Page 45 Review by Stephen
I fell in love with a superhero.
And I fell in love with this series: sharp, chic and oh, so sexy! Contemporary too.
Goddam, Noh-Varrs black pants as his hips grind and fingers snaps in synch to a sixties beat. In fact the book wakes up in bed, just like HAWKEYEs Kate Bishop whos listening to her new lover enthuse about close-harmony girl groups.
I lie in the strange bed and watch this beautiful alien boy dance to the music my parents love and think
This is everything I always hoped for. At which point, the Skrulls attack.
Haha! Cue blistering NEXTWAVE flourish: a double-page spread crammed with kinetic panels of a spaceship dogfight and four big, bold statements. Oh, these two are in orbit!
I do mean Kate Bishop and Kree kid Noh-Varr but also Gillen and McKelvie, the creators of PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA and PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB in which music is magic, and magic is what we have here. The magic of teenage romance and, well, magic itself. New readers start here (and you can):
Hulking (half-Kree, half-Skrull shapeshifter) and Wiccan (the son of the Scarlet Witch), are in love. Wiccans adoptive parents are letting them both lodge under their roof, if not quite in the same bed. For Wiccan that means keeping a low profile to avoid scaring the horses or at least alerting the neighbours. But Hulkling cant help himself: helping others is part of who he is. Hes not ashamed of his heritage any more than hes ashamed of his sexuality.
Im not going to spend the rest of my life in the phone booth. Im not living a lie.
Its during this outburst that Hulking AKA Teddy mentions his mother whos dead, and how lucky Wiccan is to have two sets of parents. And Wiccan AKA Billy takes that to heart. Hes here to help others too and, if he cant help his own boyf, then what even is the point? Plus you know I mentioned Billy was the son of the Scarlet Witch, she of the reality-altering powers
? In a panel which winkingly references another from PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB Billy starts scanning alternate realities to see if he cant make things better.
Meanwhile magic attracts magic, and thats where kid-Loki comes in. From the word go in his first JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY volume, Kieron Gillens young Loki has been fascinated by modern Earth technology and social idiosyncrasies. Its no surprise then, having spent thousands of years feasting in an opulent Asgardian refectory, that Loki now spends so much time in an urban diner, in this instance arranging sausages, fried eggs and baked beans into a scrying sigil.
Time to pay for the food youve spread on the table, cosplay boy.
Please, sir. Im the actual God of Mischief! Asgard variation! Havent you heard of me? My brothers terribly famous. Big strapping blond fellow. Fond of his hammer. If you knew me even slightly, youd know that I never pay for what Ive done.
No, this time all of them will pay for what Wiccan is doing. Fortunately kid Loki is here on the side of the angels; unfortunately Miss America doesnt believe him.
The first story arc is called Style > Substance which, for those failing algebra, is an equation wherein Style Is Greater Than Substance. Thats just typical of Team Phonogram: oh so clever, self-denigratory yet at the same time irrepressibly mischievous, for there is plenty of substance and, boy, is it delivered with style! It is a beautiful and nimble thing to behold. Dance, this does: McKelvies art is bursting with energy without once risking accessibility and perfectly controlled for the quiet, tender moments where there is so much heart and humanity. Yes, there is canoodling!
Mike Norton also plays his part with the ridiculously clean and detailed city-scapes, while Kelvies eye for fashion gives us the upwards flicks on the end of Wiccans floppy hair and his two-tone t-shirt. The single panel in which he takes hold of his boyfriends hand, three fingers between Teddys thumb and fore, was exquisitely delicate. Because, yes, hes fucked up badly leaving his boyfriend in particular in a world of trouble.
It is a very modern superhero comic: just gawp at the covers! Rarely has Marvel attracted such design sense outside of the recent HAWKEYE. The colours by Matthew Wilson both within and without are so fresh and fruity you can almost taste them. Seriously: black currant, lemon, strawberry, lime. Its like a stained glass window, both breathing and breathless, arranged out of Opal Fruits which were made to make your mouth water.
In addition there two of the most ingenious pages, from conception to execution, to have graced a comic since CEREBUS. (It was a regular occurrence there: almost every issue brought with it yet another visual innovation.) For superhero readers, think John Byrnes SHE-HULK. Gillen and McKelvie use small panels as a claustrophobic prison and the broader-than-usual gutters as its escape route
including the edges of the paper! Even the climax to that sequence brought with it beauty.
Finally, I loved this tucked-in tribute to the late, great Jack Kirby whose mad designs for machines of all shapes and sizes were part of what made 1960s Marvel Comics fizz. Were on board Nor-Varrs spaceship:
Problem! That hit got the Kirby Engines. Its venting. Were losing 4.2 epiphanies a second!