I just finished reading Rue Britannia.
This comic book was recommended to me by idsploder who I thank greatly for his keen insight and superb recommendation skills. xD
I’d never read a comic book before so I expected reading Rue Britannia to be quite an interesting experience, if nothing else. However, knowing that it was centered on the glorious world of Britpop, I knew I would enjoy it on one level or another. And because of this overarching theme, it was obligatory for me to read it while listening to Definitely Maybe and half of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (especially relevant as the cover art of issue 3 - kind of like a chapter within the entire volume - is based on the album cover of Definitely Maybe).
Anyway, onto the comic itself. Not being very well acquainted with the fantasy genre (indeed, I tend to avoid it altogether), I was slightly apprehensive when I began reading, and even after completing the first issue/ chapter, I worried that
a) I would struggle to understand the plot in its entirety
b) the strong prevalence of the fantasy genre would cause the very real theme of Britpop to lose its integrity.
I needn’t have worried because, perhaps surprisingly, I coped quite well and though the plot featured the themes of supernatural abilities (of the psychological kind) and curses, the all-encompassing theme of memory fit perfectly into the main ideas of the comic (I can’t say much else or I will ruin it).
Again, without giving anything away, I feel Gillen paid great homage to the 90’s Britpop scene, and even its predecessors and ancestors. He clearly has a deep understanding of the time’s musical and wider cultural themes and their significance, and this showed through every cleverly-crafted written or drawn reference to a band, musician, album, song, lyrics, clothes, make up, locations and so forth. Such references flooded every page but evidently were not just thrown in for the sake of it. Their perfect and often humourous placement really gelled the story together and made me so (probably overly) happy.
The fantasy themes get wound up really well and by the end its purpose is made very clear. I kept questioning the inclusion of such themes even towards the very end of the comic, but after finishing it, I understood it completely. I loved that feeling of having my mind changed so completely, and now I would even say that such themes and plots are necessary in order for the ideas of the comic to be expressed in such an original way. I think its commendable the story didn’t try to mimic and flesh out the lifestyles of Britpop royalty in what could only have resulted in a sad, super-parody of all of the Britpop icons rolled into one, and a cliched representation of a lifestyle the majority of people have only ever “experienced” through the murky lens of the media. Rather, the story takes on the position of - and gives integrity to - the common music fan, and the story basically becomes one huge extended metaphor that arrives at a moral every Britpop fan can heed.
I’m not ashamed to admit that this comic made me feel some emotions quite strongly. I got this really deep sense of nostalgia for a time I never knew, and melancholy for knowing such a time can never exist again. It’s not just the many musical references made that give life to the comic and magic to the messages conveyed: this is where the fantasy themes come in. That is why I feel such ideas were necessary, as they convey the magic of the time and the music that ordinary, realistic plots would certainly have failed to do. Of course, this is hard to explain without ruining the plot.
I think this is something I will have to read a few more times in order for me to to properly digest and appreciate it, even if it’s only to stop and look at the pictures more often - that’s something I am not used to. I found myself only concentrating on the written words and had to constantly remind myself to appreciate the pictures too.
Needless to say, I definitely recommend this to all Britpop fans.