King City, by Brandon Grahm, is a good book.
It’s pretty, for one. Black and white and clean and almost sparse for all the detail packed into every panel. It reminds me of Stokoe, without the organic growth crowding around everyone. There are a surprising number of shots of an empty, near cloudless sky, like a fisheye lens poking up from the street. There are shots of shocking scope and detail thrown at you to explain a small amount of a single character’s backstory. It’s decadent. It’s soft and curvy and complicated, every few pages there’s a lazily meandering scene with dozens of little puns waiting to be discovered in the folds of the page. Front and center, the hero of the whatever story is being told is usually in a small puddle of calm in the middle of an insane city. Brandon Grahm calls James Stokoe his “daywalker” (all of his strengths, none of his weaknesses) but fucking, he’s wearing some amazing sunscreen himself. He doesn’t have the sort of bubbling fractal madness that Stokoe manages, but he brings so much energy to even his sparest page. And in his most complicated pages he’ll drop in 90 puns to pepper the background (Jose and his friend Hose B made me laugh longer than I should have), a dozen little stories ending in a dozen little jokes because why the fuck not do that?
Which is the next point, it’s funny. It’s consistently funny, like it isn’t trying. Like a friend who says things with just the right timing but you had to be there only you are there so it’s all good. I’ll spoil one, don’t worry there are hundreds. Maximum Absolute is a guy who lost a leg fighting against the Xombies in Korea, at a certain point in the story Cat Master Joe offers to grab some shoes for him at a Sneaker Soul machine and asks his size. “13 left”, get it? There are setups and punchlines and weird little half-puns scattered around the book. There’s Big Weird like the communist sasquatch running a spy hotel and there are fart jokes because farting is funny. And that’s another thing I love about this book, it’s honest.
I knew it would be honest when Joe picked his nose and flicked a booger. It’s gross! Blegh. But it’s true, we pick our noses when no one is looking, because no one is looking, because it’s just a thing we want to do and so why not who does it hurt? (I should do a post on MRSA and freak people out) But you never see it because of that. No action hero picks his nose between fights because gross. But it’s a part of our life and I mean I guess I’m making a bigger deal out of this than I should but the whole comic reads like an action flick that realizes part way through it can be more honest than that, it doesn’t need to show you a big fight sequence as the climax, it can show you some friends chilling in an apartment because by now that’s all you actually care about. Joe’s u… I was going to say “ugly, too” but he’s not. He’s slightly rat-faced, a little. But he’s not bad. He’s normal. So’s his friend Pete and so’s Max and so is most everyone, even the freaky weird people. It just feels better. It feels like a story told not because it will make someone look good but because it happened and you should know it happened. These people were around when shit went down and here’s how it turned out.
Every world-changing event happens, even when you’re not there to help out. The things that change you can only happen when you’re around, so you need to show up. It’s a good book, find it. It’s $20 too for like 450 goddamn pages, a complete steal.