Ever since I laid my peepers on Sweet Tooth, I have been a huge fan of Jeff Lemire and the odd point of view he has. He is an artist and writer who can go from highs to lows and somehow make his works flow together into one singular piece without a break. Royal City is a concept I didn’t know if I’d like, and the premise is something I’d expect to see in a different form of media. It’s a quiet sleeper, and I believe that is what makes it all the more engaging without all the bells and sugar.
The story follows a family in a town called Royal City, and the way their lives are affected by the lingering death of the main character’s younger brother many years ago. Patrick Pike is a writer whose aloof and wandering nature is clear from the moment you see the illustrations. Jeff Lemire has this incredible ability to tell stories without words, and many of his other works show him doing just that. If there were no letters on these pages, you’d still feel the whispers and musings of Patrick, and if you’re just intense enough, hear the whirring of his brain turning.
It draws you in, that much is obvious with issue #4. Well, either that or I just have a fried egg brain, but whatever. The emotion that is conveyed in this book is no different from each issue: it oozes out of the pages and hits you right in the feelies. It’s clear that this story, ending after issue #5 next month, is a personal work of Lemire’s, and you can see traces of his heart and soul in his art and words.
Watercolors can be a tricky thing to work with when it comes to comic books, but Lemire has never struggled bringing his signature soft grit to the books he illustrates. This being a sole work of his, the art only adds to the feeling of floating along the pages of this book, the reader just being a meek onlooker as to what these characters are thinking and feeling. It’s presented in such a gorgeous abstract way with many muted colors swirling around the sketchy black lines, and I cannot accept that this would be an accident given that Patrick’s younger brother drowned. It’s almost as if Lemire created this story with that in mind, asking personal and reflective questions, and the one that comes to my mind was “What does drowning feel like?”
Now that may sound dark, but in the world of Royal City, you are in a quiet place that has an underlying hum to it. There’s no gaudy outfits, no superheroine’s or heroes to be seen. This is a place where art lives and just asks you to follow along and think about things from a different perspective.
You know those people who still believe that comic books are for children and there is nothing to them but spandex and super powers? If you come across one such downer, hand them this sadly soon-to-be-complete story and blow their damn mind.
Story: 5 Stars
Artwork: 5 Stars
Lemire-ness: 5 Stars
Story / Art / Cover: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics