Saturday, January 28, 2012

Comics You Should Read: Skullkickers

Comic books are one of those areas where you can truly vote with your wallet, making your voice heard and keeping titles alive. Part of the purpose of this new series of articles on the blog is to focus on those comics that may be in danger that you should totally be buying, although I will not be limiting it *entirely* to comics that are "endangered". These are not necessarily an attempt at objective reviews, just me sharing with you comics that I enjoy, and that I would like to see others enjoy.

Now...Comics You Should Read!

First up...Skullkickers!

Skullkickers, published by Image Comics, is a tongue in cheek fantasy romp by Jim Zubkavich, Edwin Huang and the occasional fill-ins (on both art and writing), following a pair of nameless adventuring mercenaries (you can call them Baldy and Shorty) as they fight monsters and evil, mostly for money.

The book balances action and comedy very deftly, with Baldy and Shorty cracking wise while also being incredibly badass. The art tends to be somewhat exaggerated, just short of cartoony, and the sound effects are often very literal "Stab! Punch! (and one of my personal favorites) Vegetation!" Shorty is a brutal dwarven warrior while Baldy is a gun-weilding human (the gun is magical, and most people tend to quickly forget he owns it), providing plenty of action even in the face of comedy.

Over the course of the series thus far, the heroes have dealt with a Necromancer, a giant demon, pissed-off faerie treehuggers, werewolves...they've even became heroes (as well as wanted men). Robin Laws even pitched in on issue 4 with D&D4e stats for Baldy and Shorty (with all the serial numbers filed off, of course).

The first story arc involves a noble being assassinated, a necromancer controlling Shorty's foot (it makes sense in context) and a giant demon that rules the dead. Though the story is all pretty much resolved in that one arc, there is foreboding hints that this adventure will definitely come back to haunt them.

The second arc involves the Skullkickers versus the rampaging faerie hippies, as well as the heroes being accused of being assassins, and a thieves guild leader who keeps coming back from the dead (I assume he'll be a recurring character). This arc ends with a scene that shows a lot of promise for the next one.

The third arc, beginning this year, will take the Skullkickers out onto the high seas apparently...and seems likely they'll run across a duo not unlike themselves.

In between the arcs are some short story anthologies by various creators.

For me, the story that really won me over was the back-up story in Skullkickers #0 that seemed like a pointless dialogue sequence between the title characters until the awesome twist at the end. Very much worth reading (and I think #0 is free on Comixology). Probably my only real gripe is the pacing, as two arcs over two years seems a little lite for a story that otherwise feels very fast-paced.

Dragon Age or Lord of the Rings this is not. Skullkickers is an (awesomely) irreverent fantasy yarn that's both funny and full of butt-kicking action. I assume it'll get officially turned into an RPG someday (maybe soon).

You can purchase Skullkickers at (in individual issues or trades), (volume 1 and volume 2), on Comixology and at your local comic book store.