It has been four months since Jeff Lemire and Tonči Zonjić’s last chapter of Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy graced comic shelves but the next and final chapter is finally here this week. Along with letterer Steve Wands, we finally get the final chapter in this modern masterpiece. It’s a series that I never want to end, but how does it do wrapping things up?
This is the kind of book you’ll want to read more than once. In part because it utilizes an opening that bookends well with the last few pages, but also because there are deep psychological elements at work. As one of the most visually rewarding books on the stands, this issue is a satisfying conclusion.
Opening in 1984, the book reveals a key scene between Skulldigger, who is then just a boy sidekick, and his superhero father-figure Crimson Fist. This scene, paired with the ending, gives us a clear understanding of what this series has been about all along. Lemire and Zonjić have effectively explored the dynamic of a Batman-type hero and their sidekick, and that has come full circle as Skeleton Boy has been kidnapped by supervillain Grimjim. From this, the narrative opens up and becomes more than a young boy seeking vengeance for his parent’s death, but making a choice when it’s emotionally unfair to ask a child to do so.
There’s a lot more than could be said about Skulldigger’s current plight in life, or how Grimjim runs around like a maniac as if life is about living in a chaotic fugue state, but that’s for another time and a much deeper dive.
It’s also an action-packed finale that doesn’t let you forget that the weight of the world is on every character’s shoulders. Skulldigger takes center stage here, and the opening flashback helps define this issue as much about him as Skeleton Boy, which helps make his savior story all the more tragic and interesting. There’s great action to be had here and you can feel the bone-crunching, or in some cases flesh-splitting, damage taking place.
The action is amped up thanks to Zonjić’s use of red, which is prevalent in the flashback, but also in key moments as Skulldiggere races to save Skeleton Boy and take out some baddies. Speaking of color, something that wasn’t quite clear in previous issues is how the costumes Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy wear glow in the dark. You see that quite clearly in this issue, from fight scenes, but also a sad full-page spread that is solitary yet bright thanks to the glow in the dark skull masks. Two other key scenes involve great use of blood splatter, but also a void of color at all. A starkly white and black two pages help convey a sense of thought and contemplation. There’s so much going on in this book on a visual level and it’s a big reason why this is worth multiple reads.
Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy ends on a contemplative and strikingly thoughtful high note. It’s sad to see the series end, but it goes out on its own terms with a strong commentary on what it means to be a sidekick in a much more brutal superhero world. For that, Lemire and Zonjić have exceeded superhero storytelling expectations and solidified this as a must-read for anyone serious about superhero comics.
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