By Jonathan Edwards
Ah, Jeff Lemire. I'm sure that, for some, that's all they'll need to know to go out and pick this book up. After all, Lemire is both a talented artist and writer whose work is not dissimilar to that of Matt Kindt's (whom I talked about in my review of Dept. H #9). Although, I'm far more inclined to describe Kindt's work as being in the same vein as Lemire's than vice versa. Admittedly, I'm not quite as familiar with Lemire as I'd like to be. Most of what I've actually read from him has been the stuff he only wrote (a current example being Black Hammer, which has been awesome). I did pick up the first two "books" of A.D.: After Death, written by Scott Snyder with art by Lemire, but I've been waiting for the third and final one to come out so I can read them all back to back (a decision I back made when book 3 was still scheduled to come out in February). So when I saw Royal City listed on the spreadsheet, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.
I don't think one can really overestimate the power of a strong opening, line, panel, scene, etc., and I'll be damned if Royal City doesn't do just that. The very first narration box on the first page pretty much tells you all you need to know about what kind of story this is. It's pithy, hints at deeper thematics, and it's wrapped in a subtle irony that I didn't pick up on until my second readthrough. Honestly, as soon as I read that opening line, I knew that I was going to really like this book. And, I really did.
I don't want to go into all that many specifics about what all happens in this issue, as experiencing it yourself is kind of half of the experience. However, it does pretty much all amount to setup. We're introduced to the different members of the Pike family, and we get glimpses of the numerous conflicts that exist within themselves, their relationships with each other, and perhaps even Royal City itself. Over 50 pages of this might seem like a chore to get through, but I was engaged the whole time. The dynamics are clear and organic enough that I wanted to know what was going to grow out of them as soon as they were established. If I could have, I would've started reading the next issue as soon as I finished this one.
Lemire's artwork here is simultaneously integral to and informed by the writing, and he knocks it out of the park. From character designs to colors, not a corner is cut or compromise made. This result is a book that's gorgeous in the way only Lemire is capable of. I may have compared him and Matt Kindt at the beginning of the review, and perhaps some of their past work has floated to something of a middle ground. But, with Royal City, there's no mistaking it; this is 100%, unmistakably and entirely Jeff Lemire.
If it isn't already obvious, let me be frank. I'm on board with this series, and it would take some substantial missteps to change my mind. As far as recommendations go, I'd say this is just worth checking out. I'm sure there'll be people who don't dig it, but this is shaping up to be a substantial story that I think you'd be remiss to not at least give a shot.
Royal City #1
Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics