A few years ago, when I spotted the poster for the first Phonogram series from across the con floor at San Diego, I got that weird gut feeling that it would be something I would be interested in. Sure enough when it came out, the mix of music (1990’s Brit Pop to be specific) and magic as crafted by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie was indeed one of my favorite books in memory. I’m not a big fan of magic based stories, but the presence of my genre of music of choice combined with the fantastic art of McKelvie had me hooked and wanting more. 

Well the wait is over, and the sequel to Phonogram is scheduled to be in comic stores this Wednesday, and I’m telling you, DO NOT MISS THIS COMIC.

I got my grubby hands on a copy of the first issue, Phonogram: The Singles Club #1, which kicks off a 7 issue series and features a bit of a change for Phonogram both in content as well as format. Each issue features a 16 page story by McKelvie and Gillen, along with a 4 page backup story written by Gillen and art by Laurenn McCubbin and a 2 page story also by Gillen with art by Marc Ellerby. Now after that reading that, it may seem as if there’s not as much comic as previously, but trust me, this format works. The main story may only be 16 pages, but like Casanova and Fell who also apply this format, you don’t even notice it. The combination of the backup stories as well as the very dense back matter (the annotations are back! yay!) makes this quite a dense comic book, that at $3.50 makes it well worth the purchase.

The story is set in 2006 and we’re introduced to Penny, a Phonomancer, which is the type of music magician we were introduced to in the first series. Penny opens the comic by breaking the fourth wall, talking to you the reader as you accompany her to her favorite club for a night of dancing. Since it’s placed in 2006, the music references aren’t as specific, like the last series to Brit Pop of the 1990s, with this issue’s focus more on contemporary pop music, indie rock and dance music. But even if you’re not a music fan and get every reference, you shouldn’t be turned off, because it’s not the music that’s the story, rather it’s this evening at a club. We’re introduced to Penny’s world of friends and cute boys and a DJ who hates magic (who I connected with obviously). After reading this issue, we watch as Penny gets lost in the music, her eyes changing over to all black, which was a clever way of expressing when she was using magic, and like a good night out on the town, leaves you wondering where you’re going to end up the next morning.

What also makes the purchase justified is the art of Jamie McKelvie. I know I’ve raved about his art numerous times here and on our shows, but the guy just continues to bang out quality work. I can confidently say without hyperbole that this is his best work to date. With the major difference between the last Phonogram series and this one being the fact that this is in full color makes it that much more rich. There are scenes in this book where the main character is dancing in the club, and it feels like you’re there with her. The layout of the pages and the expression and figure work make you feel the music and flow along with the scene unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. And the subtle effects, like the eyes with magic, and use of music notes during the dance scenes make for a compelling and absorbing read. You literally feel as if you’re there and caught up in Penny’s wake as the night (and the issue) progresses.

Simply put this comic has rhythm that, like a good pop song, you cannot deny, get out of your head, or stop tapping your foot to. And further, it shows that Gillen and McKelvie can indeed take this concept of music based magic, drop it into any time period and make it work. Now this won’t be for everyone admittedly. It helps if you enjoy music and it helps if you enjoy non-superhero style/indie books. But personally for me, there are comic titles over the years like Strangers in Paradise, and Stray Bullets that exemplify the magic that can be produced within the comic book medium for unique and different reasons. Phonogram clearly belongs in that grouping and is my most recent example of just how much fun comic books can be. Sure it helps that it seems like this comic book was made for me specifically, but that’s a sign of a great comic book, one that you connect with on such a level that you feel like it was made for you.

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie were kind enough to provide some art for us to share with you, with the first 5 pages of Phonogram: The Singles Club #1.  So scroll down and check it out and when you hit the comic store on Wednesday, give it a flip.  Maybe it will be for you.



Phonogram: The Singles Club #1
Image Comics – $3.50


My playlist while writing this:

“Pull Shapes” – The Pipettes
“Energy” – Apples In Stereo
“Atlas” – Battles
“Ice Cream” – The New Young Pony Club
“The International Tweexcore Underground” – Los Campesinos!


  1. with no hyperbole this is the comic I’ve been waiting for all year. Loved the  story & art from the first time. This makes me happy. Thanks for the preview guys!

  2. Book looks gorgeous. Great work, Kieron and Jamie!  Can’t wait to grab the book this week!


  3. Yay, "Phonogram."  This is only the second non-Marvel/DC book I’ve put in my pull in single issues.  I’m not the target audience at all (I think I’d heard of 3 bands referenced in the original series — Oasis, Blur & the Clash), but it ultimately didn’t matter because it’s such a good story, and the creators obviously love the subject.  I’m looking forward to this very much!

  4. Sounds like it’ll be an awesome trade. 🙂


  5. @ron: I’m a HUGE music fan, some might say obsessed, and i was wondering will i understand this without having read the first series? my girlfriend absolutely LOVED the first mini and has the trade. so i can read it, i just want to make sure in case i cant finish the trade before wednesday that i can pick the first issue and understand everything.

    and do they explain way the lead character looks like Gwenno Pipette or is it just a homage? 

  6. @WinTheWonderboy. from what I understand you can read this without having read the first vol. but as soon as you can read the first one. Its brilliant on so many different levels.

  7. @ron: Los Campesinos! are an awesome band!!! and the drums on Atlas are insane, Mirrored was in my top ten of 07:) i like Energy but i feel Robert Schneider has written much better pop songs in the past, I almost like him better as a producer.  

  8. Phew.

    WinTheWonderboy: Yes, you should be able to follow the series. We like each arc of Phonogram to stand alone. While there’s old characters in it and is set chronologically after it – 2006 to RUE BRITANNIA’s 2005 – we re-introduce any new element.

    In passing, Gareth Los Camp likes Phonogram. There’s a phonogram quote from the first series which is used as a chorus on the new album.

    (I love los camp too. A fairly major plot beat turns on them in issue 6 of the new series)


  9. @KieronGillen: Thanks a lot. I’m rather excited about it, my girlfriend just raves about the first series. issue six sounds right up my ally.

    any other newer bands mentioned? Bloc Party, maybe? 

  10. Second series is totally new bands. Or, at least, last few years.

    No Bloc Party though, now I think of it.


  11. @KieronGillen: Thats cool, the last five to ten years has some pretty good music. and about Bloc Party theres always the next series, right?

    do ever plan to mention any american or canadian in future series?

  12. Oh, American stuff turns up quite a bit, to be honest.

    Issue 7 is the TV On The Radio issue, for example. It’s Brit-centric, but only because it’s set in the UK. It’s actually just about music.


  13. @KieronGillen: Thats great!!! TV on the Radio are so fucking good, this series just sounds awesome!

    you weren’t going though my record collection when you where writing this did you? 🙂

  14. Awesome Phonogram is back!! I really can’t wait for this, vol1 was probably my favourite book when it was coming out, I loved it without reservation. I think like Ron, this book was made for me. Well, not totally, since I was a bit young to be Dave Kohl, but Britpop was the holy grail of my high-school years, so the music resonated strongly with me, and turned me on to loads I’ve missed.

    KG, since you’re reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the mixtape at the end of the last series. I was straight on the internets to get the missing tracks for that beauty, and it’s been in my iPod ever since. Thankyou as well for the gift of Kenickie, they were the best band I totally should have been into at school. (actually, on the mixtape I swapped "In your car" for "People we want", I thought it fit the magic theme a bit more succinctly… only complaint abouot the mix!). Will there be a similar gift at the end of this series? Lets make love was probably my most mixtaped song of 2006, so I’ll be more than happy with this volume I think.

    Also, Los Campesinos! are the best band in the country right now, and Ron you have jumped 12 places in my estimation just by knowing who they are, well done ;P What was the chorus lifted from Phonogram? Their new album is currently lodged in my forebrain, I’d love to know (must be a dumbass for missing it!)

    Thanks for listening to my excited ramble, people. Can’t wait!!!

  15. JedeyeSniv: First track "A room full of air and a room full of vaccum look the same". A kohl line in issue 1.



  16. I ordered the first trade a week ago, have been waiting for it to arrive so I can read it!  Big fan of McKelvie’s work and have heard enough about this project to get me to pick it up.

    P.S. McKelvie in color makes me giddy >__<

  17. Oh man; I got my hands on the first trade about a month or two ago and have been waiting with bated breath for the new series – CAN’T WAIT ‘TIL WEDNESDAY!

  18. Awesome, that line struck me as cool the other day actually, I shall now enjoy it even more. Time for a re-read methinks (and I’ve got to get my gf to read it, she loves the mixtape too, if only for the Betty Boo track…). Ta!

  19. That first page is a true thing of beauty.

  20. this looks awesome i cant wait!

  21. I’m so excited for this. I loved the first Phonogram series. This issue looks fantastic! 🙂

  22. Just read the first issue. Just blew me away. I love the new, shorter format. I was not in love with the final two pager with the DJ and Silent Girl. Visually it was too much of a change from the way Jamie draws them in the first story. The "She Who Bleeds…" story was so good. I might even say better than the main story except the main hasn’t even really begun yet. Jamie is getting better and better with every project and every page he draws here is just beautiful. I agree with Ron about the dancing scenes really making me feel like I was there on the floor with her, but even the scenes of dialogue, specifically the exchange between Seth and Penny, feel real.

    This just needs to be at the top of any comic fan’s pull list. Even if you haven’t read Rue Brittania before, this is a good jumping on point. Great work guys and I can’t wait for issue two.

  23. pop, indie, and dance music are not what i would call my musical tastes, and i didn’t read the first series, but i’ll read this just for the art

  24. Just read this last night…Great job Gillen and McKelvie

  25. Best book this week.  Really, really liked it.  Review forthcoming.  

  26. Looking forward to it next week. I went to three shops this week and finally asked someone and realized it had not been delivered.

  27. oh dear