Savage Skullkickers #1 initiates newcomers the hard way

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Savage Skullkickers #1Skullkickers
Writer: Jim Zub
Pencils: Edwin Huang
Cover: Huang & Zub
Publisher: Image Comics

The first issue of this third incarnation is in fact the second reboot in as many months. It is the twentieth issue, following the nineteenth issue that also masqueraded as a first. Got that?

In simpler terms, adventure series Skullkickers kick-started all over again in February as Uncanny Skullkickers #1, after just over two years on the shelves. The popularity of this relaunch prompted Image to reboot a second time, and so here we are with Savage Skullkickers #1.

This adjective-swapping tactic is characteristic of a series whose tone is erratic and venturesome, and that continually pokes its readers with a nudge and a knowing wink. Unfamiliar readers curious to jump on board will doubtless find something appealing about giant monkeys and a dwarf with ‘tude.

Even as a relaunch the series doesn’t plant itself back on ground zero, with events leading on from preceding installments, established character arcs and an overarching series-long narrative. The bulk of exposition benefiting new readers was reserved solely for Uncanny #1; this issue then begins immediately with the continued, action-packed exploits of Rex and Kusia, two mercenaries currently at the mercy of raging apes. Following a few pages of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ overlaying an introductory combat sequence, the crackling dialogue eventually materializes in full and proves complementary to the colourful art style.

The one detracting element from the issue’s otherwise agreeable tone comes in the form of the narration, which attempts somewhat gratingly to be an amusing meta-commentary. The boxes barge into a substantial number of frames to impede on action which is by itself capably amusing; the effect subtracts rather than adds, but longtime readers who have ensured the series’ continued popularity will no doubt be accustomed and fond of its inclusion.

Indeed, it is these established fans that the series primarily caters for despite its double reboot. There are almost a dozen reference boxes included in this issue recalling events that occurred as far back as #8. For anyone wishing to follow the series from this point on, catching up on such a modest backlog will be no tall order, though it’s a shame newcomers can’t easily become immediately familiar with the history of what ostensibly seems like a fairly elementary, breezy set-up.

Still, encouraging your readers to do their homework is hardly a big ask, and searching backwards through the Skullkickers’ adventures is now as easy as a few mouse clicks. Judging by this ‘first’ installment, the mercenaries’ mishaps may be a worthy investment.

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