Rating: 4/5 – Fantasy style adventures with a sense of humor
There are always those books that you mean to get around to reading, you like the creative team (or some part therein), you hear the good reviews, but it just never ends up in your hands. There is just too much good stuff out there to read it all. This problem is exacerbated by the sad fact that the longer you wait to get to it, it becomes more daunting to jump in. We at ComicSpectrum feel this same burden, so it was time to just jump in the pool. If I can’t figure out a comic book in mid-stream after this many years, it is time to turn in my library card.
Here we are looking at Skullkickers #24. To put you in my shoes, the little I know is, it is well received, Jim Zub is delightful on twitter (@JimZub), it is a fantasy setting and they do occasional issues called Tavern Tales (in between main story arcs) where he turns over the keys to other creators to take these characters for a spin. This issue #24 is one of those “Tavern Tales” so we have four tales to introduce us into the world. The book starts with a cheeky bit of fun on the cover promising us, Before Skullkickers, with a certain similar yellow trade-dress that would not be out of place over at DC. There is one element which links all four stories, lettering by Marshall Dillon, who seamlessly provides a necessary component to the artwork that works in all four tales. Having four stories with four different creative teams in one book is a gamble because while the book is casting a wider net with different styles and teams, there will be inevitable comparisons and it is unlikely that anyone person would like each story to the same degree.
First story has Ron Marz (story) and Stjepan Sejic (art). Sejic artwork is lush and delivers the goods. I am on record as saying that I think short comic book stories are very difficult to pull off. You have little time to establish your characters, set up the obstacles and get them through it. Here we have a young Elvish (you do capitalize “Elvish” don’t you? What does the style guide say) assassin who has one final test and if she fails, she needn’t bother to return. The story resorts to utilizing standard tropes but not to any detriment. It is a fun story with a bit of humor. I am familiar with this team and they deliver. First story succeeds and it was my favorite of the four.
Next we have Adam Warren (writing and breakdowns), Remy “Eisu” Mokhtar (line art) and Yinfaowei Harrison (colors). This introduces a gun fighter type character complete with cowboy hat and six shooter but he is fighting some sort of shaggy, white demon tiger with black stripes. I guess this shifts our traditional fantasy parameters a little but it still has that feel. Our fighter gets cornered by the beast and his six-shooter runs out of ammo. Can he get out of the trap before he gets eaten? The artwork is professional and tells the story well but it is a tough road following Sejic. It is set at night and the color palette is very successful and conveying that, out in nature, moonlight provides bluish light rather than the stark black and white. The story revolves around a single gag that culminates in the final panel. I am only familiar with Warren from this team and just from one Marvel book and a little bit of Empowered. Enjoyed this tale as well.
The third story is from Todd Dezago (writing) and Jeff “Chamba” Cruz (art). I believe this story features the two main featured players of the book, a dwarf and a big fighter. The dwarf is getting into a rumble while his partner is romancing a tavern girl and tells her the story of auditioning prospective adventurer/partners, along with some of the pitfalls. Most of the flashback sequences work well visually, but the backgrounds in the bar setting create an unpleasant harmony to my aesthetic sensibility when compared to the figures. I would imagine the backgrounds are computer assisted in some fashion. Mylack of familiarity with the main characters may have created some slight disconnect as well but very minor. Unfamiliar with either of these two creators. The story is successful but not as much to my tastes as the first two.
The final story brings us Jim Zub (writing), Lar deSousa (line art) and Misty Coats (colors). If the internet is to be believed, Zub and Coats are regulars on the title. Footnotes on the opening page let us know that we are dealing with the familiar Cthulhuesque entity known as “Thool” who discusses with the reader the concept of alternate dimensions in a breezy, familiar manner. Thool takes a light-hearted approach to his explanations leaving plenty of wiggle room which will not be unfamiliar to most long-time comic book readers. It is well executed, coherent with pretty pictures but very heavy in the exposition and seems to be setting up the next step in the book. The copy I reviewed also had two pinups at the back of the book by Sejic and Cruz. Strangely enough I really like the sequential art of Sejic in this book but the pin-up which is excellently rendered just don’t have the same vitality. The Cruz pinup has more energy to my eyes.
I think this works as a stepping on point for the book. For an issue #24, I did not feel lost and while clearly I did not have context for everything, I have also been reading long enough to not suffer greatly for it. Admittedly this book is different from the normal title but at a minimum you at least get a portion of the creative team. Feel free to let me know what you think.
Reviewed by: Andrew Sanford – firstname.lastname@example.org
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