Story & Art: Dylan Burnett
Colors: Walter Baiamonte & Sara Antonellini
Color Assist: Simona Iurato & Sharon Marino
Letters: Andworld Design
Covers: Dylan Burnett & Walter Baiamonte; Corey Lewis; Jordan Gibson; Dylan Burnett; Anna Marcano
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: May 17th, 2023
If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read the Arcade Kings #1 Review.
Joe lives for the KO and the high score. He’s the king of the Round House Arcade in Valleytown. That’s all that matters in ARCADE KINGS #1, a new series that creates a real world out of bright, rich imagery of fighting games. The book is unusual, intense, and not to be missed.
ARCADE KINGS #1 opens on Infinity City a few years ago, right in the middle of the McMax/Ziegler bout. McMax’s sons, Joe and Ken watch as their father gets the knockout and wins the fight. He announces his retirement shortly after. Flashing forward to the present, Joe is now an arcade champ and has a head that looks not unlike a dragon fruit. So far Joe has managed to stay out of sight. In exchange for keeping thugs off someone who works at the arcade, Joe is staying there. He remains under the radar for weeks until Molly, who works for Joe’s father, challenges him to a game in an effort to bring him home. Joe escapes with the win but is forced to move on before anyone else finds him.
ARCADE KINGS #1’s hook is its fun and quirky nature. The first hints of the series’ plot are only introduced in the final few pages. The rest of the issue is an exercise in keeping up, not because Burnett writes a hard to follow comic. Indeed, this first issue is very straightforward. But it’s a wild, hyperreal experience. Burnett takes an aspect of popular culture, in this case fighting video games and the competitive nature they can elicit, and dials it up way past eleven. It becomes Joe’s defining quality for the bulk of the issue. His skills are also such that when he is confronted by Molly the assumption is that he will win and win handily. As the match quickly turns bad, the tension ratchets up leading to an exciting finish.
The fight between Molly and Joe is also unique in its own right. It’s a blend of video games and real life as Molly uses an arcade stick to control a robot to fight Joe. Joe responds to the robot’s video game moves with video game moves of his own and basically finishes the fight with an unblockable attack.
The Art & Letters
The characters and settings in ARCADE KINGS #1 are larger than life. Burnett pairs the hyperreal world with wildly expressive characters, both in body language and facial expressions. This contributes to a heightened physicality in the fight between Molly’s robot and Joe. The fight has a video game feel to it even though it consists of still images.
ARCADE KINGS #1’s colors are vivid to the point that they all but leap off the page. Every panel features a high degree of contrast between characters and setting, and between characters and each other. The conclusion of Molly and Joe’s fight is especially representative of this. On the first of these pages, a rough outline of Molly’s robot colored a solid blue overlaps four rows of panels showing Joe delivering blows. All of those panels are yellow/orange dominant. The robot being center stage on the page makes it look like Joe’s blows in the different panel’s are landing on it.
The sound effects in this book are spectacularly over the top. They’re integral to every action sequence, almost delivering more physical impact than the art itself. The coloring is as striking as everything else on the page. They frequently call to mind the visual style of many fighting games.
ARCADE KINGS #1 is relatively straightforward and ends with a lot of potential. This series is a fast paced, bright, somewhat larger than life comic and might not be for everyone. But it’s a fun, funny, and exciting read that deserves a look.