Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Review #1: Kingwood Himself

(Click to enlarge images)

Reynold Kissling's Kingwood Himself is one of the gemmy-ist gems I picked up at this year's Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, OR.

It is the fantasy story of a young girl named Emily, who's grounded for getting in trouble at school after calling another girl names. As the tale unfolds, we learn that this is more than a one-time instance of Emily "just being a kid": other children "shun" her, so she's often lonely. She doesn't relate well to others.

As she sits stewing in her back yard, she spies a kite in the distance (she doesn't yet know what it is - just that it's piqued her interest). She decides to leave the confines of her fenced-in world and investigate through the mysterious, thick woods beyond her gate.

Past these trees, she finds a cul-de-sac that's cut off from the outside world (its one street ends at the edge of the forest). She also finds the kite and carries it with her as she explores. While this little neighborhood appears normal at first, Emily soon finds out that it's populated by weird beings, including a talking squid named Guudo, who lives in a water-filled room (the water mysteriously stays inside the room, even though its door is wide open), and a man whose head looks like it came from a statue of Ganesh (an elephant-headed Hindu deity - and the man says his name is Eleman, lending some weight to the theory).

These creatures seem unable to answer Emily's questions about this place or the kite she found, but Eleman does point her towards the most impressive of the residents: Kingwood Himself, who, Eleman explains, "kinda runs things around here." Emily does as she's bade, and goes to the end of the street and puts the flag up on Kingwood Himself's mailbox.

Kingwood Himself immediately appears, towering over Emily, and proceeds to answer her questions and discuss her life's problems with her. He explains the nature of the strange little neighborhood to her, and tells her she has a mission.

This leads to the story's conclusion, which I won't spoil, but I felt the narrative wasn't really the prime focus of this minicomic anyway. What Kissling does so well here is capture the feeling of a child's very real fantasy world. I remember well traipsing off into the woods as a kid and having hours of adventures. What was real and what was imaginary didn't really matter: it was fun and it was exciting. And it was my world. The ability to interact with the fantastic in healthy - even helpful - ways is something most of us lose to some degree as we grow older. Kissling does a great job of reminding us how it feels and how it can work.

Kingwood Himself appears to be a one-shot deal, but I'd certainly love to see more of this world of Emily's, should Kissling venture there again. You can check out this comic and other artwork at Kissling's site here. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for more of his work in the future.

UPDATE: I hadn't realized it when I wrote this review, but Kingwood Himself is available as a free preview online at Top Shelf's Top Shelf 2.0! site here.

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