Royal City #1
Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire
Letterer: Steve Wands
A review by Greg Brothers
I will not call this a “slice of life” comic book. I am going to stop using that term at all when talking about comics. Lemire mentions at the end of Royal City #1, in an open letter to his readers, that he hates that term because he imagines slice of life books are boring and he doesn’t think that his book is boring. Of course, he is right. Royal City #1 is not boring, nor are most of the other books that have been typically added to the slice of life category. Instead there needs to be a term that shows what books like this truly are, interesting, engaged, and thought provoking stories that are being driven by characters that we can all relate to.
Royal City is an average town. People work blue collar jobs in factories that are slowly dying off. It’s a town that is trying to find its footing and find a resurgence before the city dies of completely. Royal City #1 starts innocently enough as Peter is just trying to have a snack in the middle of the night. Little does he know that it will be the last snack he may have for a while. As he is tinkering away in his workshop he hears the radios around him call out for dad as he has a stroke. The emergency brings the adult children together as they all return home to visit their ailing father in the hospital. While each of them deal with this family emergency in their own way, we find out that for years they have been dealing with another tragedy in their own way.
Jeff Lemire has been working on Royal City #1 for over a year, and honestly you can tell. The story is told in such a way that it draws the reader in quickly. As their story unfolds in Royal City #1 you can imagine this being any family that you may have known or even your own family, and that is where the strengths of Jeff Lemire shine. Peter wanting the midnight snack, the nagging wife, the real estate development meeting, all things that sound mundane, but the way Lemire presents each of them draws you in. I found myself lingering on the panels and taking every word in, enjoying the details and the intricacies that enhance the story.
Part of the lingering on the panels was done when I went and re-read the story. There is a mystery built within this everyday story, and I wanted to go back and look for any hints about that mystery that were hidden within the panels, be it the art or the dialogue. The mystery ends up revealing more about the characters and how they deal with tragedy, and while not all your questions are answered, by the end I felt fulfilled while excited for what comes next.
Lemire handles the art for Royal City #1 and it is beautifully done. The use of watercolors creates flowing panels that enhance the story being told. If you are a fan of Lemire’s work on A.D. Afterdeath then the art here will look very familiar. The choice of realistic colors helps to ground the story even more than it already was.
Buy it! Royal City #1 is Lemire at his best. He provides a story that is based on everyday life while providing engaging dialogue and panels. Readers will find themselves drawn into these panels and the characters within them as they move through their lives. There is enough of a mystery here that it is obvious there is more to the story than what is presented in issue one, and it leaves you wanting to come back for more.