Superheroes with Substance - Dark Horse Comics Pick of the Week: Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy #4 Reviewed

Photo Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

After the shocking conclusion of Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy #3 revealed that our protagonist Skulldigger is the son of the violent and sadistic villain GrimJim it’s no surprise that things start to get, well, messy. Not just in the physical sense of the word, although the comic does start  with a retired superhero getting his fingers cut off one by one, and somehow manages to get even more shockingly violent by its end. But also messy in the sense of how these characters relate and play off of each other. If you haven’t been reading Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy (Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Tonci Zonjic) think of it as Lemire’s riff on a Batman or Punisher type hero. Skulldigger is a bruly, foreboding, silent and destructive anti-hero. He’s recruited a young boy, his parents the victims of a crime Skulldigger was too late to stopping, as his unlikely prodigy. Meanwhile, Tex Reed, the aforementioned retired hero who is now running for mayor (and also happened to be Skulldigger’s mentor), is terrorized by Grimjim, who has it out for Tex for stealing his son. It may sound complicated in this hasty summary, but Lemire is a master at peeling away the layers of his characters, and injecting them with a soul that the “Big Two” frequently miss. This depth leads to interesting and exciting dynamics between the characters. 

That’s not to say that Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy is just a character drama. When your main character’s weapon of choice is a metallic skull attached to a chain there is certainly an expectation that some baddies will get beat down. In issue #4 Skulldigger and Skeletonboy embark on their first official mission together, in a stylish and punchy fight scene at a bar where they attempt to beat information about GrimJim’s whereabouts out of some cronies. Contrasting splashes of green and red colors are an uncommon choice for such a gritty premise, but it works to great effect here. The dynamic between Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy is very refreshing. Skeleton Boy is just excited to be out busting up bad guys, but Skulldigger is trying to instill the serious values and implications that come with the brooding anti-hero persona. 

Photo Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

An extra cog in the complicated character relationship machine is Detective Reyes, who is attempting to find Skeleton Boy, who she views as a victim of kidnapping. This leads all the characters to a tense conclusion to issue #4. Lemire certainly knows how to keep his readers hooked. 

Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe has been nearly impeccable since its inception in 2016. If you haven’t read Black Hammer, and its extended catalogue of spin-offs, put it to the top of your reading list immediately. Lemire is constructing a superhero universe like no other. The characters are dynamic, the consequences are real, and the stories are downright great. 


- Neil Hazel