Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Mirko Colak
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Colorist: Wil Quintana
Publisher: Dark Horse
A review by John Dubrawa
When it comes to stories about a tormented hero seeking revenge on those that wronged him, there isn’t a better fitting genre than the good ‘ol fashion western. Writers have been utilizing westerns for so long it’s become like a well-worn cowboy boot, but it’s a boot that has typically been worn by the same archetypical white American savior. Kingsway West, from writer Greg Pak and artist Mirko Colak, sets out to drastically change that paradigm. It retrofits a traditional western narrative with a diverse cast of characters and a scattering of fun fantasy elements that features everything from magic to dragons to people that can fly. Above all else, Kingsway West is a celebration of various characters that would otherwise be relegated to thankless roles in a typical western narrative.
It’s kind of a sad commentary that Pak’s story–about a retired Chinese gunslinger named Kingsway Law searching for his missing Mexican wife–has to occur in an alternate-history Wild West in order to showcase those unique voices; however, the resulting book is ultimately more interesting. Without the confines of history, Pak is able to do a lot more with the narrative, pitting the super powers of China and Mexico against one another with the Americans–in a refreshing role reversal–plotting evil intentions from the sidelines. Even then, Pak puts less focus on the Americans themselves and more on their hired hand, an African-American female bounty hunter with surgically-implanted wings. Based on that description alone, it’s easy to tell why, isn’t it?
But for as much as Pak’s script strides toward revamping the Western genre with diverse voices and unique elements, it is also oftentimes far too beholden to its traditional roots. Kingsway Law repeats the same trajectory we’ve seen time and time again from “retired” gunslingers: he states that he’s done fighting, then he finds himself in a conflict, and inevitably he picks up a gun again. Repeating this once is all but expected (this is a trope for a reason, after all) but this cycle repeats itself for each of the book’s four issues. This results in a very uneven pacing, which bounces between feeling incredibly lively–like whenever a new fantastical element or interesting character is introduced–to the incredibly repetitive modus operandi of our main protagonist.
One strong consistency, however, is Mirko Colak’s incredible art. His pencils are crisp and clear but still carry a bit of dinginess to the scenes, as if there’s actual dirt and grime on each page that is well-suited for this Wild West backdrop. Wil Quintana’s colors help to tell the story with a vivid palette dominating much of the book as our heroes travel across the sun-strewn desert, while darker blues take over for the final act as our heroes reach the twilight of their adventure. You can almost feel the passage of time as you read through the volume just going by the colors. Simon Bowland’s lettering is smooth and non-intrusive, which is an accomplishment in and of itself considering some of the fully-rendered panels that Colak and Quintana put forth. It’s a visually striking book to be sure.
Check It Out! Greg Pak’s Kingsway West has a lot going for it right from page one, between the fantastical alternate Wild West setting and its diverse cast of characters that are rarely–if ever–given strong voices inside of the Western genre. Unfortunately, for the strides that Pak’s script constantly makes in presenting a fresh take on the genre, it can also be incredibly repetitive, which is a detriment to book’s overall pacing and distinctness.