Review: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #5

This month, Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl loops back around to where it all started: Dave Kohl and Kid-With-Knife dicking around suburban England, making magic and mischief.

The issue begins with Dave finally figuring out that Emily has been replaced by the half of herself she sold off as a child. He reveals that ever since the Britannia affair, he’s had some residual energy built up inside himself, and he’s essentially just waiting for the right moment to use it. While he goes from coven member to coven member to see if they’ll help him bring the real Emily back, he engages in a lot of discussions about lives wasted and where they went wrong, before he figures out the right way to use that extra energy.

Phonogram---Immaterial-Girl-#5-1Gillen and McKelvie touching base with Kohl, one of their very earliest creations, condenses a lot of nostalgia into one issue. Kohl always read to me as a distillation of the platonic Gillen McKelvie, that single entity who created Phonogram: he was hip, but too obsessive; he was self-conscious about being self-conscious, and that made him cool; and he had excellent taste in music across almost all genres. Now, to see them go back to him is to see them regard a sculpture from a decade ago, that has been collecting some dust and doesn’t seem as appropriate to display any more. To give Kohl a good deed to go out on helps him rise above some of the clunkiness of “Rue Britannia.”

My biggest concern with this issue, as with the last one, is that we seem to lose a lot of the plot momentum now that we’re in the back half. There’s a single scene with Emily in this issue, and it’s a great scene, but it doesn’t bring enough meat to the plot to be considered the focal point. The choice this issue turns on belongs not to Emily, but to Dave, and rather than being about Emily, it is about how Dave’s choice in re Emily will affect him and his real friends. It’s disheartening, but as an exchange, it is an excellent comic. Taken as a single issue, I thoroughly enjoy this kind of storytelling, but as a piece of a whole, it feels underdone.

The backup feature was excellent, as always. Kohl uses a low-level technique to basically deal himself a tarot deck with a hit radio station. The venue is a black cab, but Rosy Higgins’ expressive artwork with Ted Brandt’s stellar letters really make it a fun one—as an added bonus, this one even bears relevance to the current plot. In keeping with the central Phonogram analogy, it feels like this was one of the very last B-Sides cut from the album, where some of the tracks featuring extraneous characters feels like the really weird stuff—the SMiLE deep cuts.

I’m intrigued to see how this series will wrap up next month, and I’ve renewed a simmering love for Phonogram in the five months since it started. While it hasn’t been perfect, it’s been propulsive, it’s been addictive, and it’s been catchy, just like all your favorite songs.

Score: 4/5

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #5 Writer: Kieron Gillen Artist: Jamie McKelvie, Rosy Higgins (pencils/colors on backup), Ted Brandt (layouts/inks/letters on backup) Colorist: Matthew Wilson Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/16/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital