Propaganda returns to glamorous suburbia

Published On July 22, 2008 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Suburban Glamour

by Jamie McKelvie

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Back in  November 2007 I reviewed the first issue of this comic and found that I rather liked it:

Suburban Glamour – the new series from Jamie McKelvie, artist of the recent hugely enjoyable Phonogram (reviewed here). But this time Jamie’s on his own, writing and drawing this series of magic, mystery and underage drinking. And he’s done a terrific job of it.

Astrid and Dave are just an average couple of teenage friends living in your average bland backwater in the Midlands. The most exciting thing to happen is a party or the opening of a cool new clothes shop by an interesting New Yorker. But Astrid’s life is taking a turn that’s as far from normal as you could get. For a start she’s having bizarre dreams of strange worlds complete with threatening monsters with claws and lots of fangs. And after a particularly eventful party a speeding Astrid finds herself being warned that “something’s happening, something’s different… it’s big. And it’s centred on this town” by her imaginary childhood friends. Waking in the morning she shakes it off as another bizarre dream and tries to carry on with her normal life. But the dream proves to be a lot more difficult to ignore when stranger and more frightening things start turning up in town, all teeth and claws and threatening expressions.

I loved Phonogram and was really looking forward to this – and Jamie hasn’t let me down. Suburban Glamour absolutely works; McKelvie nails the idea straight away and paints a perfect picture of suburban teenage life, full of monotony and the crushing desperation of trying to be an individual and still part of your crowd. But he then manages to drop the mystery and fantasy elements into the mix without missing a beat.

And the art – oh it’s nice. Phonogram was good, but this is better, there’s a sheen and polish to the art here, a nice simplicity of line, and Guy Major’s colours just give each page a final polish.

In fact, Jamie’s portrait of suburban teenage life is so spot on and enjoyable that it’s almost a shame to have the fantasy elements intrude. It’s reminiscent of some great comics, and I couldn’t help but compare it with bits of Jaime Hernandez in Love and Rockets – the sense of a young man writing about young life, taking the characters that he grew up with and spinning some lovely tales out of it. Of course, there’s a difference in scene and style, but the feeling is the same. The group dynamics of the Emo friends is really well realised and there are some delightful little touches in the dialogue to make your mind wander fondly back to your own troubled teenage years.

Of course, whether Jamie keeps it going at such a great pace is something I look forward to finding out. A great debut issue and I’ve got no problem recommending it to you all.

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(At the end of the first issue Astrid and Dave start to realise that perhaps there’s something to Astrid’s bizarre dreams. Art by Jamie McKelvie, Suburban Glamour is published by Image Comics and (c) Jamie McKelvie)

As usual with this sort of thing I managed to miss out on the second issue and then decided to wait for the trade, which I’ve just this minute put down. I’m really pleased to say that the rest of the story delivers just like issue 1 promised it would. In fact it manages to work so well that the above review really covers the whole book. Anything else would be just spoiling the fun of the story.

Astrid’s journey of discovery is well handled and Mckelvie manages to keep the balance between the faerie magic, the fantasy and the grounded human stuff pretty much on track.
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(A nice bit of happy families dialogue from the suburban side of the story. Suburban Glamour, art by Jamie McKelvie, published Image Comics, (c) Jamie McKelvie.)

It’s an absolutely great book, featuring some great writing and art from the boy Wartren Ellis has already described as: “One of the major new talents of the decade”. And I really couldn’t argue much with that to be honest. I think we shall all be watching the career of the boy McKelvie very closely. Next up for McKelvie is a second volume of Phonogram with Kieron Gillen. Since I rather enjoyed that as well (review here), I think I shall be looking forward to that as well.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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