True to his trademark surreal style of comics storytelling, W. Maxwell Prince’s standalone miniseries King of Nowhere is a bizarre journey into a forgotten place where science and fantasy, dreams and reality blur together.
When Denis awakens from yet another night of drinking, he cannot remember where he is or where he is meant to be. And when he encounters a deer-man hybrid driving a car, it quickly becomes clear that—wherever he has ended up—it is a place far from familiar. “You’re going the wrong way,” warns deer-man John Doe before speeding away. In this case, the wrong way leads to the town of North Waherek, known locally as Nowhere. It is a town straight from a drug trip, a place where the bartender’s face is upside down (or is it actually right side up?), and hybrid denizens of all types and talents reside. Nowhere is a mystery, but it’s as good a place as any for Denis to catch his breath. Unfortunately, with strangers tracking him and a wealth of secrets circling Nowhere’s existence, Denis soon finds that he must sort friend from enemy and explore Nowhere’s dark history if he has any hope of surviving to find his way home once more.
Anyone familiar with Prince’s work should know to expect the bizarre. King of Nowhere is no exception. Embracing its own strangeness, the comic drops the reader alongside Denis into a place that does not easily offer explanations. Why is the man with too many arms beating up the fish wearing a suit? That’s simply the sort of thing that happens here. As the story continues, Prince reveals the secrets that have shaped Nowhere as well as Denis’s own journey. The comic unfolds like a dream, holding its own logic even when the answers are not yet visible. In fact, it is when reality begins to catch up to Denis that the story loses some of its magic. King of Nowhere might have benefitted either from a longer, more-developed story or from an approach that showed less concern for explaining itself. Despite its flaws, however, Denis’s journey into the town of Nowhere is a memorable adventure that blends social commentary with the abstract, leaving the reader to ponder its significance beyond the final panels.
While Prince’s flair for storytelling is evident, his writing pairs perfectly with art from Tyler Jenkins and colors from Hilary Jenkins. The rough images, dull palette, and warped paneling embody the dreamlike uncertainty of Nowhere while bringing the town’s strangeness to sometimes unsettling life. As the artistic team lurers the reader into the dreamscape, it becomes difficult to look away from each unfolding page—whether they be moments of brutality or uncertain wonder.
The publisher labels King of Nowhere as a 13+ title and, while the language and violence only edge the content into older teen territory, the overall themes and tone of the volume will likely hold more appeal for adults than younger readers. As a surrealist adventure with a human heart, King of Nowhere is a worthy read for anyone already a fan of Prince’s work. Beyond that, Prince’s comics are a flavor unto themselves, but may appeal to those who enjoyed Charles Soule’s Cursewords, Skottie Young’s Middlewest, or Jeff Lemire’s Frogcatchers. While not an essential purchase or Prince’s strongest work, King of Nowhere is worth adding to collections already drawn to thematic and character work with a healthy does of unreality.
King of Nowhere
By W. Maxwell Prince
Art by Tyler Jenkins
BOOM! Studios, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Addiction