Monday, 9 May 2016

Skull The Slayer #8 - Marvel Comics

SKULL THE SLAYER No. 8, November 1976
Despite its editorial column “Skullduggery” clearly suggesting that this bi-monthly’s Seventies audience were enthusiastically supportive of Bill Mantlo’s “great idea… [of] bringing back Skull and his crew to the original lost-in-time concept”, and “Marvel Comics Group” receiving “more than five-fold” the number of letters it was getting six months earlier, Issue Eight of “Skull The Slayer” is not only a rather overly-wordy book full of exposition explaining the origin of the Incan ‘god’ Viracocha. But it is also the final edition in the series, and as such disappointingly ends with an exasperatingly abrupt cliff-hanger: “Take them to the dungeons, children! Bind them well! For soon the false Son of the Sun will find himself bound to an altar -- as sacrifice to the Children of the Night!”

In fact “Riders On The Sky!” contains quite a few frustrating disappointments, not least of which is a somewhat incongruous cover illustration of a long-haired Samson-like Scully battling Pteranodon-flying archers which purportedly consists of an “initial sketch” by Marie Severin, followed by the perceptible pencils of Jack Kirby (and Frank Giacoia). This foreboding suggestion that the seventeen-page periodical’s creative team are slightly ‘off-key’ sadly persists within Bill Mantlo’s dialogue-heavy narrative, to the point where even the righteously resentful Raymond Corey is depicted supposedly enjoying his elevation “to the status of Gods” by surrounding himself with semi-clad native women simply because “it has advantages even this stiff-spined physicist can appreciate.”  

Fortunately, not all of the Brooklyn-born writer’s storyline dwells upon the trained soldier’s verbalised misgivings concerning his facially-disfigured host’s all-powerful dominion over the City of Gold. For once the disgraced Jaguar Priest Villac Umu has escaped his incarceration and spearheaded a coup against Captain Cochran’s “godhood” this comic finally makes a welcome return to what it seemingly does best by having Skull, his power belt glowing, battling Pterodactyl-riding Samurai in a terrifically action-packed sequence alongside his three companions.

Somewhat regrettably, Sal Buscema’s artwork for this Archie Goodwin edited publication, is equally as inconsistent as Mantlo’s characterisation of its supporting cast. The comic’s opening splash panel depicting the “five-year Prisoner of War in ‘Nam” stood atop a temple watching “the Inca warriors dance in the court yard of the Temple of the Sun” is incredibly dynamic, as is the Inkwell Award-winner’s drawing of the “great obsess cur” Oomatay beating his prisoner. Yet by the time Viracocha has presumably been dispatched by an arrow in his very own Throne Room and Ann Reynolds is wrestling with the heavily-armoured warriors of medieval Japan, the New Yorker’s pencilling has become distinctly angular and somewhat stiff in appearance.
Writer: Bill Mantlo, and Artists: Sal Buscema & Sonny Trinidad


  1. Shame it didn't end better, I thought it would have finished where the "Two in one" comic story would have started.

    Good review,

    Cheers Roger.

    1. Thanks Roger. Its a shame it wasn't given just a couple more issues as I'm sure it would have continued once the fan figures came in post Bill Mantlo taking over the writing. And as you say, its return, approximately a year later in "Marvel Two-In-One" doesn't pick up quite where this one ends...