Suburban Glamour #1
"Suburban Glamour #1"
Written by Jamie McKelvie
Art by Jamie McKelvie & Guy Major
In the interests of full disclosure, let me start by being honest. I've been a big McKelvie fan ever since a copy of Four Letter Words (an anthology containing his first mainstream work) helped me remain sane during a particularly hideous work conference in Tenerife two years ago. Earlier this year, the NTS comics team (Seb and I) were able to interview McKelvie and Phonogram co-creator, Kieron Gillen. He's been good to us, and in return, we want to be good to him.
However, as critics with a duty to our readers, we walk a fine line that can be easily crossed once we start getting seduced by the decadent world of comics creators with their fabulous riches, piles of drugs and sports cars spewing from every orifice. We have to be objective, fair and unbiased. If we read something bad, we have to say so no matter how it might damage our status with the talent.
It's lucky for us, then, that no such worry presents itself with Issue #1 of Suburban Glamour, written by Jamie McKelvie, drawn by Jamie McKelvie, and coloured by Guy Major. As his debut "solo" effort, it shows that he's as excellent a writer as he is an illustrator - McKelvie brings to his dialogue the same kind of fashionable, personality-filled sensibility that his pencilling is famed for. The kids look like kids (excessively trendy, beautiful kids, but kids nonetheless) and the adults look like adults, without looking cliche. McKelvie's character artistry is undoubtedly some of the best in comics, and that stands whether you're talking about his trademark Hot Punk Girls, or an imaginary...pokemon...thing.
However, snappy dialogue and t-shirts so hip they comes with legs attached can only take you so far. You need a plot to hang it all on as well. Suburban Glamour is, we're told, a series about realising that small-town lifestyle may not fit in with your big-city ideas. The setting is a slightly veiled analogue of McKelvie's hometown in the Midlands, renamed Lanbern to protect the innocent, and represents the kind of suburban nowhere that a vast percentage of people in the UK grow up in. People like me, for instance.
As someone who directly identifies with growing up, bored out of your mind, in a quiet little Midlands town where society effectively stops catering for you between the ages of 14 to 35, I find a vast portion of the opening issue almost too familiar. The excitement of a new shop opening in town that caters for the alternative crowd is spookily reminiscent of my own past. Perhaps, though, that's because McKelvie has tapped into something universal. We were all teenagers, and most of us were alienated, bored and confused teenagers, hanging around trying to find direction, glad whenever we encountered something that looked like a signpost out. It appears that the characters of Suburban Glamour are about to get some direction - much more of it than they really bargained for, in fact.
Which brings me to the supernatural elements of Suburban Glamour. As you'd expect for the first issue, it's on a relatively slow burn, initially teasing the appearance through the popular medium of drug-induced hallucination before smacking you in the face with it on the last page. Intrigued? You betcha. The issue spends more time building up the characters than racing through the story, and is all the better for it. By the time the wheels of the plot are properly in motion, you're already so engaged with the personalities of Astrid and Dave that you don't have time to wonder where it's all heading.
Now, does suburban fantasy-as-metaphor and polished dialogue sound familiar? Comparisons to Buffy would not be entirely undeserved, but if the worst someone can say about your work is "well, it's a bit Joss Whedon..." I imagine you can live with it. The addition of colour from Guy Major only enhances McKelvie's artwork. Vividly printed on nice, glossy paper, it looks as fantastic on the page as the samples do on the screen.
In some ways, it's no surprise that McKelvie's getting a lot of interest in this story. Phonogram was very high profile despite mixed (though largely positive) reactions. With personal endorsements from Warren Ellis and Brian Vaughan already in the bag, there's a lot of weight on McKelvie's shoulders to make his first solo turn as writer live up to high standards. So far, one issue down, it appears that he's well up to the task.
With great art, witty dialogue and a clear analogy at the heart of the story (as well as what may go down in history as the first published use of the phrase 'oh noes!') Suburban Glamour will resonate with both "the kids" and anyone who looks at the trendy haircuts and moody expressions and thinks "yeah, that was me, once." The whole issue's a fantastic package - no adverts, a quality print job and bonus pin-ups by guest artists mean that there's really no reason to wait for the trade on this one - hell, the cover alone is worth the money. It's on shelves now, so don't punish yourself by waiting.