I might be a bit late to the party on this one, but I've recently caught myself up on an exceptional Image comic series called Skullkickers. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, so I thought I'd share why.
Skullkickers is a series about two nameless mercenaries (a dwarf, nicknamed "Shorty" and a human, "Baldy") who have become embroiled in a plot rife with assassination, dark magics and necromancy. Along the way, there is much violence to be had, as Shorty is a fan of using two axes and Baldy posesses a quick-shooting revolver.
The gun is one of many objects that seems a bit anachronistic for the book's fantasy setting, but the light-hearted tone and heavy dose of comedy makes it fit in.
The hearty dose of violence and the strong dialog is what makes the book; even though Shorty is a steroptypical dwarf in every sense, his wry humour (which doesn't come at the expense of his intelligence) makes him a winner. Baldy plays the straight man in the sense that he's the less maniacal one; when there's money or violence on the line, he's as likely to throw down as the dwarf is.
I like Skullkickers because it manages to strike a perilous balance between good humour and good fantasy storytelling. While you can have both, it's difficult to combine them without the humour taking center stage. Skullkickers manages to keep the laughs coming while crafting rich characters, and a kick-ass setting to put them in.
Also included are a number of tongue-in-cheek extras, which serve as a little bit of icing on the proverbial cake. I enjoyed the RPG stat blocks for the two main characters, as they made sense: having a "teamwork" attribute (Baldy can knock foes prone with his gun, while Shorty can behead them with his axe afterward) made sense from the comic's point of view, and was a really nice addition. Things like issue #8's paper dolls just seemed like a bit of a spoof from comics past; it gives readers who are willing to cut up their comics something a little extra.
Really, I think comics needs more of what Skullkickers is selling: solid storytelling, interesting characters and the ability to take a tired setting like high fantasy and infuse it with things that make it better. Sure, the book could've abided by the standard tropes that have been established over the decades, but it didn't. It molded it into something better. Which I can't argue with in the least.
Skullkickers has one trade paperback in bookstores right now, and is ongoing.
Matt Demers is a Toronto columnist who throws out columns for NGP on Sunday. You can find him on Twitter, or follow him on Tumblr.