’t enough, here’s a succinct statement of just how good Phonogram: The Singles Club #1 is: I’m nearly willing to say that the second series of Phonogram is already better than the first after only one issue. Which isn’t to say that first series was bad in any way, as I enjoyed it quite a lot. But when reading the first, I sensed that these two, relatively new, creators were just becoming familiar with their own strengths. This new #1, however, is brimming with confidence. Gillen and McKelvie (now joined by Matthew Wilson) seem to be more sure of themselves -- and their work -- than ever before.
I can only imagine how Kieron Gillen reacted when the idea for The Singles Club showed up in his head. It is astounding the depth that a single title, combined with the right concept, can have. The name of the series isn’t just a reference to the fact that each issue is a self-contained story. It’s also a reference to the setting, as each main story will take place in a club filled with, well, singles. In fact, Gillen introduces this idea right from the start. Marc, the object of our POV character Penny’s affections, is making his first public appearance since his break-up and he’s doing it at the night club. Four pages in and we’ve got our second meaning for the title.
But, wait, there’s more! Back in the day (although I suppose some small labels might still do this), a “singles club” meant subscribing to mail order records. Every few weeks or so, the latest 45 released by your favorite record label would show up at your door. And what do all vinyl singles have in common? B-sides, of course, which we’ll find in every issue of The Singles Club.
As with most records, your enjoyment of each song is going to vary. The first single, "Pull Shapes", is a great example of the ebb and flow of any given night out on the town, this time with magic. And while Gillen’s script might not work for everyone, I can’t imagine anyone disliking Jamie McKelvie’s art. At some point during the story you will stop and think to yourself, “I wish life actually looked like this.” The colors by Matthew Wilson are equally impressive.
The two back-up stories are interesting in their own right, for different reasons. “She Who Bleeds For Your Entertainment” is a great comment on popular music, and probably the least Eurocentric story the Phonogram team has ever published, at least as far as allusions are concerned. The third story, “The Power of Love,” is hilarious and on the money, particularly for anyone who’s ever been to a wedding.
I could go into more detail about this first issue because there’s lots to discuss. At some point, I’d love to see an analysis of why the dance club scene permeates all forms of British music, while it’s relegated to specific genres in American music. But that’s just one thought that crossed my mind while reading The Singles Club #1, a testament to just how interesting and thought provoking Phonogram is.
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