Reviewer: Paul Sebert
Story Title: The King of Basketball
Written by: Gary Phillips
Penciled by: Damion Scott
Inked by: Sandra Hope
Colored by: Carrie Strachan of Wildstorm
Lettered by: Kenny Lopez
Editor: Ron Perazza
Publisher: DC Comics
From “Superman vs. Muhammad Ali” to “Charles Barkley And the Referee Murders” comic books starring athletic stars hold unique place in American comics history.
Or”¦ maybe not.
To be quite honest “King James” is one of those perplexing little comic books that makes you wonder just what brought about its very existence. Does DC comics truly see a large untapped crossover market in NBA fans? Did the people at Coca Cola really think this was the best way to promote their drink Powerade? Am I the only one who’s actually read this?
Freebie promotional comics are almost by definition weird (see Superman Meets the Quik Bunny but this one might take the cake. It just doesn’t get any more bizarre seeing Lebron James shooting hoops against a Russian Rastapharian on an ice-covered basketball course that’s inexplicably surrounded by stacked abandoned automobiles.
And speaking of weird how about the dialogue.
You might be the man on Regular Hardwood, Lebron. But you’re in my domain now. And on my court of illusion, Flexxor rules.”
To put this little snippet into context, imagine Lebron playing in a neon room straight out of Tron against an 8-foot tall evil contortionist. Seriously I’m not making this up.
Anyway, here the plot involves Lebron traveling the world in a one-one-one basketball tournament playing against colorful folks with names like “Reaper” and “Abominable.” It’s sort of like Street Fighter only with slam dunks instead of Hadokens. This tournament is financed by a mysterious corporate outfit called The Hetairia, that’s looking to control every major athlete in professional sports, along with music and pop culture. We can presume that they’re up to no good primarily because they consist of shadowy white guys in suits and ties.
So really think about it. You have moralizing about the ill effects of corporatization on sports in a comic produced by a branch of the AOL/Time Warner/Turner empire. A comic promoting a beverage produced by the Coca-Colar company. Starring a man who turned down a college education in favor of a multi-million dollar contract and a numerous endorsements. Does this make sense to you?
I suppose, to be honest, this comic has one thing going for it, in Damion Scott’s pencils which give the book a nice Humberto Ramos-esc graffiti inspired look. Some might complain about the unrealistic look he gives the players but, it seems to fit with the story, and James’s colorful opponents certainly look unique.
So, if you absolutely, positively want to see Lebron James have a big show down against a guy with Dragon Ball Z hair this comic is for you. For the rest of us, this is just an oddball novelty that will probably show up in Scott Shaw’s Oddball comics column a few years from now.