I bumped into the dynamic duo of Jamie Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen at an under attended comic convention in Hatfield recently. I was on my way back from a free screening of a Ben 10 film with our 3 year old that my wife fortunately escaped. Mr Gillen was vaguely known to me via his journalist efforts of the past decade or so and it had been an interesting experience to find out he was taking over writing duties on Marvel’s The Mighty Thor- one of their top titles.
Phonogram though is Gillen’s own title, adeptly illustrated by the pen of Mckelvie, who must have felt slighted when I ignored him completely in favour of chin wagging with Kieron about comics, computer games and other pointless blokey activities. It’s main protagonist, David Kohl, can’t have taken too much effort to conjure up as he is pretty much a drawn version of Gillen himself, right down to the head tilt mannerism he has. Not that it matters of course, I could write a long and even potentially interesting article of the author manifesting himself in his protagonist. Who knows, someone might even read it. Having said that, it is rather odd seeing someone you’ve met stroll around an illustrated world but eventually I got to grips with it.
Phonogram itself is a story about music and magic. David Kohl is a phonomancer, we’re not explicitly told what this term means, we’re left to discern it from our interpretation of what goes on. That’s a bonus for starters, treating the reader as though he has some intelligence rather than spoon feeding him. It’s 10 years after the demise of Britpop and Kohl hasn’t moved on- his magic is rooted in Britpop and someone is trying to resurrect the missing presumed dead aspect of God called Britannia (a cool, could have been in Pulps Common People, girl).
And basically that’s it as far as plot goes. There are a few side trips to see interesting and well thought out freaks from the Britpop era and a shed(7)load of references that you’ll miss out on if you really don’t know your stuff but they’re basically attached to the fairly simple construct the story hangs on.
Not that its bad, it’s certainly a million miles away from most of what Marvel put out, that’s for sure but unless your in to Britpop and comics, then there isn’t much there for you.
I enjoyed it myself, and I wasn’t really into the Britpop scene at the time. I think I was going through a 1970’s progressive rock phase back then, but since my better half saw Oasis play in a converted semi in Harlow, amongst other things, I do have a fairly good understanding of it all. Worth a punt then if you want something a bit different.