By Jonathan Edwards
I've been championing this book since pretty much the get go, and as far as I'm concerned, it's been doing a pretty good job of consistently living up to that hype. However, with the next issue marking the end of Royal City's introductory story arc, it seems that Lemire has slowed down his momentum a touch for this fourth installment. Mind you, it's by no means a bad issue. The priority is just different. Rather than following in the footsteps of the last couple issues by introducing new plot threads, we see those that already exist start to get pulled together. Although, Lemire still leaves us with the lingering question of who exactly is the young woman that Patrick keeps running into? And perhaps more importantly, how does she fit into what all's going on with Tommy and Royal City?
The first third or so of Royal City #4 is comprised of Patrick's introspection at the hands of what appears to be an existential and midlife crisis. He talks about mortality and time and how quickly it can seem to pass you by. Honestly, it's all pretty standard stuff, but Lemire still writes it well, and I found it all pretty easy to relate to as a twenty-something that has just finally managed to graduate from college. This segues (rather smoothly I might add) into his second interaction with the aforementioned young woman. They end up talking about Patrick's two books and their very different receptions which has been a recurring element throughout the series, and I for one have found it to be consistently compelling. I'm not exactly sure why though. There's just something that simultaneously feels very meta but also true to life about i that really resonates with me.
Speaking of the "Pats" of the Pike family, Patricia stars in what is perhaps the most symbolic and engaging sequence of this whole issue. Without saying too, too much, she thinks back to shortly after Tommy's birth and relives his baptism ceremony. And if you're like me, you'll immediately realize the real significance of that the second you see the word "baptize" pop up ina speech bubble. Furthermore, I only mention this because I'm legitimately uncertain of it's truly the case, but it seems that as a result, she might have finally come to terms with the truth of Tommy's demise as well.
As always, Lemire's art is superb. Special shout out for this issue goes to everything done during Patrick's introspection. Four panels, two splash pages, and a two-page spread all make for an interesting visual breakdown of the character (as well as the other members of the Pike family) that's directly related to his narration. And as perfectly valid as it would be as merely an abstract representation, the following scene suggests that this is actually how Patrick is imagining it as he writes. It's an incredibly effective way to evoke that surreal tone Lemire does so well and then immediately anchor it back to reality.
If you're not reading Royal City but want to, I'm going to suggest you wait for either the first trade paperback or the first issue of the second arc (which will be issue #6) to jump on. For now, there's only one left to go, and from Image's description that "the secrets of the Pike family are finally exposed," I have a feeling that this issue might've just been the calm before the storm. And, that storm is going to be a strange and surreal one.
Royal City #4
Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics