ADVANCED REVIEW: “Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy: From the World of Black Hammer,” #2

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Skulldigger Skeleton Boy Jeff Lemire

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #2, published by Dark Horse Comicscomes from the creative team of Jeff Lemire (writer), Tonci Zonjic (artist), Steve Wands (letterer), and Daniel Chabon (editor). At the end of issue one, the supervillain known as Grimjim escapes from prison. The issue explored how Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy begin their relationship, with Skulldigger having saved Skeleton Boy. It also laid the foundation for Detective Amanda Reyes investigating the disappearance of Skeleton Boy. 

Lemire sets up parallel storytelling in this issue. One half focuses on the training sessions between a vigilante, Skulldigger, and his new apprentice. The other half characterizes Detective Reyes. The training sessions feel like a montage to read. Lemire, Zonjic, and Wands come together to play up the theatrics of the scene. The script expertly showcases how Skulldigger is attempting to break down the boy to turn him into his perfect sidekick. The boy knocks on the door he’s been locked behind to demand attention. Wands letters this knock with a spiked-burst that leads into a text balloon. A small detail that accentuates the depth and thought put into Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #2.

Skulldigger feeds on the anger within Skeleton Boy and trains his physical fighting skills through one-on-one combat. As opposed to providing onomatopoeias, Lemire puts us inside the head of Skeleton Boy. Developing Skeleton Boy’s sense of worth to Skulldigger as a fighter is well-crafted. The themes of dysfunctional relationships, childhood abandonment, purpose, trauma, and anger are jam-packed in these scenes. Zonjic colors these scenes red, symbolizing the innate danger of Skulldigger. 

Detective Reyes serves as the reader’s insight into the world of Black Hammer. Her work life is dysfunctional, as well as her personal life. The Spiral City Police Department doesn’t want a pending investigation into Skulldigger and the disappearance of the boy due to Skulldigger killing criminals. Reyes doesn’t want to be a complacent cop. Her relationship with her girlfriend is falling apart due to Reyes’s commitment to being a cop first and romantic partner second. Through them, Lemire showcases his ability to pen diverse and interesting characters expertly. 

The only time the script ever falters is when the focus is on the villain, Grimjim. Zonjic’s character design for him is menacing. However, Lemire writes him comedically. I would expect his dialogue to reflect the same level of intensity and weight as the rest of the characters have. However, Grimjim is a kooky and wild villain. Having him shout, “Let’s party…” and “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” feels out of place with the intense, high-crime atmosphere and the bleak tone of these first two issues. This jarring, tonal inconsistency sticks out partly because Wands letters Grimjim’s voice in a purple text bubble. No other character has a speech bubble any other color. 

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #2 delivers on most of the strengths of the first issue. With an explosive ending to issue two, Lemire is continuing to grow the relationship between Skulldigger and his apprentice. Even with weaker writing centering on Grimjim, this Black Hammer spin-off title is a must-read for fans of crime and vigilantes. 

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #2 is available where comics are sold.

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #2
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TL;DR

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #2 delivers on most of the strengths of the first issue. With an explosive ending to issue two, Lemire is continuing to grow the relationship between Skulldigger and his apprentice. Even with weaker writing centering on Grimjim, this Black Hammer spin-off title is a must-read for fans of crime and vigilantes.