Back in the old days of “Comics’ Greatest World” (later renamed “Dark Horse Heroes”), the character that always seemed to have the most potential without actually receiving the spotlight was King Tiger. A strange mixture of elements of Doctor Strange, Green Arrow and Shang-Chi, the character seemed forever dying for a chance to take center stage. Randy Stradley and Doug Wheatley are responsible for the reboot of the character and, while the book looks great, there’s a real lack of any sense of wonder to try and keep new readers on board.
First and foremost, “King Tiger” #1 has some great art. Wheatley draws everything from cars and weaponry to cityscapes and kitchen setups with equal ease, and all with a very delicate line. It’s almost a given, then, that this carries into the characters themselves. I appreciate that King Tiger himself actually looks Asian (in the past, he seemed Caucasian in monk’s robes more often than not, depending on who had drawn the character) but, more importantly, he seems to have a slightly worn and tired face. Milo and Rikki also are distinctive, from the ends of Milo’s hair and beard to Rikki’s great curls. Rain Beredo does a good job of getting colors into Wheatley’s art without losing any of the detail and, if nothing else, you get your money’s worth for that alone.
The problem is that, for a book about someone fighting mystical monsters in and around modern-day Las Vegas, there’s precious little in this issue along those lines to grab you. Most of this issue feels very mundane, with the larger-than-life aspects kicking in at the last few pages. Sure, it’s great to learn more about Rikki and Milo — I like a well-developed supporting cast — but Stradley’s story ends up a little dull because it’s an awful way to come in cold to these characters.
Along those lines, “King Tiger” #1 gets no favors from there not being a “King Tiger” #0, reprinting the backup feature from “Blackout” that concluded in August 2014. Not only does “King Tiger” #1 clearly pick up right where that story left off, there’s even a footnote giving a nod to that story when the characters talk about it. When they’re referring to demons and dimensional portals, it’s hard to keep from thinking that you’d rather be reading that story instead. Dark Horse has done the #0 collecting a serialized prologue before (the “Resident Alien” series of miniseries utilizes this technique well) so the lack of that here is a little puzzling.
On the bright side, the final couple of pages have more energy than the rest of the issue combined, and hopefully that means “King Tiger” #2 will get some momentum going and have a little more to sink one’s teeth into. For now, this is a disappointing first issue for a character who always seems to deserve better than what’s actually received.