There shall come a day, a dark dark day, when all that you know shall come to an end! Though the skies are sunny a darkness spreads like an unchecked fire consuming all before it and leaving only destruction behind. Nothing can stand in its way, not man, not time, not the gods themselves!
I have seen this end whilst seated upon my throne. Though the throne is usually a place of relief and quiet consideration this day mine eyes have gazed upon a force so terrible as to upset my normal movements. I know deep in my heart of hearts that a terrible fate awaits me when I walk out my door. But it’s a fate I cannot escape no matter how hard I wish it be so. It’s a fate that consumes many Angelenos; trapping them in a doom so perplexing and inescapable that time itself seems aligned against them. It’s a place where dread and deception empties into frustration and crawling doom, like a tortoise of eternal madness! A tortoise powered by destroyed dreams, smog, and crappy morning radio skits! No matter how hard we try, no matter how many alternate paths are shown our destinies always end in the same place: The 405 freeway!
Any readers outside of Los Angeles would probably shrug and say “It can’t be THAT bad.” You have no idea of the icy grip on the heart of a denizens of the Valley or beyond when we realize that fate has forced us to engage this foreboding trail of unexplained stoppages, pointless delays, and maddening time loss. The 405 has ended relationships (she’s great and we really have a good time together but she lives in Manhattan Beach and I’m in Northridge so I’m breaking up with her), adds HOURS to your commute time (when I have a 7am call at Fox I leave the house at 5:15… any later and I’m stuck in traffic. This is for a twenty mile commute) and generally reinforces any misanthropic feeling you might be stewing in (I’ve been in this traffic for forty five minutes and I’m not even past the 101 exit… That’s it I’m voting for Drumpf!)
In fact, a few years ago, when the 405 had to be shut down for a night or two for some infrastructure work, the news was touting it as “Carmageddon” (see what the clever news people did there). “The 405” as it’s talked about in that eerily on the mark Saturday Night Live sketch series is the spine of every LA resident’s nervous system, anxiety system, and anger system. “SPEED” was unbelievable not because it had Keanu as a tough LA cop, not because of the jump over the bridge but because there was no possible way that bus would have maintained a speed of 55mph on any highway system around LA. Cahuenga pass would’ve been littered with burning chunks of bus and Sandra Bullock before the second reel was done.
What I’m trying to say is that the freeways are tough to deal with here with the 405 wearing the crown for pain-in-the-assedness.
Joshua Hale Fialkov feels the same way. Being the writer that he is he thought about adding a couple layers of post apocalyptic roadblocks including mutated animal biker gangs, deities possessed by aliens, and robotic karate bears.
Welcome to King; the world ending is no excuse for being late for work.
Man’s civilization ended hundreds of years ago. Apparently doomsday, zombies, alien invasion, Ragnarok, lab created mutations, and any other number of apocalyptic scenarios all hit at once which makes King’s commute to work super difficult. One thing that kinda slips by about the writer of The Bunker and Exodus: The Life After is that Fialkov has a great sense of humor. Sometimes he has to be stealthy about it. King, on the other hand, lets Fialkov’s funny flag fly. Yeah, sure; the world ended and King is the last human but that doesn’t mean the post apocalypse can’t be a hoot. For example the comic opens with King gearing up; knives are sharpened, shield is made ready (FYI his shield is a modded “Interstate California 405” sign), shirt is pulled down over a body hardened by battle and strife. All the while King’s captions tell a parable about a cat that had everything in the world but still said “I hate mondays!” That’s the only time a Garfield quote has gotten a chuckle out of me.
Most of the humor is derived from the weird juxposition of post-apocalyptic fantasy and the grinding banality of the soul draining hours between Monday morning and Friday evening. A workplace comedy by way of Hell Comes to Frogtown. In the hands of a lesser writer this would be a one off in the back pages of Heavy Metal (with a few extra bare chested Octo-women for good measure) but Fialkov has a talent for blending action with comedy AND telling a coherent story at the same time. King works for the “Los Angeles Department of Reclamation” and if it wasn’t for the half blown out buildings and pterodactyl men wearing Lakers jerseys it would seem like any typical strangled bureaucracy today.
The assignment his cigar-chomping mutated lobster supervisor gives him is another post-apocalyptic trope; the Life-Seed. Basically a cure-all apocalypse reversal McGuffin prevalent in such stories. Of course every one King has been sent to fetch turns out to be a purple rock with glitter paint or something of the like. By acknowledging the trope Fialkov, admirably, creates a situation where he can have his cake and eat it too. Naturally THIS Life-Seed might be the real deal. The fact that it’s his sister protected by robot karate bears that shoot sleeping gas from their nipples is just one of those little speed-bumps.
Bernard Chang must’ve thought this material was something close to a dream job, that is if his dream is to draw the gods of Olympus possessed by starfish aliens roaming the rainbow bridge. Considering he’s an artist that’s tackled the more surreal elements of Green Lantern Corps and the energy and fun packed into KING it probably was. What comic book artist wouldn’t love to draw LA as a place both Snake Pliskin and every Ray Harryhausen creature would call home? Chang takes the script and runs with it to great effect. His artwork amplifies the silliness of the premise but never flies off the rails. Not to say that what you see on the page is the slightest bit believable but then KING doesn’t ask you to believe any of the kookiness… just to embrace it.
My focus on Angelino in-jokes might give the wrong impression; King has plenty of juice for the comic fan that is looking for the kind of material that is comfortable in its own warped, scaly, purple hued skin. When our hero jumps over the San Fernando valley on a sail skate board and notes that the area is still the porn Capitol of the world (just now it’s primarily interspecies murder) you don’t need a $950 a month single bedroom in a decaying apartment complex to get the joke. The Valley is still that terrible death zone (ala Fury Road or Damnation Alley) that makes the rest of the apocalypse look quaint and, naturally, it’s the one place our questing hero HAS to go to save the world. A familiarity with post apocalyptic tropes and weird comedy will suffice to enjoy the world of KING.
Bits tangentially related to the book that I couldn’t work into the main text…
Another very funny and very strange book from Josh is PUNKS (available from Image comics) it is essentially THE YOUNG ONES if done by the Fluxus art movement. To this day I still haven’t seen anything like it in comics.
If you’ve never seen an episode of THE YOUNG ONES do yourself a favor and find one now!
Wiki FLUXUS. Despite being associated with Yoko Ono it is a very cool and fun art philosophy.
A lot of the 80’s zine aesthetic (not necessarily the snark tone) is inspired by Fluxus.
I kid you not the 405 sucks. It took me over an hour in off-time traffic to get to work today. God thing I didn’t have to deal with spaceships piloted by super intelligent dinosaurs!
The 80’s had a great run of low-budget Post-apocalyptic midnight movies: “Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn”, “Hell Comes to Frogtown”, “Cherry 2000” and “Radioactive Dreams” all come immediately to mind.
“The porn usually involves interspecies murder…”
“… But not in the fun way”
One of the big bad guys seems to be an anthropomorphic duck with teeth and a S&M sense of style. Lord Humongus by way of Donald Duck.
Why do all post-apocalyptic biker gangs dress like they just got out of a punk rock bondage thrift store. I understand leather and all, but in the 80’s it became a visual shorthand. SO much so that the bondage duck in KING seems in on the joke.
Bondage Duck is the name of my Goth style song parody group.
NEXT: Ultimate X-Men?
LATER: Whatever the fates throw my way.