In Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5, Detective Amanda Reyes has found Skulldigger’s ward, and fled with him. A tense discussion about warped priorities and revenge is curtailed when Grimjim appears and all hell breaks loose. Can Skulldigger save the day? Read all about it in your latest might Major Spoilers review!
SKULLDIGGER AND SKELETON BOY #5
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Tonci Zonjic
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: October 21st, 2020
Previously in Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy: the kidnapping of mayoral candidate Tex Reed brought Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy out to rescue the former superhero from Grimjim’s clutches. But it all went horribly wrong. With Skulldigger left bleeding out, Detective Reyes swoops and grabs Skeleton Boy. And now things are really getting started…
HE AIN’T MY HERO
Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5 is another stellar issue in a stellar series, that unpicks the superhero genre (most obviously Batman) while encapsulating it all in an exciting adventure. It’s been many decades since the industry decided to examine the entrails of its own tropes, and SKULLDIGGER is another in a long line of examinations that asks the audience to check their understanding of the genre at the door.
First and foremost, Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5 is a fast and furious comic. While not much happens, it is fierce, in the discussions between Reyes and Skeleton Boy, about the impact of the death of his parents, and the damage that Skulldigger has done to him. In previous issues, Skeleton Boy has appeared strong in his determination to avenge his parents, so strong he has convinced Skulldigger to take him on as a ward. It says a lot about how revenge can warp the spirit and perspective that Skulldigger is convinced (it also says a lot about Skulldigger’s mental state that he can be convinced by a child to turn him into a lethal fighting machine).
The power of this issue comes from the discussion between Reyes and her partner, and Reyes and Skeleton Boy. Reyes’ relationship with her partner is fraught, with Reyes’ devotion to her work central to that tension. Set in the mid-90s, on the cusp of greater rights for the LBGTQI+ community, Reyes still has the sense of hiding who she truly is, as evidenced by her response to Skeleton Boy’s question ‘That your husband or something?’ Reyes responds – ‘Or something’ which points to the tension of her identity and embrace of it.
Identity is also central to Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5, with Skeleton Boy refusing to acknowledge the damage done to him from Skulldigger’s help, even as he eventually breaks down and tearfully embraces Reyes. Whatever obscenity happened to Skulldigger to make him the way he is, his ‘ward’ still has the chance to turn his back on it – at least in the brief moments before Grimjim turns up and drags him away.
Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5 features less of the titular character than you might expect, but his presence hovers over everything. Spiral City is in the clutches of madmen, a den for crime and violence on such a scale it has spawned a vigilante whose lack of mercy is commensurate with the sin saturating it. Lemire captures the essence of vigilantism in all its shuddering glory – Skulldigger’s implacability, which he has imbued into an impressionable, grief stricken child. Revenge is central to the story – Skulldigger’s revenge on criminals, Skeleton Boy’s seeking to avenge his parent’s murder, and even Reyes’, seeking a measure of…something from a city and world that marginalises her, despite her evident skill and determination.
Tonci Zonjic’s artwork, as ever, is strong and intense. It has that feeling of the power fantasy central to such comics as Batman and the Punisher, of characters motivated to go above and beyond normal codes of morality to achieve a larger victory, that of punishing sinners for their failings. Skulldigger dominates the panels he appears in, and even Reyes is all broad shoulders and slim hips, ready to duke it out with the bad guys even as she struggles to maintain a healthy, normal relationship.
BOTTOM LINE: PULSE POUNDING
Stories like Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5 can only exist in the comics genre, in that space where art and writing come together to create a more powerful whole. Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5 provides us with a sad, affecting examination of two people under enormous pressure, doing their best to cope in a world that refuses to relent for even a moment. The specter of violence hovers over the issue, and while it isn’t realized, it certainly points the way to what will be a grand slam finish.
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Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5
Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5 takes a slight breather after the shattering events of the previous issue. It still provides oodles of excitement, even as two of the central characters argue over the rights and wrongs of revenge. It shows that even children, supposed exemplars of innocence, can be warped into instruments of revenge by those for whom morality is simply a word. Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #5 will have you thinking, even as you eagerly await the finale.