John Tucker’s The King is perhaps more illustrated story than pure comics but this eccentrically amiable tale has an idiosyncratic charm that makes it well worth picking up if you’re attending this year’s True Believers, where it debuts in just a few short weeks on February 1st. This is a difficult story to review in many respects as it hinges on an unlikely twist that takes the narrative off in an unexpected direction, and one that it’s certainly not my place to reveal here. But, suffice to say, this is a witty and warm story that touches on themes of family, love and loss with an understated depth.
In the 1960s Gwen left her family in the UK behind to start a new life in the music industry in America. There she carved out a career managing bands and even met the legendary Elvis Presley. Years later, though, her sister learns that Gwen has died when she is bequeathed a mysterious golden egg her sibling was given by the King himself. When the egg hatches, though, it brings a very unlikely addition to their family and a commitment that the couple could never have expected…
The King reminded me of the madcap satirical nonsense of one of my favourite episodes of wacky 1970s sitcom The Goodies. It’s a quite lovely contrast of gentle everyday observational comedy with the utterly bizarre, made all the more likeable for the quiet message at its heart. As the couple’s newfound charge grows and becomes a vital part of their lives, Tucker neatly mirrors the pop cultural inspirations for his story with a knowing nod and wink in the readers’ direction.
Funny yet touching, The King makes use of largely one-page illustrations with clever shifts in perspective and strong facial characterisation to remind us of the oddness of its premise but without ever overplaying its hand. It would be very easy to descend into ostentatious silliness here but Tucker is wise enough not to give into temptation and lurch into pantomime. The King certainly benefits from that economy because, by its end and for all its endearing daftness, it’s said something far more profound than we initially realised about the nature of family, responsibility and community.
Review by Andy Oliver