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Royal City #1

Created, Written, and Illustrated by Jeff Lemire
Published by Image Comics

Something is wrong in Royal City. It’s not just that the factory is slowing down. It’s not just that Peter Pike had a stroke, right there in the middle of his potato salad. No, there’s something else, something around the edges. Something that’s not supposed to be there. Some… one. Who’s really not supposed to be there. And for the Pike family, things are about to get much, much worse.

This isn’t exactly a horror book, though there are supernatural elements so clever that I gave the book a second read (and yes, the twists all held up the second time). It’s not just a small-town soap opera. It’s… it’s nostalgia, it’s a poignant twist-up of memory and pain. This book is about going back to your home town, and Mom wants everything to stay the same and Dad’s a little clueless and your one sister is working on her stuff and your one brother is NOT working on his stuff and you don’t know if staying around would do any good at all and you sure as Hell don’t want to stay around but there’s nowhere else you can be from. It’s a debate between escaping the ghosts of your past and screwing up your courage to actually listen to those ghosts and maybe grow the Hell up a little bit. It’s that horrible choice where you have to move forward with your life but there is no right answer, not even digging in and investing in the world of your youth.

Jeff Lemire makes me cry with every collection of Descender, a wonderful emotional science fiction adventure. But this week, Lemire got to do a little Cameron Crowe by way of Tim Burton, and I didn’t cry, but I think I’ll call my dad.

-MATT CONNER for Ultimate Comics