Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, we discuss Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl 4, Jem and the Holograms 9, I Hate Fairyland 2 and Cognetic 2.
Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl 4
Spencer: Scott Pilgrim is quite possibly the single most influential comic book of my life — I’m even wearing a Scott Pilgrim hoodie as I write this — so I pretty much cheered out loud when I first saw Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl 4 solicited. I’d be fine if this issue was just a shameless Scott Pilgrim homage, but Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, of course, rise above; while the issue certainly nails Bryan Lee O’Malley’s aesthetic, it also uses these new tools to tell its story in a style wholly new to the world of Phonogram. Most significant is the use of color; most of the issue is in black-and-white — highlighting McKelvie’s exquisite line-work more than ever while also aptly representing Lloyd and Laura’s perspective on their miserable little lives — conserving Matthew Wilson’s colors for significant, literally magical moments.
To be honest, I don’t think I 100% grasp everything that goes down with magic in this issue, but I’m having a blast speculating. Is the women who appears to Laura on the dance floor perhaps a past love, meant to represent her accepting her own bisexuality (she immediately kisses Penny before saying that she’s no longer scared of herself)? Then there’s the epic magical throwdown between Lloyd and Laura in the issue’s climax — it’s jaw-droppingly stunning, but Gillen only knows the logistics behind it (and whether it even actually happened within Phonogram‘s reality or not).
Ultimately, though, none of that is important. Phonogram lives in the realm of metaphor, and the metaphors in that fight are loud and clear. Lloyd’s invested so much of himself into his grimoires that they’ve literally become a part of him; cut them, and you’re cutting Lloyd himself. Likewise, to fight back Lloyd straight-up rips his chest open and lets his emotions come storming out; that’s literally a Saves the Day lyric come to life, so hell yeah I’m into it. This is by far the most pure, powerful manifestation of the kind of fanatical devotion (to anything) that makes these kids Phonomancers in the first place, and I can see that reflected in the way I, and so many of my friends, relate to music, comics, and all of our other passions.
In the end, though, all this spectacle is grounded by a truly relatable moral.
Laura and Lloyd have been stuck in an endless loop of aggression. They hate themselves, and they see so much of themselves in each other that they can’t help but to hate each other as well. Rising above that is a beautiful resolution to these characters’ stories; I know that we’ve seen a not-so-flattering future for Lloyd in one of the B-Sides, but this is the ending for Lloyd and Laura that I’m always going to remember when I think of them.
Jem and the Holograms 9
Ryan M.: The sign of a great party is feeling like you had a fun experience personally but that you were also part of a macro-fun time that was a shared experience for the group. Or maybe I am the only person who thinks that way and that’s why I don’t get invited to a surplus of parties. Either way, Jerrica and her sisters throw a great party.
When the Misfits arrived at the Holograms costume party at the end of the last issue, it seemed like they were ready to cause trouble. Instead, the party was filled with people looking adorable in their costumes, making up and making out. Okay, Shana was feeling a little too single and Jetta ended up in the pool, but the issue was mostly just fluffy fun.
Jem and the Holograms has a lot of characters and almost all of them were at the party, so the mid-issue diagram showing the location, emotional state and intentions of all the guests was ingenious and quite helpful. Kelly Thompson and Emma Vercelli even provide word balloons for the randos at the party. A robot muses to himself about butterflies and a fairy and an elf discuss financial matters. The diagram format also makes the party’s intruders stand out. The black and purple costumes ahve a much darker palatte than most of the quests. The also all stand alone, not socializing at the party. Even Roxy and Jetta stand next to each other like strangers waiting from their turn at the DMV.
I Hate Fairyland 2
Michael: Here’s one thing I love: playing with expectations. Here’s another thing I love: completely subverting norms. Imagine my delight at reading the second issue of Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland: the fairy tale candyland that the protagonist wants absolutely nothing to do with. Modern comic books love the last page reveal: I Hate Fairyland 1 gave us the cliffhanger ending of the hulking Bruud The Brutal ready to attack our “hero” Gertrude. I was so thrilled that I Hate Fairyland 2 skipped over the Bruud battle and showed us Gertrude downing a beer next to Bruud’s decapitated head. Young spent the first issue showing us how Gertrude doesn’t have any time for Fairyland’s shenanigans, so the conclusion to her fight with Bruud was inevitable. It’s such a minute part of the story but I really respect a writer who doesn’t want to waste readers’ time with the obvious. In fact, something about this series really resonates with me overall – the whimsical fantasy tempered with just the right amount of real-world adult humor. Visually Young packs this book full of blood: decapitated warriors, tickle giants with their hearts ripped out and “Faun of the Dead” zombies. While the violence perpetrated by “little girl Gertrude” (who is actually 37 outside of Fairyland) is disturbing, it’s still portrayed as cartoonish, and Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colors makes me visualize it as strawberry jam.
I like this book for so many reasons: the morbid humor, the imagination, the subversion – everything. One thing about I Hate Fairyland that showcases Skottie Young’s talents (besides his always awesome artwork) is that I’m kind of rooting for everyone in the book. Gertrude is the main character of the book and all she wants to do is return to the real world after searching for an escape for nearly 30 years. But I also feel for Queen Cloudia – she’s just trying to run Fairyland the way it should be, and Gertrude is bringing an unhealthy amount of violence and realism to her world. I also don’t want either of them to admit that they both want the same thing because this is just too much fun to watch.
Spencer: For all of its horror-leanings, much of James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan’s Cognetic 2 is focused on both the action beats and the moral questions raised by the battle between two ancient, all-powerful psychics and their Hive-mind hoards. Our protagonist, the psychic who currently goes by “Annie,” has been trying to make a life amongst humans while using her abilities as little as possible, while her “brother” has no problem overwriting the minds of millions of people, and is explicitly looking to bring about the end of the world.
Their battle is tense and exciting, but the true horror of the situation lies in the details, in the thousands of human lives used like pawns, the people whose minds Annie’s brother has overwritten just to sit on them like a throne or command them to fling themselves off buildings. In the issue’s backmatter, Tynion and Donovan show us quick profiles on three of the humans the psychics have used as hosts, and it’s a grim reminder that every seemingly expendable pawn was a human being with a real life, thoughts and dreams, and a family that loved them. The idea that our lives can ultimately be so insignificant to those with more power is absolutely chilling, and the fact that Annie’s brother is essentially destined to win this confrontation is even more frightening.
Even then, the brother is, in many ways, pursuing a directive dictated to him by beings even more powerful than himself. Throughout all of recorded history humanity’s subscribed to the idea that their destiny is in the hands of forces beyond their comprehension, but Tynion and Donovan have turned that idea on its head, mining endless, primal terror from what many take as a comfort. I can’t think of anything more unsettling.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?