Do you like Ke$ha?!
Do you like Lord Of The Rings?!
Do you like punk rock?!
Do you like horned apes?!
Well then, you might enjoy Jim Zub’s “Skullkickers” from Image Comics. When Romeo Sid Vicious originally recommended this series to me, I was skeptical. I’m not a huge fan of fantasy. Demon Knights was fun, briefly. I kind of appreciated Lord Of The Rings. But, on the whole, Skullkickers would appear to be way out of my wheelhouse and even possibly removed from my realm of interest. That’s why I didn’t read/review it before.
If you are like me and read a lot of top 40-style comics, you’ve been up to your neck in time travel and reboots. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been great, but I just found myself wanting to read something simple and constant. So one fateful afternoon, I sat down with the 18 issues of Skullkickers and could not put it down.
Jim Zub’s madcap antics and even “dangerous” approach to his comic book is refreshing and unique. I can guarantee you that the brand of comedy infused, action-fantasy that Skullkickers brings to the table would be hard to find in another comic book published today. The nearest analog that I have discovered is the Earwolf podcast, Nerd Poker. In the podcast, some comedians (who are good friends) sit around a table and play a semi-serious game of Dungeons and Dragons together. As they play and scour through manuals to pull off RPG-shattering attacks, they often quip and bs anachronistically. You would think that this might take away from the legitimacy of their D and D game, but I find it to be quite the opposite. Their innate humor allows me to engage, let my guard down and genuinely enjoy the show. It’s hilarious and has cultivated an interest in role-playing games that I never thought that I would have.
Skullkickers does the same thing for me with fantasy comics. Zub’s humor and complete lack of pandering to the reader allows me to buy-in and go for the ride with him. There are two barbarian mercenaries engaging in weird and wonderful adventures that feature zombie legs, rude fairies, and a gun. Zub is completely in control and gives you the world as he sees fit and within his pacing. It’s cleverly laid out and keeps time with each and every offbeat maneuver. After reading Skullkickers 1-18, it is simple to be a fan of the book, but things are getting even better.
In what would appear to be a direct “bleep you” to the mainstream comics industry, the Skullkickers team has begun to release Skullkickers issues with adjectives attached. This is a clever dig at an industry that essentially recycles stories and slaps these new adjectives on them, starting over at a new number one issue for maximum profitability. As Marvel NOW! rolled out Uncanny X-Men, Savage Wolverine, and Uncanny Avengers, Zub released Uncanny Skullkickers and Savage Skullkickers. These rebellious jabs started over at number one issues, even though they are contiguous and the cover treatments have a punk rock feel to them. All of these things are great, but Skullkickers gets even better.
The new adjective’d Skullkickers issues are even better than the originals. The writing is tight and the story focused. It plays on old tropes from the first 18 issues and some totally new things. An old element brought back is the horned apes (in all of their previously-unseen profane glory) and it is a perfect choice as it connects us to a silly high point in the series. Something new is the burgeoning (romantic?) relationship between Rex and Kusia. These elements are very solid and keeps the story substantially whimsical. Uncanny Skullkickers has a running gag through the entire issue that just kills me. It’s so funny and Zub addresses a common problem in the comics industry by firmly putting his tongue into his cheek.
Whether you like Zub’s Skullkickers for his unconventional story-telling, his non-conformist plot elements, or simply the rich characters, I am right there with you. If you have never tried this due to lack of interest, you should re-think that position. You can purchase Skullkickers in volumes at your local comic store, or if you don’t know where that is, use mine mycomicshop.com. “Dark Skullkickers Dark,” the next step in the current story arc, will be available on April 26th.
~ Scott Deaux ~