Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Listening to Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #6

Or some thoughts on a great series and a great page in Phonogram: TIG #6
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles; Image Comics

Just assume this is going to contain *SPOILERS*

I first read Phonogram while on a vacation in Mexico. It was shortly after The Singles Club (Vol. 2) was collected in trade, and I bought the entire series to read during the trip. This was also a pretty odd moment in my life, since this Mexican vacation was taken immediately after my final set of undergraduate exams and a year of studies where I took things probably too seriously. Probably as a consequence of my inability to like, prioritize a personal life, this was also a vacation where my girlfriend and I were having some pretty serious relationship problems that we were both determined to Avoid Dealing With so that we could Enjoy This Damn Vacation. Which was stupid and unhealthy and meant that we spent the entire trip with a lot of uncomfortable baggage. So I read Phonogram laying by a poolside, stewing in an uncertain future and the angst of professional obsession and personal drama. This moment is still indelibly mixed up with how I experience Phonogram.

Now, years later, reading Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl is... a pretty powerful experience. A part of the comic that I've picked up on is moving past something, growing up and defining yourself by who you are and not entirely by your interests. Seeing Kohl and Emily Aster and Kid-with-knife collectively get their shit together in the fullness of time just hits me. I read this final issue of Phonogram just having finished writing my PhD thesis, married to the girlfriend from Mexico, and with a baby on the cusp of being six months old. I'm at a point of finishing a pretty significant chapter of my life and embarking on the adventure of parenthood and of moving with my family to another country for career reasons. Reading that final issue of Phonogram, with its coda to the series at just this moment really hit me. This comic means the world to me.

But, look, you guys aren't here to read about me getting verklempt about my favourite comics. So here is some wonky analysis:

I also want to talk about how great this page of comics is: everything on this page is designed to increase the sense of violence on the page. What makes this page so spectacular is how many different elements are being simultaneously used to create a jarring reading experience. The most brutal blood sprays are evocative and gross and awesome, but also provide clear vectors of motion which make every slam more kinetic and spectacular. Moreover, the blood-sprays provide directionality to the motion that is frequently opposing or tangential to the reading path of the page. This makes every panel of violence feel abrupt and disjointed, increasing the feeling of impact of every image. This jarring effect is enhanced by the broken page: the page transitions from 'normal' panels, to floating margin space, to jagged, torn floating panels creating further discontinuity and a visceral edge to the layout. The colours also play into this effect, with the furious red panel backgrounds and the always changing colour of Emily. The combined layout is a series of brutal images played out while the very fabric of the comic seems to break apart under the fury of the assault. It's a really smart, really effective page.

I love this comic.

So I Read Phonogram: Rue Britainia
So I Read Phonogram: The Singles Club

Deep Sequencing: Phonogram: TIG#3: Magical layouts

Deep Sequencing: Phonogram: TIG#5: Complementary pages

Deep Sequencing: Phono-Infogram: Plot Maps
Deep Sequencing: Phono-Infogram: Timeline

Deep Sequencing: Phono-Infogram: Setting

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