By Greg Pak (writer), Ron Garney and Butch Guice (art), Paul Mounts (colors)

I’m a big fan of Greg Pak and Ron Garney’s work. I enjoy just about everything they do. And dammit, I want to like this book so much.

But I just can’t recommend it.

I still have reservations on how Skaar’s early years were tossed out the window (last issue), but since there’s no turning back I’ve come to accept the given story. Pak is trying very hard to make this a sprawling epic and this issue does everything the previous didn’t – but it’s still not enough. Skaar is immediately thrust into the confrontation with Axeman Bone, and I’m glad we’re not given the cliche outcome of “You can’t defeat me yet. Come back in a few years.” Instead, Skaar pretty much whoops everyone’s ass – even taking on some dragons – and it’s a most welcomed sight. Frankly, I’m surprised that this isn’t in Marvel’s MAX adult line. The intense violence is some of the most graphic I’ve seen in a mainstream Marvel book. That said, well scripted action sequences an awesome book this does not make. And that’s really all this issue is: a big fight and an introduction to a new character.

As for Ron Garney, well, the scenes he renders are freaking amazing. There’s no dispute that he’s perfect for this book. BUT. But… for the love of god, give this guy an inker! I don’t care how much he argues, fix this now. Stop trying to ape Dark Horse’s Conan style and give us something truly beautiful. You know, like the superior high fantasy art Marvel did in the 1970s? I can’t convey how much this pisses me off. Look at the cover of this book for Christ sakes – it’s fantastic and it’s INKED. Imagine how much better this book would look if someone inked Garney’s work.

I rest my case.

As much as I love the artwork, there’s a bit of disjointedness going on with the storytelling. This makes it hard to tell what’s going on at times. I’ll admit I had to do double takes and rescan over the art to figure out what was going on. A bit annoying, but if you can let this go you’ll be mesmerized by the art – especially when Skaar takes on the dragons.

The story is on the short side at 14 pages. Why so short? I’m thinking Garney was running behind on his deadline. This book is almost two months late, after all. For the remaining pages we get a back-up story with art by Butch Guice which gives us a different perspective on things, but is nonetheless, filler. There’s more meat to this backup story, but it honestly made me yawn. Butch Guice’s work is dependable as always, however – no complaints there.

I don’t know what’s going on over at Marvel, but if the lateness is going to continue I’d rather the powers at be just cancel the book. As much as I want to like this book, there’s too much going against it to make me want to continue buying it. Art that’s hampered by the non-presence of an inker and 14 pages of story? I’d rather put my money on a title that’s more timely. Besides, I can get this same fantasy element from Conan. So really guys, what’s the point? (Grade: C-)

– J. Montes