Indie Comics Spotlight: Uncanny Skullkickers, Bodie Troll, Amala’s Blade

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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.

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    One Comment

  1. Samantha PungMarch 5th, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    My friends Shane and Chris Houghton have a comic book that is pretty awesome. It’s called Reed Gunther – a Cowboy who rides a bear instead of a horse. They are great!

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