It’s not going to be easy to be objective with this, because it’s really hitting on a lot of my major comics pleasure centres.
It’s like Warren Ellis/Masumone Shirow-style technofetishism married to Paul Pope-style post-Cyberpunk romanticism, and Bryan Lee O’Malley-style absurdism with art by some sort of ungodly mutant artbaby spawn of Dan (Amazing Joy Buzzards) Hipp and Jim Mahfood. There’s even flashes of China Mieville in there somewhere. Golly.
‘King City’ is the story of Joe. Joe is a professional lockpick, and also a Cat Master, which means that he owns, and is trained to operate, a strange cat which operates as a kind of universal magical tool/weapon/domestic pet. Joe makes his living stealing stuff, an as is typical for this kind of story, he ends up attracting the attention of the wrong people.
Also involved are Pete, Joe’s best friend, who ends up in a mess of trouble with another group of extremely unpleasant people, Joe’s ex-girlfriend Anna, and Anna’s new boyfriend, Max, a veteran of the Korean Zombie Wars is having problems of his own. It’s a glorious mess of Eastern Bloc Sasquatches, Lethal Snot Rockets, Alien Mermaids, Questionable Eating Habits, Sex, Love, Regret and Unfairly Hung She-Males.
‘King City’ does several things very, very well indeed. Firstly, it creates an incredibly rich and strange world which seems to have a life beyond the adventures of the main characters. Every character in every scene seems to have a life and a story of their own.
Also, while Graham does, at times, pepper the script with technological buzzwords in what, for the sake of brevity, I’ll call Ellis-style, he does so in a way that entices, rather than alienates, the reader.
Secondly, while the technofetishism does come thick and fast, it knows that it’s there as setting, and not as a replacement for character. At it’s heart, ‘King City’ remembers that it’s about its characters, and their stories, and even though putting the brains of Walt Disney and Theodore Roosevelt into giant cyborg spider bodies and having them fight is pretty damn cool… it’s the characters, their stories and the wonderful, magical, magnificent city that have me desperately wanting the second installment of this series RIGHT NOW.
Plus, a crossword, activity pages, and handy lockpicking hints! How cool is that!?
‘King City’ is written, illustrated and created by Brandon Graham, and published by Tokyopop.