Thursday, June 20, 2013

Skullkickers: 1000 Opas and A Dead Body

To me there are two schools of fantasy fiction, as it applies to gamers: the fantasy fiction they think represents their campaigns and the fantasy fiction that does represent their campaigns. Skullkickers from Jim Zub and Image Comics is very much in the latter category.

I mean that as a compliment.

I finished this week the first trade of Skullkickers, it was my first exposure to the comic (although I had heard a lot of good comments about it online. Skullkickers, like a good band of fantasy adventurers, takes its name from a "heroic act" done by one of the characters during a fight with the big monster. I won't spoil it, but I wouldn't be surprised if people tried this with their characters in fantasy games.

The characters in Skullkickers spend a lot of time in bars, not surprisingly. If anyone else's fantasy campaigns are like the ones that I run, everyone's characters spend a lot of time in bars.

I enjoyed the art, and the fast pace of Zub's writing. They come together to give the comic an animated cartoon feel that I really liked. It has an anime feel to it that, while not everyone may like, it definitely appealed to me. The art as much as the writing adds a lot to the characterizations of our protagonists (I hesitate to call them the heroes), which is interesting because the characters aren't actually named in story. To be honest, I didn't even notice this until I was reading the introduction to the reprint of the first appearance of these characters (from the Image Comics published Popgun comic) talked about how The Man With No Name was an influence. Considering some of the terrible character names that I've encountered in my 30+ years of gaming, I think this approach is a good one.

The more that I read of Skullkickers, the more that I want it to be turned into an RPG, to be honest. I think that it would fit well in a game with an old school approach, like Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord. I don't know that I would want a character to have to deal with Shorty and Baldy during an adventure (most player characters are already disruptive enough) but the world of Skullkickers is very engaging and I want to explore it at ground level, inside the world, as well as read more of the comics. It is interesting that I am not a big fan of fantasy fiction, preferring the works of only a couple of authors in fiction, but I love it when fantasy is done in comics. Part of me would love to see a crossover between these guys and Travis Morgan.

OK, so, do I recommend buying this comic? A most emphatic yes. This trade is one of the most exciting comics that I have read in recent months. If, for some weird reason, you need to be further sold on this, there is a webcomic version of the early adventures of these guys. But you really should pick up 1000 Opas and A Dead Body on your next trip to the comic store. It is just that much fun of a comic.