I picked this issue up eons ago — not during its original printing, but when Image Comics began reprinting the series. Somehow, I managed to never come into contact with the next three issues until a couple of weeks ago at Chicago Comics, though, so expect to see a few King City posts pop up over the next several “100 Days, 100 Comics” entries (which, yes, I realize have extended beyond the hundred day mark, and that is unfortunate).
My first encounter with Brandon Graham’s artwork was back during my Wizard staff writing days in New York. My pal Rickey passed a single-volume book my way that was somewhat less family-friendly than King City is, but it was no less distinctive. Multiple Warheads was my second Graham encounter, and King City comes a lot closer to resembling that series content-wise. If at some point during the ’80s ABC had tried to make a Saturday morning Blade Runner cartoon, it would have had a lot of the same dynamics — comical sci-fi moments of absurdity with muted backdrops of depressing implications in a futuristic urban environment.
Graham’s characters — particularly his lead hero in King City, Joe — move like cartooned characters should move and inhabit worlds with a physicality and weight that keep you grounded in his universe. Much like Seth Fisher and Paul Pope, Graham’s artwork just tends to blow onto his pages with heaps and piles of flotsam and morsels of detail that bring his stories to life. Following Joe for the first half of the issue unaware of virtually any pertinent facts about his identity or location, the moment of insertion for the reader is aloof and uncaring about the audience Joe narrates to, but the book’s weakness here is also symptomatic of a convention in Graham’s storytelling in my experience wherein he leaves huge expanses of his cities and cultures to the imagination by explaining painfully little. You don’t even learn Joe’s name until well in to his first dialog scene with his friend Pete.
King City #1 reads like an introductory tour through a turning point in Joe’s life, but without much structure or organization to the issue’s approach. In fact, it feels a bit like you’re being taken through a carnival ride with a restraining bar keeping you locked in a fixed position without much perspective beyond the vague clues you’re able to pick up along the way. I’d compare it to a time I was stuck at Universal Studios in Florida on the E.T. ride on E.T.’s home planet with no narration or guidance to explain to me what all of the aliens dancing on the cave and flower formations were doing while technicians tried for a half hour to free us. King City #1 was much more pleasurable than that, by the way.