Hitsville UK #1

A comic review article by: Kelvin Green
Read Hitsville UK at the comic's official website.

I'm not really into music. I mean I enjoy a good tune as much as the next person, and I have my favourite artists, but I'm no enthusiast. I don't follow trends since I'm barely aware of them until they've long passed, I've never been a big gig-goer, and I don't really follow the music press.

So the hitherto small genre of music comics has also rather passed me by. I first read Scott Pilgrim for the video game references, and I never read Phonogram, which makes me feel a bit like some sort of traitor.

All of which brings me -- sorry about all the preamble, and thanks for not clicking over to some review of Flash Itself, or whatever this month's pointless crossover is called -- to Hitsville UK, a comic about the titular independent record label and the strange and eclectic acts on its roster, and the kind of thing I would never have heard of, let alone picked up, if left to my own devices.

Which is a bit of a shame, as it's quite good, although I'm not at all sure of where the plot's going, or even if there is a plot; this issue is an introduction to the various characters, and there are a lot of them, four or five bands each with four or five members -- although there are a couple of solo artists -- plus the staff of Hitsville itself, all of which leaves little room for story. Still, it's an effective introduction, and writer Dan Cox does well to give us a general feel for the characters, at least at a band if not individual level; one aspect I liked was the sense of existing backstory, with certain characters already familiar with each other. A less confident writer would try to set all this out from the start, but there's something mature about assuming that readers can keep up without hand-holding, and it makes the setting seem more realistic, because stories never really have a beginning or an end, just lots of middle.

All that said, there is only so much space in which to introduce such a large cast, and some characters come across better than others; the Beatles-obsessed Men Behind Guitars seem a bit vague, but the Gollum-inspired Gwillum with his pathetic country and western dirges is an early frontrunner for best character, as is the bullied teenager who is haunted by visions of giant killer robots and is inspired by them to bust out doom-laden electronica.

John Riordan's art is colorful and expressive, with a definite indie sensbility, as well as something of a mix between Gary Erskine and Philip Bond in the character designs. The large cast would be challenge enough, but Riordan is also asked to draw some very strange stuff indeed, and it is to his credit that he pulls it all off without a hitch. There are more than a few psychedelic sequences -- including a hilarious bit of astral projection involving the Beatles that I won't spoil here but is a brilliant twist on a common joke -- and he has a knack for characterization, a handy skill indeed with a cast as large and diverse as this one.

So Hitsville UK is not my kind of thing, and it does feel a bit like I'm reading about something alien -- because of the music industry focus, not because of the literal aliens -- but it looks great, is fun, witty and full of interesting characters, so I find myself liking it quite a bit, despite my insouciance regarding the subject matter. I'm keen to see where this one goes.

Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, the Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don't get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn't hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.

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