- Arise, Ye Skeleton King! #1
- Tesladyne LLC
- Story & Script by Lee Black & Brian Clevinger
- Art by Escher Cattle
- Letters by Tess Stone
A troupe of wandering
grifters “Adventurers” down to their last silver steal “acquire” a magic treasure map only to find the real treasure was the friend they dug up along the way.
All of the greatest fantasy epics feature heroic characters of varying races, working together to achieve a goal for the greater good. Humans, elves, halflings (hobbits, if you’re more into the classics), united of purpose as they use their skills to overcome adversity. Okay, before we get too far into this, I have to tell you that ain’t this book.
Arise, Ye Skeleton King (henceforth to be addressed as AYSK) does bring a diverse assortment of folk to the page, but they’re generally more interested in the acquisition of wealth (preferably someone else’s) than in handing out justice. Led by the humorously named Renfaer (I think it was the hat that really sold it for me), this troupe of performing ne’er-do-wells is used to the necessity of a quick getaway and staying one step ahead of an angry mob. In the first of what I hope will be many issues, the Circus of Wonder (“Comedy! Tragedie! & Divers Acrobatiques… NO REFUNDS!”) have acquired a map to “something big” and find themselves tangled up in an increasingly out of control series of events. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the “something big” is not-too-subtly hinted at in the title…
I’ve been a fan of Team Tesladyne since I stumbled across the adventures of Atomic Robo & his squad of Fighting Scientists a few years back. So much so that anything with Brian Clevinger or Scott Wegener’s names attached to it has become an instant purchase. Including, but not at all limited to, this particular Kickstarter project, written by Clevinger & Lee Black. Lacking any fully sentient atomic powered robots, AYSK brings humor and a sense of the outlandish to the table.
Staying away from many of the tropes mentioned above, Clevinger & Black are going with a seedier group of characters rather than anyone even remotely heroic. Not to say that it’s an unlikeable assemblage of folk, just that they wouldn’t be the first choice to carry the ring, rescue the prince/princess, or save the kingdom from the evil lich lord. It kinda works out, though, because as a whole this cast of characters would probably be more fun to hang out with than anyone found in anything with the words “epic” or “grand” attached to it.
Where Black & Clevinger excel is their dialogue. There’s this constant running, maybe rambling, conversation throughout the book… whether it’s Montagne pondering the mysteries of city life, Sila’s joyous discovery of pickles, or Erris & Renfaer going over the options of how best to “deal with” rival and reluctant partner Simnel. Just about every turn of the page drops readers into the middle of a conversation in progress- a thing that would be annoying in some books but here it seems to work as we’re all getting acquainted. Chalk it up to Black & Clevinger being able to craft a whole conversation, distil it down to its essentials, then chunk it up into pieces. The reader is miraculously able to follow along as though we were jumping into the middle of an existential debate among old friends.
Without a doubt, Escher Cattle’s illustrations carry their share of the load when it comes to the likeability of AYSK and its characters. With a very loose style that’s lacking anything hard or angular, Cattle sweeps the reader along with some great visual storytelling. Likewise, Cattle’s character designs do an awesome job of showing the character of the… uh… characters, including details & tidbits that set them apart from their stereotypically heroic looking fantasy counterparts. While we’re talking about the details, I want to make sure that when I say that Cattle’s style might be “loose”, I in no way mean that there’s a lack of minutia. Some of these panels are packed! There were a few times I was reminded of those old pages in Mad Magazine, where an entire story was told in a single panel that almost looked like a page from “Where’s Waldo”. There’s always something going on, whether it’s randomness in the background or major plot twists in the fore, every one of these forty or so pages was a blast to dig into.
Never one to pass up a chance to yammer on about great work, I’ve got to say some things about the lettering by Tess Stone. Far and away from just typing in the words, Stone’s got some of the most creative use of fonts going on in this book. Between the lettering style and the word balloons, there’s never going to be a doubt as to the mood being set or the attitude of the character who’s speaking. If there were to be anything resembling a complaint, it might be that with the use of bombastic fonts in the more emphatic dialogue, some of the sound effects blended in with the words being spoken. But I don’t know if I can really say that’s a complaint. Within the story there were moments where that exact kind of rambling narrative rolled along, and it was easy to get caught up as speech flowed into sound effect without a pause or a break.
More akin to the kind of meandering story you’d find yourself in if you were playing a game of D&D with longtime friends, full of laughs & back and forth chatter, Arise, Ye Skeleton King! has all of the comfortable entertainment value a reader could ask for. I’m sure there has to be something in there that I could check off in the negative column, but I’m still so caught up in the charm of it all that I just didn’t seem to care. Get thee hence over to Tesladyne and do whatever you have to do to get your hands on a copy of this comic. Fresh off of Kickstarter, it isn’t available for sale yet but if you harass Lee Black & Brian Clevinger enough you could totally make it happen.
Final Score: 12/13