The emotionally honest and somewhat unnerving first issue of Royal City had me interested and intrigued. Jeff Lemire has crafted a hometown story that has characters you could swear were real. We check out issue #2 to see where the story’s compelling supernatural mystery takes us next.
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
The second chapter of JEFF LEMIRE’s ambitious new graphic novel begins as Richie Pike, perpetual screw-up and black sheep of the family, has a very bad night that brings him face-to-face with Royal City’s criminal underworld, and there will be no turning back. Meanwhile, Pat’s troubles continue to mount, sending him on an odyssey of his own.
Why does this book matter?
If Jeff Lemire writes something you must give it a chance in part because the man has told so many good stories already. If he’s writing AND drawing? It’s more than likely a must read affair. Just Google his creator owned stuff and note the high scores from reviewers. This is no different.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
What…is going on?
This issue opens where we left off the last: with Patrick witnessing people hovering in a cemetery. He’s interrupted by a call from his wife and things get emotional real quick. Lemire continues to write believable characters due to believable dialogue that’s well paced. The pauses are where the dialogue really comes through realistically as they judge, question, and evaluate what is being said. These pauses allow the reader to follow suit and read into the dynamics between the characters. That’s something we do in real life and it’s an example of how his work feels more natural.
There’s a lot of heartbreak in these pauses, which makes this drama impressively poignant. In between the lines Patrick wants to connect with his wife but can’t. With his mother he wants to be understood but refuses to divulge too much. These are emotions we’ve all fought with and it makes this series very relatable.
Lenore is clearly and slowly revealing what is happening when this family speaks to ghosts. That’s okay partly because the family is so dysfunctional and thus interesting, but also because there’s obviously something the family members are hiding from themselves let alone the reader. Patrick can’t get a page written for his promised book and Richie’s entire life is in shambles and, oh ya, they see and hear things that are inexplicable.
The art continues to be dream-like and honest in its depictions which further makes the story feel genuine. There are visual queues throughout that are subtle yet strengthen what we are seeing. From a brief flashback of partying rendered with less color, to the light glow of the sun in the windows while Patrick talks to his mother or the wisps of voices coming from the radio, there are small touches throughout that tell the story well.
We’ve all been there.
It can’t be perfect can it?
As is often the case with slower stories like this my patience can run out as it’s starting to do here. By the time I reached the last page I was actually shocked it was over with much of the issue reduced to Patrick having two conversations and Richie’s life only getting worse. Maybe I’m spoiled since the first issue was extra sized, but the fact is the supernatural element continues to tease with no real explanation in sight. Lemire is laying the groundwork for the family’s issues, which is the real meat of the story anyway, but I wanted more.
Is It Good?
Royal City is genuine, heartbreaking, and deeply real. The parts that aren’t real however, aren’t coming in fast enough!
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!