Review: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #3

We’re running up to the midpoint of Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl, and we finally get to see Emily Aster go face-to-face with Claire, as they try to compete with each other over who has the right to their past. If that sounds bonkers in theory, it is only more so in practice, in the best way possible. As Claire makes it her business to destroy all the things that Emily ever built for herself, we get glimpses into the past of the girl that used to be both Claire and Emily. Emily, still trapped in music videos, discovers that not only is music magic, but music is time travel--all music exists in all times and spaces. She uses this to jump through different musical time periods in her grimoire, and ends up jumping through Blondie’s Parallel Lines into her bedroom when she was nine. The choices she can convince herself to make are going to resonate throughout the life of Emily Aster and into the lives of everyone in the coven. Meanwhile, in the B-Side, Dave Kohl can’t seem to shake the feeling that he doesn’t want to talk to this girl at a bar; so he does the noble thing and becomes a My Chemical Romance Monster.

Phonogram---Immaterial-Girl-#3Where McKelvie was super on-point for the first two issues of Immaterial Girl, this issue, he breaks the bonds of the comic book page and focuses on layout, as most of the issue takes place within Emily’s grimoire. Her grimoire is half-scrapbook, half-arcana, and she’s literally climbing over photobooth strips of herself, and into pictures of album covers that she loved when she was a teenager. It’s weirdly cathartic, even as a reader, to see someone trip back through their past like that and really own all the weird shit they’ve ever been into, and for that, I can only applaud Gillen and McKelvie.

Gillen’s narration gets a bit overstuffed in this issue; Emily talks to herself quite a lot, and there’s the added narration when she gets to the video for “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (yeah, that happens, and it’s awesome), and it eventually becomes something like a philosophical wash. Sort of like listening to Aesop Rock, where the rhythms and rhymes are pleasing to the ear, but when you try to unpack them, you’re not even really sure what you just listened to. There are times when the counterpoint really adds to the action, but mostly, it’s the final sequence in the issue and the ultimate turn in Claire’s life that are his best work--bringing all the magic crashing down into something real.

The B-Sides in Immaterial Girl have been stellar every month, and this month is no different. Dave Kohl was always a character I liked better in small doses, so this under-ten-page sequence served me quite well. Christian Wildgoose has a strong sense of the cartoonish in the real world, which gives Kohl’s fantasy sequences a nice Looney Tunes quality without going too overboard; I’ve also sung Andre May’s praises in my reviews for The Spire, so you should all be aware that he is one of the best in the biz already. Like most of the other B-Sides, this issue’s is a nice palate cleanse from the main story, but ultimately feels like it was one scene in a much longer story--but isn’t that the whole point of a b-side, after all? One cut from an album that’s not quite a hit, or one that maybe wasn’t even strong enough to make the album?

I’m loving Immaterial Girl every month in new and exciting ways I would not have expected, and if you’re missing out on it, I don’t know what to tell you. Phonogram is back, and it’s finally really magic.

Score: 4/5

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #3 Writer: Kieron Gillen Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Christian Wildgoose Colorists: Matthew Wilson, Andre May Letterers: Clayton Cowles, Katie West Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/14/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital