By Ben Snyder
It feels odd to say that any Jeff Lemire story is a little to melancholic but that’s how Royal City #10 reads. The ominous radio frequencies, the general malaise of living in a small steel town, a monologue based on the woes of normalcy; all the staples of the series are present, but it doesn’t mesh as well as in previous entries. Maybe it’s because of the scene between Tommy and Ritchie’s girlfriend or maybe it’s the overwhelming melancholy that the script exudes- regardless Royal City #10 is probably one of the weaker entries in the series so far.
The meat of this story centers on the Pike siblings assembling to attend a warehouse party. The way each character is introduced evokes their individual story arcs in a pretty lackluster way. Tommy gets a headache so he takes a pill, Richie bullies him into tagging along, and Pat fresh from quitting the factory job struggles to formulate a story so goes out with his brothers. It’s not like it felt that these scenes were throwaways and didn’t do the individual arcs justice, it only highlighted how futile or cliché each arc was in these flashback issues. Tara’s struggle of being pregnant felt underused and obvious, Pat’s was the definition of cliché, and Richie barely even had a struggle he just couldn’t keep it in his pants! The only addition these couple of issues added to the grand scheme of the overall plot is the mystery of the radio towers. And I struggle to come up with a way that these monolithic structures can become intertwined with the stories.
There is hope for a more satisfying solution however, as this story arc is not over yet as presumably we shall see Tommy’s death next issue. But before we get to that, it is necessary to discuss the scene between Tommy and Ritchie’s girlfriend Clara. It’s simply so obvious from the instant we see Clara crying on the log. It doesn’t help that the dialogue in this scene is almost cringe-worthy. One could argue that because of this cringe inducing quality is the exact reason why this scene works and the fact that we are so against Tommy sleeping with Clara is because we are so invested in him as a character, and while in part this is true, I feel like a big part of why it is such a let down is because of how unoriginal Lemire depicted the scene in question.
I’m not asking for an erotic graphic novel with sexually explicit images depicting two teens getting it on. But simply having Tommy scrawl in his journal how they had sex and how awkward it was seems like a letdown, especially with Lemire’s highly expressionist art style. Perhaps there could have been a more interesting way involving the mysterious radio towers that have yet been explained (and have a naturally phallic structure). Regardless of how the scene was depicted, I also think it didn’t work because we never actually got a formal introduction to Clara. We always knew Ritchie had a girlfriend he was cheating on, but this is the first time actually see her, so it feels like she is only present for added drama.
Despite all of this I wouldn’t consider Royal City #10 to be a particularly bad issue. Lemire’s dialogue is still great throughout a majority of this issue especially during Tara and Steve’s abortion discussion and Lemire’s pros is stellar during Patti’s monologue. But once again none of it feels like it meshes as well as it could have. Hopefully, Lemire is able to tie it all together with a fittingly melancholic and emotional ribbon as in this arc’s final issue.
Royal City #10