Review - Uncanny Skullkickers #1

Astonishing. Superior. Fantastic. Dark. Uncanny. These are all adjectives with a history of being paired with superheroes in comic book titles, often indicating an equivalent awesomeness within the pages. The words go a long way in making a grand promise, but do the books really deserve the superlatives? In the case of Uncanny Skullkickers #1 from Image Comics, the answer is yes.

The adjective laden title is written by Jim Zub (@jimzub), penciled by Edwin Huang (@ironpinky), inked by Huang and Kevin Raganit, colored by Misty Coats (@xsaydax) and Ross A. Campbell, color flatted by Ludwig Olimba and lettered by Marshall Dillon (@marshalldillon).

Rex is a man from another time and place. Kusia is an elf who wishes she was with anyone other than Rex. The two are creature-killers who have seen their fair share of creatures, one of the most recent being the Kraken, courtesy of Thool. It's the aftermath of that event that finds Rex and Kusia stranded on an island, full of dangerous creatures and unhappy natives. Of course, Thool isn't done going after Rex for the gun he wields, which means the island isn't quite a happy vacation spot, despite it's sunny environs.

Zub has a way of making the story feel incredibly relaxed. That is, his writing style is very apt in providing the reader with clever asides and stage directions, ensuring that the reader knows as much as Zub wants them to know. It's quite enjoyable and comedic, proving that even stories about monster hunters dealing with dimension-conquering demons can be a pleasure to read. That approach to writing also does wonders for characterizing both of the main characters, painting Rex as a rum-swilling, laid-back warrior and Kusia as a rather uptight--but ruthless--hunter.

Rex and Kusia are only half the story though. Throughout the entire issue, there's a panel on the bottom that shows a dwarf. Shorty the dwarf to be exact. Shorty the dwarf who's exactly drowned, floating lifelessly in the water that surrounds the island the other two are on. It's a rather morbid form of comic relief in a sense, because his body likely isn't going anywhere, yet the panel is at the bottom of every page. It's a reminder that Shorty is probably dead, but telling the reader that information once isn't enough for Zub.

Huang does a fantastic job on the pencils. Both Rex and Kusia are illustrated in ways that support their fighting and hunting styles, with Rex a bullish brute and Kusia a more nimble and agile prowler. Huang uses some great outlining as well to make characters stand out in certain panels. He also handles the fight scenes really well, going so far as to make sure there are some hero poses throughout the book. It plays into Zub's style beautifully.

Huang is joined by Raganit on inks, both of whom rely on the aforementioned heavy outlines at times. This really helps the characters stand out from the backdrops and receive more of the attention from the reader. Coats and Campbell infuse the book with a sturdy palette of colors, helping the book move from locale to locale and night to day. Even the color flatting by Olimba and lettering by Dillon keep the book feeling fresh and inventive. The entire artistic team does a bang-up job on the total package.

If you're a little late getting on the Skullkickers boat it might be too late, as the boat's been destroyed by the kraken. Fear not however! Uncanny Skullkickers #1 is a great way to get into the series from the newly established ground floor. Rex and Kusia are great leading characters in a world that's rife with a sense of situational irony and self-reverence. You can tell the creators really enjoy making the comic, so the least you can do is enjoy reading it as much.

Uncanny Skullkickers #1 is available on February 27 with interiors below.