Kingsway West #2 finds writer Greg Pak and artist Mirko Colak building upon the strengths of the debut issue by keeping the focus on two elements; deepening their compelling protagonist and further construction of their fascinating alternate Old West setting.
Kingsway West #2 is set in the Old West, but not our Old West. In this version of history, America is divided up between various warring groups in a world of magic, dragons and six-shooters. A world where a war was fought between American Chinese and Mexican Empires over a magical element known as Red Gold. Chinese gunslinger Kingsway Law has left the war behind to live a simple life with Mexican wife Sonia, but events have drawn him back into bloodshed once again, as he teams with a mysterious woman and fights off various enemies on a quest to find his missing wife.
Pak and Colak have pulled together a complex and well-realized world that feels iconic and resonates with archetypes of both the Western and Fantasy genres. It’s a mashup that works, but would largely wind up being solely an intellectual exercise were it not for the fact that Pak anchors the story on Kingsway. He’s a classic Western hero; a man with a bloody past who has turned away from that past only to find that blood and violence might be his true calling. But Pak uses Kingsway’s tender relationship with his wife, and a guilt over his war-time service that borders on PTSD, to deepen and enrich the character beyond the Western gunslinger archetype. So, even when the Western tone and its accompanying tropes feel familiar, there’s a richness to the central figure that makes him feel more fleshed out than your typical “tough guy who rides into town.”
Then there’s the world itself. I feel like Pak’s been building the history of this place in his head for so long that it’s almost too complicated for the reader to get their hands on. But it doesn’t quite reach that point. Luckily, Pak’s got a solid enough grasp of structure to reveal a little bit at a time, and only what you need, so that the info doesn’t become overwhelming. I feel that there’s a lot I’m not clear on in this world, but it’s not baffling or anything. Also, the world itself is kind of bonkers. This issue features zombies and dragons and what appears to be some kind of giant war-rabbits. That willingness to just let things be bananas and out there and full on fantasy within such an earthy and familiar Western setting gives the book a great flavour. It does remind me of “East of West,” but it’s a completely different vibe, so I don’t think Kingsway West #2 suffers from the comparison.
Colak’s art is even better than it was in the first issue. There’s a stronger grasp on the flow of action and pacing from panel to panel. The way that the point of view shifts from flashback to vision to reality throughout is well-handled without being obvious, and at least half of the crazy and wonderful fantasy touches of the book are down to how well Colak grounds the book in its Western setting without being afraid to also stick cybernetic Woolly Mammoths in there.
Kingsway West #2 builds upon the considerable strengths of the first issue to deliver more world-building and deeper characterizations while still advancing the quest narrative and upping the tension. It’s a solid 8.5/10, once again.