Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy is without a doubt one of the best superhero comics you can read today. The fourth issue was yet another excellent example of visual ideas coming together with superheroes, and Jeff Lemire and Tonci Zonjic are delivering an interesting take on some classic themes in a visually stunning way. In the fifth and penultimate issue, things come to a head, Detective Reyes takes charge, and Zonjic continues to blow us away.
When you start reading this book, you’ll notice the color is starkly red. Reyes has acquired the boy and has “saved” him, but doesn’t know what to do next. Interspersed are shots of yellow, which break up the red, but also connect with the headlights of the car. Reyes is pushing forward, unsure of what to do next, and the visuals convey this doubt. It creates a sense of dread, which may not be obvious at first, but build towards a dreadful turn in the story. This shifts to the use of bright white, which blows the book out in a visual way to convey the blinding nature of where the story is at.
As the fog sets in with the blinding white, the story cuts away, checking in with Skulldigger with an impressive double page layout of the character getting back to home base and resetting. The story ramps up well, focusing on Reyes’ predicament and the ever-growing danger of a supervillain after her. Vigilante heroism has been explored in this series and this issue seems to suggest there is a need for it with rampant and unpredictable supervillains afoot.
There are multiple pages and panels in this issue that are so striking they’ll take your breath away. Zonjic uses uncolored panels to hammer home a deeply emotional moment. These are shocking due to the use of color around it. White is used again with a “Smash” on the page and a skull flail that crashes onto the page. Later, a punch to the face of Skeleton Boy all in white is overlayed on a colored panel of the villain’s purple skin. It’s an impressive visual idea as it’s a panel overlaid on the fist punching it underneath. There’s a relationship between the two overlaid that may be a new visual idea to comics. It’s visuals like this that set the work apart from what usual comic book story.
As penultimate issues go, this book sets up the Skulldigger vs. Grimjim showdown that has been teased and set up from the start. Lemire never lets us forget the trauma and emotional impact that’s on the shoulders of other characters, but so far Skulldigger has remained relatively coldhearted and unemotional. He’s a sentinel of a sort that must face the villain he practically desires to vanquish. Since much of the narrative of this issue has left Skulldigger and Grimjim as forces of violence, it’ll be interesting to see if the emotional side of the story opens up for them.
Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy remains one of the most visually innovative and deeply challenging comics series to date. The penultimate issue sets up the showdown of the century and yet the art continues to be the showstopper. Do not pass on this series, as it has visually stunned and continues to impress panel to panel.
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