King City is more than a comic book, it’s a visual playground for geeky references. Every drawing overflows with detail, containing little Easter eggs tucked into the background that make readers search each page before turning to the next one. A city setting is naturally dense, and artist/writer Brandon Graham doesn’t let any opportunity pass by to include a sly off-color pun, so everything from signs, graffiti, and character’s t-shirts are used as a canvas for amusement. This cacophony can be distracting, but it makes multiple re-reads an enjoyable requirement.
The story follows Joe, a ninja/spy/thief, who has recently returned to California after a few years away. During those years, he trained to become a Catmaster, and the main tool of his trade is a cat named Earthling whom he carries around in a bucket. But this is no ordinary cat; depending on the injection Joe gives it from a collection of syringes he carries around on his belt, the cat can transform into a variety of tools or weapons. Armed with his feline and his knowledge of the Way of the Cat, Joe travels the city.
Lest one think Joe is an anomaly in an otherwise normal population, we are introduced to a host of other misfits. Pete, Joe’s best friend, is a wrestling mask-wearing petty thief who falls in love with a water-breathing alien woman and embarks on a quest to free her from her captors. Anna, Joe’s ex-girlfriend, paints large and often intricate mustaches on billboard faces. And then there is Anna’s current boyfriend, Max, who is a veteran of the recent Xombie wars and is fighting the drug addiction he picked up in order to cope with his memories.
The artwork has unapologetic punk vibes and it is busy and sometimes manic. The plot twists over itself with no pretense of plausibility, so readers shouldn’t get caught up on the hows or whys of some situations while reading this book. Where Joe gets the syringes he needs to inject Earthling and who pays Anna to paint mustaches on billboards are questions that never get answered. There is sex and violence, but they play a secondary role to humor, taking the edge of seriousness off of both. Originally released as a serial, King City doesn’t really lend itself to that format. However, as a book, it is an engrossing experience, though definitely not a quick read. Recommended to readers of comics and humor.
Check the WRL catalog for King City.