By Ben Snyder
As anyone who has read any of my Royal City reviews can attest, I am a huge fan of this series and Jeff Lemire’s combined writing and artwork. However, in Royal City #9 some facets are starting to become annoying. Whether it’s Lemire’s colors muddling the details in the environment or the general lack of anything interesting regarding Richie and Tara’s story line, it seems that the weak points of this fantastic series are finally surfacing.
To begin, the high points of this issue hit exactly what recurring readers have come to expect. Pat’s journey in working for his father came to a satisfying emotional conclusion and Patti is essentially on the cusp of having an affair. But perhaps the greatest aspect of this issue and this entire flashback arc is Tommy’s introspection on the state of his family, mental health, and town.
Having Tommy virtually dissect Pat’s entire character, showing the sham that he’ll eventually become is heartbreaking. Tommy diagnoses the exact issue with Pat’s character- he has these big dreams but he doesn’t do anything to achieve them. Tommy notices his collection of notebooks because he wants to be a writer. But nothing is in them. That is Pat’s character in its bare essence; he’s a shell- which is exactly what we see him struggling with during the first arc. But Lemire chooses to end this story with a glimmer of soul crushing hope as Pat leaves his fathers factory to find his true purpose and Pete is happy for his first born.
I also really liked Tommy’s ruminations on his town and people like him. It’s all simply so human and depressing. As I have often thought similar thoughts and I can imagine many others have. Lemire has an uncanny ability to tap into a collective conscious of anxiety and angst that most if not all teenagers have felt and then transform it into a work of art.
In other areas, Lemire is simply not as successful in in this issue. The main area of disappointment is the Richie’s story. It wasn’t a big portion of this entry, it only consisted of one page, but it completely disrupted the flow of the issue. I can’t tell if it’s because we already know where Richie ends up or if we just haven’t delved too deeply into his past yet, but being thrown into his presumed infidelity so quickly felt to sudden. I’d have much rather preferred a Richie centered issue in which we are given more time to process this. Hopefully the next issue will delve more deeply into this.
The art is another area that I found lacking in this issue. Normally, I love Jeff Lemire’s art- especially when it is paired with watercolors. Usually, this adds immensely to the emotional weight and fragility of the script. But for some reason, the pieces simply didn’t click as well in this issue. The beginning of the issue started strong as Tommy’s internal monologue is placed directly over the smoke stacks he is thinking about. I also really liked Lemire’s use of empty space in this issue. Specifically the transition from Tommy to Patti in which the smoke stacks is placed firmly against a blank canvas. Another instance is when Pattie is leaving the conversation with Robert. The lack of any environment clues the reader into the fact that this conversation is not over.
It seems that this issue falls apart artistically with the introduction to Richie as the colors lose their vibrancy and details, especially in the schoolyard. I found it difficult to even make out the end of the panels due to the bleeding effects of the watercolors.
No issue of Royal City has been bad so far. In fact a majority of them have been consistently amazing. However, Royal City #9 doesn’t reach the standard of excellence that Lemire has set for himself in this series. It still hits the emotional highs and lows we have come to expect from this series, but certain elements simply detract too much from the experience in this entry.
Royal City #9