One Model Nation: Come for the Rock Star, Stay for the Artist / by Patrick Smith

3250117401.jpg

I vaguely remember when One Model Nation came out as a miniseries from Image, but I guess while flipping through an issue at my local shop at the time I wasn’t sold by the premise a band involved in the German music scene of the late seventies, and at the height of their popularity they simply disappeared from the spotlight. A perfectly solid premise, but it never grabbed me and I just forgot about it. And yet here I am a few years later holding a copy of the recently reissue from Titan books, seemingly giving me a second chance at a story that I missed out on the first time around. After reading it however my feelings about the book could be best described as, conflicted

One Model Nation is written by Courtney Taylor-Taylor of The Dandy Warhols, and from what I understand he’s releasing a concept album around the band within this book which is about all the reason you need to rerelease this book as you need. The themes and overall content is actually pretty interesting, as it deals with a time and place in music and the combination of the political consciousness of the times and outlandish theatrics of early glam rock. And although it is a very fictionalized account of those times there’s enough truth that it makes you want to learn more. The strongest aspect of the though are Taylors ideas on how icons cant always choose what they come to represent. One Model Nation as a bad come to be known as the voice of the so called “Terrorist Generation” of Germany but the members of the band itself, although definitely politically aware, could care less about the movement and just want to make music.

It’s that passiveness in the characters however, which is the books biggest problem since none of them particularly do anything. Well at least in the case of the four main characters, this book has plenty of explosions, gunfights, and jailbreaks but none of them seem to actually matter to the four main characters which in turn makes it feel like there’s never any real growth with the characters over the course of the story. And all of those violent acts, although they do serve to show just what the political climate was of the times the book takes place in, there is never any real instance where those acts have any real effect over the story except in the most circumstantial ways possible. I’m sure it could be argued that the violence connects with the band in the end, but even then it feels rushed without any real sense of payoff.

This might come from the fact that Taylor’s main experience with writing is as a songwriter, so his strongpoints would be metaphor and theme but not necessarily the characters living within the world those metaphors and themes represent. If there is an exception however its in the character of Sebastian who has a scene with his father, a former Nazi, that is particularly interesting given the insight on how political movements can manipulate, and sometimes force, individuals into situations they would rather not be a part of and are ultimately made to live with the consequences of choices that were not even theirs to begin with. The problem is that looking at that relationship I almost with I was reading a book just about those two characters.

Whatever problems I may have with the story though almost disappear when factoring in the incredible artwork of Jim Rugg. I’ve been a fan of Rugg’s ever since reading Afrodisiac and have since tried to become more acquainted with his work although so far that only means also reading Street Angel. And although his work on this book is much more restrained than those books it’s still a great showcase of his skills as a visual storyteller and I’m convinced parts of this could go absolutely wordless and you would have no trouble following along.

Honestly this feels like a borderline artist edition since the printing really makes the art practically jump off the page and it comes with tons of great back up material such as initial concept art, character designs, and thumbnails of his pages which are jaw dropping given the amount of detail. And its worth mentioning the contribution of colorist Jon Fell who uses a unique color pallet to give the world of One Model Nation a bleak almost ghost like look of post war Germany which is made all the more effective with a special cameo artist near the middle of the book used to juxtapose the look of glam-alt rockers from Germany and those from Britain.

Overall this is a very impressive package, which no matter what complaints I might have about the story fans of music, great art, and good book design will definitely appreciate it. And if nothing else I hope that people coming in to read the book the front man of The Dandy Warhols wrote will expose more people to the simply amazing artwork of Jim Rugg.

TL;DR: Although the story and characters leave something to be desired it also showcases the work of an artist in his prime in one sharp looking package.

One Model Nation is written by Courtney Taylor-Taylor with artwork by Jim Rugg and published by Titan Books. You can ask for a copy in your local comic shop or bookstore or, help support Spandexless by buying it through our Amazon web store.

A review copy of One Model Nation was graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher.