Something I complain about in comics is that there aren't enough fantasy comics being published as floppies or graphic novels by big publishers. Webcomics do overcompensate for this, but it would still be nice to get my fix in a physical copy. I imagine part of the problem is that drawing horses are hard. Or so I hear.
As a result of this fantasy deficit at the big publishers, when I saw King's Road #1 written by Peter Hogan and illustrated by Phil Winslade and Staz Johnson come out through Dark Horse Comics, I wanted to read it. I wanted to read it so much that I read it. Which lead to me having opinions. Opinions I will share with you.
First off, this is a 48 page special for $3.99. Not bad at all. Half of those pages are reprints from the initial King's Road stories featured in the Dark Horse Presents anthologies. The Dark Horse Presents parts are all illustrated by Phil Winslade while Staz Johnson is taking over from there. Normally I go into the artwork later in an interview, but because of the way this is set up it makes the most sense to me to just jump right into it here.
Phil Winslade and Staz Johnson have noticeably different styles. This becoming a sharp contrast when it's in the same floppy and quickly transitions from one into the next. Personally, I think it's a little too jarring and almost wish they'd of divided it up into an Issue #0 and Issue #1, but I understand the idea behind it.
In addition to doing the pencils and inks in the first 24 pages, Phil Winslade also colors his own work. Compared with Staz Johnson, Phil's work is made up of looser lines and less defined backgrounds. Some of the backgrounds are just a solid color. Not often, but it does happen. His colors seem less solid and more blotchy as well, as it appears to have been in watercolor for the first 24 pages. That being said, through the loose lines and the watercolor, Phil Winslade is able to create a world that is more dynamic and fluid. The stylization takes an otherwise stale script and elevates it.
That's not to say that Staz Johnson is not talented. Along with his colorist Doug Sirois, they create a more solid world, fleshed out backgrounds, take more advantage of using shading, and Staz has a few panels that really show off his skills with perspective. These pages do come off as being more of a standard house style than Phil's work, and although characters aren't necessarily that stagnant on the page, when compared to Phil's work they look stagnant, and that's a drawback of having them both in one floppy.
Now I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago that I felt the script was stale. Let me elaborate on that. As I stated in the beginning, this is a fantasy comic. Without giving too much away, I'll say that it's about a family in modern times with links to a fantasy world and are being called back to serve as an evil witch is taking over. Also there's a talking dog. Also a lot of other fantasy cliches. And a lot of references. If feels like a script written by someone who lived through 80's and 90's pop culture fantasy. I felt callbacks to King Arthur and the Knights of Justice, the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, A Kid in King Arthur's Court, and so forth. And if you're familiar with the Luna Brothers' comic The Sword, you can see some very family friendly comparisons to that as well. Some of this might be forgivable if it was more diverse. Having the all white cast with the villainous witch, the reluctant prince, and the young woman that's proving how tough she is, makes this story feel pretty dated even as it's just hitting the racks.
So far, in these 48 pages, there was one twist that could be very effective. I don't know if it's enough to keep reading on. I may just do it to support fantasy comics by bigger publishers and fill that void a bit. In a market where fantasy was more prevalent, however, I feel this would quickly be passed and forgotten.