ROYAL CITY #1 by Jeff Lemire
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
ROYAL CITY #1 by Jeff Lemire is a heavy start to what's hopefully going to be a long and prosperous series. This issue focuses heavily on characterizing the Pike family, and the art Lemire produces alongside his fantastic dialogue is raw and emotional. Definitely give this series a shot.
92 %
Fantastic Start
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Often when reading a comic, I push myself to critically look at the collaboration between the writer and the artist and ponder how accurate the images are to the writer's initial idea. But every so often, one person takes on the challenge of both writing and drawing, and the images express exactly what the writer is thinking. This is the case for Image Comic's ROYAL CITY #1, created, written, and drawn by Jeff Lemire (see: SWEET TOOTH, OLD MAN LOGAN, GREEN ARROW). This contemporary tale tells the story of the Pikes, a family of five that used to be six. Tommy, the youngest sibling, lost his life at a young age, and ROYAL CITY explores the impact his death had on the Pike family. With appropriately raw drawings and an excellent color scheme, Jeff Lemire's ROYAL CITY #1 is a stellar first issue that utilizes perspective in an intriguing fashion.

ROYAL CITY #1

Royal City was a once prosperous factory town not on the decline. The story starts off with an unknown narrator talking about the strangeness of Royal City. At first, it appears this narration belongs to Mr. Pike, an older gentleman lying in bed with what appears to be a case of insomnia. He goes out to his workshop in the middle of the night to fiddle with radios after fighting with his wife. The unknown narrator continues his anecdote as Mr. Pike hears someone say “Dad” through one of his radios. He whispers “Tommy” before suffering a stroke. In just this opening scene, we can tell Mr. Pike is a very distressed man suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress, much related to this Tommy character.

READ: Interested in Jeff Lemire's superhero content? Here's what we think of his run on OLD MAN LOGAN!

The story gives us glimpses into the lives of the Pike family: the parents, Peter and Patti, and the living children, Pat, Tara, and Richie. Throughout ROYAL CITY #1, each of these characters has some interaction with Tommy, the deceased youngest sibling of the Pike family. As the story progresses, it's unclear if these interactions are mere glimpses into their imaginations — Patti praying with Tommy and Richie heavily drinking with Tommy — or if Tommy's ghost is in fact physically present. I like this technique from Lemire because it adds a bit of spookiness and mystery to ROYAL CITY. The various interactions between members of the Pike family as well as residents of Royal City appear to be deep and rich with history. Jeff Lemire does a fabulous job of throwing us into the mix of things, forcing us as readers to interpret these relationships. Rather than spoon-feeding information, Lemire instead allows the intrigue of Royal City to keep readers around long enough to learn what exactly is going on.

ROYAL CITY #1

We do learn that Pat is a writer of sorts from his phone conversation with his agent, Charlie. He’s behind on his book, and his father’s stroke certainly isn’t helping him focus on his deadlines. Tara is a business woman with an agenda to transform the main factory in Royal City into a booming hotel/golf resort. Her plan will make Royal City a destination again for visitors but will cause hundreds to lose their jobs at the factory. Richie is shown as a bit of a lowlife, severing his ties to the rest of the Pike family as he drinks his days away. Patti appears to be a devout Christian, praying at her husband's side and at church. All of these scenarios create depth for these characters, filling them with possibilities for what I hope to a be a long and endearing storyline. It seems as though Lemire is setting up for many flashback sequences, as it seems obvious we need to learn about Tommy's death and how it impacted the Pikes. Is there someone to blame for his death? How old was he when he died? Do other residents of Royal City think about Tommy? One thing is for certain: the strain on each Pike family member is obvious, and I want to see that fleshed out in the coming issues.

READ: Interested in more comics from Image? Here are our top picks from their catalog!

The art in ROYAL CITY #1 is very raw and emotional. The characters often look tired, and this could be for numerous reasons. It's possible this is simply Lemire's drawing style, or perhaps it's a bit deeper than that, as their details are very striking. Their eyes, while outlined by some very prominent bags, fully convey their emotions to the reader. These individuals have obviously experienced much turmoil in their lives, which their faces reflect. When looking at Lemire's other self-drawn books like SWEET TOOTH and ESSEX COUNTY, I cannot help but notice that characters in those books aren't depicted so roughly. Regardless of the reasoning behind the design, I like it. It gives the Pike family and the residents of Royal City an edgy look. The city is also displayed very methodically, with the dimensions all seeming so perfect. Perhaps it's because Lemire showed so many different locations, but I can't help but feel he has the entire city sketched out, and these places are so detailed because they'll play an important role later in the series. The cooler color palette Lemire chooses is aesthetically pleasing as well. It gives the environment a darker tone, but in a way that isn't suppressing. It's almost calming.

Overall, ROYAL CITY #1 is a wonderful first issue. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I dived in, but I couldn't stop reading until the final page. The interactions the Pikes have with Tommy are scenarios I've never seen in a comic before. I always enjoy Lemire's characterizations and dialogue in his other titles, so I was pleased to see that trend continue here in such a bizarre situation. And his art style is one I don't often see (just by choice), but I was pleasantly pleased. If you've only read Lemire's superhero titles, give ROYAL CITY #1 a shot like I did. It's going to a be an interesting ride.

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