Brandon Graham’s “King City” is a rare example of an artist’s project that is perfectly suited to the artist’s strengths. Graham’s art is almost ludicrously detailed, a graffito Moebius, and so a comic about a bunch of 20-somethings in a far off future city where certain cats are a kind of magical Swiss Army Knives able to disable locks and dangerous enemies alike is the ultimate showcase for his work.
As great of an artist as Graham is, he’s no slouch as a writer either. He has captured the voices of his characters extremely well and, as a cartoonist, is also adept at integrating the art and lettering to create a completely seamless exploration of their inner and outer worlds. His best moments are when all of his talents are integrated and it’s clear that he’s just enjoying the simple act of drawing. There’s a fake map of California in this issue that’s overflowing with wordplay and zany detail, and you can almost imagine him chuckling over his drawing board.
The comic doesn’t necessarily lend itself that well to this kind of serialization. Its pace is not unlike its protagonist: always in favor of eschewing a focus on broad action in favor of languorously resting on character moments and more intimate detail. This makes it a fantastic read in collections, but as a standalone comic, it sometimes feels a bit slight as far as the narrative goes.
That being said, even a new Brandon Graham cover tends to have enough content in its detail to make any purchase of a single issue worth the price. There’s also something to be said for reading his comics in this oversized format, as the book has been published in Image’s lovely tabloid format (as seen in “Viking”). We may never see “King City” collected at this size (Tokyopop was gracious enough to allow Graham to publish the rest of “King City” with Image as individual issues, but it’s unclear what the future of the book is in terms of collected editions) and Graham’s art certainly benefits from it.
This is the final issue of the storyline that graham started long ago in Tokyopop’s first volume of “King City.” It’s unclear when he will return to it — it’s certainly an open ended finish — but his new Oni Press series, “Multiple Warheads,” will be starting up soon. Regardless, it is an incredibly fitting end to the series. Joe the Catmaster once again turns his back on any structured responsibility in favor of a life with his friends. For a fantastical comic about dealing with superpowers (or, more specifically, dealing with cats who are dealing with superpowers), “King City” will always stand as a refreshing change of pace.