Sometimes the quiet moments of a comic book can scream louder than an action sequence; such is the case with Jeff Lemire’s Royal City #9 from Image Comics out this week.
Royal City #9
Written and Drawn by: Jeff Lemire
Published by: Image Comics
Alternate Cover by: Ray Fawkes
Perhaps it’s because music plays a big role in Royal City as a whole, but the one term that kept coming to mind for issue #9 was ‘loud, quiet, loud’. For those unfamiliar with the term, it describes a certain sound in music where songs shift from chaos to minimal (and is also the title of a documentary on the band The Pixies, a band that was excellent at this concept). The term, to me, has always meant something special. Music, like art, can be heightened by juxtaposition; pairing big moments with small ones can highlight each in ways that having those moments alone could never achieve. Royal City #9 is a perfect example of this. Issue #8 was filled with a few ‘loud’ moments (flashbacks to a fire, the increasing sickness plaguing Tommy). But this month’s chapter takes a step back and is composed of really just a series of quiet conversations and observations.
From the opening sequence of Pat waking up for another day of work to the sublime panels focusing on Pat’s father that end the issue, these seemingly quiet moments hit with the power of a megaphone. Jeff Lemire is writing from the heart here and it shows. His ability to make every character real and raw is uncanny. As the sole creator, he has left no stone untouched when it comes to adding depth and weight to not only every single member of the Pike family but the other citizens and members of the larger Royal City community as well. Supporting character Lonnie is a perfect example in this issue, as his exchange with the young Pat is no less revealing, even with its brevity. It’s a great scene whose impact and importance is obvious a the end.
Jeff Lemire is without a doubt creating some of the best art of his career in this book and issue #9 continues that track. There is a delicate nature to his linework in Royal City that is unlike anything his has done before. Faces capture emotion, and even more important, detachment. I can’t think of anyone better than Lemire who can draw someone ‘thinking’ without relying overly on thought balloons and narrative boxes and still hit you with exactly what the character us ruminating.
Style-wise everything is still sketchy, but that style creates the unique feeling that only comes with introspection and memories (this arc is a flashback by the way), so the subtle changes are a completely conscious choice and are incredibly effective. To go with another musical analogy, the art makes me feel the way a great and beloved record sounds when you hear it echoing through your home on a cool, breezy day with the windows open; it follows you and stays with you long after you are done directly experiencing it.
If you are any kind of a fan of sequential art and comics, you simply have to read Royal City. This is a book where all aspects work perfectly together. It’s auteur work and a highlight of this medium.
*Note: This arc has included alternate covers homaging classic albums from the 90s (the time period the story is taking place in). This issue features a gorgeous image by Ray Fawkes based on Portishead’s classic album cover art for ‘Dummy’. You can see it below.