Filed under: Comic Reviews, Image Comics | Tags: coats, huang, image, skullkickers, zubkavich
The previous issue of this fine comic book ended on a sweet cliffhanger, with Baldy about to get into a tussle with a recently hatched Thool. For those who don’t own an up to date copy of the ‘Fieldspotter’s Guide to Thools’, they are are horrid stinking purplish creatures which hatch from eggs. Issue #13’s cliffhanger was so great in fact that Team Skullkickers have decided to keep it hanging there and make us wait a while longer for resolution. Opting instead to lead us by the hand deep into the mythos of Skullkickers, by beginning to explore the origin of ‘Baldy’ and of course, his gun.
Comic book fans are crazy for origin stories and so it’s testament to Zubkavich’s story telling skills that he’s managed to keep this much speculated upon origin for issue 14. Or maybe it’s because Skullkickers fans want something a little different from their comics, something other than super secret origin re-tellings or year one reboots. Anyway, in issue 14, the second part of the current story arc, we get to go way back to the heady frontier days of New Mexico in our exploration of Baldy’s beginnings.
It’s a classic cowboy story, our Baldy is Rex Maraud the lone stranger riding into town upon a wave of speculation and mystery. He’s got long hair reminiscent of a certain footballer in a shampoo advert and an even longer reputation. The art here reminds me of cut scenes from quality video games like final fantasy. There’s a clean quality to the lines that mixes well with the luxuriant colouring. The colour palette is infused with dusky heat to the extent that you can feel the sand caught up in the winds, it’s totally immersive.
‘Ol Baldy or Rex as he has come to be know in this issue, plays the lone gunman well, his dialogue is sharp and witty and most of his narrative is personal, only privy to him and us the reader. We’re along for the ride and we can join him in his anxious waiting before the serious business of shooting monsters and cultists begin.
These narrative tricks are continued over a couple of storming pages in which Rex battles the Thool, only this time we become aware of the Thool’s inner thoughts. It’s a frightening thing as it tries to consume consciousness. White backgrounds and colours fading rapidly from panel to panel execute this battle to great effect. As the evil and demonic Thool makes its wishes known to Rex there is an immediate change of pace in all respects. Dialogue, colouring and layout all alter to offer a bizarre sense of calm in the midst of chaos.
Reading back this review I am hoping you won’t think that all the fun has gone out of this comic. Far from it, in fact it’s one of the most fun issues, possibly only second to that time where Ginger used his own open bleeding wound to vanquish an enemy. The gags we love are still here, the acerbic dialogue and hilarious sound effects are all still here in abundance. Over the last few issues it’s as if everything else in the comic has ramped up to match it. The storytelling has become more inventive, narrative more interesting. The art has also stepped up to take on a role in story telling and real serious mood setting.
In summary, this comic is getting better and better and is well worth your time picking up. If my reviews haven’t sold you on it you can check it out online here.
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