This Damned Band #1 is about a band called Motherfather that is, uh, damned. Or something like it. In the first page, the narrative tells us that the band are “…devotees of the occult,” and that they take their beliefs “…very seriously.” From there, Paul Cornell and Tony Parker go out of their way to make fun of this conceit, and the results are interesting.
Fans looking for the Cornell that wrote Big Two comics aren’t going to find him here. He’s funny, and the writing is almost painstakingly British (one would assume authentically so), but the science fiction elements aren’t here. What remains is his care to building worlds and characters. He presents This Damned Band as a documentary (and is careful to both draw and squash the Spinal Tap comparison in the afterword to the issue) about the band that, seemingly, goes off the rails. We focus on the frontman for the band, and meet the band and their manager in moments; Cornell gives us tastes, but not the whole plate. This isn’t to say that there’s not a lot to take in with the issue, he’s just very careful not to give us everything all in one go. He plants seeds. There is a truly massive amount of character building in this comic, and that’s hard to do in any single issue, much less a debut. Cornell’s never been a slouch, but This Damned Band is impressive right from the start.
Tony Parker, as well, puts on a dazzling show on pencils and inks. There’s a slick-but-gritty style going on; his faces, especially those on females, look like Ivan Reis, but the kind of detail he puts into the rest of the characters looks more like Tom Fowler or Paul Pope. He also works very well with incredibly crowded scenes: it had to have been hard to work all of the band members into their first big appearance, along with leaving space for words, and it’s all done with great finesse. The era-appropriate outfits all pop and never for a moment take you out of the story; there’s a lot of detail to take in. Later in the book, the characters end up on drugs, and the stylistic change the book takes on is really impressive. Parker shows a great deal of versatility and artistic skill in This Damned Band, and is a perfect fit for the story Cornell is telling.
It would do the book a great disservice not to talk about the coloring. Lovern Kindzierski captures the 1970s aesthetic with a deft hand. There’s a kind of dried-out feel to the colors that’s hard to find in the age of digital, and it works like a charm to set the feel of This Damned Band apart from the other books on the shelves. The drug pages in particular stand out; as Parker changes his style, so does Kindzierski to match.
In the hands of a less-skilled set of creators, This Damned Band #1 could’ve been deeply unimpressive. What Paul Cornell and Tony Parker have created, however, is a fun misadventure through the world of a 70s rock band that worships occult forces and gets in over their heads. If this sounds like it’s up your alley, you’ll be incredibly pleased; This Damned Band ends up being more than just a cheap trick. (You didn’t think the whole review would go without that kind of joke, did you?)