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Alternate Cover - 23rd August 2006

Alternate Cover

I'm keeping things simple this week with only 3 reviews, because I only bought 3 comics! To compensate, next week I'm actually entering double figures and buying 10, so I don't feel too bad about it. Luckily, this week included my new favourite comic, Phonogram, as well as a couple more of those never-ending Civil War crossover titles. Cheer up, though, we're almost halfway through the story...

Phonogram #1

Phonogram #1

Publisher Image • Writer Kieron Gillen • Artist Jamie McKelvie

Phonogram falls into the rare category of a comic that manages to satisfy multiple facets of my geekish obsessions simultaneously. It's a comic about music. Specifically, British music, and even more specifically, the strange application of its relationship to magic, magic being an area not entirely unexplored by some of comics' greatest minds. It's an odd juxtaposition initially, but the central conceit is that music is a form of magic, and once you accept that it all falls into place.

It's is an intriguing read, absolutely crammed with references so obscure that only real music nerds are going to get them all, though I think I did pretty well myself. If you ever wanted to read a comic where lyrics from Kenickie songs are considered magical incantations, this is the book for you. In fact, if you ever wanted to read a comic that mentions Kenickie at all, it's your best bet, because a sizable chunk of the issue is devoted to how Kohl, the main character and self-diagnosed total cock, enjoys them, how he uses their music, and the eventual consequences of that. It even manages to maintain the indie ethos with an essay in the back and lists of music that accompanied the writing of it. All this writing is made even more brilliant by the artwork by Jamie McKelvie, who's coming over a bit like the next Adrian Tomine, only with a bit more testosterone, and who turns in a damn near perfect version of an Elastica album cover parody for the comic's front.

However, no comic can live on references to Sunderland-based indie-pop alone, and there's some proper humanity beneath the more fantastical elements to keep you from getting bored. The plot alone might not have drawn me in, but as a framework around which to hang the characters and ideas it's interesting enough to make me want to see what the outcome is. The main criticism would have to be that it's being pointed at a pretty small group of crossover Indie Comics and Indie Music fans, and if you're not part of that set something might not click. If you are, though, then I have to ask why you're not out there buying it right now. Should I mention Kenickie again? It manages to exceed my already high expectations, and it'll do me nicely until Brian Wood's back on the shelf.

Civil War: X-Men #2

Civil War: X-Men #2

Publisher Marvel • Writer David Hine • Artist Yanick Paquette

Following Phonogram on my reading pile was never going to be a choice position for any title, but it's even less the case for the X-Men Civil War tie-in limited series, which is really nothing more than a sequel to X-Men: The 198, which in itself was really a sequel to Mutopia X, and before that, District X. You see where this is heading? This is how Marvel are keeping David Hine in work - letting him write sequels to the cancelled series, but tied in to crossovers. To what end, I don't know. Probably to make idiots like me buy it only to find myself reading a story about the X-Men chasing a bunch of D-List characters around with incredibly loose ties to the Civil War plot.

I knew what I was in for, of course, so it's hard to complain too heavily. I've only got myself to blame. In itself, it's not an overly bad piece or anything. The use of the remaining original X-Men gives me a warm nostalgic glow, and the scene where they fight a new kind of sentinal is by far the best part of the book. To be fair, though, it's not got a lot of competition. So far very little seems to be going on. The Civil War angle is grossly over-advertised and the plot of the mini itself isn't especially gripping. It's the most lacklustre Civil War book so far, and that includes JMS' issues of Fantastic Four. It's an adequate enough comic in the craft of it, but when there's nothing much beyond the craft, what's the point?

Thunderbolts #105

Thunderbolts #105

Publisher Marvel • Writer Fabian Nicieza • Artist Tom Grummett

Thunderbolts, on the other hand, has really clawed its way back from the brink of incomprehensibility and gives quite possibly the best issue of the relaunch to date. For Zemo, it's almost a sequel to Thunderbolts #39, a now-classic issue where Zemo fought to his own death at the hand of former Captain America Jack Monroe, then acting as The Scourge. It was a brilliant deconstruction of a formerly one-note villain, and this issue showcases brilliantly Zemo's development, as he meets with Steve Rogers, the real Captain America, and offers his help.

Of course, much like Cap himself, we're never really sure if Zemo has changed, even in light of the extra information we're getting that the characters aren't. It's the characters that make Thunderbolts interesting far more than Nicieza's occasionally imprenetrable plotting, and this is the kind of issue that reminds me why I liked it so much back in the early days. Thunderbolts is a good example of a title that uses the Civil War angle to good effect without letting its own plots become completely subsumed by it.

It's still not going to be for everyone, of course. Thunderbolts is a distinctly old-school Marvel title from an old-school Marvel writer. It's probably going to appeal most to people who can't bring themselves to read comics by Bendis, for instance. There's the promise of massive changes once the Civil War storyline ends, so for anyone who's never given it a try, this would be the perfect time to start, especially given the increased visibility of the book - sales are up 150% and it's outselling books like Daredevil, Captain America and Hulk. Not necessarily an indication of quality, but for a book that's been struggling, it's a good chance to reach some new readers.

About this entry


Kenickie? Cool! *makes notes*

By Tanya Jones
August 25, 2006 @ 3:22 pm

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Yes, I've been telling James he should buy another copy of the comic and send it to Lauren Laverne at XFM. Seems like the perfect conversation-starter, to me... ;-)

By Seb
August 25, 2006 @ 5:51 pm

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"Please accept this comic as a token of my demented love."

By James H
August 26, 2006 @ 12:58 am

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Is there anyone who doesn't love Laverne? If there is, I don't want to meet them.

Thank you for the review. :)

By Jamie McKelvie
August 30, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

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