Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Chronic Review: Skullkickers # 1!
Skullkickers # 1
Script: Jim Zubkavich
Pencils: Chris Stevens & Edwin Huang
22 pages + 3 pages of extras for $2.99
Hard to imagine any comic that hit the scene with more pre-emptive buzz. There's a recent trend for tiny creator owned books blowing up: Locke & Key, Chew, Morning Glories. Each of those books had the good sense to be worth money after folks had a chance to actually read them.
Skullkickers is a new breed altogether, though. This thing was commanding 5X times cover price purely on speculation. Now that's heat!
So now that it's out...does the work justify the hype? Well, no. But before I get into what Skullkicker's isn't, I'd like to start out with what it is.
This is a buddy cop story about a couple of mercenaries, set in a Dungeon's & Dragons type backdrop. Neither of the main characters have names yet. The dwarf likes to kick things and make jokes - we'll call him Dwarfpool, since that's what he is. His larger human partner is no stranger to combat but more reserved, refined, and has a detective's eye. We'll call him Cable Guy, since that's what he is.
Cable Guy & Dwarfpool scratch out a living curing monster problems. They take great delight in doing this, and Dwarfpool spouts a lot of one-liners. Fine, but we're not exactly re-defining the genre here, are we?
After a quick warm-up with a big fat werewolf, the boys stumble upon a potentially lucrative case - the assassination of a muckity-muck chancellor. Cable Guy spots a dark figure in a tower just before the chancellor takes an arrow in the face. Cable Guy chucks Dwarfpool into the top of the tower so they can cash in on the 1,000 opa reward.
The killer gets away after a some gum-flapping and monk-shotting, and now the chancellor's body has been carted away. The mercenaries negotiate a fee to retrieve the corpse, but by the last page Cable Guy & Dwarfpool may have bitten off more than they can chew.
This comic does have some things going for it. You don't need to read 53 other things to figure out what's going on, and you don't need to attend Dartmouth to follow the action. Speaking of action, there is plenty of it. The book is briskly paced, and while tastes vary I would say you're getting your $2.99 out of the comic.
But the Next Next Big Thing? No, not really. This is just Cable & Deadpool without Nicieza's wit or cutting social commentary. I thought the bit about the fat werewolf was mildly amusing, but most of Dwarfpool's jokes just don't land. Most of the humor consists of Dwarfpool being grumpy, which is fine I suppose, but not groundbreaking.
I found some of the dialogue jarring. Most of the time the characters talk in a kind of stilted, archaic pattern. Some of that works pretty well. Dwarfpool says "Don' worry, yer dignits. We'll catch the blooder!" I rather like that. Occasionally they break pattern and speak as though they just got done tweeting a post about Justin Bieber. Cable Guy advises Dwarfpool not to "go there", at one point.
It's not a deal breaker, and it's probably consistent with the tone of the book, which is entirely dedicated to fun. The comic does not take itself seriously, so I guess there's no reason to be slavish about diction. Your mileage may vary on that, but I wasn't in love with the speech anachronisms.
The only other item I found problematic was a blatant contradiction. The jerkwad law man forbids the mercs to chase the assassin on page 13... and then demands to know why Cable Guy isn't chasing him on page 17! Maybe the point was to demonstrate the fickle nature of the character. Maybe. I think it's more likely a screw up. Again, not the end of the world - but if the book can't keep that straight, how in the world can I really invest in it?
For all I know, this comic turns into a runaway freight train, and I wish it well. I wouldn't pay $15 for it, though, that's for sure. If your store sold out and you're interested, get with your comic shop and order the second print shipping in mid October. This is not a bad comic, per se. Matter of fact, I would guess that it hits my broadcast partner in a very cozy place and he happily adds it to his monthly pull. And lord knows I have shrugged my shoulders and watched feeding frenzies I didn't quite understand. Battle Chasers comes to mind. This could do very well indeed. But it's not for me.
So yeah. There's nothing particularly broken about Skullkickers, and I think I might feel better about it if it hadn't come with 160 metric tons of hype. It's a serviceable actioner with a lot of fun and energy behind it. But given the choice, I'd far prefer something like Red Robin. And comparing Skull Kickers to say....Morning Glories? To each her own, but that's like comparing fourth grade finger painting to a Rembrandt.