Of all the “heavy” comics I read, Royal City is easily the heaviest. A small town family clings to the memory of a dead son, each of them envisioning him as their ideal version of him. Royal City #3 reveals that this family is not only in a state of crisis, but each member of this family needs Tommy in their lives. Desperately. It’s hard to break this story apart from start to finish, because each character is existing within their own story. Which makes this tale all the more gut wrenching.
Let’s start with Pat who seems to be the closest we have to a “main” character. He’s a famous author who had an overnight success with his first book, but his second book was panned. This issue, we get a glimpse into his “creative process.” It’s heavily implied that the success of Pat’s first book was through Tommy’s life. Whether or not that’s a literal use of his life energy, or merely borrowing from his journal is unclear.
From the first issue I’ve wondered whether or not Tommy is an actual character, or a manifestation of the family members’ collective need for something in their lives. It is revealed that Tara lost her pregnancy — although it’s a mystery as to how she did — and it’s clear that young, innocent Tommy fills that void of having a child in her life. So many pieces of Tara’s narrative have now come into focus, from her fights with her husband to her desperation over this real estate deal.
Yet again, though, it is Richie who seems most able to operate without Tommy in his life. Drunkard Tommy may have egged Richie onto his drunken bender, but unlike his siblings, Richie seems perfectly able to function without his dead brother. His life may be falling down around him, and he may be a disappointment to the family, but at least he’s doing it on his own.
Other conflicts and secrets are introduced this issue, with a mysterious figure attempting to speak to the family matriarch in the hospital. I have no doubt that this will be yet another dark layer to this family history, and yet Royal City‘s biggest mystery surrounds Tommy. I can’t quite tell what is going on with this character of many faces, but I know that I like where it’s going. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this series will only end in tears, and that makes it one of the best series I’m reading.
Our Rating: YUS
Author: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
Publish Date: 05/17/2017
Acquired via Purchase