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- Back to the 70s with Darkhorse Comics...

Location: Lancashire
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 39,842
Subj: That Damned Band - What is Paul Cornell Up To This Time?
Posted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 at 08:15:51 am EDT (Viewed 405 times)

Amidst a lull in the broader marketplace it does seem a little something of an oversight that Paul Cornell's arrival in the Indie sector of US comics has been released largely unheralded. With his arrival at Darkhorse comes his first all-new series, delivers a wry and sardonic pastiche of 1970s Metal rock bands with their long-haired drugs fueled ambassadors of funk, and duly filters an era's worth of outrageous excess through the tongue-in-cheek portal of the much lauded Spinal Tap flavor of rockumentary. With the opening pages skillfully getting to the nib of the tale at hand by opening halfway through a global tour needless backstory and set-up is avoided and we meet our cast currently playing to the masses of Tokyo. The self-importance and narcissism of high profile and successful rock stars is immediately there to see with lead singer Justin Parish preening to the camera. Promoting his beloved Motherfather band with grim seriousnes he entertains question about the Bands publicised obsession with Black Magic, and not minutes later when the camera moves away mocks this nonsense. In the span of but three pages then Paul Cornell lays out the cynicism and hyposrisy of fame drunk pop-band stars open, Parish and his bandmates live life on the road and mostly in a drug fueled stupor. Long divorced from reality there is only this gig and the next one. Life is a blur.
But what is it that Cornell is endeavoring to achieve with This Damned Band? By the final page of this issue the plot and point to this project is left decidedly unclear.... or is it? Maybe, Maybe not.

The appeal and attraction to This Damned Band lies in Cornell's always keen ear for convincing and natural dialogue, sharing much of the flavour of Garth Ennis' work This Damned Band is very much a product of the United Kingdom's sensibilities, the strip would not be all that out of place in 2000AD, bar the undercurrent of bad language. It isn't all that typical of Paul Cornell's work to date either, some experimentation and pushing forward his own personal tolerances may well be a result of wanting to emulate some of the approach to language that Garth Ennis has honed in his long work in the medium, as while a world away from the sort of action and violence of that writers work in the medium the way in which this book reads is really too similar in style for it to be a coincidence.
With a cast of characters all based on some familiar realworld metalhead legends hailing from the raw edge of the 70s (Metal fans will spot the archetypes instantly) the flow of crude language and boorish slothful bandmates is reassuringly familiar.
This could be Black Sabbath crossed with The Doors that Cornell is writing about here. We meet lead singer Justin Parish, out to party and live the rock-god lifestyle to the full. Kev, the guitarist, permanently away with the fairies thanks to his preferred diet of... unusual substances. We meet the distinctive smart dressed Alex Lodge on Bass Guitar, suave and smug ladies man. The peculiarly otherworldly
Clive Stanley on second guitar, is he all that he seems? And on Drums the dependable Bob Robson, who by issues end is clearly being set up to be the sensible one in this story's forthcoming events.
These key players are sketched out for this issue, with some given more importance than the others it might be expected that Cornell only intends this books first run to focus on a select two or three of the cast, but while This Damned Band might well appear to be nothing more than a flimsy but well scripted Spinal Tap tribute the true value of this issue only comes upon subsequent readings, Cornells scripting and Artist Tony Parker pages tell a more subtle story when allowed to be fully absorbed. In a world created by themselves and embroidered with fantasy and self delusion Motherfather as a unit have lost themselves in the hazy world of groupies and hype, indulged at every turn and too overbloated to care they have no idea just how strange the people they have in charge actually are. Add in a stage managed experiment in magic mushrooms and the plot could now go anywhere and nowhere.

But It is the scripting and distinctive British sensibility to character which in the series' main selling point, artist Tony Parker's fine lines evoke the work of Phil Jiminez occasionally and despite doubts as to his suitability to such a quirky period piece as this he does know faces - every one of the characters within is made distinctive and unmistakable for anyone else. As we meet some of the bands support crew this attention to figurework continues, but it is a regrettable weakness in Parkers work that despite his skill as an artist this story rarely feels of its era. The long hair and handlebar moustaches are there, the haze of cigarrete smoke, heavy tattoo's, and general gruunge n' grime though are not. Hampered by overbright colouring from Lovern Kidinski Tony Parker's work is far too clinical and fine lined to ever evoke the reality of life on the road in the early 70s...
That Damned Band is a book which reveals more when reread a time or two more. Even then though while the odd behaviour of minders and management is suspect the Band's sampling of 'spicy' mushroom precludes any sense being made of the books purpose by the reader. Are we seeing a cast take a trip to the stars thanks to the 'medicine' or is there really some Supernatural element steering the gang to damnation? Well, judging by the characters laid out the majority are well on their way anyway, but then one doesn't need your heroes to be saints, so here's hoping Paul Cornell supplies some plot substance next time rather than illegal substance... because fun though it is the 'hook' in this debut chapter just isn't strong enough to call it an unqualified success.

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