Ain't That A Kick In The Skull?: A Special Early Skullkickers Review

 Skullkickers is the latest Image series to garner crazy accolades and fevered speculation before the first issue has even hit comic shops, alongside recent hits like Chew and Morning Glories. Fueled by positive early reviews, the first issue of Skullkickers has sold out at the distributor level before it’s even shipped (a second printing has already been announced). There’s always an element of hysteria surrounding this kind of pre-release excitement, and I find that, as both a reader and a retailer, I’m usually a bit suspicious that somehow, somewhere, somebody has manipulated the internet and/or media to give the book an added promotional push. I’m happy to say, though, that like Chew and Morning Glories, Skullkickers is a fun book with broad appeal that, unlike most of the offerings from the Big Two these days, makes a point to reach out to potential new readers with an accessible concept rather than trying to squeeze even more money out of an existing, ever-shrinking readership. The breezy script and slick artwork don’t hurt, either.

 Written by Jim Zubkavich and drawn by the art team of Edwin Huang, Chris Stevens, and Misty Coats, Skullkickers stars a couple of hard-drinking, two-fisted, medieval badasses who make a living tracking down and destroying supernatural menaces for money. The story opens with the duo busting up a werewolf cult, but they’re screwed out of getting paid by the local constabulary. Broke, the heroes—one a bald giant, the other a feisty Scottish dwarf—witness a political assassination and find themselves caught up in some kind of paranormal body-snatching conspiracy.

 The tone of Skullkickers falls somewhere in between Joe Madureira’s Battle Chasers and Todd DeZago & Mike Weiringo’s Tellos. The art by Huang, Stevens, and Coats has the exaggerated proportions and fast-paced action of the former, with the light touch and clean lines of the latter. Despite some gruesome subject matter, Zubkavich’s script maintains a fun tone—the back-and-forth between the leads, not to mention the barking city official who attempts to stymie them at every turn, brings to mind a buddy cop comedy transplanted to a fantasy setting.

 Skullkickers isn’t perfect—so far as I can tell, the two protagonists aren't given names in the first issue, and I’m still not entirely sure what’s going down on that last page—but, it is only the first issue, and the positives outweigh the negatives to be sure. What’s more important, though, is that Skullkickers is a comic that anyone can pick up and read without any prior knowledge of characters or continuity as a requirement. It’s also not trying to jump on the bandwagon of some existing concept that happens to be hot stuff right now (the supernatural angle means that either zombies or vampires could conceivably pop up at some point, but there aren’t any in the first issue at least), but is instead carving out its own place in a popular but under-represented genre. That kind of willingness to break away from the pack is always worthy of praise, advance or otherwise.