by Jim Zub (writer), Edwin Huang (artist), Misty Coats (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer)

The Story: At their own celebratory dinner, our two adventurers find themselves framed for a bloodbath they didn’t commit.

The Review: It’s been a while since I’ve read Skullkickers.  I picked up the first issue and found myself disappointed, and moved on to other books.  With this being the first issue of the second arc, I figured I’d give it another go.

One thing that certainly hasn’t changed since issue 1 is the art.  Wow, wow, wow is this comic pretty.  Between Edwin Huang’s big-budget comedy anime feel and Misty Coats’ bright, vibrant colors, this is a book that’s larger than life and absolutely brimming with energy.  While still looking like a cartoon, it’s work that’s really detailed, full of character, and really polished.  The world Huang and Coats create is immediately likable.  This is a world that’s so full of life with a cast of characters that all look adorable.  It’s the sort of comic that has art that makes you really, really want to like it.

What makes this issue better than the last time I read it, however, is Jim Zub’s writing.  I won’t necessarily say that it’s improved, only that he hits  more of the right notes this time.  Skullkickers is just the kind of book.  It’s a comic that launches a never-ending stream of jokes and, as is usually the case in situations like that, not every joke is going to be a hit.  This month, his hit percentage is significantly higher than when I last read the book.   His jokes hit the mark far more often than they fall flat.  There are still a few that felt forced or didn’t hit the mark, but overall, this was a book that left me smiling more often that not.

Part of this is because Zub goes for natural avenues of humor that suit this comic well.  For instance, putting the two adventurers into a royal court situation leads to the sort of “fish out of water” comedy that is a natural fit for this comic and it’s rough and tough characters.  Seeing the dwarf’s attempt at polite dinner conversation, for instance, is hilarious.  Other jokes succeed as well, for instance, the running disparaging of the unfortunately named town of Mudwich.

It also helps that the book’s climax, which see our two heroes being framed for a VERY blood crime, is perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever read out of Skullkickers.  The whole bloodbath is so ludicrous that I couldn’t help but laugh.  Zub takes such glee in the excessive gore and the….”descriptive”….sound effects he uses to capture the violence are really, really funny.  One of these sound effects in particular made me laugh out loud.

While not all the jokes are winners, this book’s humor succeeds far more than it fails.  Frankly, the only glaring weakness is new character Kusia, the hooded assassin whose face we finally get to see.  Put simply, she’s just not a very interesting or compelling character and seems derivative at this point.  On the one hand, it may not seem fair to criticize her as such given that this is the first issue where we’ve really gotten to see her.  However, that should also mean that Zub should tantalize us into wanting to know more about the character, and that was definitely not the case, as I was left ambivalent.

Conclusion: After issue 1, I forgot about this book.  After this issue, I’ll be taking a look at issue 8.  Call it a win.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans