I had a hard time writing a review for Kingsway West #1, because it’s such a unique comic that I honestly had to sit back and deliberately plod out my thoughts on the issue. In retrospect that’s something I really appreciate about this book: there’s more to it than just the initial reaction. It’s definitely worth reading, I want to say that right out of the gate; I enjoyed Kingsway West #1 immensely.
Ultimately it is a fantasy story, in the vein of The Lord of the Rings or the Inheritance Cycle. It has all the trappings of one of those stories; warring kingdoms, a set of rebels going against the powerful overlord, magic, even going so far as to give us a map of the world at the start of the book like so many fantasy novels do. As somebody who grew up on those kinds of books, I felt immediately at home.
Then Greg Pak took that familiarity and twisted it, as we learn that this fantastical story is set in a Spaghetti-Western-style American West Coast. Except it’s not the American West Coast here, it’s the Chinese Golden City Empire, and its fiercest enemy is the Republica de los Californios, an empire so far left unexplored in the pages of the comic. It’s a magical version of America populated by Chinese cowboys and soldiers that bitterly despise their Mexican neighbors. In short, this book is very good at subverting expectations, and that works heavily in its favor.
It’s obvious the Greg Pak is setting up a large world here, with a good deal of history, and I hope he shows us more of that as the series continues, because it truly is fascinating. The magic in this world is fueled by a substance called Red Gold, the discovery of which sparked a war that lasted for more than a decade. This story deals with the aftermath of that conflict and the repercussions for the protagonist, Kingsway Law. The world-building here is fantastic, giving the reader just enough information to be intrigued, but keeping enough secret to both keep the story simple, and ultimately to keep us coming back to find out more.
It’s not all good though, as Kingsway Law feels like a fairly generic hero. He’s a battle-hardened badass who’s seen his fair share of atrocities, and he gave it all up for a life of peace and quiet. That’s a little played out by now, especially when he gets dragged back into the fray by a stranger who comes out of nowhere searching for our legendary hero to help her with some great task. While the setup here is cliche, I’m willing to let that go, because the world this book is set in, which is absolutely its strongest point, could very well be enough to give that tired story new life.
Mirko Colak’s art here is a little rough for my taste, but it definitely works for this story. It’s important for art to emphasize a story’s strengths, but the reverse is equally important. While Colak’s art is rough, so is this story, which means the two synergize very well. This isn’t a clean, ordered world. This is a world reeling from a war fought with forces we can barely understand. This is the Wild West at its most magical, and the art reflects that. It’s simple enough to not confuse readers, and portrays the frontier-like world of Kingsway West very well.
If you like fantasy stories, pick up Kingsway West #1. If you like westerns, pick up Kingsway West #1. It’s a wonderful merger of the two genres that ultimately gives us a fresh take on both of them. It’s not without flaws, but they’re issues that can easily be fixed as the story continues. You’d be remiss to pass this book up, although I would understand if you wait until the first trade comes out before you jump in.
- Engaging world, with enough secrets to keep readers coming back
- Potential for a gripping and unique story
- Art that works effectively for this world
- Generic set-up and protagonist, but this is easily fixable going forward