Story: Jeff Lemire
Art: Tonci Zonjic
Letterer: Steve Wands
What They Say:
Spiral City finds itself trapped in a vicious cycle of crime, corruption, and violence. With the heart of the city at stake, a vigilante rises in Skulldigger. However, when the nefarious Grimjim escapes from prison, will Skulldigger and his ward, Skeleton Boy, be enough to save Spiral City?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With the main Black Hammer series over for now and things a bit uncertain as to where the shared mini-universe will go from there, the first project out of the gate is this one. Jeff Lemire isn’t quite ready to completely let go just yet, hence his writing it, but with so much to explore within this world I’m more than happy with that. We get some familiar material here that plays with the basics of the birth of a hero where you know it’s going to go in some other direction. We also get some great artwork with it as Tonci Zonjic has stepped up to the challenge. I love the look he gives us for the two title characters when dressed up but I’m also loving all the little character bits throughout in how they’re put together, from the prison guard to Grimjim.
The opening part of the story is a familiar one as we’re introduced to a young boy whose parents have been taken from him. It was a simple event of random violence in the city, one he holds himself responsible for at this young age because while out at dinner he begged for dessert which kept them later and placed them in this thug’s path. With him having seen the face of this violence it means the child too must die, but that’s stopped thanks to the arrival of Skulldigger, a massive brute of a hero that doles out the hard justice to those that need it. There’s what feels like a good side to him as well as he tries to get the kid to look away, but he needs to see this form of justice enacted. And he now finds himself only able to feel right with Skulldigger, though that’s something that’s believed to be temporary as Skulldigger wants to get the kid some help.
We see how the cops want to handle this, with the detective Reyes wanting to take down Skulldigger as he’s just as much a problem as the now-dead thug. But her superior won’t allow that and, awkward as it is, it doesn’t take long before the kid somehow ends up in Skulldigger’s alter ego’s custody for a while. One where he’s a butcher of all things, which is a little on the nose. There’s some good stuff here in exploring how the cops are treating this and how Reyes will be on the kid’s trailer to find clues. And we get the first blush basics as to Skulldigger’s real life. But we also get a seemingly unconnected bit focusing on the villain Grimjim as he’s decided after seeing some unrelated news that he’s ready to get out of prison and get back to some criming. Grimjim doesn’t have a lot here but there’s just enough to tantalize and see why he may be a good foil for Skulldigger and the new ward that will be getting his own mask.
The allusions to popular and familiar heroes in this origin story are no surprise as there’s plenty to mine here, from the deaths to seeking a way to cope with it and the costuming element itself. I love the cover artwork because it’s just so striking and makes clear that it’s working in really dangerous territory considering the age and how it’s viewed through a modern lens. Lemire works the basics here but handles it well structurally so that it teases the bigger picture but still being its own thing. Within that, Zonjic gets to deliver a work that looks appropriate grim, grimy, and oppressive but with those little sparks of hope and rebellion within the characters and settings. I’m definitely interested in seeing where this goes as mostly it’s just something that I can see only properly ending badly for certain characters. With strong results through other spinoff works from Black Hammer, I’m definitely excited for this one.
Age Rating: 15+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: December 18th, 2019