Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trade Waiting - Jamie McKelvie's Suburban Glamour

Phonogram was something of a surprise hit for me. I heard plenty of good things about the series, but, given the subject matter, I wasn't sure I'd like it. After reading it and being blown away by both Kieron Gillian's and Jamie McKelvie's work, I went looking for more comics  from both creators. One series I discovered was Suburban Glamour, which was written and drawn by McKelvie (you can read the first issue here). McKelvie's art was a known quantity from Phonogram, but I had no idea of what to expect from his writing. Hit the jump to see what I thought of Suburban Glamour.

Written by Jamie McKelvie
Art by Jamie McKelvie
Collects Suburban Glamour #1-4

After my first reading of Suburban Glamour, it seemed similar to Phonogram on a surface level since it is something of a twist on a well used aspect of storytelling, though, in this case, it involves an archetypal story instead of plot device, like magic was in Phonogram. Now, this was just my first impression of the book, but, on further readings, it definitely turned out to be something deeper than that.

The story centers around Astrid Johnson, a soon to be seventeen year old girl who is unhappy with her life in Lanbern, a small town in rural England. Shortly before her seventeenth birthday, strange things begin to happen. First, a couple of imaginary friends from her childhood reappear and then she and her friend Dave are attacked by a group of monsters the following day. Eventually, she learns that she is actually a Fae princess from another world who was left on Earth as a baby.

McKelvie's story doesn't go where you would expect it to though, which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much. But what really made me enjoy Suburban Glamour so much was that the story is about Astrid's journey as a character and the twist ending is of secondary concern to the story as a whole.

Astrid's character arc in story is well done and McKelvie does a good job of bringing her to life. One thing that really helps with this is that the characters in Suburban Glamour seems more like real people in a story rather than characters in a story. This is particularly true with Astrid. Her journey in the story seems very believable and she is very easy to identify with which, combined with McKelvie's excellent job of fleshing her out as a character, makes for an interesting read. McKelvie does a great job of giving the reader some good insights into Astrid's motivations so that you can get a sense of her as character so that when she finally takes action at the end of the story it is very easy to see how she arrived at that point due to her growth throughout the book.

The rest of the story is also very enjoyable. McKelvie keeps the cast small and only focuses on two characters outside of Astrid - Dave and Aubrey. Dave is Astrid's best friend and he is a solid character though not as well developed as Astrid given that he is only a supporting character. McKelvie does a good job of fleshing him out nonetheless and he is not only able to work well with Astrid in the story, but carry his own sub-plot as well. Aubrey is another Fae and she is the one that reveals to Astrid that she is also a Fae. Although she kind of starts out as more of a plot device than a character, McKelvie does develop her into a decent character though not quite as a good as either Astrid or Dave.

The story is also paced very well and doesn't feel too long or too short. It is never overly obvious either and, while McKelvie does not really do anything drastic, the twists and turns the story takes are very satisfying. This is mainly because McKelvie doesn't use the standard story beats you would expect and so Suburban Glamour becomes its own thing and is all the better for it.

While McKelvie's art is better overall than his work in Phonogram, there are still a couple of missteps here and there.  Luckily, they are very small ones. Generally, they are small panels where something just looks off, some proportions are wrong or the perspective doesn't look right, but they really are just minor problems that never took me out of the story and only deserve mention to be thorough.

As I already said though, McKelvie's art is better than his work in Phonogram and is quite stunning at times. While there are a couple of examples that stand out, the art is just wonderful in general.  Some of the pages are just quite stunning, particularly the final page of the story. McKelvie does a fantastic job with the characters' body language and facial expressions, which in turn brings them to life. He also concentrates the details and storytelling so the art isn't very flashy, though there are some nice artistic flares at times, and the art never distracts or works against the story and only helps to make the series better. The series is also coloured, unlike Phonogram, which really does help the art. It adds a nice energy to it which helps pop off of the page, as it were.

Verdict - Buy It. A wonderful series that puts some nice spins on an archetypal tale while telling a compelling, character driven story that is accompanied by some fantastic art.

Like this review? Interested in this book? Purchase Suburban Glamour from and help support The Weekly Crisis.

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Flip The Page said...

I got this signed from Mckelvie in October and I can honestly say it sits near the top of my favourite indie comics. Pure fun and fresh to boot. not to mention the crisp look that oozes the sort of trendyness that the thin people of the world seem to carry... the bastards.

Great review, so glad you took a look into this series man!

Brandon Whaley said...

Enjoyed the crap out of that first issue. May have to check this out.

btownlegend said...

Style and substance rarely meet, but when they do I tend to buy it!!!Great series.

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