Space Travel, Necromancy, And The Rejection Of Norms: Keeping Up With ‘Kim & Kim’ [Review]
Kim & Kim #2 is out today from Black Mask Studios, written by Magdalene Visaggio with art by Eva Cabrera and colors by Claudia Aguirr, and after reading the new issue, I couldn’t wait any longer to offer my thoughts about the series so far, and what makes it stand out from the current crop of comics.
Kim & Kim is a comic about being who you are and doing what you want. Kim Dantzler is from a family of necromancers who make a living using their powers to solve inheritance issues. Kim Quatro is the daughter of Furious Quatro, a respected bounty hunter.
Kim D. doesn’t want anything to do with her family business --- and who would? It employs the darkest magics in aid of the most banal goals. Kim Q. does want to stick with the career she was raised for --- and who wouldn’t? Being a bounty hunter enables a lifestyle of bouncing around the omniverse, doing what you like and getting in fights. But what Kim Q. doesn’t want is anything to do with her father; he’s a real jerk, and has never accepted her for the trans woman she is.
So Kim and Kim are bounty hunters together. Best friends and business partners and allies in being disappointments to their families. And they’re not bad at bounty hunting, exactly. They just don’t have any luck when it comes to actually getting paid. Having Furious Quatro and his organization, the Catalans, interfering doesn’t help with that, and neither does Kim Q.’s tendency to get into fights in restaurants.
And then there’s Tom Quilt. He’s a shapeshifting octopus in human form, and he wants to get back to his home dimension. He was supposed to be a bounty, but after he explained that that mob boss he robbed and ran from has been enslaving his people, the Kims decide to help him get home. Of course, he’s also killed a bunch of people, so if you question his trustworthiness, nobody would blame you.
Kim & Kim is a comic about doing what you want, and that seems to apply to the creators as well. The futuristic setting, in which travel between planets in parallel dimensions is common, enables writer Magdalene Visaggio to take the comic literally and figuratively anywhere.
In addition to the standard futuristic city of flying cars and impossibly tall towers, there’s a desert planet with a killer art scene, and an undersea planet were the ocean is mildly hallucinogenic. The Kims travel between these and other worlds in a flying Volkswagen minibus, because of course they do. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s also necromancy and a race of shapeshifting octopi.
There’s real emotional weight to Kim & Kim, but the tone never feels too serious. It's a book about being rejected by your family, but it’s also a book that has a sandworm named Edgar, accidentally summoned in a necromantic ritual that requires dressing up in gothy clothes and black eyeliner, because that’s just how necromancy works.
And if it’s a book about being rejected by the family you were born into, it’s also a book about building your own family. Because Kim and Kim are clearly each other’s family in every way that matters. And that’s part of what makes it such a queer comic.
On one level it’s a queer book in that it’s about two queer protagonists (I don’t think Kim D.’s particular queerness has really been discussed in the comic yet, but Visaggio has referenced it in interviews), but there’s also something queer about the way the book rejects expectations of what a sci fi adventure comic should be, even as it centers on characters who reject what they’ve been told they should be. If we define queerness, as activists often have, as a position of resistance and opposition to society’s norms, then Kim & Kim is a profoundly queer comic book.
Eva Cabrera’s art on the book is equally responsible for its unique tone and style. I’ve seen her art compared to anime and manga, and there’s some of that there, but I think her character designs owe as much or more to Western animation. Kim and Kim, with their wide-eyed, expressive faces, look a bit like punk Disney princesses. And I don’t mean that to sound belittling — quite the opposite. Cabrera’s characters tap into something that makes them immediately endearing to the reader. Even as they’re wielding guns and weaponized guitars.
And then of course there’s Claudia Aguirre, who colors the book with no fear of going over the top. Pink is a recurring theme --- from Kim D.’s trademark machine gun, to the tips of her hair, to the entirety of Kim Q.’s hair. And all those pinks contrast beautifully with the green of their spacefaring minibus. When the color becomes more muted, as it does under the hallucinogenic ocean at the beginning of the second issue, it really serves to underline the change in setting.
I don’t have any idea where this book is going. If you’d told me after I read issue #1 that issue #2 was going to involve necromancy and a battle with a giant Beetlejuice-by-way-of-Dune sandworm, I’d never have believed you. But when the comic takes you there, you buy it.
I assume the effort to get Tom Quilt home will continue into #3, but where that will take the Kims and how successful --- or profoundly, perhaps comically, unsuccessful --- they’ll be is impossible to guess. They could visit any sort of wild planet Visaggio and team can think of, or they might decide to do a bottle episode in the bus. Now that the possibility of travel to the realm of the dead has been raised, I won’t be surprised if that happens eventually, but something that stakes-raising may well be saved for a future storyline.
It’s that unpredictability that makes Kim & Kim so charming. Just as the titular duo don’t care what anyone thinks they should do, Visaggio, Cabrera, and Aguirre don’t care what you think they should do either. But just like Kim and Kim will find their target if you give them time, the Kim & Kim creative team will provide a charming and fun comic if you give them your trust.