King City written and drawn by Brandon Graham.
In my head I subtitle this book, ‘An Ode to Radness’. It’s like a poem exulting in the awesomeness of comics and the cool things that they can do. On reading this book last year its pure comic energy inspired me to finally begin this blog and start scribbling about comics. So you only have Brandon Graham to blame people.
Joe is a Catmaster, newly returned to King City, breaking into triple level Minotaur lock vaults, escaping on the roof of a train and then hiding out in a secret spy hotel run by a Sasquatch. He’s been off learning the mysteries of Catmastery and as he reconnects with old friends he shows us his city and the weirdly varied inhabitants that he encounters.
The art is fun and direct, a light-hearted, ‘American’ manga style, with simple backgrounds but areas of great detail like the graffiti and street tags that cover the city. Graham loves to draw sexy women, futuristic cityscapes and bath farts. And the cat of course, Earthling J.J. Catingsworth the Third is the real star of the book, possessed of both great power and great personality, he grabs my attention in every panel that he is in.
Graham puts so much into these pages, the density is incredible. You can spend ages poring over a single page, they are packed with small labels, SFX and graffiti. There are shout outs to other comics and creators, tons of visual and verbal jokes and that’s only what I picked up on.
The book is interspersed with pages called King City Info where the reader learns fun facts about the history of King City, the Korean Zombie War or the drug chalk that turns its users into the drug itself. There are maps, schematic diagrams of buildings like they used to do of the Batcave or Baxter Building, a board game section and a cut out monkey.
There is a strong feeling of a cartoonist experimenting and trying out new things. There are panels with rounded edges that feel like film scenes but they surround a larger image of the neighbourhood with names and arrows pointing to where our characters are. This book never once forgets it is a comic, it might borrow styles and techniques but it always returns them.
Graham’s wife and many of his friends also happen to be exciting young cartoonists. He uses them to provide covers for issues or some of the back up stories that ran in the comic and thankfully they are all collected here.
Which brings up the other outstanding features of this book: size and price! For the measly sum of $27 Australian dollars you receive 424 pages of spectacular awesomeness. I hope everyone is still making money off this because it seems ridiculously cheap, and I want Graham to make lots more books and Image to do more in this Format.
Should I buy it? What it comes down to is if you like comics and if you like radness then you must buy this book.
Next time: After having a great time focusing on one writer in January’s ‘Month of Ellis‘ I am going to try it again, this time focusing on a visual style. All Feb I will be writing about black and white books by writer/illustrators. I love the results when a singular artist produces a focused work filtered only by their own mind. And in the monthly race to pump out more cape books these auteurs often get overlooked. So look out next time for my review of Jack Staff Volume 1: Everything Used to be Black & White by Paul Grist.