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COMMENTARY TRACK: “Skullkickers” #5

by  in Comic News Comment
COMMENTARY TRACK: “Skullkickers” #5

Axe-wielding dwarves, gun-toting strongmen, corpse giants, demon lords and a whole ton of laughs — all of that and more can be found in the pages of “Skullkickers,” Jim Zubkavich and Edwin Huang’s recently launched Image Comics series. A swords-and-sorcery tale told through the framework of a buddy comedy story, “Skullkickers” focuses on two currently unnamed colleagues, a pistol-wielding bald man and a headstrong dwarf, as they accept jobs chasing down monsters, sorcerers and other horrible creatures.

“Skullkickers” #5, which arrives in stores today, brings the series’ first story-arc to a close. To mark the occasion, Zubkavich joined CBR News for an exclusive and extensive analysis of the latest issue of “Skullkickers.”

SPOILER WARNING: The following commentary discusses specific story elements and plot points from the latest issue of “Skullkickers.”

Jim Zubkavich: It’s amazing to finally see this issue come together. I actually wrote the outline for this arc and pitched it to Erik Larsen back in June of 2008. The roller coaster ride that ensued had a lot of highs and lows, with many other projects and responsibilities getting in the way before we were finally able to see the comic come to life. Completing the first adventure and getting it off to press is really fulfilling and exciting.

Beyond that background stuff, the page itself couldn’t please me more. Edwin and Misty encompass all the swashbuckling stupidity of the story in one giant chaotic mass here.

We’ve done a lot of physical humor in this book, but this page is banter-driven and I wanted the rapid-fire dialogue to really drive tension here. Time is running out and people are arguing; It’s a perfect recipe for intense interaction.

When the Corpse Giant comes calling at the village of Mudwich, I really wanted it to look horrifying and ominous. This dripping horror is reminiscent of the half-formed God Soldier from “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.” I’m not sure if that influenced Edwin, but that’s what it reminds me of, in a good way.

People keep asking why Baldy is carrying a pistol in a medieval fantasy world. It’s one of a kind and will be explained down the road. Little interactions like this are meant to drive home the fact that people don’t recognize it or understand how it’s supposed to work. There’s actually an entire sequence in the upcoming second story arc where someone else tries to use the gun, with hilariously violent results.

Marshall, our letterer, has been a real saint about all the stuff I throw at him each issue. I like having tiny word balloons of commentary from the nearby peasants, even if they’re not shown in the panel. I think it adds to the feeling of chaos and noise as all Hell breaks loose. They’re small enough that a reader might pass them by the first time they read the book, but they’re worth hunting down on subsequent readings for an extra chuckle.

After having his left leg possessed by a demon in issue #4, our little dwarf buddy finds himself in a precarious position. The demon souls all merged to create the Corpse Giant monstrosity and his leg is part of its structure, fused to the whole. I described it in the script that he was “hanging out of the back of the Corpse Giant’s head like a dwarf-shaped ponytail.” Edwin delivered the goods, as always.

Do demon-fused Corpse Giants have brains? Apparently, the answer is…yes! When the dwarf tries to pull his leg out, he causes brain damage. Good times.

How did our idiotic duo defeat the Corpse Giant? Pick up issue #5 and prepare to be amazed. Even though you now know it’s been beat, believe me, it’s well worth the price of admission to see how they pull it off.

These next two pages purposefully call back to our first issue with the exact same panel layout and backdrop. There’s a simple structure to the beginning, and end of this arc that brings things full circle.

We finally get a glimpse at some of the big badness in the world of “Skullkickers.” Taxthalmus is a demon lord of immense power who will be causing quite a bit of grief for our duo. Our two idiots have piqued the interest of some major powers and are about to become pieces in a much larger game being played by demons, gods and sorcerers. It’s the kind of fantasy pulp goodness that kept me reading when I was younger and I hope it excites our readers just as much.

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