Indie Comics Spotlight: Uncanny Skullkickers, Bodie Troll, Amala’s Blade
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
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 its 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.
Bodie Troll #1
A good fairytale is generally the backdrop for a solid story. There’s a lot of room for creative license and rather outlandish scenarios, usually resulting in an unlikely hero facing off against a beastly enemy. Bodie Troll #1 from Red 5 Comics is no exception. The issue is written and illustrated by Jay P. Fosgitt.
In the fairytale village of Hagadorn lurks Bodie Troll. The fuzzy little grump wants to be big and crazy, but his cute and cuddly demeanor presents a problem in that regard. Fortunately for him, what he lacks in terror he makes up for in mischief. Fortunately for the village, where he lives becomes a saving grace when a giant monster threatens Bodie, the bar and the rest of the village. The first issue of Bodie Troll reads with a very lighthearted sense of itself. It doesn’t try to be anything too serious, instead recognizing that it’s a rather childish fairy tale. Not childish in an immature sense, but childish in that Bodie Troll himself acts like a kid with a bigger sense of himself than what’s actually there. That approach engenders him to the remainder of the village in a good way, as Bodie is a charming little troll with a penchant for saving the day when it’s required of him.
The series is very reminiscent of Princeless from Action Lab. Both books have an innocent sensibility about them that lifts the tone to a rather carefree spirit. Bodie Troll wants to be bad, but no matter how hard he tries he can’t. Further, the village loves Bodie and his adventures seem to be something that will really appeal to readers of all ages, especially children.
Fosgitt pulls double duty on art as well and the look is equally as bubbly as the story. Bodie is illustrated as somewhere between a gorilla and Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. The supporting characters also look lively and spirited, helping to foster a happy village, despite issues with monsters on occasion. While the art looks relatively kid friendly, it’s actually incredibly detailed, evidencing a commitment on the part of Fosgitt to deliver a quality book. Bodie Troll #1 is a rare comic that appeals to all ages and successfully entertains all ages. Bodie is extremely likable as a main character, even though he’s meant to be a fierce troll. The townspeople love Bodie and really want the best for him, encouraging him even when he feels as if he’s not quite cut out to be a troll. It’s a solid first issue that bears keeping an eye on and reading when it hits stores.
The book is scheduled for a release date of April 17, with the Diamond Preorder Code FEB131119.
Amala’s Blade #0
Robot pirate monkeys have a way upping the awesome quotient in just about anything they appear in, which, sadly, isn’t much. That’s ok though, because a book like Amala’s Blade #0 doesn’t rely entirely on such a monkey to provide an interesting story. The work features the writing and lettering of Steve Horton and art by Michael Dialynas.
A behemoth pirate ship is captained by a pirate with a fat price on his head. And out for that head is Amala, Naamaron’s greatest swordfighter (according to Amala). Naturally, the odds are against her. It doesn’t help matters that Amala has a running crew of ghosts questioning every single one of her decisions. Oh and she’s got a bit of a cocky streak in her as well, which makes things way more interesting for her than they probably should be.
The bulk of the issue is Amala sneaking around the Behemoth, a pirate ship. She’s there on the order of the Vizier, but other than that, Horton doesn’t really reveal too much about Amala’s backstory. What he does reveal is that she’s a very proficient swordsman with a knack for winning battles. Her target (Captain Cha’Kooh) is pitched as something of an angry fellow and why she’s after him will likely be explained down the road.
The “twist” in the issue is that Amala is constantly badgered by ghosts. Badgered might be too strong a word, but the ghosts serve to act maybe as different facets of her self-conscious. These different ghosts offer different critiques of her current mission, all questioning her from different angles. Amala herself is quite feisty and the ghosts seem to want to rein her in at least a little bit if they can.
Dialynas’ art is intense. It’s similar to Riley Rossmo’s work in Debris; full of scratchiness and motion in the panels. The color tone is largely on the darker side, effectively depicting a pirate ship on a moonlit ocean. Characters are showcased in poses that effectively reveal their fighting styles and Dialynas handles the action scenes easily. The pirates are something that appears to be part robotic and Dialynas manages to not let that aspect of them overwhelm the art.
Amala’s Blade #0 kicks off an interesting property. The concept of a character like Amala being a trained assassin isn’t exactly original, but there are many questions left unanswered at the end of the zero issue. The Vizier remains mysterious, there’s a fabled war between the Modifiers and the Purifiers that bears exploring and Amala’s contact with the ghosts is haunting. Horton and Dialynas have created something pretty cool though and is worth checking out.
Amala’s Blade #0 is available now.