We’re three issues into Jeff Lemire’s latest creator-owned series, Royal City, about a family coming together in a small town rife with complicated relationships. A father is in the hospital, a writer is blocked, a sister can’t get a big development sold, and most importantly they’re all seeing things. Specifically a boy named Tommy.
Writer and Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
JEFF LEMIRE’s ambitious new graphic novel continues as Tara Pike awakens, lost in a strange other world that may hold the secrets to her unhappiness. Meanwhile, the Pike brothers reunite with disastrous consequences.
Why does this book matter?
It’s somewhat odd how the official summary lists this series as ambitious. What exactly does that mean? I take it as Lemire taking chances and pushing the boundaries of comic book storytelling. To me, if you read as many comics as I do, that’s something you pay attention to because if new ground is found that’s something we’ll see more of later.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Interesting use of panels.
This is one of those issues where you say to yourself, “The plot thickens.” It thickens alright, as characters interact, endeavors are thwarted, and trouble grows ever present. Pat for instance, gets a call from his agent that points out he has one month to finish his book or else. He’s delayed it long enough, which isn’t the most opportune time given his dad is in a coma. A key scene between him and…I won’t spoil it, but it raises the WTF barometer quite a bit. This scene segues well with his sister, which also has a supernatural element entwined with the drama of her life. That’s the thing, this series is very subtle with the supernatural element, which weaves into these average people’s drama. In a sense Lemire has spruced up what may have been a compelling Fargo style drama with a bit of mystery.
By issue’s end we learn some key facts about Tara, who gets the majority of the development in this issue. Strangely enough, finishing this issue didn’t leave me wanting when it comes to the other characters, yet the pace is quite slow. This is in part due to the solid dialogue which reads naturally. It’s also because of this pace that Lemire draws us in and makes these lives so personal.
The art continues to convey the somewhat whimsical and frail nature of humanity. I’m not sure if anyone else is working in watercolor, but given how successful Lemire is at using it I imagine up and coming artists will be soon. The color palette is somewhat subdued, which adds a realism to the issue that only makes the hard emotional moments cut deeper.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Once again, I think the extra sized first issue spoiled me. That’s because this issue feels short. It may be because it’s a slow burn sort of story to begin with, but it doesn’t check in with every character and characters like the mother seem underwritten at this juncture.
Is It Good?
One might argue it’s a short read, and we still have very little in the way of answers, but the character drama is strong and should sate readers who enjoyed the first installment.