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‘Arcade Kings: Vol. 1’ TPB (review)

Written and Illustrated by Dylan Burnett
Published by Image Comics


I vividly recall as a kid that often what drew me to a particular comic was the cover art.

Sadly, though, I would find that what I thought would be a fantastic story quickly disintegrated into dust and disappointment.

In that vein, the first thing I saw about Arcade Kings was its bright and enticing cover page.

I am glad to report what I found inside did not disappoint.

Dylan Burnett’s Arcade Kings is a vivid concoction of nostalgia, action, and a touch of the futuristic, presented in a comic series that’s as dynamic in its storytelling as it is in its artwork.

Released by Image Comics, this series quickly sets itself apart with its unique blend of video game culture and combat sports, wrapped up in a familiar and refreshingly new narrative.

At the heart of “Arcade Kings” is Joe, a mysterious newcomer to Infinity City, who quickly becomes the reigning champion of the Round House Arcade.

No one can beat him, but his past, shrouded in mystery, is on the verge of catching up.

This setup promises an intriguing blend of personal drama and thrilling action, with the arcade games serving as both a literal and metaphorical battleground for Joe’s struggles.

The series doesn’t shy away from embracing its influences, with clear nods to the beat-em-up side scrolling games and fighting arcades of the 1990s. This homage extends beyond the storyline to the visual presentation, with critics noting the comic’s use of 8-bit style transitions and game-like maps of Infinity City, enhancing the sense of immersion and nostalgia.

The narrative structure of Arcade Kings is built on time-honored tropes of action storytelling, with Joe embodying the classic nomadic hero – a formidable loner who arrives in a new community, helps, but eventually must confront his dark past. This setup is a nod to the enduring appeal of such narratives, from samurai tales to Westerns, yet Burnett manages to infuse it with a fresh sci-fi twist set against the backdrop of an arcade-centric world.

Burnett’s artwork, highlighted for its simplicity, drama, and dynamism, is crucial in bringing the story to life. Joe’s design, along with the overall visual aesthetic of the comic, draws heavily from manga influences, adding an extra layer of appeal for fans of both Western and Japanese manga. The action sequences are noted for their fluidity and energy, propelling the story forward with a vibrant, almost cartoonish zeal.

I praise Arcade Kings for its unabashed embrace of tropes, delivering them with creativity and flair that makes the series stand out. If Arcade Kings were an animated after school show from the 90s, I would have gladly watched it greedily every weekday. The comic is described as an “explosive blast of energy,” perfect for a summer read filled with action, nostalgia, and a dash of the fantastical. The blending of physical and arcade combat and a rich tapestry of shonen manga influences set a distinct tone for the series, making it a unique entry in the comic book landscape.

In conclusion, Arcade Kings is a compelling blend of action, nostalgia, and innovative storytelling wrapped in a visually stunning package. The series pays homage to the golden era of arcade gaming and 90s kid shows while carving out its identity within the comic book world.

Whether you’re drawn to its action-packed narrative, the nostalgic trip down memory lane, or the dynamic artwork, Arcade Kings has something for every comic book enthusiast looking for a new world to dive into.

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