Writer – Greg Pak (@gregpak)
Pencils – Mirko Colak (@ColakMirko)
Inks – Wil Quintana
Letters – Simon Bowland (@SimonBowland)
Reviewed by Jesse Bowden while eating bae’s chongqing chicken
“The age of red gold turned men into soldiers and soldiers into monsters.”
It’s the middle of the 19th century and war has divided the Pacific coast. The Chinese forces and their queen have settled in the Golden Empire. While the Mexican forces have been driven further south into the Republica De Los Californios. The unsettled land between the territories is known as, “The Wild”. Kingsway West #1, written by Greg Pak, introduces a world in which the California gold rush turned into a ground war between Chinese and Mexican miners. Even though the war has come to an end, the two factions are still battling over red gold – the well spring of Earth’s supernatural energies.
Kingsway West is published by Dark Horse comics. It’s hard to believe, but this is Greg Pak’s first creator owned series. Over the last 10 years, Pak has made significant “big two” contributions. He penned some of the New 52’s best Superman stories in Action Comics. And currently, he’s busy making Amadeus Cho the most awesome Hulk in the Marvel universe. Despite the story’s large scale, it’s clear that Kingsway West is personal to Pak. The concept is something that he’s toyed with for over 2 decades. He has indicated that that his childhood, as a biracial youth growing up in Texas, was the inspiration for the story.
At its core, Kingsway West is a Western and many of the genre’s classic tropes are on display. We see the struggle between man and nature as one tries to control the other. And we see a cyclical relationship between violence and personal justice. Additionally, Pak layers elements of high fantasy and historical fiction into a revisionist tale of west-ward expansion. Rather than focusing on the problematically romanticized narrative of Manifest Destiny, Pak’s story focuses on people of color forging their own identities in early America.
In this issue, readers are introduced to Kingsway Law. After a few narrative time jumps, its clear that he is the embodiment of a gun-slinging Western protagonist. Kingsway is drawn as a scruffy cowboy, clad in a leather duster and strapping an obligatory six shooter. Considering the historically unfortunate representation of Asian men, his character is incredibly refreshing. Kingsway is not emasculated, orientalized, or impotent. He is a rugged outlaw that could easily whisk you off your feet and take you for a roll in the hay.
Mirko Colak’s pretty-and-gritty art style is perfect for Kingsway West. The characters and the landscape look tough and unforgiving but his inclusion of fantasy creatures gives the story a sense of wonder. Colak effortlessly creates a world full of jackalopes, humanoid bears, giant robots, and dragons. Think Michael Lark meets Fiona Staples. The importance of Wil Quintana’s colors can’t be overstated. Especially in the more fanciful moments, he brings levity to Colak’s art. The harmony between the two creators is most evident in the costume design – together they create a Chinese steampunk aesthetic that is felt throughout the book.
Buy it – Do you remember when you read Saga for the first time? If you’re anything like me, there was a sense of urgency. I wanted to know more about the characters and their incredible world. Kingsway West invokes a lot of the same feelings. The concept here is incredibly original and ambitious. With this first issue Greg Pak seamlessly connects multiple genres and builds a world that’s worthy of exploration. For me, the narrative time jumps were bit of a hindrance to that exploration. But that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise fantastic first issue. That said, I trust Greg Pak and I am eager to spend more time with these characters.