The third installment of the current Skullkickers (#27 from Image Comics) story arc releases today, and there’s quite a lot to catch up on for new readers. Jim Zub (Samurai Jack, Figment) writes high fantasy with attitude, salty meta narrative, and a confusing-but-appealing use of alternate dimensions, creating a ragtag team of heroes composed of doubles with very individual personalities. The latest arc, titled A DOZEN COUSINS AND CRUMPLED CROWNS, focuses almost primarily on Dead Rolf – either an original or double of Live Rolf, his alternate universe partymate.
Track back to Issue 25 for the full story (though, of course, reading the full series ’til then might give you an even better idea) but in even shorter form, a duo (sarcastic Bald Rex and drunken dwarf, Dead Rolf) became a trio (with the Elvish assassin, Kusia) before becoming a quintet with mute Live Rolf and the ‘gallant’ Other Rex, whom they met in a multi-dimensional tavern. After a fight over an upaid tab, the group was booted and sent to Dwayre, where Dead Rolf’s Mountain Dwarf family hails from.
Fast-forward an issue and a half and Dead Rolf sits awaiting an already botched execution at the hands of another version of himself and the King of Dwayre — until his newfound friends (let’s use that word lightly) sneak into the chambers and kick off a gigantic brawl to save him.
Along with the quirky, sarcasm-ridden writing style and High Fantasy but Drunk attitude, Zub is accompanied by an incredible art team composed of Edwin Huang, Kevin Raganit, Misty Coats, and Ross A. Campbell. Coats and Campbell’s incredible command of color shines in this issue through the action scenes, with detailed scenery and no confusion over where the reader sits in any scenes thanks to Huang and Raganit. The characters’ signature closed-eye look is far from a hindrance when it comes to expression, with an emphasis on body language successfully bringing the characters to life.
The obvious highlight and focus of this particular arc is Dead Rolf himself, who is classically the cause of his own problems: the story delves into his background and upbringing, an age-old story of struggling with conformity among his peers. In this particular case, Rolf starts out far more pacifist, unable to understand why he and his Dwarven cousins are expected to behave in brash and violent ways — but eventually forcing himself to overcome it, partially thanks to the loose drinking age of Dwayre at 13 years old.
This chapter, of course, ends on a cliffhanger that puts Dead Rolf at odds with Death once more in a near-avoidable way. In any previous installment of the comic, this reader may not have been as stunned or scared for the brash, rude Dwarf, but his back story and endearing development has left me on the edge of my seat, hoping he survives. Granted, he died once and came back, so…
As many of us know, Liquid Courage almost never leads to great ideas. Rolf finds his way over to the cave of the Wartyke, a legendary weapon made from the Crucible (which is, also, legendary) that once freed his people from imprisonment within the caves. Rolf enjoys a few moments of controlling the giant Wartyke before slipping and breaking it. He runs to the Crucible, which is something of a giant golden portal within the cave, and asks for it to take him away in order to escape impending punishment for breaking the titanic weapon. He awakens in a small village before we’re cut back into his current predicament, his accomplices arriving to rescue him.
Overall, Skullkickers delivers for multiple audiences; from fans of RPGs to high fantasy book lovers, this title packs every element of lore into a sarcastic little nutshell, then drops the nutshell and reveals that it’s actually a flash-bomb of awesome, fun adventure for the cynical comic lover in all of us. If you’re new to Skullkickers, track back to at least Issue 25, then keep it on your pull list for the hilarious characters, sarcastic metaspeak, and gorgeous artwork.
Stay tuned for Catrina’s weekly reviews right here on Geek & Sundry! Which comics are on your pull list this week?
Catrina Dennis is the Community and Social Media Manager at Geek & Sundry. She is obsessed with comics, dragons, and bad zombie flicks. In her spare time, she writes comic/gaming reviews and morbid fiction.