I sometimes get frustrated with Kieron Gillen’s plotting, and his need to reference every formative influence in his life within the confines of his work. But goddammit, that guy can stick an ending.
From what I understand, this is the last Phonogram. Emily Aster has come to an uneasy truce with herself, Dave Kohl has a door open into the world of squares and day jobs, and there’s a new group of kids starting to hang around The World’s End. It’s a beginning couched in an end, and it of course includes the fact that Emily’s magic might have maybe helped kill Michael Jackson.
In an eerie coincidence that only Phonogram could have pulled off, the issue hinges on the fateful night when Michael Jackson died and the effect that it had on the music-listening world at large—this issue, of course, drops only a week and a half after we lost David Bowie. Even more unsettling, the after-the-credits short story is about the healing power of “Modern Love” on a man who’s hit his mid-thirties and realizes he should probably start to figure his shit out. This book is sometimes pretty on-the-nose about music being magic (intentionally, of course), but Gillen McKelvie couldn’t have dreamed up a better button for the series if they tried.
The final miniseries of Phonogram was nominally about Emily Aster and her evil twin, Claire. It certainly told that story and wrapped it up in its own way, but it was hindered by muddy rules (a danger of writing about magic in depth). The true joy of this story was using Emily and her leadership of the coven as a way to tell the stories of the ends of the rest of the coven, showing Kid With Knife his perfect neon heaven, giving Dave Kohl a job, putting Logos in charge of the act of creation instead of constant rabid fanhood. This book was as much about what it is like to be someone who lives their life around music as it was about magic, or about characters. In the wake of David Bowie using his final album as an incantatory way to shepherd himself into death and us into a world where there is no more Bowie, talking about what it means to live by the capital-M Music is the only conversation to have.
Music affects us all. There are people who claim that they don’t like music—those people are liars, and they are not to be trusted. Everyone has one song that they can listen to eight billion times to soothe their wounds, to amplify their rage, to mellow out their sadness. Your humble reviewer has listened to “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers over 200 times, and that song has only been out for two years. Music is the magic that we live inside, that surrounds us in its cocoon and makes us remember to feel.
Phonogram was about a lot of things. Ultimately, though, it was about feeling what the music makes you feel.
And the needle spins on into the groove until you flip the record over.
Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #6 Writer: Kieron Gillen Artist: Jamie McKelvie, Tom Humberstone Colourist: Matthew Wilson Letterer: Clayton Cowles Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/20/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital