The Middle Ground #30: Back of My Neck Gettin’ Dirty, Gritty
Depending on who you believe, the final issue of Brandon Graham’s King City might be hitting stores tomorrow – Previews say yes, but Diamond’s shipping list says no – bringing to an end one of the most enjoyable series in recent memory, and the book that convinced me that Graham is one of the best cartoonists around.
I use the word “cartoonist” deliberately, but not pejoratively. Graham’s work, at its best, is a mix of words and images that goes beyond both categories – There’s a blurring of the lines between them, as his language works on visual cues as well as aural, and his art contains more than a little amount of pictorial wordplay (The puns, people, the puns) – and somehow makes the idea of thinking about him as anything other than the complete story package a mental dead end. While he can do just art or, presumably (I’ve not seen it happen yet, but I can’t see why it couldn’t) just story, what makes Graham’s work so completely addictive is the amount of information and fun he can pack in by doing both.
King City, y’see, is packed with… stuff. With jokes, with plot, with luscious, sexy art (Seriously; I made a comment on a Wait, What? episode about the sexiness of Graham’s art, and someone posted a link to Graham’s porn prototype for Multiple Warheadz, his Oni book, and… wowza), with just lots and lots of information and things to read and re-read and discover. Most importantly, though, King City is packed with the messiness and aimlessness of people, puncturing (and prompting) the more dramatic moments with honesty and anchoring the whole thing in feelings that are recognizable and true.
What makes King City such an important, impactful book for me isn’t just the craftsmanship that Graham brings to the whole thing – Although how anyone could look at any issue and not think that he understands comics so well that, it you cut him, he’d probably bleed comics, is beyond me – but that that craftsmanship isn’t what the series is about. The technical near-perfection is all in service of the story, which is in service to the characters; there’s no point where it feels like Graham is getting lost in his process or believing his own hype, which is both refreshing and still a little surprising. For all its technical quality, King City is all about Joe, and Pete, and Anna, and bad choices and love (unrequited, requited and shouldn’t-be-requited) and everything else that we all know about.
Have I gushed too much? Probably, but this is the toned down version of how excited King City has made me since I read the first Tokyopop version, years ago, curious about how fun a book with a cat as a weapon could be. Seriously, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and the idea that it’s ending is more than a little depressing. Here’s hoping for more Warheadz sometime soon, to lessen the blow.