The plight of the poor comic book fan is a lamentable one. New books pop out from companies big and small every week, and magically wing their way to your local comics emporium. They taunt your impecunious self from the shelves, their inviting covers sullied by that capitalist formality known as a “price”. It’s easy to get discouraged. That fistful of dollars you scraped together by eating ramen for a month doesn;t go very far in a world of $3.00+ pamphlets and $20 trades.
And this is how you come to miss out on books that yo’ve been waiting for, getting excited for, even craving. Stop going to the comic shop, and everything ends up passing you by. Books you’ve been following for years start slipping past you, new gems you should be discovering come and go without being noticed.
This is how I ended up missing Suburban Glamour when it was originally published.
See, we here at the Successless Comics Blog are big fans of Phonogram, the music-as-magic Britpop exegesis in comics form by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Gillen’s story dug deep into the troughs of nostalgia and critical appreciation for one’s past, ably aided by McKelvie’s stark and delicious ligne claire artwork. Throw in a giant helping of Britpop minutiae, and you have a recipe for excellence. The resulting 6-issue series was a sure success on all levels, and I look forward to the ofrthcoming follow-up with baited breath.
But While I waited, I noticed that McKelvie had a solo book due out soon! Not to tortue the Phonogram band metaphor too much, but I wondered if it would be a breakout solo release by a capable collaborator, or a side project doomed to languish in obscurity and mediocrity. I was pretty sure the art would kick ass, either way.
Then I went broke and missed it when it was published. Fortunately, Half Price Books in Capitol Hill came to the resuce this weekend, and I scored a full run for hlaf off the cover price. A little tattered, but here at Successless, we know comics are for reading, not collecting.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. The title Suburban Glamour, and the fashionable young characters gracing the hip covers made me think it would continue in Phonogram’s music/fashion/youth culture obsessive tradition, and I was partly right. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Take the word Glamour in the title, for instance. We typically associate the word with style and fashion, but it’s original meaning was more closely related to magic, witchcraft, and enchantment.
The first issue works this wordplay rather nicely, starting out like a teenage melodrama, repletewith hip students mourning the suburban doldrums they’re trapped in, attending parties and ditchng school. The title appears totally appropriate in the mundane, modern sense of the word. Then things get weird, of course.
This is no simple disaffected suburban youth story, but a tale that combines that youthful ennui with the epic fantasy and fairy tales you would be expecting if you paid attention to obscure definitions of words like glamour. Imaginary friends from chilhood return to life, mystical creatures appear in the night, and long lost fairy worlds come crashing into the normal reality of the teenage protagonists, turning their lives predictably upside down. Once concerned with being slipped drugs at a party, and the viability of a career as a rock star, they are now faced with possibly fatal battles and life-altering revelations.
It’s a surprising twist to the first issue, and handled rather well. Afterwards, the story plays out quickly, if a little predictably. The mysterious stranger who seems to know what’s going on turns out to be involved in exactly the way you would expect. The otherworldly and mundane dilemmas dovetail nicely into moments of personal growth that seem a little too tidy at times. Overall, while it lacks the meta-narrative complexity and nuance of Phonogram, Suburban Glamour is a solidly told tale, gorgeously illustrated. The trade is out now, and for only $9.99, it’s well worth picking up, assuming you’re not as broke as some of us *ahem*.3 comments | Categories: Artists, Reviews, Seattle, Whine, Complaining, & Griping | Permalink