East of West #1. Another month, another possible hit series from Image Comics. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta bring us this inspired Western/sci-fi tale. It begins with three naked children (with the rude bits obscured obviously) appearing in the middle of the desert through a Stonehenge-like monument, but they are missing their fourth companion.
As is the case with Hickman, this is filled with big ideas, but thankfully they remain a springboard for an interesting story. The basis for that story is that after America’s Civil War, a meteor landed, and ended the hostilities, and created the Seven Nations of America. On the same day, Prophet Longstreet, and chief Red Cloud penned some important writings and promptly died, while years later Mao Zedong finished their work with his own writings, on his deathbed. These works came to be known as the Message. Like I said – big ideas.
In the future, three pale beings walk in to a bar, and seeing as two of the three are unwelcome Indians, and they’re in a bar filled with Union soldiers, a fight brews. Well, it’s a fight we don’t see until it’s over and then we see blood soaked pages, to be followed later by more of the same.
It turns out that the three warriors are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and yes, they are missing one, which I’m guessing will lead to a frenzied team-up, or cool showdown, or both.
Dragotta’s character designs are great. The three protagonists look like fighters from an unmade Street Fighter game, but with devoid eyes ready for cruelty. It makes them an interesting choice for lead characters actually, as so far, there’s nothing heroic or sympathetic about them, but we do know bad things have been done to them and they aim to seek justice. The first stop is the President, who must pay for his past crimes.
The setting is great too, and at times it merges Blade Runner with any John Wayne Western and it looks grand.
As an extra length debut, it’s very impressive and Hickman doesn’t get bogged down with huge concepts to make the tale impenetrable, and sets out the link between the kids at the start and the adults in the bulk of the issue, so we don’t feel frustrated at the lack of answers just yet. However, there are plenty of intriguing questions left.
Savage Skullkickers #1. Paying homage to Frank Cho’s recent Savage Wolverine #1 is this fun fantasy series by Jim Zubkavich and Edwin Huang. It’s actually issue 20, but is rebranded to have a little fun, so last month was Uncanny Skullkickers, next month it becomes Mighty Skullkickers, May sees it morph in to The All-New Secret Skullkickers and in June it becomes Dark Skullkickers. It’s hard not to love a series that takes such fun in ribbing the often frustrating reboots of Marvel and DC with such boldness.
Now, I haven’t read this series for months, and this is part two of a story entitled Eighty Eyes on an Evil Island, but it all made sense to me, and that’s a great bonus, as so few series these days are newbie friendly.
The playfulness kicks off immediately with a naked dwarf (one of the series’ heroes) landing in a pile of bones, while dialogue boxes from a narrator break the fourth wall, referring to the previous narrator, who died in issue 17.
After reading this issue I now regret not reading all the previous issues. I haven’t laughed this much from a comic since Axe Cop, and The Goon. There’s just so much to love here, from the dwarf’s ignorance of the deathly serious situation he finds himself in, to his fellow warriors’ ape fighting in the jungle to the constant narration, and dialogue, that is just filled with superb comic timing.
There’s also a few bonus pages here, showing off the amazing fan art that shows Skullkickers has many talented fans, and after enjoying this issue, I can confidently say that it deserves even more. Well paced, funny, and two plots that both look to be heading to some far out places. Yep, Skullkickers is a fun comic. We need more of those.
It looks great too. Huang’s manga-ish art is just joyful and expressive and Misty Coast and Ross A. Campbell’s colours give the pages the vibrancy that the story and art demand. The whole package looks like an adaptation of a crazy anime that was never made, because it was too out there for any studio.
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