Comic Review – Phonogram ‘Rue Britannia’

Phonogram ‘Rue Britannia’

Written Kieron Gillen

Art Jamie McKelvie

I bought this trade on the recommendation of a friend (a hairy man who helps out at the Fetishman stall – known to some as Mavis.) A fine recommendation it was too.

The main character is David Kohl (and interesting name considering the use of eyeliner in the story.) He is a phonomancer – a mage you uses the power in pop records to empower magic. He starts the story as like many an occultist and non-occultist alike, having opened his mind chakra but with his heart chakra clamped closed.  He uses his abilities for personal gain. He has a swagger and arrogance that anyone who has ever been part of any nightclub scene while recognise like the smell of dancers sweat, pre-smoking ban stale air and unsanitary toilets.

Having upset THE Goddess he is placed on the trail of one her aspects – Britannia –  the spirit of Britpop, the once an future goddess. This involves a magical quest up, down and across the country and through magical spaces.  This quest is made all the more interesting as in the course of this journey Kohl confronts aspects of himself and his past. His personality is rooted in the Britpop 90s and as such his very identity is under threat.

We all come across people reprogramming their personalities from time to time – from fitting into a new workplace, relationship, just ‘growing up’, midlife crisis, a result of conventional therapy, discovering religion, political reorientation, or self-help or other causes. Making this the kernel of David Kohl’s dilemma helps make this story universal even if you missed Britpop.

The dialogue cuts like a razor. These are not pleasant people in the main but they are bright. The use of Britpop is the stories driver is interesting. After all it’s not very significant is it? The volume takes that conception and makes a makes it a central part of the plot.

There is  a glossary at the back explaining some of the song and band references but it’s not essential to enjoy the book – it does add an extra element of amusement and nostalgia (well for this old fellow anyway.)

It also provides a brilliant magical explanation for the periodic revivals of old music which is just beautiful.

The artwork is clean and crisp but very effectively tells a story which involves a lot of dialogue. It is well observed with strong character moments and excellent sequential story telling.

In short I really enjoyed it. I think anyone who enjoys the likes of the more detective style  Hellblazers (as opposed to the grand guignol gore soaked ones) would love it. It’s more sweaty and real than Neil Gaiman’s magical output and has a universal appeal in it’s Nick Hornby like themes of maturing and self knowledge.

Oh and David Kohl is quite right the Boo Bradleys are terribly underappreciated.

GS Reviewer: Andrew

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