REVIEW

Superstate

Is Blur guitarist Graham Coxon’s new project a concept album with a comic book, or a graphic novel with a soundtrack?

Ex-Blur musician Graham Coxon’s latest project crosses over into multi-platform territory – it’s both an album and a comic book. Teaming up with some up-and-coming young talents, the graphic novel features 15 stories, each with their own Coxon soundtrack. How you view this experience is up to you: read the comic; listen to the music; or consume both at the same time.

For the graphic novel, Coxon has teamed up with writers Helen Mullane and Alex Paknadel, along with 15 artists to tackle the 15 stories. There’s a wide-range of art styles on show, all coming from the indie end of the spectrum – there’s no superheroes here, but urban drama, horror, noir and even a fairly explicit offbeat love story. All the stories are set within the confines of Coxon’s dystopian future, which features surprising amount of world-building.

While Mullane and Paknadel are credited as main writers, each artist gets a chapter to themselves. The stories are a mixed bunch. The better concepts are the smaller, more introverted stories, such as Bullets with art by Goran Gligovic, about a security team being forced into upgrading their bodies; while Ball of Light, featuring art by Vasilis Lolos, and I Don’t Wanna Wait For You, with art by Ryan Kelly, cleverly tell interesting vignettes while also showing off the world in the background. 

However, L.I.L.Y. is a dull rehash on the sex robot theme, unhelped by generic art from Luisa Russo. Heaven, with art by Koren Shadmi, also falls into a category marked predictable. Fortunately, however, the anthology has more hits than misses.

It’s a great idea, but the cross-selling isn’t going to be for everyone. The music is very much Coxon, and if you like his stuff you’ll enjoy this. There are some clever links between the stories and the music, but you can’t listen to the lyrics at the same time as reading each story, so does that mean you inevitably miss something? Not necessarily. Each element gives a taste of the other, even if you don’t experience them together. For me, I enjoyed the music, I enjoyed the graphic novel, but the full immersive experience failed to win me over. But it’s good to know that both album and comic book are available separately.

Here’s a taster, a promo video for the first story, Yoga Town, featuring music by Coxon and art by Kendall Goode:

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