There hasn’t been an enjoyable blue-collar hero like King since Hellboy. Woops, I did it again: I compared the work of writer Thomas Hall and artist Daniel Bradford to Mike Mignola’s much beloved devilish, cigar-smoking hero. I can’t help myself; I think of Mignola and his Hellboy character whenever I read the work of these two, may it be Robot 13 or the book currently in question, KING!.
Of all the independent creators I’ve followed over the years, these two were my first in their own right. A handful of indie books landed on my proverbial desk prior, but the first issue of Robot 13 was the original indie book that made me alertly sit up and take notice that there’s genuine work of talent being produced outside of established comics publishing.
The second issue of KING! carries on this reputation that the Blacklist Studios creators have earned for themselves. It continues the story just as it left off in the first installment: demonic creatures are seeping into our realm, all courtesy of the legendary Spear of Longinus. Why hasn’t someone melted that damn thing down and jettisoned its remains into outer space yet?
The spiritual seepage is taking place out west, which is a breath of fresh air. Zombies, vampires, and dark gods tend to creep around in foggy New England cemeteries or the frigid forests of Eastern Europe. Here we have blasting heat, unforgiving deserts, clay brickwork, and an Elvis impersonator (or is he an impersonator?) who has given up his life as a wrestler to hunt monsters—if the price is right. His boss: an animated heart that floats around on miniature helicopter wings. Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Here, King is gloating over his assumed victory when he’s visited by a group of Mexican locals who present to him a poster from his days in the ring. He tells them to go away, that it’s an unwanted reminder from a past he chooses to forget. But his attention perks up when he’s presented with $10,000 if he’s willing wipe out a head vampire leading a crusade against a Mexican village. How could a guy like King say no to all of that money?
It’s not just vampires, of course. The floating heart (does something like that even bother having a name?) warns that these vampires, just like the zombies before it, are only the beginning to a great impending darkness. Isn’t that the way it always goes? Perhaps, but Hall and Bradford handle it so well that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Unlike the character of Robot 13, who is quiet and polite, King is bold and bombastic. They’re both heroes, but they’re operating with different agendas and set out on their quests with different purposes. It’s hard to say who I like more, so I won’t waste time choosing. They’re both winners in my eyes. Keep it up, King.
This comic book review originally appeared on Broken Frontier.