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Collective Consciousness Royal City #1

by stephengervais on March 01, 2017

Welcome back to Collective Consciousness, our weekly article where the staff takes one comic and puts it under the microscope. This allows us, and you, faithful reader, to get a good idea of how the comic fares against a variety of opinions. This week we're taking a look at new series from Image Comics, Royal City #1.
 
Image solicit: “ROYAL CITY charts the lives, loves, and losses of a troubled family and a vanishing town across three decades. Patrick Pike, a fading literary star who reluctantly returns to the once-thriving factory town where he grew up, is quickly drawn back into the dramas of his two adult siblings, his overbearing mother, and his brow-beaten father, all of whom are still haunted by different versions of his youngest brother, Tommy, who drowned decades ago.”
 
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
 
Forrest Hollingsworth
This is Lemire at his best offering a blend of honest, intriguing narrative and compelling art. It lies somewhere between Essex County and Black Hammer and reminds me of another, equally thoughtful writer, Matt Kindt.

The kind of artistic control that Lemire exerts over his watercolor-esque world is met in equal measure by his ability to tell a complex, but ultimately relatable story about a city, and family in seeming decline that rings true, slightly skewed by supernatural elements.

For an issue longer than the usual first, I wish there was a bit more in the way of forward momentum as opposed to what the issue does in establishing where everyone is at now. Lemire has proven time and time again, though, and most recently in Black Hammer, that his stories pay off in the long run, a kind of ramping slow burn.

If Royal City aims to harness that same energy, it will pay off I have no doubt, but readers might have a harder time latching on here. It’s an outstandingly well drawn, colored and written issue that doesn’t do much to setup the coming issues but also manages to stand on its own in a way that will keep me hooked for now. 
 
Jennifer Lund
I wasn’t prepared to like this book very much, to start with. It initially suffered the indignity of being written by Jeff Lemire, who had the temerity to write Hawkeye books while *not* being Matt Fraction. However, I had a bit of a chat with myself and realized I wasn’t really being fair. I also discovered that the tone of the script, as well as the washed-out illustrations, fit my recent melancholy quite well. The book is set in a gray, failing Anytown, USA called Royal City, and I recognized it immediately. It’s every Rust Belt city that lost factories and livelihoods in the last generation, every pretty old town in flyover country with more old folks than young families and more cows than cell phone towers, every timber town in the Northwest that time and the global economy left behind.
 
The art, especially Lemire’s renderings of Royal City and its surroundings, and particularly Tommy, made me want to dig out my old grunge cassettes and start blaring Nirvana loud enough to annoy my neighbors. The panel on page 15 with Pat under the bridge, the pages further on showing Richie and his burnout friend in what looks like a heroin den, and Tommy confronting Pat at a fleabag motel later in the book all put me in mind of Aberdeen, Washington - aka Kurt Cobain’s actual hometown. I’ve been there, and it’s really nothing to write home about.  It’s just as crummy now as it was 30 years ago when Kurt was trying to get out and go somewhere better. 
 
I won’t spoil what I think is going on with the story, I’ll just say that this is a book that’s definitely worth reading, especially with “Nevermind” playing in the background. And speaking of music, it’s also worth checking out the Spotify playlist that Lemire so thoughtfully leaves his readers at end of this first issue. I’m just old-fashioned enough to be sorry that it’s not an actual Maxell cassette tape, but I’ll take what I can get.
 
Jason James
This was an excellent story. I didn't know what to expect, but I should have known when I saw that this was a Jeff Lemire book. Lemire is a master storyteller and is may just be the best person in comics for putting together an engaging page turning story. Lemire's art style can be a little jarring at first, but it works for his stories. It's unique and instantly recognizable as Lemire. This is a great book with a beautifully constructed story. Don't you dare miss it! 10/10

Ryan Lahaise
One thing I have come to know from independent books by Jeff Lemiere is that they're weird. This one is no exception either. It took me awhile to get into this book. There was a lot of nothing happening then weird moments that didn't make a lot of sense and more nothing happening. If you are a fan of Lemire and his independent stuff then you'll probably enjoy this one. His art is classic Lemire and pretty well laid out. This is definitely one for those that seek a uniquely different style of comic from the mainstream.
 

Our Score:

10/10

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