King City is a piece of comics brilliance that deserves far more love than it's received. It's an adventurously romantic detective story about a dude and his super special cat.
It's also the best comic you'll read this year. I'm inclined to say that this is Brandon Graham firing on all cylinders, or some other silly cliché, except that this is the kind of output I've come to expect from him. From something small and great and genre-free like The Speaker from Dark Horse Presents #7 to the 48 page teaser of werewolf romance and organ smuggling that was Multiple Warheads #1, Graham knows how to impress.
Describing King City is like trying to describe King City. Or Chicago. Or Tokyo. You can try, but at the end of the day, it's better for someone to just visit and see for themselves, because there's a kind of irreducible complexity with these cities. Even if I give you all of the pieces, King City is greater than the sum of its parts.
But I'll see what I can do.
Joe's a catmaster. That's mostly what it sounds like;he's been out of King City for a couple years training in the art of using a cat as a MacGuffin. When something particularly difficult comes along, an injection of cat juice is all that's needed to do the impossible. Joe's cat (Earthling J.J. Cattingsworth III) is more than just a tool or a pet, though, he's a friend.
They're joined by Joe's best friend, Pete, his ex-girlfriend, Anna, and her new boyfriend, Max.
And I could tell you that Pete does some shady favors for cash and builds traps for fun or that Anna is hilarious and sincere and paints mustaches on billboards or that Max is the veteran of a zombie war in Korea that cost him his leg from the knee down.
It's all true, and those are fine reasons to be interested in King City, but that's not what it's about.
King City is a distillation of life. Graham writes the relationships between characters with a believability I haven't felt since reading since Asterios Polyp. Yeah, there are heists and a cult that eats dead fish tied to living ones and wrapped in $100 bills and a drug knife you can have sex with.
But for every bit of awesomeness Graham manages to shove into the gutters of King City, there's something waiting around the corner to tug at your emotions a little.
Or reminding you how it feels to revisit the town where you met your ex:
And then, once you've gotten comfortable, settled in and realized that this is a comic with a brain and some heart, Graham sucker punches you and proceeds to kick you in the gut as you curl into the fetal position on the ground:
Bryan Lee O'Malley was quoted on the cover of the first issue, praising King City as “Olympic level comics,” and you'll get no disagreement from me. King City earned that five-star rating many times over.
And I haven't even started on the art yet. With a style bred from reading a mess of manga and Moebius and spending some time in the graffiti scene, Graham's artwork is unique in the American comics scene. His art is dense. That's not to say that it's crowded, but rather that each page generally has something on it worth revisiting. It's amazing what he's able to cram into a double-page spread:
But he also knows when you have to let the comic just breathe, taking pages just for cityscapes. Pages other writers may try to fill with dialogue or exposition. Graham trusts you to soak it all in, and you should.
One of the greatest advantages to this mammoth collection of King City, aside from how absurd of a deal it is ($19.99 for 424 pages), is that you get to see Graham's art progress over the course of three to four years. A style that starts off a little blocky and rigid becomes smooth and perfected by the time you reach the back cover.
Oh, and the puns.
Puns are everywhere in King City. Sometimes they're stupid, other times they're hilarious, but it's rare when there's not a wink and a nod from Graham somewhere on the page.
King City is the cleverest comic you can buy right now. When it was coming out in singles, it put everything else I was reading to shame. At $20, you can't go wrong.
David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books, and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.