A King Among Men, Dinosaurs, and Robot Karate Bears

It’s the distant future, it’s Los Angeles. So the desolate wasteland in King — a new creator-owned comic by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Bernard Chang, and Marcelo Maiolo — is no stretch. The titular man is the last of his kind, left on an Earth we recognize only in its rubble, surrounded somehow by talking dinosaurs, humanoid animals they call CrossFreaks, and of course, giant karate robot bears.

This is a cop flick slash detective noir without the noir. You got the loner protag, the voiceover narration; the tropes are purposefully obvious. Theoretically, they could have gone with a less is more approach, but fuck it. This is essentially balls to the wall exposition. Do or die, if Fialkov was in some sort of autumn festival corn maze, he’s sheared his way through the walls. It’s all his path now, it’s all available to him, but how do you get to the finish line? And what waits for you there? Sausage and beer? You could go anywhere, but do we want to?

Yea, I’d say so, especially if you also consider how beautifully this world is rendered by artist Bernard Chang, colorist Marcelo Maiolo, and letterer Deron Bennett. Regardless of which corn-laden path is chosen, Chang and Maiolo will make sure it is presented masterfully.

Full disclosure, I know Bernard Chang, I am a friend of Bernard Chang, I have seen Bernard in various states of undress for reasons which I myself can hardly explain, but the man can draw is what I’m trying to say. And that’s no stretch, his reputation, and that of Maiolo, precedes them, respectively. But the options with which the premise of this five-book series are presented are limitless. So Chang’s ability to coherently portray this world in a uniform tone that grounds you in the reality of a completely fantastical — almost farcical — place is what makes him a consummate pro. And big ups to the team for making King an Asian brother.

In the end, though, focus may be the key. Fialkov has the pedigree to keep this thing together, with notable dark turns in his graphic novel Tumor, and both his mini-series Elk’s Run and Echoes to his name. But this is a bit of a departure, the tone is slightly different, the color scheme alone a noticeable contrast. This book has more swagger, but what is it exactly that makes King the king? That remains to be uncovered.

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