How’s this for a dizzying high concept? Bruce Lee never died, but in fact went into hiding, and formed a covert super-team filled with other not-really-dead celebrities, including Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Andy Kaufman and Tupac Shakur, and together they use their “intimite knowledge of the entertainment industry” to solve high-stakes crimes and global conspiracies. That’s the delicious premise offered by Comeback Kings, the comic co-written by Matt Sullivan and Gabe Guarente and drawn by Ethan Young. And it’s every bit as fun and absolutely mental as you’d imagine.
This may sound surprising to some, but a concept like this is one that could very easily result in a crap comic. Often, when a comic is sold on a high concept, there is a temptation to coast along on that one joke, without feeling to cobble together and plot or characterisation beyond the elevator pitch that got everyone in the door. Fortunately, this is not the case with Comeback Kings #1. This is presented as a classic “getting-the-gang-together” opening chapter, as we are (re)introduced to each member of the ensemble and where their lives since their respective “deaths” have taken them. Perhaps most interesting of these was Tupac, who in his new life has become a high school drama teacher, and disapproves of his daughter listening to modern hip-hop.
Sullivan and Guarente also score points for the perfect choice of antagonist. Here we have a team of pop culture icons recognised globally as being geniuses in their respective disciplines. And what better antithesis for genuine talent and artistic craft than the vapid celebrity of modern reality TV and talent shows? The figurehead for this tide of glossy mediocrity is media tycoon Abel Kane, who makes for a suitably hissable villain in his brief appearance here. It’s a solid premise, and despite the occasional instance of on-the-nose dialogue, I’d definitely be intrigued to see how this story and central conflict develops.
The art also has an easy trap it could have fallen into, namely relying on photo referencing to bring its iconic cast to life. But Ethan Young wisely avoids taking this route, going for a more cartoony style where the characters are still instantly identifiable as their real-life counterparts, but as caricature, and injected with the energy of Young’s own style. This gives them a lot more life and vibrancy than a hyper-detailed photo-referencing style, which can too often feel flat and devoid of drama.
In conclusion, Comeback Kings #1 has a great idea, well executed. Definitely worth a look. Oh, and watch out for a surprise cameo at the end!
Comeback Kings #1 is now on sale from the official website of Arrden Entertainment.