Brandon Graham‘s King City represents everything I love about creator-owned comics. In the way that Martin Scorsese directs films that pay homage to cinema, Brandon Graham crafts King City like a love letter to the comics and culture that raised us all. From ninja cats to world destroying elder gods, the collected King City drips with adoration for everything geek.
Joe has returned home to King City after leaving California. In California, Joe trained to become the perfect thief and ninja known as a catmaster. As a catmaster, Joe is able to use his cat, Earthling J.J Cattingworth, as a tool or weapon depending on what injection he uses. Other residents of King City include Pete, a lovesick petty criminal who just fell in love with the alien he helped deliver to some pretty awful people. Joe’s ex-girlfriend also haunts the pages of King City as she paints mustaches on billboards and worries over her drug-addicted Xombie War veteran boyfriend.
If you could not tell by now, Graham has a specific talent in lacing the whimsical with threads of reality. As ridiculous as a super ninja cat sounds, the relationship that Joe has with his cat is familiar to anyone who has had a best friend. Death and sorrow are very tangible even when they are held in the hands of a demon overlord or alien stranger.
King City plays the role of an epic, yet stays grounded in one strange and sprawling city. The city that Graham has created is one covered in filth and grime. It is a city that inhales dreams and exhales death. King City is every major city in the world. The inhabitants are strange and if you dig deep enough you will find your worst nightmares. Each horror or love story in King City is taken straight from the streets of Los Angeles and Chicago. Graham is able to take the bizarre and make it familiar to us through the personal affairs of his characters.
It may seem like sensationalizing, but King City is a piece of artwork. When you spend as much time reviewing comics as I do, reading something this fresh and original is marvelous. If you read one graphic novel in 2012, make sure it is King City, you won’t be sorry.