Created by, Jeff Lemire
Letters by, Steve Wands
Royal City is about a family living in a small factory-town and their adjustment to their son’s major health issues and other life situations. The father, Richie, is preoccupied with a dissatisfying job. The mother, Greta, is back in town trying to make their marriage work. Meanwhile, their other children exist as best they can despite the lack of opportunity provided in the small town.
For me, the entertainment value in this story centers around the unspoken but clearly communicated emotions of sadness, loss, boredom, and hope. What happens in this issue is minimal. Tommy, the family’s youngest son, recently died. His mother and father and Olivia, Tommy’s cousin, arrive home from picking Tommy’s mother up at the airport. Olivia, introduced by the father as his niece in Issue #11, asks to see Tommy’s room. She sits on his bed and the memories of Tommy flood her. That’s it. However, Lemire does what he’s done in every other issue, he layers flashbacks with the present to flush out the deep emotional meaning and make the mundane interesting. For example, in her flashback, Olivia not only sees Tommy’s last moment but his journal and their friends. She also sees a mysterious energy around Tommy which remains cryptic even to the end of the issue. This creates suspense and piques my interest.
In addition, Lemire expresses hope through the display of compassion by Mom and Dad as they talk about whether Olivia should enter Tommy’s room. It’s thoughtful, not judgmental, and builds intrigue. Can Richie and Greta work together? How will they support each other through Tommy’s death? For those who have been reading this series, there was a strong hint at Tommy’s growing discomfort with the uncertain. In issue #11 he makes the statement to “[I’m] tired of living in between”. Most people can relate to this feeling if they’ve had a loved one die of cancer or another debilitative disease. The fear of death, the regret of time lost, and the agony of the uncertain. All of these emotions are shown and not told in a careful and sensitive way by the writer.
Overall = 10/10
This book is for readers who are sick of superheroes or bored with science fiction or other kinds of fiction that rely heavily on fantasy. This book is real, tough things happen, with honest reactions. Lemire writes and does the art, which is minimalist, with a watercolor feel, and almost bare-bones color. The art supports the story, a minimal amount of action, with unspoken messages, and deep undercurrents throughout. I highly recommend this book to readers who like reality-based comics that don’t shy away from the display of real emotions and dilemmas.
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