By Jim Zub, Edward Huang & Misty Coats
“YEESH! Whoever heard of a fat werewolf?”
This is one of the funniest lines to ever introduce a comic book series. Accompanying that line is the scene of a Gimli-like dwarf fighting a green-eyed, foaming at the mouth werewolf with a bulging belly. It strikes the funny bone like the axe used by one of the title characters in Skull Kickers, the comic book series created by Jim Zub and drawn by Edwin Huang. Skull Kickers is an anarchic send up of fantasy and a loving tribute to the genre. It is also an ultraviolent, action-packed adventure along the lines of Conan the Barbarian.
The heroes (or rather anti-heroes) of these comics are two nameless mercenaries. The first is the aforementioned Dwarf, an axe wielding, boastful and bombastic little man with a love of pine and fighting. The other mercenary is Bald Man, a large, muscular soldier of fortune. He is also the only character in the comics who carries a gun. Like many classic loners, they travel from village to village, duking it out against the baddies. As the aforementioned werewolf makes clear, their opponents aren’t your usual bad guys. In fact, their baddies range from typical bandits to demonic cults to a King Kong-sized monster. And these guys are pure badass in the way they dispose of the bad guys.
But these guys aren’t the typical white-hat heroes. They will save the village but that village better fork over the dough. Even when there’s a giant demon crashing through the gates, Bald Man refuses to budge unless he gets his 1000 opas. Not only are these two not heroic, they are almost as bad as the bandits they fight. After they rescue a wagon from bandits, they admit they were planning to rob it first. To be fair, almost everyone is as bad as they are, if not worse. The wagons they rescue repay them with a poisoned broth. Even the nobles refer to the common folk as “Simple Fools.” The only integrity Bald Man and Dwarf seem to have is honesty and loyalty.
Despite (and because of) their moral flexibility, these two are a joy to watch on the page. Either of these guys is entertaining on their own. Bald Guy is pure badass, especially with his gun a blazing. But the Dwarf is the real star of the show, a little man with a giant personality. Brash, muscular and bad tempered, the slurring Dwarf is loud in every way. But these two play off each other pretty well. I especially love how the calmer and wiser Bald Man has to get the Dwarf out of trouble, at one point stopping him from smashing a glass mug at another bar patron’s kisser.
The comic goes out of its way to make fun of the genre. In one story, Dwarf’s foot possessed by a demonic cult leader and proceeds to kick his own ass. Then they beat the cult leader so badly they need subtitles to understand what he says. The most notable running gags are the sound bubbles, which range from “Shudder” to “Corpse Stench.”
Though it makes fun of fantasy genre, it is clear Zub and Huang have a love and respect for the genre. Skull Kickers feels like a throwback to Conan the Barbarian. Both feature brutish antiheroes taking on mystical forces with only a battle axe (or in Bald Man’s case, a six shooter). The stories most often begin with them either brawling, shagging or downing brew skies at a pub. The take on beings nastier than they are all for the sake of greed and glory. Skull Kickers especially brings on the ultra-violence of Conan, with axes and arrows flying around, limbs flying and various colors of blood spraying on the page. Robert E. Howard would be proud.
 At least, that’s what I’ve read so far. I’ve only read the first volume.
 Referred to this universe as Opas. Why can’t these fantasy worlds just use casual terms for currency such as gold or coins or simply money.
 The nicest thing they call the folks is “easily impressed”
 Mostly for a story to brag about at the pub.