Or – “I Can’t Think Of Any Other Title But ‘Thankya… Thankyaverramuch. Ah-huh-HUH!‘ “
There are a few perks to being a part of the Major Spoilers editorial staff… You get access to the Stately Spoilers Manor kitchen (or at least its charred remains), you get all the Luthor dollars you can shake a stick at, you get to hear Stephen wax rhapsodic about the ‘Shaman’ arc of LoTDK. But one of the REAL pleasures comes when you’re exposed to comics that you never saw coming, comics that are off the beaten path but well worth the trip. One such comic was King! #1, which showed up in my Inbox last summer sans fanfare and quickly became one of my favorite recent single issues. Issue 2 recently arrived just in time for the holidays, and since a gift is better when shared, I thought we might all take a look…
Previously, on King!: The man called King is a once-and-future professional wrestler who either models his life on the late Elvis Aron Presley, or faked his own death in the summer of ’77 and found a new career fighting in the squared circle while also battling monsters, creatures, creepies, crawlies and the hordes of the walking dead. His prowess with an armbar is legend, as is his way with a gun, and his style cannot be denied. Last issue, King woke up looking for nothing more than a decent breakfast (a peanut butter and banana burrito, t’be precise) and wound up fighting a full-blown zombie apocalypse lead by a disembodied demon thing. King was able to dispatch the dead things with karate, high-caliber bullets and chutzpah, and eventually did manage to get his burrito, thankyaverramuch.
This is the story of what happens next…
We open with Mr. King sitting in a bar, telling the story of his endless battles to a not-precisely-enthralled barmaid, who half-listens to the story before asking where eactly the army of undead monstrosities could have come from. “Look… I just kill the damn things, I don’t ask for two forms of I.D.” HA! King has to interrupt his tale of heroism to deal with another zombie (presumably a leftover from last issue’s bloodbath), emptying his gun into it with a cry of triumph. “Oh, right. Headshots.” The two-fisted approach works much better, as King just rears back and knocks the zombie’s block off. Last issue, I commented on a slight resemblance to the work of Mike Mignola in the art, but this issue things feel a bit different, still stylized but in a manner that feels a bit more Adult Swim than Hellboy. It works quite well, especially when two young men arrive and offer King a job, remembering him as luchador “El Rey.” The flashback sequence makes great use of black and sepia tone in the colors, and gives us an enjoyable glimpse of King’s glory days in the wrasslin’ ring.
King’s target, for the smart sum of ten grand, is a band of bloodsuckers who have invaded a small village nearby, the home of the young men. Mayhem ensues, including some pretty good-looking elbow drops and a lot of gunplay as the man who certainly isn’t Elvis faces down with the ravenous hordes of the undead. The fight sequences are full of dynamic imagery and some pretty clever tactics from the main character, all wrapped in some lovely tough-guy dialogue. HInts are given as to a bigger picture, and an old, unsettled score gets brought up, indicating where the rest of this series (if it is, indeed, a miniseries, and not an ongoing as I fervently hope) might end up going. Also fun are a series of pinups in the back, with other artists taking their turn illustrating King, reminding me of old-school fanzines and delivering some seriously cool pictures.
I have to say that I enjoyed the hell out of this book, and wish that I could get my dose of King! on a monthly basis, simply for the entertainment value alone. King! is a perfect synthesis of pop-culture iconography, and serves as a likeable center for the tales we’ve seen so far. If I have any complaint, it’s that I could easily see the book turning into a Scooby Doo monster-of-the-week thing, but I think the hints of something MORE going on this issue will carry this book out of that danger zone. The long and short of it breaks down to a slightly over-the-hill wrestler finding a new calling that he’s incredibly good at, and looking damn cool doing it… Stephen’s theoretical Hollywood producer voice would certainly call it “Honkytonk Man: Monster Slayer”, but I call it just plain old fun. King! #2 earns an off-the-top-rope frogsplash of fun, hitting 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. Sometimes, it’s just enough to look cool and have fun, lest we all disappear up our own @$$es.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: What’s a good name for King’s theoretical finishing move, and how would it go?