I have certain expectations when it comes to this series. Most of what’s on display in this volume is along those lines. Dwarven snow swimmers, Rex attempting dwarvish ventriloquism, the means by which Rolf is “purified” and absolved of all crimes, and the way he’s poured in order to obtain the singular title object all deliver on the goofy fantasy comedy front. The bickering between the narrative captions offer some clever fourth-wall-breaking laughs, while the title’s amusingly specific sound effects reach new heights of awesomeness as they break out into -- obviously metal -- song in the final chapter. We also get a story that (mostly) hangs together as Rolf faces Dwarven justice for past offences and we find out the (short) history of his people as they face an impending attack on their capital. The “Tavern Tales” shorts in this volume are also on good form, featuring amusing contributions from the likes of Adam Warren and Stjepan Sejic.
Yes, there’s certainly a lot to like here. Which is why I’m confused as to why writer Jim Zub is muddying things up by throwing in these different versions of protagonists Rex and Rolf. In this volume we now have “Rex With Hair,” “Silent Blond Rolf,” “Human-Sized Rolf,” and “Dwarf-Sized Rex” running around with little-to-no explanation as to why they’re here and characterization to match. Yes, it does look like Zub is building to some kind of cross-dimensional climax, as hinted at by Thool in his story, but I’m far less interested in that right now than seeing the Rex and Rolf we know blunder and bludgeon their way through this fractured fantasy world. Which is why the “shocking” ending here left me cold rather than eager to find out what will happen next. I’m sure there will be plenty of the things I do love about “Skullkickers” in its next volume. It just looks like they’re going to have to compete for space with something I’m not all that crazy about at the same time.