The reason for such negligence? The simple answer is that I already own and read too much, and could continue this blog forever if I’d stopped buying comics, say, five years ago. The answer that merits discussion, however, is that this Sword & Sorcery adventure, slummed out in the sandals and crusty t-shirt of a Role Playing Game, reminds me way too much of Battle Chasers.
Which is what? you ask, aghast at my suddenly glazed eyes and beard of cheese dust. Battle Chasers is a medieval fantasy comic from the late 1990s inspired by the extremely popular Final Fantasy video games of the same era (wherein you literally darted in and out of fights with monsters, demons, etc). Creator Joe Madureira, fresh from his career-making artistic run on Uncanny X-Men, transferred the already fused elements of steampunk and manga from Final Fantasy to the kinetic realm of American comics.
Nerds feasted! because manga and anime weren’t yet ubiquitous, and Madureira’s character designs had the voltage of an August thunderstorm. We just didn’t feast often. Battle Chasers existed as nine issues spread across four years, and while scanning the new releases every Wednesday, I thought hunting Sasquatch might prove less frustrating.
Everything’s different now! Grandpa, little sister and the mailman have been manga-fied with larger eyes and shorter skirts. “Costume players” crowd into malls on weekends, where their tails and furry ears won’t land them as hunting trophies in someone’s living room. And comics that take it all for granted release like clockwork.
Skullkickers stars two monster-smashing mercenaries, and the tone goes a little something like this: “Yeesh! Whoever heard of a fat werewolf?!” It grinds lovingly against the cheerful art by Huang, who could draw Disney’s Aladdin without dropping a single grimace from his repertoire. Colorist Misty Coats adds an animation cell lushness to every page, especially the moonlit night scenes.
The first trade paperback, 1000 Opas and a Dead Body, is some addictive (and astoundingly light) reading about the murder of a young royal–and the theft of his corpse by a death cult. Our nameless heroes, whose actions are frequently narrated by a dice-rolling omniscience, are the only people in Mudwich (population: downtrodden) who see the fun in it.
And luckily, it is fun–though I suggest the $10 trade over paying three bucks per issue. Each one gives you some chuckling wise-assery, some cool creature action, and not really much story. That’s fine if, between rounds of D&D, you need reading material for the can. Then again, a little Lord Dunsany never killed anyone.