Welcome to Queerness In Comics, a bi-weekly column by Avery Kaplan, which will explore queer representation in comics. This week, Avery is exploring Kim & Kim: Volume One: This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life released in 2017.
Artist: Eva Cabrera
Colorist: Claudia Aguirre
Letterer: Zakk Saam
Publisher: Black Mask
Kimiko Quatro (Kim Q.) and Kimber Dantzler (Kim D.) are best friends through thick and thin, which is good because together they face a whole lot of whichever one of those qualifies as the worse option.
The foul-mouthed Fighting Kims are here for all the sex, drugs, and ‘80s rock aesthetic they can get their hands on as they try and make rent through their latest gig as inter-dimensional bounty hunters – and yes, they are both queer. Time to dust off your Pat Benatar records and crack open up a new can of hairspray: it’s Kim & Kim Volume One: This Glamorous High-Flying Rock Star Life!
All Fired Up
The Kims pursue their bounty from one wild dimension to the next in the Contessa, a spaceworthy paint-splattered flying van. The mechanics aren’t fully explained or explored in the story, but that works fine for the purposes of the comic: the story’s frenetic pace doesn’t leave time to examine the details of inter-dimensional travel when what matters is that it works.
Instead, the narrative hits the ground running, throwing the reader into a full bore action sequence and never really letting up. This is a world that’s filled with gleeful comic book excess at every corner – Kim Q. wields an electric bass as a weapon; the ocean of Dimension 8812 is mildly hallucinogenic – and the narrative is completely unapologetic about that fact.
Run Between the Raindrops
Yet for all its over-the-top action, when the Kims stop for even a moment to catch their breath, things can get very real very quickly. In the first issue, a night of drinking leads to a conversation where Kim Q. admits that her journey to realizing she was trans didn’t exactly run smooth. It’s a casual line, but for many queer readers, it’s one that will strike a very deep chord.
The fact that Kim Q.’s father can’t accept her transition is handled in a similarly adroit way. While he keeps her deadname as her contact info in his cell phone and even goes so far as to use the wrong pronouns when referring to her, the narrative never presents him as anything other than a dirtbag – even his lackeys manage to refer to her correctly.
Kim & Kim manages to seamlessly integrate the outrageous genre elements (like robot gorillas) with honest and effective queer representation. While the narrative isn’t specifically queer – the story isn’t about Kim Q. coming out, or Kim D. caught between lovers of different genders – it’s a narrative about queer characters, and their queerness serves as a bass line for every verse of their sensational adventures.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Throughout the course of the story, Kim & Kim do (more or less) precisely what they are supposed to do. The pattern first appears in the opening pages of the first issue. The Kims manage to apprehend a man with a bounty in the city of Caspardan, and while it may be a messy operation, they accomplish their goal… only to have the victory rendered pyrrhic when they attempt to collect the bounty and are told that it’s been vacated.
In that case, it turns out that the target, Prosper Carnivál, had been framed for the crime for which the bounty had been issued. In other words, the Kims were unable to complete their mission not because of any choice they made, but for circumstances beyond their control.
The cycle repeats itself at the climax of issue four. After spending the majority of the story doing their best to assist Tom Quilt in returning to his home dimension, the Kims can do little but watch in horror as Franken-Ape unceremoniously slaughters him.
Nevertheless, after defeating Franken-Ape, the Kims attempt to collect the bounty on Quilt. It would be a classic “subversive” resolution for this maneuver to prove successful in allowing them to pay rent: sure, they didn’t manage to protect Quilt, but then his bounty solved their rent problem! But the story goes one step further: the bounty was only for a living Quilt. Even though the Kims weren’t responsible for his death, they still lose out on the money they need to pay rent.
On literally the last page of the story the central crisis of paying rent is resolved by a Deus Ex Machina: Kim D. gets a text from her mom telling her to thank her father for paying their rent (so… a Deus Ex Mommy-na?). Despite the fact that the Kims made all the right decisions in the pursuit of their bounty, their purpose was ultimately frustrated, and they are only saved by the intervention of Kim D.’s parents.
My Clone Sleeps Alone
In the world of Kim & Kim, things get messy and terms aren’t necessarily defined, but sometimes, that’s just the way things are. The world of the Kims is a cacophony of neon hair and booty shorts, where rampant drug use has no consequence and making the morally correct decision may get you attacked by a robot gorilla, but win, lose, or have your rent paid by your parents, it’s one hell of a ride. Get your hands on this comic by any means necessary.