Subway Shorts – Together Again

Family reunions are a big theme in today’s edition, as we take a look at the first issue of Jeff Lemire’s new book, Royal City, which focuses on a writer returning home after his father has a stroke. The second review looks at the latest issue of Green Arrow (a character Lemire used to write), where Oliver Queen reunites with his former ward, Roy Harper, for the first time in a long time.


Royal City 1
Story and art by Jeff Lemire 

While I’ve always enjoyed Jeff Lemire’s work within the DC Comics sandbox, he made a name for himself with smaller-scale, more personal stories, and his new Image Comics work is a return to form. The story focuses on a family in the fictional locale of Royal City, an industrial municipality slowly fading away as the factory work dries up. The Pike family has been falling apart since suffering a loss more than 20 years earlier.

In the first issue, Lemire looks at the present state of the Pike family and how they’ve fallen apart. Lemire builds up to the reveal of what caused the family’s downfall after teasing the after effects throughout the book. It’s probably a story that a lot of people in small manufacturing towns can relate to. Jobs are drying up, the economy isn’t recovering and a terrible tragedy just destroys any semblance of a chance to use each other to get through the hard times. The Pike family only speaks to each other when they had to, and sometimes not even then, as one of the brothers isn’t even told that their father was in a hospital after having a stroke.

Royal City shows that comic books don’t need flashy costumes and fight scenes over two page spreads to tell an engaging story. Each page builds to the next and when the story ends, it’s like a punch to the gut that you now have to wait four weeks to see what happens next. Lemire’s masterful storytelling ability makes him one of the best writers of the modern era, and Royal City is such a great example.

At the back of the first issue, Lemire offers a bit of a bonus for audiophiles: he lists the music he was listening to when he wrote the issue and offers up a link to a Spotify playlist for anyone who wants to get into Lemire’s state of mind while writing. I really love that idea, and I hope it continues issue-to-issue.

I can’t recommend this book enough, as it allows readers to experience another aspect of the kind of amazing stories comic books can tell.

Green Arrow 18
Written by Benjamin Percy
Art by Eleonora Carlini 

Percy’s Green Arrow has been a highlight of the new Rebirth era, breathing new life into Oliver Queen as he gets established in the new DC Universe and combining several eras to create Green Arrow’s new family. Back together with his old (new) flame Black Canary, he’s also been teamed with John Diggle (created for the Arrow TV show), and his sister Emiko, established in the New 52 era.

With this latest issue, Queen is reunited with another long-time partner, his ward Roy Harper, the former Speedy, who goes by Arsenal now with the Titans. Percy puts the former partners at an Indian reservation outside Spokane for a protest and both sides are surprised to see each other. The meat of the issue is the history between Queen and Harper, as we get to see how they first teamed up and how they became partners. Percy shows Harper as the mastermind behind the classic trick arrows Queen used to use – apparently begrudgingly. Watching Green Arrow figure out the trick arrows was a fun part of the issue that any fan of both characters should check out.

The latest issue sets up the the conflict between the two men and ends the issue with a bang to set up the rest of the story. I’m looking forward to seeing more, including, I’m sure, how the relationship fell apart.