When asked what is your favorite Prince song? I struggle to answer that question, it changes every day. One day, it could be “Partyman” from the Batman soundtrack and the next day it would be “The Morning Papers” from the Love Symbol album. As a Minnesotan, a day does not pass by without being influenced by Prince and to be honest the last five years Minnesota has not been the same. When it comes to Prince and comics, there is a connection that goes beyond his soundtrack for Batman. The late great Dwayne McDuffie and the amazing Denys Cowan worked on Prince comics and in the upcoming Batman 89′ series, a character based off of Prince’s design from “Partyman” and “Batdance” music videos. But, no other graphic novel or comic has ever captured what Prince meant to Minnesota and music as well as MPLS Sound.
Co-writers Joseph P. Illidge and Hannibal Tabu and artist Meredith Laxton create a fictional tale in an environment and era of music that proves to be perfect for a graphic novel treatment. Growing up in Minnesota, the Minneapolis sound has influenced the music that comes out from our state. Let’s be honest, while you are listening to “Juice” by Lizzo or “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars or anything by Janelle Monáe, you are hearing hints of Prince and the Minneapolis sound. MPLS Sound is able to capture that with the creation of the band Starchild.
After a very well written forward by Josh Jackson, the co-founder and president of Paste Magazine, we are introduced to Starchild, a band filled of all different personalities and provides a great reminiscence of The Revolution. Theresa, the lead singer who comes across a poster for Prince’s Controversy while walking home from the market, feels inspired to create a band herself. Joined by her church choir singer Ezzie, rock musician and guitarist James, Dani the drummer that has never been apart of a band, the keytar player Slim, a classically trained pianist that loves Funkadelic, Lizzie and Theresa’s brother Ellis on bass.
MPLS Sound tells the story of how a band found success during the eighties in Minneapolis, with Starchild having to create a record to get on the radio and catching the eye of the purple yoda himself. As the band continues to find success, they have battle of the bands with Morris Day & The Time. (for those who didn’t grow up in Minnesota or on Purple Rain, they are the band at the end of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back) After giving a hell of a performance and a night that Morris Day would never forget.
After being giving the chance of a lifetime, Starchild has to choose between fame or keeping their identity. In a story that felt like a tribute to Prince, turns into a story that would make Prince proud with the theme of staying true to yourself. The creative team could have spent the whole time focusing on Prince, but they did the complete opposite and that is a major benefit for the story. The Minneapolis sound is truly the main character of this story and Prince is only in the book for a few panels despite playing a major part in the story.
By the time the story was over, I was attached to every character and at certain points felt a tear rolling down my face. Joseph P. Illidge and Hannibal Tabu’s script has great pacing and they truly created great characters. The only problem that MPLS Sound has is the fact that it could have added more pages for character development and the desire of more story. It’s not a bad problem to want more from a story.
I do wonder how much I would love this book if I was not a Minnesotan and a giant fan of Prince. But the cover alone from Jen Bartel (also a Minnesotan) should recommend this graphic novel to anyone. So throw on your favorite Prince album, find some purple tinted lights and read this book!