Since finally picking up the new-NEW issue of Brandon Graham's peerless King City late yesterday afternoon, I've been struggling to derive the best analogy for how this opening gambit in the series's second volume relates to what came before. The best I'm able to come up with, and it's imperfect, though it works, is Don Quixote. I don't mean to suggest that there is anything particularly quixotic about the doings of Joe and company. But, as with the second volume of Cervantes's novel, everything in issue 7 feels sadder and more serious than what came before.
Brandon touches upon this difference in his review. As he points out, you still have all the gags and puns and other funny moments that almost as much as anything else identify Graham's work. But once we come out of the blinding sun of Joe's flashback to The Farm, events, feelings and relationships are imbued with a darkness that exceeds anything we've seen so far. Joe's work is infinitely more serious, more real and he executes it with a level of cool nonchalance that suggests he's crossed a line. Pete, too, is so consumed with his role in the apparent white slavery of the fish-girl that he cannot interact with his friend in a normal way.
But there's something else going on in King City that complicates the dread seriousness of events. Sex has always burbled right at the surface of Graham's comics. But in issue 7 we're getting beyond the exaggerated tits and asses that adorn Graham's stories. Here we are inundated with images specifically associated with conception and birth.
This meditation on procreation begins in Joe's flashback to his time at The Farm. As Mudd leads Joe away from his exercises toward El Cat-Cienda, we see a woman identified as Miriam—the actual name of the virginal mother of Jesus—emerging from a decidedly vaginal opening, into the "Big Big World," bearing the barely post-natal Earthling in her hands, as if delivering him through some process of immaculate conception.
Then, as the narrative proper gets under way, we have a succession of seemingly whimsical images of conception and birth. This of course begins with Joe's sly, obstetrical entry into the No-Tell Killaforya through the inauspiciously identified "Garbage Shoot." Then, as Joe and Earthling pull off the "old none two" trick against the 4-eyed ninja, we are told that three blocks away a woman's egg has split into twin embryos, which, as the illustration indicates, happens precisely at the moment of conception.
Of course, all this could be typical Brandon Graham playfulness, but the preponderance of imagery relating to conception and birth adds particular significance to the sexual tryst between Joe and Beebay at the end of the issue. As Joe recognizes, there is something weird and potentially dangerous about this handsomely endowed woman. But while it is one thing to be paid in sex for killing 'bad guys,' it is another thing altogether to conceive a child with the woman pulling the strings. It's entirely possible, indeed, quite likely, that this has more to do with my own imagination than what is going to happen as Graham's opus progresses, but if so, it's no less diverting to consider. Oh the places this story can go.