Review: Kingsway West #1

Kingsway West is a proper Weird West tale. Set in a California dominated equally by monsters, steampunk technology, mutants, and internecine war between three different states, it looks at one man’s path to redemption. This is a good opening issue. In an alternate West, a substance known as “red gold” powers all kinds of magical phenomena. By 1861, the West has seen thirteen years of warfare between the Chinese in the Golden Mountain Empire and the Mexican Republica de los Californios. Amid this chaos, a man named Kingsway Law is a former bandit trying to live a quiet life with his wife, Sonia. When his wife disappears, he’s forced to side with a Chinese freelander trying to topple the Golden Mountain Empire. Meanwhile, a third power wants to get involved in the West: the United States of New York.

Little tidbits left me curious for more in this book, like the Murrieta Territory. Is that a reference to Joaquin Murrieta, the Mexican-Californian bandit? I hope so, because while the circumstances of Murietta’s grudge are different here, the substance is still basically there: a grudge toward an occupying power. There are also just some hilarious mashups of American west flora and fauna: the Kingsway West #1existence of a half-bear upright-walking ape known as “bearfoot” was definitely worth a chuckle. I also think the time period selected is extremely significant: 1861 was the year the Civil War started, and the United States of New York is definitely a branch down a different timeline. What happened to the rest of the country?

At one level, this is a story about a wild west that never was, right down to magic and monsters. If the Deadlands RPG and bits of Jonah Hex had a child with the Sword of Shannara, it might come out looking like this. The red gold which powers this tale is just ambiguous enough to power just about anything, which explains the wild monsters we see everywhere and bits of steampunk technology that are hinted at. There are also the obligatory references to westerns, particularly Unforgiven, with its themes of a former badman returning to his old ways out of necessity.

Yet in some ways it’s also a story of the West as it once was, before it was anglicized and made part of the United States. New York (the U.S.) is a bit player in this book until the very end; the real contest is between the Chinese in the Golden Mountain Empire and the Mexicans in the Republica de los Californios. Switching the occupying power to the Chinese rather than the white Americans is an interesting move, and in its own way, this story gives both of those groups a place in Westerns that they have not traditionally had (outside of Zapata Westerns).

This is a well-done opening issue, in no small part because it doesn’t hold back with just how weird this particular world is. Mirko Colak does strong work with the art, taking old standbys like a Jackalope and reimagining them ever so slightly to be just a bit more monstrous. Probably my only complaint was that I never caught the name of the Chinese freelander Kingsway is working with; I’m sure that will be easily cleared up next time around.

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Kingsway West #1 Writer: Greg Pak Artist: Miro Colak Colorist: Wil Quintana Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Format: Miniseries; Print/Digital