In the fantastical world of MonkeyBrain Comics’ Kings and Canvas, duels are fought in a boxing ring rather than on the battlefield which creates a truly original take on this well worn genre. But will this unique approach deliver a knock-out punch or will it wind up falling to the mat?
Publisher: Monkeybrain Comics
Writer: Neil Kleid
Artist: Jake Allen (Penciller/Inker), Frank Reynoso (Colorist)
Price: £0.69 per issue from ComiXology
Kings and Canvas tells the story of Mammoth, a fighter and an exile who is now a prisoner, battling to stay alive as he digs for steel under his abusive guards. However, upon realising that his actions are not for the country’s war effort, but for his captors pockets, Mammoth decides to put his fighting skills to use and escape. Once free, Mammoth decides to return to his home, earning his way cross country in the ring, and picking up some like-minded souls on the way. But not everyone wants him to return, with others wanting to make sure he never leaves the ring victorious.
From the first page, Kings and Canvas is an engrossing story, which comes across as something resembling a combination of Rocky and a Knight’s Tale. The main draw of the book is the enigmatic Mammoth, who despite playing his cards close to his chest, is depicted as a strong, loyal, and (mostly) honourable individual. But this isn’t the only sign of good characterisation as sidekick Nik is a fun addition to the cast, with obvious hints of more below the surface, while the villain of the piece also comes across as someone with more depth than we are shown thanks to his machinations. Without giving too much away, this is where the title falls flat, as the characters’ individual objectives could be a little more explicitly explained. Not knowing their intentions at times, feels like it hinders the reader from knowing and liking these characters more.
As for the art, Jake Allen does a solid job, with his style coming across as nicely unique but also strangely familiar. While trying to find an artist to compare his work to, we struggled to pick out one obvious comparison which is perhaps a back-handed compliment in itself. Allen’s work looks incredibly clean and slick, especially during the many fight scenes, notably the fight with Argos and the page spread when Mammoth escapes his prison. Of course, Frank Reynoso’s colouring contribution cannot be ignored here, as his use of natural, earthy colours really makes Kings and Canvas feel grounded and very fitting to the more old-fashioned aspect of the story. But also, Reynoso’s transition from the regular natural colours to the brighter tones for the first issue’s story sequences is his real stand out work, as it really makes Allen’s pencils pop.