The Phoenix Issue 3
After the initial buzz of reading issues 1 & 2 back to back last weekend, today was what will be a regular thing – get The Phoenix, read The Phoenix, for both Molly and myself. Molly never really got into The Dandy, the Beano or Toxic. Yet something about The DFC caught her attention. Maybe it was being able to get in with something right from the start? Whatever it was, The DFC was a huge thing in the Bruton household, and The Phoenix has slotted perfectly into that weekly comic space.
And thankfully, it’s still proving to be tremendous fun. I don’t intend to do a review every single week, and certainly not in depth every week, but it’s worth looking at what makes it work this time round.
Absolute top strip this time round amongst a great deal of consistent high quality was James Turner’s Star Cat. Two pages, loads of smiles and a good couple of laugh out loud moments – that’s a sign it’s a great comedy.
Here, look at this – the crew of the Star Cat are having a briefing with the Space mayor, with an assignment to deliver a very wobbly ambassador to a peace celebration. Gag #1 – the look as Captain Spaceington realises that yes, it’s a jelly. With bowtie, moustache, monacle and top hat. And then, even better, gag #2, the coffee through the nose moment, when it’s time to wake up the Star Cat.
(Star Cat by James Turner)
You could analyse the beautifully simple yet brilliant comedy timing in those two panels alone for so long. But let’s not – let’s just enjoy them again:
Now THAT’S comedy.
Other high points – Pirates Of Pangaea by Hartwell and Cameron. In 4-pages there’s excitement, action, drama, and character development – it’s easy to make a hash of delivering a weekly strip of just a few pages that tries to tell a continuing dramatic story, but Pirates is walking the fine line nicely, managing to be the good mix of action and storytelling. Even 2000AD normally delivers each episode in 6-pages. Here in The Phoenix, it’s 4-pages at most.
(Pirates Of Pangaea by Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron)
Sadly, other strips in The Phoenix don’ t fare as well trying to keep that drama/action mix working. It’s early days of course, but the problems inherent with these types of strips, as opposed to comedy strips, are evident in both Long Gone Don and The Lost Boy. I’ve read enough of the Etheringtons so far that I know that Long Gone Don is their typical manic quest story, and that builds and builds over 40+ pages, necessitating occasional slack moments. But Kate Brown’s The Lost Boy, with just the two pages each issue and showcasing Brown’s beautiful artwork it’s a lovely experience yet over in an instant, and needs to establish itself.
Having said all that, Molly loved Pirates, loved Long Gone Don, and loved The Lost Boy. So what the hell do I know eh?
(Bunny Vs Monkey by Jamie Smart – now with added Skunky. And I’ll guarantee you wont guess what the most terrifying beast of all is.)
The whole thing is on much firmer ground with the comedy based strips. Bunny Vs Monkey delivers a perfect shot of slightly knowing comedy over two pages, this time round featuring the strangely megalomanical Skunky, a perfect villain for the future, complete with underground lair. And Jamie Smart’s big, bold cartooning works so well.
(The Princess and the peanut-butter sandwiches by Adam Murphy. Have a wild guess what she asks for?)
The Phoenix Special Feature this time round was Adam Murphy’s The Princess and the peanut-butter sandwiches. Four pages, one complete story – and they’re quickly becoming a highlight of the comic. Having that self-contained element really helps, but keeping a freshness really does help the mix of the comic. Murphy’s Princess is a daft fairy-tale-ish thing, but very nicely done.
Finally, it was very nice to see Dave Shelton’s A Boy And A Bear In A Boat featured this time in the Tale Feathers feature; two or three pages containing extracts from a childrens book. It’s a great novel; clever, funny, mysterious, and I must tell you about it soon.
But here’s an idea of what to expect- a bear, a boy, and that map that proves they’re definitely not lost in the middle of nowhere (just slightly up and to the left of the middle actually):
Overall, The Phoenix is still providing great entertainment each week. I’m not convinced that some of the strips really work with such limited page counts, although perhaps I’m being too harsh for something that’s merely three issues old?
Molly’s not as cynical, and she’s enjoying absolutely everything in the comic. And in the longterm, she’s what really counts. Hopefully there’s more than enough Mollys out there to make The Phoenix a success. If you’re a parent, or have young relatives it’s well worth considering getting a subscription just to introduce these children to a comic they’ll fall in love with, a comic they can rightly feel belongs to them.
You can find all the details you need for subscribing, plus all the extra web content, including the online “time machine” allowing subscribers to access previous issues for free at the Phoenix Comic website.