Review - Royal City #1 (@ImageComics)

"Sometimes I wonder if it was hard growing up in Royal City...or just hard growing up."

Talk to anyone and they'll likely tell you that they came from a small town. Growing up in a small town typically means you know a lot of people, but "getting out" can be a challenge. Still, there's something about the small town mentality that always draws people back and Royal City is such a town in Royal City #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Steve Wands.

Patrick Pike, a fading literary star who reluctantly returns to the once-thriving factory town where he grew up, 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.

There's a very poignant tale in Royal City #1 as Lemire's script leisurely works its way through the inner-workings of the Pike family. Lemire's approach to their dynamic certainly isn't new as far as families go in that there are some stereotypical relationships at play here. Having said that Lemire infuses each character with their own unique backstories that allow for some fantastic dialogue exchanges. These exchanges help the reader feel as if they've known the Pike family for a long time while also providing plenty of context for their troubles to come. The ease with which Lemire transitions from one family member to the next is astounding and reflects a very clear understanding of what the end-game is on his part.

Like every good family, Lemire makes sure that the Pikes have a very unique look to them. Each of the family members is illustrated with an attention to the lives they've led, from the sister Tara's professional appearance to Patrick's somewhat disheveled, novelist persona. Lemire's approach is very fluid and relaxed as characters are rendered with a loose style that vaguely defines them. Layouts are very methodical and the characters are illustrated as wearing their emotions as indicated by an emphasis on facial features. The colors are light and washed out--something that allows Lemire to underscore the relative harmlessness of the town of Royal City and its inhabitants.

Royal City #1 is very much a family drama wrapped in a city drama. The Pike family have dealt (and are still dealing) with their own share of family woes, but that doesn't mean that they're not a family at the end of the day. Royal City is a place struggling to let go of the past and Lemire gives the Pike family plenty of that as well. His artwork is almost haunting in its approach, emphasizing an almost ethereal composition. Royal City #1 is a great first issue that will resonate with a lot of readers because there's so much of a personal aspect to it.

Royal City #1 is available now.