Story: Jeff Lemire
Art: Tonci Zonjic
Letterer: Steve Wands
What They Say:
Skulldigger: well-meaning hero or violent murderer? As Skeleton Boy trains with an uncompromising Skulldigger, a hard-nosed detective seeks them out, determined to link the vigilante to the murders that orphaned the boy. But soon super-villain Grimjim’s plans come to a head, threatening to throw Spiral City into chaos.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The opening installment of Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy had a lot of things it needed to get done and it was a bit overstuffed at times, even for Jeff Lemire. This issue slows things down a bit so there isn’t much action in the traditional sense but we get the key pieces we need here. Lemire is building nicely this particular block of time and characters and Tonci Zonjic is delivering it visually in a great way. There’s a rougher and more angular look than what we’ve had in some of the other Black Hammer world books but I love how each one feels distinctive enough in its own right so that the artist can really make it his own as well as what the story is.
The time between our two leads is definitely familiar-ish origin material, though it leans more toward Brat Pack than X-Men, for example. Skulldigger is keeping the kid relatively locked up and all but he’s giving him the opportunity to better himself and to be a part of his world eventually. That means daily changes which is how Skulldigger teaches him to fight and survive, which is something Skeleton Boy is doing better with each and every time after a while. The two are bonding in their own way and we see by the end how they’re even finally eating together and taking in the news, which is its own problematic mess. But the gist is what it needs to be in that we get the right montage material to show how the kid is growing and that the choices he’s making are truly his. He wants to be like Skulldigger and get out there but it truly takes time, not just a costume.
While their time together helps to build that relationship, the other character we follow a good bit is the detective, Amanda. She’s frustrated by seeing how it’s obvious that the kid was helped or taken from his room and ended up with Skulldigger and more frustrated by her boss that she’s being told to just close the case. Everything is pushing her into this bad direction and it’s making her home life even worse as well, which fits in that standard cop subplot. We also see her storyline seemingly coming into contact with the mayoral race that a former hero is running in. There’s some amusing talk about the way heroing was in the past compared to the present in political-speak, but it mostly works in a general sense as well. The problem is that anytime you have a former hero come out publically in order to try and change the narrative, a villain from the past inevitably surfaces too.
This issue feels like it has a bit more room to breathe than the first one did with all that it had to introduce and it’s definitely a positive in its favor. I like all the subplots that are running while also focusing heavily on the bond growing between the two leads. The training is familiar stuff but it’s well-executed thanks to some great artwork and layouts. I like seeing the way these two interact with each other and the kids kinda weird eagerness in getting suited up and out there with Skulldigger. There’s a lot to like and I’m excited to see what comes next to see if it can really build on it more to be its own true thing.
Age Rating: 15+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: January 15th, 2020