In many ways, Skullkickers by Jim Zubkavich and Edwin Huang reminds me of the recent Pak/Van Lente run on Incredible Hercules. There's the fast-paced buddy-adventure, the ridiculous SFX, the goofy comedy, and a great sense of fun. That's about where the similarities end though as Skullkickers is definitely its own beast. Set in a world that will seem familiar to fans of World of Warcraft, the book tells a fun romp of two buddies doing all they can to get by. A fun gimmick that Zubkavich uses here is to not give either of his protagonists names yet, allowing their actions to define the characters. It's an experiment that mostly works, but it does make it hard to describe the book in reviews with any consistency. For the purposes of this review, we're going to call the short, feisty, hairy fella MacDwarf and the tall, pistol-slinging, bald guy Baldy. I'm just full of creativity today, aren't I?
|MacDwarf getting into a row with the|
Moving on, the duo is begrudgingly contracted by the mayor to steal the chancellor's body back from the local constabulary who are refusing to release it. It's a bit of a head-scratcher here, where the hierarchy of the land seems to be so feudal in nature, that the mayor of a town couldn't get man's body released from the local morgue, but it's a small nitpick. As it would happen, it's a little more complicated than knocking out a guard and stealing a corpse. Of course, there have to be tomb raiders and undead monstrosities. Another fight breaks out, with the pair taking on the raiders and monstrosities. Inevitably, Baldy and MacDwarf come out on top, but not before one of the aforementioned monstrosities takes the chancellor's body and absconds with it to unknown regions. Police show up and my favorite part of the whole book begins.
|They're going to get their information|
one way or another.
Unfortunately, the book stumbles a bit though the middle. The pair, in need of supplies, half-save/half-rob some travelers who turn out to be sibling poison experts. The humor attempted here really falls flat once you get past the whole "It's kind of amusing that people are squabbling over proper poisoning procedures" gimmick. It also paints a mildly conflicting portrait of the characters. Previously, and after this scene, they only did wrong by those they were hired to do wrong against or if they were first wronged. However, it seems now they are willing to blindly rob passersby for provisions. It's very perplexing and gives the characters a bit of a scummy undertone that clashes with their portrayal in the rest of the book. To kind of rationalize it, I chalked it up to them just messing with the poison siblings. So they leave, bringing obviously (to the reader) poisoned food with them, which leads to a fun scene where MacDwarf absolutely trips balls while his apparently iron constitution works through the poison. It's possible that Zubkavich is using this to foreshadow some future for the series, but nothing concrete is offered. All in all it's a fun little sequence that strangely reminded me of the "Whole New World" part of Aladdin except with a high as a kite dwarf possibly conversing with a cosmic entity instead of two Arabian lovers necking on a flying carpet.
|Half of the fun with these scenes|
is speaking the gibberish out loud
while you read.
Given this is a TPB, the extra features are a most welcome surprise especially given the title's $9.99 cover price (an excellent tactic adopted by Image to attract folks to new series). Included are the previously released material in Image's Popgun anthology or as Skullkickers #0 (read for free here) that give the reader an idea of what to expect from the series. Cover artist Chris Stevens lends his pencils to this introductory tale and he does a fine job. Should Huang ever have to leave the book, he'd be on the shortlist for potential replacements in my book. We also get a slew of character designs, another welcome feature that's sorely lacking from most trades today and it's fun to see Zubkavich's thoughts about what he wants each character to be. Finally, we get a forward by Robin Laws (Bio here) that delves into the comic role-playing game influences. It's an interesting read to see his view on the comic from his perspective, but it's not particularly memorable.
|Click to embiggen my extremely|
detailed criticism of some of
Skullkickers' cluttered panels
All in all, it's a quick read, but one you'll have a big sloppy grin the whole time you read it. Zubkavich writes with gleeful abandon and Huang draws the heck out of it, bringing his unique Korean-flavored art with him. There are a few minor flaws so far, but none take much of anything away from the story. With this in mind, I give Skullkickers Vol 1: A Thousand Opas and a Dead Body an uhhhhhh...
|MacDwarf delivers the verdict in the|
midst of his poisoned stupor
Disclaimer: Crakkajamma was provided a comp digital copy of this trade by Jim Zubkavich and Image Comics for review purposes. This hasn't deterred my desire for a physical copy and I can proudly say mine is pre-ordered and waiting for me on release day (March 9th). Hopefully, you'll pick up a copy and enjoy it as much as I did!