Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy is one of the best comics out today, and one of the most interesting commentaries on superhero comics at that. Jeff Lemire and Tonci Zonjic are crafting an interesting story filled with clever spins on classic tropes to help articulate the Black Hammer universe in new ways. Issue #4, out today, is a revealing chapter, one that not only increases the stakes but changes our conceptions of the characters. Yep, it’s another great chapter.
Issue #4 gives us backstory on a key hero who was skulking about like Batman in a previous issue — an older hero from an older time — as well as plot development from the detective trying to save the kid. This is a classic example of plots converging and coming together in a momentous moment in time where characters must act or be lost forever. The first three issues built up to this and if you’re not on board for more after this issue, you might want to check your pulse.
That convergence is made possible due to the amazing work of Zonjic. This series will likely be held up, and maybe even taught in classes, for its ability to set the tempo of a scene and pace in general. Often it is said a comic is “cinematic,” but what does that really mean? One might argue it’s the use of wider panels, but in many cases that still misses something. Not so here — this issue taps away at you and brings your own pulse up thanks to well-placed angles on the characters, interesting use of color, and to the attention of details to plot a course for your eyes across panels.
This issue is particularly striking in a visual way due to the use of color. At times there is no color at all, which may cut to a conventionally colored scene, which then cuts to a scene using reds and greens. The scene in red and green seems to suggest natural lighting is causing the effect — green light from pool table lighting and red from another interior light — but it’s an impossible visual style outside of comics. It creates a sense of awe, attention, and energy you can’t get out of other mediums.
Cutting to a page of only black and white figures — an image of Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy dashing across the cityscape — creates a relationship with the reader and the art in new and exciting ways. And that changes over the issue. It’s an intriguing element that makes this issue, and the series, an exciting one for comic readers both new and old.
Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy continues to visually challenge its readers in ways that not only excite, but increase the possibilities of what comics can do. If you like superhero stories, you need to do yourself the favor and read Dark Horse Comics’ best series of the year. Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy is one of the most rewarding experiences of 2020.
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