Comic review: Uncanny Skullkickers #1

Comics writer Jim Zub has been plugging away with his various takes on fantasy comics from the Pathfinder series to his hilarious subversion of the usually serious sword and sorcery genre, Skullkickers. Now into it’s fourth big arc, Skullkickers is back to kick skulls and forget names – except this time it’s coming with a new adjective in tow.

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Photo: Jim Tales

If this preview image doesn’t tell you everything to know about Uncanny Skullkickers #1 (or issue #19, which is pretty Marvel, if you think about it), read on – but it does encapsulate the entire thrust of the comic series in one page.

Continuing the tale of Rex the human dude with the mystical gun and his Dwarven counterpart named … (I’ve no idea really, I don’t think he’s been named yet, 3 story arcs in), the story continues after the disastrous battle against the Cthulhu-esque Thool (Coo-Thool-Loo?) which left Rex washed up on shore together with Kusia – and elf he’s had run in since vol 2 – and with no Dwarf in sight. In fact it can be rather disconcerting at first when you realise that Rex seems nonplussed that his Dwarven friend’s gone missing (we know from the previous series that he’s been pulled down into the depths), happily moving forward with adventuring with Kusia – but it seems that his statements do hide something deeper percolating under his steely surface. We’ll have to wait and see.

Even with tragedy and action permeating the issue – it’s clear that the comedy and high fantasy isn’t going to let up. Jim Zub even with replacing the Dwarf, characterisations help funnel the story ahead, and instead of two wise-cracking heroes you now get two different characters to play off each other. Kusia isn’t all seriousness of course (as the preview shows) so it never gets dreary, but admittedly it’s still the presence of Rex that helps drive Skullkickers forward. Still, all this kinda shows that Jim Zub should still be on Birds Of Prey (cancelled before he started) – it’d have been great to see what he would have done on it.

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Photo: Jim Zub and Edwin Huang

Artist Edwin Huang’s back in fine form again, providing a fine balance between comedy and epic art. This time he’s allowed to introduce his own take on simian life forms, and whether it’s small character moments or larger moments the art always complements the story – sometimes also providing a nice break with changes in the usual stiff panel lines. Right now I can’t imagine anybody better for Skullkickers – and I think this will continue to get better as Jim Zub and Edwin Huang work together. Huang’s been busy mostly with Skullkickers and some Udon stuff, but it’ll be great to see him on bigger books, though I must say that the manga-wave of the late 90s / early 00s hasn’t been quite the same for a while.

All in, Skullkicker’s still a great comedic take on the fantasy genre. There’s really not much to fault, other than wishing for even more of the funny, but that’s only a good thing. With the change of adjective coming in May to The All-New Secret Skullkickers (issue #22) it’s clear that Jim Zub has even sillier plans for his universe, so it’ll be fun to see how this goes.

What really sold me for this issue is the fact that the innominate Dwarf does make an appearance in the comic – in fact he’s in every single page. Telling you how it appears would spoil the issue, but let’s just say it has the potential to be the best Skullkickers animated gif ever. Now to find someone to make one.

Uncanny Skullkickers #1 is out in comic stores today!

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