30 in 30 - Day 30: Royal City vol. 1 – Next of Kin / by Frank Gogol

And last but not least—after great titles like 4 Kids Walk into A Bank and an entire week dedicated to Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory—we’ve arrived at day 3-0 of 30 in 30. Today I looked at a gorgeous and smart book both written and drawn by Jeff Lemire—Royal city.

Synopsis

Title: Royal City vol. 1 – Next of Kin
Storyteller: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of Publication: 2017
Page Count: 160

In a return to the literary and thematic territory of Lemire’s breakthrough graphic novel ESSEX COUNTY, ROYAL CITY follows Patrick Pike, a fading literary star who reluctantly returns to the once-thriving factory town where he grew up. Patrick 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.

SPOILERS FOR ROYAL CITY VOL. 1 – NEXT OF KIN BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

It’s not necessarily new information, but characterization is one of the, if not the, keys to a great story. Lemire’s cast consists of a broken family, and each character has their own unique baggage. Beyond that, they all have their own wants, needs, and neuroses. What’s truly masterful, though, is that each character is haunted by a version a family member, Tommy, and Lemire writes each version of Tommy as being a kind of manifestation of the character’s life drama. For instance, one of the protagonist’s brothers is a bum, and his version of Tommy is a bit of a bum too and an enabler. There’s a subtle art to how Lemire builds in characterization externally for the reader.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Another thing that Lemire does remarkably well is that he keeps the visuals of the book easy to follow. He more or less sticks to a six-panel grid with few deviations and variations. This helps the book to work. The content of the book is a strange Twilight-Zone family drama, much like Underwater Welder, and keeping the layouts and the style simple keeps the art from taking the reader out of the story. And Lemire knows what he’s doing. Anyone who’s looked at other books Lemire has worked on with artists like Andrea Sorrentino knows that Lemire is extremely conscious of the visuals in books he writes.

Recommendation: A (Must Read)

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