REVIEW: 'MPLS Sound' Graphic Novel by Joseph Phillip Illidge, Hannibal Tabu, Meredith Laxton, and Tan Shu

The ultimate love letter to the funky pop-rock sound that made the artist formerly known as Prince a legend.

When Prince burst onto the music scene in 1978, he put Minneapolis on the map. Consequently, many up and coming acts followed the trail that he blazed. This is the story of Starchild, a group that almost made it to stardom in 1983, led by a young woman whose desire to change the world through her music ignited a revolution.

Through Starchild’s journey, MPLS Sound chronicles, from a distance, the rise of a musical genius, and the rebirth of a city.

MPLS Sound

Joseph Phillip Illidge (Writer), Hannibal Tabu (Writer)

Meredith Laxton (Art), Tan Shu (Colorist)

Jen Bartel (Cover)

Release Date: Apr 13, 2021

Format: 128 pages - Color

Publisher: Humanoids

Price: $19.99

Score:

★★★★★ (5/5)

What would it have been like to have been in a band in Minneapolis during the '80s? Can you imagine trying to make your bones as a funk band amid the rock scene? How about going head-to-head against bands like Lipps, Inc. and The Time? What if you were under the tutelage of one of the greatest musical artists of all time? 

Joseph Illidge, Hannibal Tabu, Meredith Laxton, and Tan Shu take readers on a fantastic voyage to such a time through the eyes of fictional band Starchild. Led my the talented, passionate, and determined Theresa, she assembles an eclectic set of musicians and takes the local club scene by storm catching the attention of one influential figure in Prince Rogers Nelson himself. 

Besides the typical struggles and clashes that happen with any band, it's the unmistakable aura of Prince that looms over the Minneapolis music scene that eventually draws Theresa into his circle of influence. It's like being invited to visit with the mighty Oz  behind the curtain, a benevolent godfather guiding a young band to stardom in his image. He was one of Theresa's inspirations for chasing her musical dreams and here she was before one of her idols. If it was good enough for Vanity, Sheila E., Morris Day and the Time, then it should be good enough for Starchild. She just has to remind herself she's part of a band and not a solo act. 

To the writers' credit, as talented and influential as Prince was his style, his advice, his grooming wasn't for everybody and that's touched upon in 'MPLS Sound.' He may have put his hometown on the map but there's only one Prince and being a disciple of his was too limiting for other acts. Still, there's no doubt his contributions to music helped define Minneapolis along with other talented artists but his ascension to mythical super stardom couldn't be confined to one geographical area so his sexy and funky sound belonged to the ages. Who could blame anyone for attempting to follow in his footsteps?

Laxton and Shu create a colorful and cinematic story with dazzling art that flows and moves with fluidity and rhythm. The quick pacing covers a lot of ground without feeling rushed but nicely condenses scenes to their core objective. Smartly, the scenes of the band performing don't include any lyrics which allows the readers minds to make up what they think the Minneapolis sound means to them. 

'MPLS Sound' is a fantastic fictional biographical story of a band deep in the roots of the Minneapolis music scene that pays homage to its brightest star - Prince. It works equally as a familiar band origin story led by a driven lead singer and a period-piece celebrating the birth of a new sound spearheaded by the Purple One himself. It's a thoughtful and entertaining musical journey without one false note made with love and honesty.  

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