Royal City Volume 2 by Jeff Lemire | Review


Published on Aug 29, 2018


When I had the honor to exchange some words with Jeff Lemire during the last Lucca Comics and Games, click HERE for the video interview, the canadian author seemed to be intending to expand the times the narrative of his series, he is fascinated by the times narrative of the great tv productions of the past but above all of this.

With the first volume of the Royal City – our review HERE – everything seemed to converge towards this creative journey with a story that dealt with, to themes and construction, the narrative methods typical of the graphic novel, but spezzettandole in the timing of a monthly series.

About a year later, however, the situation seems upside-down, and Lemire has already announced that Royal City will be completed in “only” three volumes.

BAO Publishing then offers this second volume, which, as we had been left to guess the end of the first volume, focuses on the figure of Tommy, the fourth and lost between the brothers Pike.

In the previous volume, the family was gathered around the patriarch, Peter, suffered a heart attack, thus coming to terms with her obvious dysfunctionality witnessed by 3 children – Tara, real estate with a marriage in pieces, Richard, a worker with a problem of alcohol and hounded by debts, and Patrick the writer in the crisis which had moved to the “big city” – who came to the Royal City, a small town in New Jersey that has seen better times after the factory, which has determined for decades the well-being navigate in difficult waters, and whose inability to communicate – true theme-course of the first arc of the narrative – it was then manifested to the reader in the discovery that, in reality, a fourth brother Pike, Tommy, had died in mysterious circumstances in 1993.

Lemire brings us back then to 1993. To the ears of the revolution of grunge, we know Tommy. Introverted and shy, Tommy lives almost to the margins of society, but especially live on the margins of the affected family members being able to connect barely with the brothers and least of all with the parents. However, the situation mutates slowly but surely when a medical examination sheds light on the agonizing headaches that have afflicted them, and that could represent not only a physical manifestation of the evil of living psychological.

If in the first volume, the reader was led by Patrick, the eldest of the Pike, in the small town to the rediscovery of family and friends, in the second volume of the narration becomes more intimate, and less magical-realistic, in an inner journey where solitude is the antechamber of that lack of communication so explosive, of the first volume.

The reader not only takes a journey in the mind and in the soul of Tommy, but through him we discover the birth of the loneliness of the other members of the family Pike. While risking to sound trivial, the conclusion of which Tommy comes to half of the volume is that all are islands, we are all alone, but sometimes, just sometimes, we can be alone in the company.

Tommy is not a reflection of self-referential but, on the contrary, touching on universal themes on the background of the existential condition of man, his finiteness.

When Tommy realizes that, perhaps, is seriously ill, his gaze on the reality of the wetsuit unconsciously – for the first time sees his parents as the “real” people with problems and feelings – while his mind pauses to reflect on the idea of the death – like, and what it means to die – and on the prospect extremely finite life in a small provincial town that becomes a cage, suffocating.

This last aspect is a corollary to the background music that Lemire imbastisce: the 80s are gone and with them the idea that the life in provincial town is thrilling, a nod to the eye in a certain career for teen, while the inadequacy and the pain of living a grunge take on the unforgiving upper hand for a generation of disenchanted and disillusioned.

These reflections are reflected then in the events the most diverse of the family, which in the meantime continues to “move” ignorant of the fate of Tommy.

Royal City Volume 2 is miserably melancholy, tearing some of the pages directly from the early work of Jeff Lemire – Lost Dogs more than Essex County, as much direct as deep.

The stretch of Lemire is recognizable and particularly decided in this volume as well as the colors, always made with the particular technique of the watercolour, they become “turned on” by highlighting the flannel shirts of the young protagonists.

The canadian author builds the table with a particular attention to the verticality: if in the first volume was, in fact, the game looks to be the pivot, graphically, volume, here, is proxemics, and the positioning of the bodies to master it, with the figures often whole that dominate the page and through your body to express instantly their characteristics as well as the relationships between the various characters.

Fine, as always, the care carto-technical volume hardback packaged by BAO Publishing in which the graphic excellent is combined with the excellent translation of Leonardo Favia.

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