King’s debut novel is mostly textual narrative highlighted by random, comic-book–style illustrations.
The Liberty Legion are superheroes, gods generated from the friction between good and evil, each with sublime powers. The Legion’s leader is a robot. Ultimate, The Man with the Metal Face, was born at his human creator’s death. Cognizant but confused, asking an existentialist “Why?,” Ultimate soon stumbled upon a superhero comic as his awareness expanded. Ultimate decides “This was why I was built....The mission to save the world.” And decades later, it was Ultimate alone and without explanation who chose to face The Blue, transcendental evil. With Ultimate gone, the Legion flounders. Left behind are The Soldier of Freedom, the cryogenically preserved bastard grandson of George Washington; Star-Knight; Distant Sun; Mashallah; Sicko; Runt; Freedom Fighter; Strength; Doctor Speed; Devil Girl; Prophetier; and PenUltimate, adopted as a boy by Ultimate and trained for succession. Each has a superpower; each deals with a tension-charged back story. With Ultimate gone, the superheroes are left powerless, and their home, Arcadia City, is in peril. The story is composed of alternating sequences of surreal narratives and crash-bang-boom action scenes, with the saga of brutality and betrayal climaxing at the Villains’ Graveyard. Literary exposition—“The glimmering particle in the glimmering fountain becomes a glimmering picture, becomes the sketch of a man frozen against the sky”—alternates with streetwise dialogue—“What job, yo?...It’d help, help jack this thing, beat it?”
King’s work is beyond postmodern, complex in conception, perhaps too esoteric for mainstream fiction fans, but relevant to the graphic-novel, video-gaming generation.