Emily and the Strangers: The Battle of the Bands is the first in a series of comics about Emily the Strange, and if you don't know who Emily is, well shame on you. She started her life, as a skateboard clothing logo, and has since branched out to books, and if the gossip is true, a film. This comic, written by Rob Reger and Mariah Huehner is the first comic featuring Emily.
The story is simple; Emily, feeling rather at a loss with what to do with herself since her latest inventions don't seem to be really working, hears about a contest on the radio. Whoever can send in a demo of the best original rock song will be rewarded with a guitar that belonged to the late great rock and roll star, the legendary Professa Kraken - wouldn’t you know that the Professa is Emily's favorite musician of all time? So Emily decides to win that guitar. Utilizing her inventive genius she throws together some bizarre musical instruments, rather in the spirit of Tom Waits, and manages to win the contest, but there is a catch. Her Demo won because it was re-mixed by the radio station's intern, Evan Stranger, who also wants to be a rock star. He strikes a deal with Emily so they can form a band, win a battle of the bands contest, and get signed to a contract.
The band comes together, with the addition of brother and sister Winston and Willow, and Emily's invention, the fem-bot Raven, who kicks butt as a drummer, but the band has problems on the way, including rampaging egos and a lack of communications. Finally after contacting the spirit of Professa Kraken, and adding another member, Trilogy, the band finally begins to click. Emily adds another little spin to the proceeding by modifying each member’s instruments with her own unique touch, and they are ready for the battle of the bands.
Now I've read some other works featuring Emily, and this one is quite different in spirit. One little disappointment for me was how small a role was played by Emily's cats. In the past Emily had very much been a lone wolf, but this book is all about collaboration and working together. The story isn't quite as bizarre and inventive as some of the other works featuring her, but this comic is redeemed by the visuals. The Art, by Emily Ivie, is phenomenal, with some of the best layouts that I have seen in years. The drawings are sharp and bright and inventive, and as I said the layouts just leap off of the page. So often comic artists fall into the trap of panels, but Ms. Ivie transcends them better than anyone I have seen since Frank Miller. This is a comic you can look at over and over again. Considering that Emily the Strange is pretty much black and white, that is some kind of feat. This one is worth getting even if you don't read it, but go and read it too, you'll enjoy it.