King’s Road #1 is the continuation of a story first told in Dark Horse’s anthology series Dark Horse Presents in 2013. The story follows an exiled royal family as they get drawn back into a war between good and evil in their homeland of Avalon. The first issue in this 3 part mini-series reprints the story first printed in the anthology series, as well as furthering the story with a new art team. This change is handled superbly in the story, and it does not feel out of place when artist Staz Johnson and colourist Douglas Sirois take over for original artist Phil Winslade.
The story is instantly engaging as you follow two protectors of the royal family slaying a hellish version of a panther. The writing by Peter Hogan is relentless, and never pauses to let the reader catch a breath until the second half of the issue. There is a near perfect mixture between exposition and plot progression, so it never feels like the narrative is static or that the story is forcefully drawn out.
The writing is tightly focused, and despite introducing a large number of characters, each character is given enough time to shine to the point where you are able to see their place in the bigger picture the story is telling. While there’s a lot of pitfalls in telling a story with talking dogs, magical portals, and mythical beasts walking the modern world, Hogan guides the story through these traps brilliantly, giving just the right amount of explanation for each strange contraption before moving on.
As strong as the writing is, the real strength of this issue comes from the art. Both the earlier pages by Phil Winslade, as well as the later pages by Staz Johnson are perfectly laid out, where none of the panels feel wasted. This makes the comic as a whole feel succinct and focused. The art is creative, and fluid, bringing to life a host of mythical creatures, possessed carnival attractions, epic battles and more. It all feels strangely realistic, which is quite an achievement considering the subject matter that is being displayed on the page.
The issue’s single misplaced step is that it is has some slightly jolted scene changes. It sometimes a bit jarring that it shifts to one segment of the story while the tension is higher in another. While it always returns to the first scene, it would have served it better to allow that scene to come full circle before shifting to a new location. It is important to note that this is not a huge problem for the comic, more a slight scratch in an otherwise impeccable coat of paint.
King’s Road #1 manages to expand an already engaging story without losing focus on what makes this comic interesting. It is a perfect blend of fantasy and realism, making it just adventurous enough for fans of goblins and trolls, while giving those a bit less enthused by such creatures a powerful story of betrayal to progress the story. The art is amazing all the way through, to the point where a panel of our heroes descending on a mysterious portal while trapped on a roller coaster is just as visually pleasing as seeing a character’s glee as he holds a mythical knife in his hands for the first time. The amazing mixture of captivating art, fascinating world building, and a powerful narrative, makes this a must-buy for any fan of good story-telling.
King’s Road #1 earns a near perfect 9.5 out of 10.