Thursday, 2 March 2017

Royal City #1 by Jeff Lemire Review

The elderly father of the Pike family has a stroke, bringing his family together for the first time in years. As they gather in the dead industrial town of Royal City, the past rears its ugly head reminding them of a terrible event that happened and left them permanently emotionally scarred… 

Royal City is kind of a throwback for Jeff Lemire to his Essex County days, the comic that made his career. And it’s not bad but it’s also not as good as Essex County was. 

This bumper 50-page first issue introduces us to the disparate members of the Pike family. There’s Pat, the author who lives out of town; Tara, the businesswoman who stayed and is trying to rejuvenate Royal City; Richie, the deadbeat brother; and Patti, their bitter mother. It’s a generic family saga and would be unremarkable except for the haunting layer their brother Tommy brings when he appears… 

Lemire’s art is Lemire’s art – I feel like most people have decided where they sit with it at this point. I don’t mind it but I don’t love it either. The colours are pleasant and there are a couple of interesting, surreal splash pages. 

Royal City feels less like the Essex County comics to me and more like Seth’s Palookaville series, but livelier (though not much more!): small, quiet town in the middle of nowhere, tense family relationships, melancholic, wistful tone. I think if you like Palookaville and/or Lemire’s books Essex County, Lost Dogs and The Nobody, you’ll probably find Royal City #1 somewhat enjoyable, though, while it’s an ok beginning, I wouldn’t say it’s as compelling as any of them – yet. Maybe it’ll reach that level of quality as the story unfolds?

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