Monday, September 28, 2009

"Phonogram: Rue Britannia"

This is a comic book by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. It is a work that might be of interest to Frank's APA members (and other people who like music), as it is about music and how we relate to it. That much of the music with which the book concerns itself is bad music is not a problem here – anyone with an intense relationship to any type of music will see something of themselves here.

The story concerns David Kohl, who is a phonomancer – a magician who draws his power from music. The Goddess manifests and gives him a mission – someone is messing with Britannia, one of her aspects, and he is to stop them. He soon discovers what is going on – retromancers are trying to reanimate Britannia's corpse and bring on a Britpop revival. They must be stopped. There is, separately, an odd subplot about one of Kohl's old friends, whose ghost is haunting Bristol despite her being still alive.

The plot trundles along, serving mainly as a backdrop for meditations on the role music plays in our life and as an excuse for cameos by various stars of the Britpop scene, typically appearing as mythic or semi-divine versions of themselves. What struck me mostly about this book, though, was the theme of aging that runs through it. Kohl moans that he cannot score with the young ladies any more. As the retromancers resurrect Britannia, their bald patches and chubby tummies disappear – in recreating their youth, they are trying to literally recapture it. Almost heartbreaking are the scenes where Kohl meets his old friend (the one whose ghost haunts Bristol). She was once an obsessive Manics fan, and now has no interest in music. The horror. You can decide whether she is betraying herself, or if she, unlike Kohl, is displaying maturity by moving on from the obsessions of youth.

OK, I will leave it at that. Check out the book. Or don't. You might like the art, it has an endearingly uncluttered style, and the chapter title pages (originally covers of the issues) are takes on Britpop era record covers (e.g. see this)

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