By Dustin Cabeal
I had some reluctance before picking up Moonhead and the Music Machine. The thing is, I will check out any comic that has some kind of connection to music. Lately, though, there’s been an incredible dry spell for comics and music. I would have to go back to last year to find something good. Apparently good things come in twos with comics because I found not one, but two music-themed comics that were great this week.
Joey is a boy with a moon for a head. His head can travel and explore while his body continues doing… body stuff. There’s no explanation as to why this is other than just being a metaphor for a boy with his head in the clouds. Joey is teased, bullied and only has one friend, Sockets. She also has a major crush on him that Joey is, of course, oblivious to that fact. After being punished for not excelling at school, Joey decides he’s going to make a musical instrument and play at the talent show.
The story has so many themes going on that it’s almost a shame to tell you any of them, but without spoiling too much, it’s a book about confidence and listening to your conscience even when it’s hard to do. There is also the music version of the hero’s journey which you can just experience for yourself while reading it.
The writing is wonderful in that it is simple and conscience. The book is rather thick, but it’s never bogged down by dialogue or narration. Instead, Andrew Rae uses a mixture of subtle dialogue and on point dialogue. There’s no needless exposition or excessive narration. I can’t stress enough just how damn perfect the balance between the narration, dialogue, and artwork is, but it is there.
The artwork is really what I want to talk about because it’s just so damn amazing. There’s a hint of Yellow Submarine influence to the book, but there’s just something more to it than just that. The book opens with Joey’s head just flying through space. There are multiple segments in which his head is just wandering exploring the universe and removed from normal thinking. There’s a lot of weirdness in the book, which is intentional and beautiful.
The line work is very detailed and clean. There’s a lot of detail to Joey and never once does he just look like a floating balloon head. He and his family look like actual moonheaded people. The clean style of line work also makes Joey’s journeys all the trippier, but not in an annoying way. Then there’s the way that Joey plays his instrument and the way the music is represented; it’s visually wonderful and very creative. Expressing music on the page is one of the things that draws me to stories like this and Rae’s approach was simple and yet beautiful and effective.
The coloring is also amazing. I want to say what it reminds me of, but it stands on its own and doesn’t need a comparison. It’s very flat looking, but at the same time has these amazing lighting effects throughout the story. The coloring makes the art look like photos at times, which is strange to say, but that’s how I felt looking at it. It also gives it a very kid-friendly look, which isn’t wrong to say. The material in Moonhead is very friendly to all audiences.
Reading Moonhead and the Music Machine was a real treat. It’s complete on its own, but if Andrew Rae were to revisit the world, even just to introduce new characters, I would be all for that. It’s rare that you see a graphic novel of this length that manages not only to be balanced but break artistic boundaries with its creativity. If you’ve enjoyed any of my other music/comic recommendations, then you should pick this book up from Nobrow Press.
Moonhead and the Music Machine
Creator: Andrew Rae
Publisher: Nobrow Press