This one was a bit different. Imagine if you will, the old west, but not quite the old west of standard history. Instead this one took a different turn. Instead of the Western Expansion of the young United States, we find independent nations that have staked out their own lands within the country. The time period being within the 1860s and 1870s. There have been wars, the different countries duking it out for more land and power. And of course, there is animosity between the different nations because the wars are still fresh in the people’s minds.
Add to this a quest for gold. Or in the case of this story each nations desire for something called red gold. Yeah, it’s a bit of a mcguffin where we know it’s a mystical element and has had an effect on the world. But it is that underlying element for the battles within the larger story. Essentially, this is the item that gives us magic within the world. And possibly a catalyst for how the world is layed out.
Now take that deeper into an individual level. We have a man of one nation who is tired. Tired of what the war has done to him and the monster he became because of it. And a woman, from the other side, and she feels the same way. They come together in the hope that at least on their level, there can be peace and happiness, a life no longer intertwined in the political machinations and horrors of war.
This is the back drop of the four issue limited series Kingsway West (Darkhorse Comics 2016). The hero of our story is Kingsway Law, former soldier in the Imperial China army. His wife, Sonia, is a Mexican national from the California Mexican expansion. They were at war and saw quite a bit of the horrors that come from it. Neither of them wanted to be a part of it anymore. They stake their claim in the wild lands and intend to live out their lives.
All of this is taking place within a few pages of the first issue. It’s a bit of exposition that is shown through actions. Some of it memory and some of it the present moment. All of it does this great job of setting up the start of the story.
See, the real story is the quest of Kingsway Law. His need to be human again. He lost his wife within the early part of the story which drags him into the larger story of the hunt for red gold. We then spend the rest of the story searching for his wife again. I know it sounds weird, but she has become his personal mcguffin. She ran away from the fighting and the more he is pulled into the wars again, the harder it is for him to find her.
There are all these different levels of subtext as we see him slowly slipping into the man he used to be. But the thing of it is, when we assume he was a butcher based on the background we were given, we learn he is something more than that. Sure he killed a large number of people during war. It was the horror that all warriors must come to terms with at some point. Taking a life is still taking a life no matter the circumstances. This is Kingsway’s inner battle. Every time he comes back to help the group he apologizes to his wife in his mind because it is one more step into trouble he swore he would turn his back on.
And this is the part with the strongest symbolism. The mcguffin of red gold is real. Though it might have been a theory at one time, we do see some of its power and ability to build greed in the warring nations. But the mcguffin of Kingsway’s wife turns out to be nothing more than a phantom.
When he had originally found her, or more to the point, she found him, she was already dead. Her ghost had saved his life and in turn connected with him as they attempted to save each other from the monsters they had become. The relationship had been real to him and he lived his life to maintain it. But as phantoms go, there is never any substance there to hold us. As they slip into the ether, the monster we are, is all that remains.
This is a great story that I am only scraping at. The world created for it is much bigger than what we are shown within the roughly one hundred pages of the four issues combined. I could easily see quite a few different stories within this world’s history without any of them even touching the others. Well, aside from their connections to the various wars and skirmishes each nation goes through in their quest for domination.
It’s worth picking up if you ever get the chance. This is the kind of alternate history story that can build quite a bit of story worlds we haven’t seen in some time.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.