Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Classics - Skull the Slayer #1

This week we have a "forgotten" classic for you - a comic that only survived for eight issues, but while it lasted, it was a wild ride.

Skull the Slayer was an interesting entry into the "barbaric hero" line of comics, because the story was set in the modern day (the issue is cover dated August 1975).

Written and created (and the first issue was even colored by) Marv Wolfman, the comic begins with a flight carrying some unusual passengers, including: Jim Scully, who's an accused murderer and veteran of the Vietnam War; a physicist who's always angry; a beautiful young woman; and a shy young man.

As the plane flies through the area known as the Bermuda Triangle, it passes through some kind of space warp and crashes in a prehistoric land. The survivors are separated, and Skull soon finds himself fighting for his life against dinosaurs and the elements.

The art is by Steve Gan, an artist who turned out quite a bit of work and then left comics to work in animation and other publishing ventures. It's a shame, because his work is excellent - he manages to combine elements of Gil Kane (who did that awesome cover) and Al Williamson. His characters are chisled, his settings amazingly detailed, and the action is raw and powerful.

Re-reading this issue after all these years, it's interesting to note a few similarities to the TV show Lost. The story seems on the surface to be a typical "marooned on a deserted island (with dinosaurs added)" tale, but we soon see that there are many more mysteries to be uncovered.

But when you get down to it, Skull is just a modern-day gladiator - an unlikely hero fighting the forces of nature to stay alive.

Sadly, the story would quickly spin off into far less interesting directions - but that first issue was just brimming with potential. If ever a comic was ripe for a well-thought-out reboot, this one is it.

Grade: A-

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