Mainstream Comics Worth Paying Attention To : “King Of Nowhere”

As is generally known, I’m not one of those “too cool for school” types who dismisses out of hand everything produced by the major comics publishers. In fact, until the industry shutdown engendered by COVID-19 took hold, I ran a “Weekly Reading Round-Up” column on this very site that mainly concerned itself with examining whatever mainstream titles this nominal “Wednesday warrior” had picked up during the previous seven-day span — and I imagine I’ll get back to it before too long here. That being said —

Shipping schedules are still pretty light, even though most comic shops are, in fact, open again, and this means that most weeks since “the return” haven’t seen enough interesting stuff hit shelves to warrant me devoting an entire column to reviewing them. It’s just a fact : most recent weeks have seen me leaving the shop with two, maybe three comics, and while that’s welcome news for my bank balance, it means the “Round-Up” has remained dormant. That being said —

There’s still some stuff coming out of the mainstream that’s well worth your time and attention, and I kinda miss talking about it, so I figure why not shine a light on some of these books until the “Round-Up” returns? And so, lo and behold, we’ve got ourselves a running theme for the next week or two — although I still want to keep at least a bit off the beaten path, so we’ll be training our focus here on titles you’re less likely to be following than, say, Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s The Immortal Hulk, Simon Spurrier and Aaron Campbell’s John Constantine, Hellblazer, or any other books that everybody already more or less knows are great. First up, then : a fun, smart, “trippy” little series from writer W. Maxwell Prince (Ice Cream Man), line artist Tyler Jenkins, and color artist Hilary Jenkins (both of Grass Kings and Black Badge renown) published by Boom! Studios called King Of Nowhere.

Our ostensible “hero” in this five-parter is a no-count drifter/loser named Denis who wakes up after a bender on the outskirts of a town called — you guessed it — Nowhere, with no idea how he got there, or even what and “there” even is.  And three issues in, those questions still loom large — but I get the feeling this book is at least every bit as much about the journey as it is about the resolution.

Which is absolutely as it should be, of course, even if it means there’s some pressure on Prince, in particular, to really stick the landing. He’s crafted a fairly likable protagonist with Denis, though, and you never know what sort of deformed or mutated person or anthopomorphic animal he’s going to meet next, nor what sort of significance these encounters are going to end up having when it comes to piecing together the delightfully-scrambled overall picture. The really interesting thing? There doesn’t seem to be a traditional “villain” anywhere on offer in this story.

Not that one is all that necessary, mind you, Denis being a pretty classic example of someone who’s his own worst enemy. Still, there’s hints of a conspiratorial undercurrent running through Nowhere, and he may just be the guy to get to the bottom of it, not least because the entire place might be a figment of his own subconscious. Or it might not. We’ll see.

Being a full-on “mindfuck,” the script calls for an endless array of inventively-designed characters, and Jenkins never fails to disappoint on that score, but in a larger sense his loose, free-form style is perfect for bringing a necessarily “otherworldly” atmosphere to life — and speaking of life, his better half’s watercolor-style hues breathe a ton of it into these pages. Everything looks vaguely recognizable, but distinctly “off” — and that goes for the tones of the sky, the ground, the water, the buildings. Jenkins and Jenkins do a superb job of creating an environment that’s distinctly alien without being alienating, and that right there makes all the difference.

Sure, with two issues left to go, this whole thing could still fall completely apart, but you know what? These creators have managed to steer a pretty circuitous path with remarkable aplomb so far, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t deliver the goods when it comes time to make sense of this whole thing. I. for one, will be looking forward to seeing how they pull that off — even as I’ll probably be just as sorry to see it end.

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Review wrist check – shaking things up a bit with my Formex “Essence” brown dial model today by swapping out its factory-issue brown “croco structure” strap for a blue one, also made by Formex. Their quick-release straps and, even better, quick-release carbon fiber clasp make changing things up on this watch a breeze, and it’s as fun as it is fast to shuffle the deck and play with some different looks for this chronometer-certified timepiece.

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

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