By Ben Snyder
With Jeff Lemire’s second arc for Royal City, he sets up a fascinating introduction on the mystery that is Tommy from the original arc. Throughout the first five issues, the entire Pike family is haunted by their perceived version of Tommy; Tara by the baby brother she babysat and hoped the best for, Richie envisioned the brother he never got to spiral out and do drugs with; Patricia hallucinated the Tommy that took the cloth, but this is our first true glimpse into the true Tommy. The anxiety-ridden, possibly supernatural headache suffering teenager, filled with as much angst as anyone going through this period. And in this way, Lemire sets up what could be the most interesting arc the series could offer.
I rarely read the later pages of a comic in which the writer or artist write about their thoughts and feelings about the prior issue are, but for this issue, there are a certain core intentions that need to be highlighted. The first is that Lemire is trying to convey what it felt like to be a teenager in the 1990’s in this arc and the second is that this arc takes place during the last week of Tommy’s life. I have no idea what it feels like to be a teenager in the 90’s as I was just born in ’95, but I know what it feels like to be teenager and Lemire absolutely nails all the differing aspects of what a teenager is. He encapsulates the rebel and ultimate failure in Richie, the by the books and bright-eyed scholar/writer in Pat, and the inner confliction in Tara.
Tara so far seems to be the most intriguing, as we do not particularly know what her conflict is. We know Pat’s will be being a writer and leaving his father’s shadow, and we know Richie’s arc will consist of his inevitable downfall into drugs and gambling, but Lemire plays Tara’s conflict surprisingly close to the chest only hinting that she is hiding something from her possible boyfriend.
While Lemire succeeds with the teenagers, he doesn’t go into nearly as much detail with the parents and because of this doesn’t reach the same heights. In the scenes with Patricia and Peter, we see a woman who is tempted by a former flame and a father torn between his new responsibilities as a manager. While I still have the utmost confidence that these stories will have a sufficient payoff, the parents’ stories don’t really capture me as the teenagers’ do.
When Jeff Lemire is writing a more personal and quiet story I will always advocate that the best artist for the job is Jeff Lemire himself and the same holds true for this entry of the series. I think it’s the hand drawn sketchy line quality adds a rougher and ultimately more blue collard approach to Lemire’s script. I especially appreciate the color shift when Tommy gets a headache adding to the supernatural feeling it provokes. The two times it happens in this issue, Tommy sees the mythical electricity tower in the lake and then once more as Tommy views his family. And both times it helps support the feeling that Tommy doesn’t perhaps belong in this world. He doesn’t belong with his family or at school. I also appreciated the 90's callbacks in this issue such as Tara's boyfriend wearing a Nine Inch Nails shirt. It really helps set the time and place during which Nine Inch Nails were considered popular.
Royal City #6 sets up potentially the most interesting and emotionally charged arc Royal City has to offer. As we lead up to Tommy’s eventual death the focus shifts to tell us that this arc is in fact Tommy’s story, not his siblings or his parents. This is finally Tommy’s time to be the main character and in the spotlight, Tommy truly shines.
Royal City #6