Kingsway West #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Mirko Colak
Colourist: Wil Quintana
Inker: Matt Smith
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: Spencer Cushing
Publisher: Dark Horse
Westerns are a genre of stories that are hard for me to get behind. They don’t speak to any of my sensibilities as a city boy from New York. And they don’t seem especially representative of what the real West was. What I do love are good stories and quality fiction. Kingsway West is a good story.
Looking through my LCS’s preview book, I skipped right over Kingsway West. I dismissed it as a simply another western. I was wrong. My next happenstance reconnection with Kingsway West was in an article on Comicsbeat featuring a conversation between Bryan Edward Hill and Greg Pak here. One line in particular stuck out to me from the article, “nostalgia for a particular, cultural perspective prevents people from engaging the actual history with imagination”. This was all I needed to give this book a try. This sentence really breaks down my distaste for westerns. The fact that Pak was engaging the story on this level, even though the quote came from the interviewer, sold me on the idea of this book.
Kingsway West is a piece of fiction that Greg Pak has had in his brain for a while and you can tell. The first page of the comic is a map of the West Coast of the North American continent and it doesn’t look anything like our world. It is an alternate history and Pak has put a lot of time and effort to make sure that the world is full formed and realized. There was a long war between the Chinese Queen and the Mexican Ruled Republica De Los Californios. And there are various dissenting factions on each side. So we have a politically complex world.
When the reader is introduced to the titular character of the story we get a wonderful line of dialogue, “this is the story of a monster who tried to become a man again.” Pak, even though he has written numerous comics, from ‘Hulk’ to ‘Action Comics’, has always been a very visual story teller. However, one aspect that stands out in each of his series is the poignant dialogue.
In many first issues of new series you get information dumped. Where characters go on long expositions explaining the world. Kingsway West doesn’t do that. What you have is carefully crafted dialogue that doesn’t reveal too much, so as to leave the reader wanting more, but expertly explain the current situation that the characters are dealing with, while hinting at a larger world.
While Pak doesn’t overly inundate the issue with too many word balloons, what you do get is some beautiful illustrations from Mirko Colak. Whereas there might not be much dialogue, Colak pulls the camera back, in his panels design, and really shows the reader the world and the landscape the characters of Kingsway West will be dealing with. Another thing Colak is great at is creature design. From the Dragons to the Bearfoots, and the ominous creatures lurking around the fire during night time, Colak really delivers on the otherworldly feel of the book.
One area lacking in this book is rock solid storytelling. There is a moment where one character is ambushed by three others. The next panel shows three sound effects of gunshots but four people are hit. Another similar incident happens around a camp fire. Two characters are talking cutaway to a wolf howl, the panel has a pulled back view, but one of the characters isn’t in the panel. It was these two small storytelling hick-ups that kind of pulled me out of the story.
Verdict: Buy it!
While there are minor issues I have with the comic, I heartily endorse this story. First, because the story is a diverse western. The Protagonist is an Asian badass who doesn’t use Kung-Fu but revolvers. That subversion of genre stereotypes has me interested. Second, Colak’s great creature design and overall geographic rendering in the comic. My third and final reason to buy this book is because this alternate history that Pak presents is a real passion project of his. He has told a lot of ‘for hire’ stories and I am interested in seeing what he can do with his own ideas.