Advance Review – Kingsway West #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Mirko Colak
Colours: Wil Quintana
Release Date: 24th August, 2016

Set for release next month from Dark Horse Comics, Kingsway West is a fantasy Western with a twist.  The eponymous Chinese gunslinger has spent over a decade fighting in a war for “red gold” – a mysterious mineral that offers untold and unexplained powers to those who possess it – and now wants little more than live out the rest of his days in peace with his wife Sonia.  However, when the discovery of a rare vein of the mineral looks to re-ignite the war he has striven so hard to avoid, he finds himself forced to join up with a mysterious sword-wielding woman and her dragon companion in a fight for his life and the safety of his wife.

It’s fairly apparent that Westerns, even fantasy-inspired ones, have become a little played-out in recent years.  That said, there’s something about the sheer enthusiasm behind writer Greg Pak’s vividly recreated world that really keeps the pages turning here.  The exposition is handled deftly and unobtrusively, and Kingsway West himself has all the hallmarks of the classic Western hero with his soft-spoken serenity contrasting with a fiery sense of purpose and – of course – a lightning fast draw.

The detailed, wonderfully expressive artwork is provided here by Mirko Colak, who manages to tell us almost everything we need to know about our hero by the second page of this opening chapter.  While West remains rather stoic for the bulk of the issue, it’s the subtle range of expression provided by Colak that really help to convey his emotions; a faint, half-smile tugging at the corner of his mouth or a slight narrowing of the eyes as he prepares himself for the violence to come.  It’s beautifully done, and for a title where an investment in the lead character is as essential as it is here, it’s reassuring to know that Kingsway West is in such steady, confident hands.

Colak also does a truly impressive job with the more fantastical aspects of the story, including dragons, humanoid bears and the strange and terrifying effects of the “red gold”.  These sequences are also buoyed immeasurably by the colours of Wil Quintana, who juxtaposes the barren desert of the uncharted Wilds with lush purple foliage and the bright green uniforms of the Chinese soldiers.  This is a truly fantastic looking book, and as the story gradually ramps up in the issues to come, I’m genuinely excited to see what this artistic team are going to come up with.

In Kingsway West, Greg Pak has created a truly compelling protagonist and dropped him into a rich, detailed and complex setting.  Having a Western set in an alternate version of our own world – a version where Chinese and Mexicans wage war for natural resources in the wastelands of America – is intriguing enough, but throwing in the added fantastical aspects like dragons and magic really gives this series the potential to become something truly special.  A great set-up issue for what promises to be a gripping and gorgeously illustrated series.

Rating: 4/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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