King of Nowhere #5
After the shocking events of the last issue, Denis is forced to come to terms with the truth of his own past-and the enemies he made along the way. It all comes down to this, as citizens of Nowhere are forced to choose sides in a duel that could save, or destroy, the sanctity of their town.
As King of Nowhere comes to a close, readers are left where they were at the start: wondering exactly what they’ve experienced. Billed by Boom! as a mystery thriller, King of Nowehere seems to take elements of several genres – mystery, thriller, sci-fi, tragicomedy, and perhaps literary fiction. Yet, it’s difficult to say whether King of Nowhere ever amounts to or surpasses the sum of its parts. If anything, it seems this book’s creators know exactly what it is but have trouble communicating that to anyone else.
One of the parts of Nowhere that shines is its motley cast of characters – the two-headed bartender, for example, or and the old fish and bird couple who play Scrabble. Frustratingly, the character who never even begins to shine is the book’s protagonist. As W. Maxwell Prince’s narrative constantly reiterates, Denis is no one – nobody. He’s an indecisive drunk and every choice he makes seems to be the wrong one. However, Denis never does anything to attach himself to the audience. When the book’s ending returns him to the heroic “call to adventure,” Prince simultaneously offers up a character incapable of change who seems resigned to alcoholism and abandoning his family. Denis seems to run from his responsibilities even as he seems to embrace others. Rather than make Denis likeable or minimally make him feel more human, he continues to feel like an uninteresting and infuriating “everyman.” King of Nowhere has a heart but it isn’t Denis.
Much like Denis, King of Nowhere is a book with endless potential it never seems to reach. The comic’s largest antagonists – Bob the fixer and the government organization he works for – are equally difficult to care about. The threat they pose seems strangely secondary. However, this problem is partially due to the series’ narrative jumble and frequent underdevelopment. When Prince finally addresses the origins of North Wharek and its mutants, the government’s intentions beyond curiosity go unexplored. North Wharek’s inhabitants are endearing and sympathetic – much more so than Denis – and give Tyler Jenkins opportunities to draw charmingly disturbing characters. Yet, their mutations seem relatively pointless narratively, other than to create outcasts who are victims of circumstance. Any passing resemblance to Marvel’s morlocks or DC’s Doom Patrol feels subsumed by King of Nowhere’s lack of real social commentary. These mutants show diversity without ever requiring the book’s writer to have good minority representation. Prince’s narrative seems to prod at philosophical questions of responsibility and belonging, but never to any depth.
As per previous issues, King of Nowhere’s strength lies in the unnerving artwork by Tyler and Hilary Jenkins. While the artwork may not be to the taste of all readers, it’s a fantastic tonal fit to such an off-kilter book. Tyler Jenkins’ linework continues to have a jittery, even feverish energy. While characters feel consistent and proportions correct (or what one assumes is correct when a two-headed man or deer-woman is involved), they always seem restless. Hilary Jenkins’ loose and often unearthly watercolors don’t always stay within the lines – anxious to escape their confines. Panels feel high octane though not always high impact. Over all, the resulting art has a dreamlike, surreal disequilibrium to it that may alienate some readers but for others may draw them further into the lives of the inhabitants of North Wharek.
However, King of Nowhere #5’s cover is thoroughly middling, and unlikely to be the reason someone picks up the book. Featuring Denis finally confronting Bob, it portrays a tense moment between the book’s least interesting characters in an only mildly exciting way. It’s unremarkable when compared to the trippy and intriguing cover art of the first issue, and the disturbing and heart-wrenching cover of the fourth.
King of Nowhere #5 finishes this series as it began: hard to put down due to a constant hope that it might improve. Yet, lovable characters and the book’s off-kilter artistic brilliance remain undercut by its unbalanced story and uninteresting protagonist.
King of Nowhere #5: Nowhere Near Perfect
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 6.5/106.5/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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