Search Results for: Skullkickers

How Skullkickers Began


Creativity is rarely a singular creator with an instantaneous idea. Concepts grow and change over time and, when new collaborators get brought into the mix, projects continue to evolve from initial idea hopefully through to finished work that gets released to great acclaim and fanfare.

It’s the 10th Anniversary of Skullkickers #1, the action-comedy sword & sorcery comic series that propelled my comic writing career forward in a big way. When I’m interviewed about the series I usually summarize it as “my love letter to Dungeons & Dragons and Conan the Barbarian” because that’s what it is for me, but I’m not the sole creator of Skullkickers.

So, here on our anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to break down the timeline on how the series started and give extra context to the strange and winding road of a creative project. This is how real collaboration happens, how things change, and the way small decisions cause big adjustments later on.


Chris Stevens was a freelance artist doing work at the UDON studio and I worked at the studio as a Project Manager, soliciting work from a variety of clients and organizing art teams who delivered all kinds of different ad work, illustration, design and comic artwork. Chris and I got along quite well and, as a way to get him extra commission work between projects, I helped get him set up a DeviantArt page to show off his incredible work. Some of those pieces I posted up caught the eye of Joe Keatinge, who was working at Image Comics and co-editing an anthology series Image was putting out called Popgun and, in September of 2007, he offered Chris a spot in Popgun Volume 2.

Chris assumed Joe would pair him with a writer, but then he was told he could do whatever he wanted and emailed me about it to ask if I had any ideas for a story-

September 21, 2007:
Genre….well, I’d have to say fantasy is the way to go. You’d think I might be sick of it, but to be honest, it’s the most flexible genre to use and I’ve become a fan. I’ve got dick for ideas at the moment, but since it’s gonna be so short, the idea’s probably going to be the hardest part. I’ve tossed around a few ideas in my head but can’t seem to focus at the moment

It’s kinda tough to think of something. I mean, it’s really short and there’s no real rules. Not much to grab onto is there? Well, think about it when you can and let me know if you get any ideas.


I asked Chris about how things went from there-

“I was reluctant as usual, but you talked me into it and we started talking about what I’d be interested in doing. I decided on a D&D style high fantasy setting. I did this because I knew it would be fun and flexible and it was a setting I was familiar with through all of my UDON work.

I decided on a big human with a gun and a dwarf who were scumbags. People of low morality and character but still somehow likable. I chose that because I was loving Eric Powell’s The Goon and thought it would be fun to do a different take on the shady duo idea and I liked the visual of a big guy teaming with a small one. I also liked the idea of a guy with a firearm in a setting that doesn’t usually have guns. I designed them and gave them their weapons and armor. You were great and ran with all of my suggestions and since I’d never written before, I was grateful to have you take those criteria and create a first short story from that.”


October 5, 2007:
Chris sent the first sketch design of this duo while I organized the story.

Here’s how I responded to it-

The sketch looks pretty damn sweet, Chris. Probably my only suggestion is possibly to exaggerate their features a bit. Since we’re going for over the top violent it will probably work better if it’s a bit more Madureira than Charest, if you know what I mean. Imagine these characters up to their waists in zombies and entrail goo – YUM.


October 8, 2007:

From Chris-
Couple more sketches of our duo. Definitely a good call on the more exaggeration. I’m liking the vibe they have a lot more already and it fits a lot better. Didn’t make too many changes, but some things are a bit different. Mostly on our dwarf.

October 10, 2007:
Here’s my original outline for the story-

2 Copper Pieces
No Magic. No Problem

Story by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Chris Stevens

Pitch:
In a backwater fantasy world filled with all manners of magical beasts, poverty, disease and other horrifying threats, it’s a daily struggle to survive. Most people keep their head low, stay in the village they were born and eke out a life as a farmer or simple tradesperson. The only people strong enough to have anything else are protected by sorcerous powers or in the employ of the demonic.

Except for our two protagonists – They thrive by being stubborn and tough as Hell.

No one knows where this human and dwarf came from or how they’ve survived so long without using a speck of magic. They travel the land slaying every kind of beast in their path with sheer physical grit and vicious trickery. They’re not heroic or even nice – in fact they might be two of the most irritating and ornery assholes to ever heft a blade. No matter how obnoxious they may be, no one can argue with their results and the huge trail of corpses left in their wake. In world of the weak, they’re fighters.

Some folks despise them, others praise or even worship them – they don’t care.
They’d kill anything for 2 copper pieces.

Overview:
2 Copper Pieces is a fantasy parody on steroids. It revels in the clichés of sword and sorcery while injecting them with an extra spark of sass and violence. It’s not deep and meaningful by any stretch, instead keeping the reader engaged with snappy dialogue and inventive use of monsters. Like Ash from Army of Darkness, our “heroes” are so full of themselves and capable that you like them, even when they’re being absolute jerks.

Anthology Story:
The Popgun Anthology story would be a short 8-10 page quest by our protagonists, dropping readers into the middle of their world and a “typical” day for our deadly duo. We follow along as they hunt down a gigantic zombified worm that decimated a village near a boggy marsh. Even against the massive monster, our pair buckles down and gets to work using its own size and weight against it as they out maneuver it and stab deeply time and time again.

Just as our heroes think they’ve finished it off and carved the big worm open, they’re confronted by something even worse – the now exposed decaying remains inside the beast have been marinated in zombie stomach goo and are now a rampaging army of corpse parts lurching towards them. The duo shrug and prepare to wade in to the fray, confident they’ll emerge triumphant no matter what.


Chris liked it and Joe approved the pitch.

October 19, 2007:
Chris sent a design sketch of the worm.

Over the next three and a half months, Chris would digitally paint up the 10-page anthology story in between his other freelance projects and the holidays. Marshall Dillon lettered the story and we handed in the finished files in late January.

The response from Joe and the rest of the Popgun team was really strong.

February 4, 2008:
Erik Larsen, Publisher at Image Comics at that time, reached out with praise for the artwork:


Joe fired over some of your pages and I was pretty much floored by what I saw! You’ve got some serious chops, fellow. I dunno how fast you are or how versatile you are but I think you have some real promise and I’d like to help line you up with some work once you’ve wrapped up your Popgun yarn. Is there a website where I can see some more of your stuff?

Joe asked if we wanted to do more for Popgun Volume 3, which was already in development even before Volume 2 arrived in stores. I was excited to do another story with the boys from 2 Copper Pieces, but Chris was worried about the amount of time it would take.

April 11, 2008:
I sent Chris a concept for a 3-page story called ‘Gotcha’, a short interlude with our 2 Copper Pieces boys and Chris illustrated it over the next four weeks.

April 18, 2008:
I attended New York Comic Con (which ran from April 18-20 that year) and chatted with Erik Larsen. He asked if we were interested in pitching 2 Copper Pieces as an Image series.


May 13, 2008:
I email Joe and Erik an update on our progress-

Chris has been on a tear after wrapping up that second short story for Popgun v3. We’re going to put together a full comic proposal for Image built off of the “2 Copper Pieces” characters, having them storm their way through fantasy scenarios with violence and verve. After talking with Erik at New York Comic Con about it, he mentioned that the title should be catchier, so we’ve also got a few new title ideas that we think convey the concept in a catchy way:

Scumbags (Simple and straight to the point. Having this in a flowing calligraphy font for the title would have some amusing contrast to it)
Less Than Legendary (Also quite descriptive)
Never Legendary (Similar Concept)
Good Samaritans (Which, of course, they are anything but)
Dwarf & Baldy (a bit like Sam & Twitch)


May 14, 2008
Email back from Joe:
I don’t like any of those titles, including “Dwarf & Baldy”. I don’t see the Sam & Twitch connection.

Think more along the lines of BATTLE CHASERS. Something exciting, dramatic, that is still fantasy oriented. Good Samaritans is just plain boring.

By early June I’d come up with “Skullkickers” and bought the www.skullkickers.com URL, just in case.

June 13th, 2008:
I pitched Skullkickers via email and, a few hours later, Erik gave us the green light to go ahead with our first arc. I was absolutely blown away. We were two months from the first short story even coming out and we already had an Image series in the pipeline…or so I thought.

On August 12, 2008:
Popgun Volume 2 was released and the Skullkickers make their debut-


Between freelance work that had to take priority and family issues that had come up, Skullkickers #1 art production slowed to a crawl. By October, Chris had roughed out the full issue but only completed 11 pages of pencils. Over the next few months, he sent a few more pages of pencils, eventually getting up to page 15 completed, but it was clear we’d be too slow to make it a regular series so, before the end of the year I told Chris he could let it go. In all honesty, he sounded relieved.

I asked Chris about it recently-
“I’m very proud of my work on Skullkickers and the short stories. I worked hard on all of that and put everything I had into the shorts and concepts. My decision to step away from the comic was entirely financial. I had no way of assuring myself that I was going to make any money and the prospect of doing all that work with no guarantee was too much of a risk for me to take.”


April 8, 2009:
Popgun Volume 3 is released.

At that point, it looked like Skullkickers as a full blown series was dead, but 10 months later, things took an unexpected turn.

February 17, 2010
Edwin Huang reached out to me to send me his latest sequential portfolio after I’d seen his work the previous year. I reply-


Your sequential work is really looking nice. You’ve got some well paced pages and solidly put together sequences.

My only critique would be that the pages work well right now as portfolio pieces but if those same pages had dialogue and sound effects many of them would get pretty cramped and lose their flow. You need to make sure you leave more space for the text required alongside the art. It’s something easy to adjust depending on the amount of dialogue in the scripts you’re working with, but it is worth noting for future reference.

I’ll be totally up front with you. I don’t have any comic work right now at UDON that I could offer you, but I’m impressed with what I see. I may pass the link along to other people I know who are looking for artists.

We start emailing back and forth and I ask Edwin if he’s interested in a concept I’ve had on ice for almost a year.

Edwin checks out Chris’ page art for Skullkickers #1, is understandably impressed, and asks if he can ink the existing pages as practice. Once he finishes those inks, he uses Chris’ roughs as a guide to draw out the rest of the issue. By the time he’s done, I ask him if he’d be interested in taking over the series and he agrees.

By end of February I ask Chris if it’s okay for Edwin to pick up where he left off and Chris gives his blessing for us to go ahead, offering to illustrate covers for the series if it all works out.

March 2, 2010:
I re-pitch Skullkickers to Eric Stephenson, who had since taken over as Publisher at Image, and he gave us the go ahead.

By late March I hire Misty Coats to join us as colorist on the series after her friend Emily Warren recommend her work. Marshall Dillon agrees to continue lettering my creator-owned projects. Finally, we have our creative team locked down and we go into full production.

July 16, 2010:
Skullkickers #1 is listed in the Preview catalog for September release and featured as a ‘Gem of the Month’

July 22-25, 2010:
I’m at San Diego Comic-Con and, when I’m not working at the UDON booth, I hand out Skullkickers postcards trying to drum up more orders for the series.

September 22, 2010:
Our first issue arrives in comic shops and sells out quickly, leading to two more printings of issue #1, and two printings of issue #2 and 3.


Once Skullkickers launches, I start to back fill in the story, incorporating a bunch of my favorite sword & sorcery tropes and building out the world so I can tell funny fantasy yarns without just doing parody. The only thing I didn’t know how to square at first was Baldy’s gun.

Chris had added that in there as a way to mix things up from the typical sword and shield stuff, but now I had a fantasy book with a guy using a shooting iron, which felt more like something out of a western…so I took that to the next logical step and decided Rex was from a western, filling in his origin with Thool and all the cowboy and dimension-hopping stuff. Problem solving led to plot, and that little gun twist would define a lot of the series over the long haul.

Like I said at the start, collaboration is complicated. Ideas grow and change over time and with more input. At each stage of development the project that became Skullkickers could have gone a different direction. I poured a lot of my favorite things into the series, but it really all started with Chris – His artwork, his aesthetic and the weird ideas that made him laugh when we chatted on the phone.

More than a decade later, it’s weird and wonderful looking back at how it all started. I’m so incredibly fortunate to have worked with so many great people on so many amazing projects that have come from releasing Skullkickers. I’m also pumped for our 10th anniversary celebration project called Skullkickers: Caster Bastards and the Great Grotesque.

Skullkickers: Caster Bastards and the Great Grotesque!

Here we GO!

SKULLKICKERS: CASTER BASTARDS and the GREAT GROTESQUE is a new sword & sorcery comic story AND 5e-compatible tabletop adventure, funding NOW on Kickstarter!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/skullkickers/skullkickers-caster-bastards-and-the-great-grotesque

Please help spread the word far and wide and, if you like what you see, back the campaign!
Come celebrate 10 years of skull-kicking goodness with us. 🙂

SKULLKICKERS in Development at Copernicus Studios

Jim Zub’s SKULLKICKERS
in development at Copernicus Studios

New adult 2D animated comedy adventure series in the works


New Skullkickers artwork by Edwin Huang. New Skullkickers logo by Tim Daniel.

Halifax, NS: Copernicus Studios Inc is proud to announce a development deal to adapt the SKULLKICKERS comic series written by Zub and illustrated by Edwin Huang and Chris Stevens into an animated action-adventure series for adults.

“Demand for adult animated content is on the rise.” Says Paul Rigg, President of Copernicus Studios. “Over the past few years we’ve seen the popularity of anime and other content for mature audiences increase in North America. Shows like Castlevania, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, and Rick & Morty are grabbing attention for good reason. It’s a great time to make our mark in this space.”

SKULLKICKERS is a sarcastic send-up of sword & sorcery stories about a trio of mercenaries who kill monsters and cause mayhem in their quest for money, fame and adventure. The series was first published by Image Comics in 2010 and has built a loyal following over the past decade alongside surging interest in fantasy-based entertainment.

Jim Zub is a prolific writer based in Toronto, Canada. Over the past twenty years he’s worked for a wide array of clients including Marvel, DC Comics, Disney, Capcom, Hasbro, and Cartoon Network. Zub’s reputation has risen in comics and gaming with high profile projects including The Avengers, Samurai Jack, Rick and Morty VS Dungeons & Dragons and Conan the Barbarian.

“We have big plans for these head-cracking heroes!” Murray Bain, Copernicus Co-Founder and VP of Creative is keen to adapt the series. “There’s so much in the books to work with and we’re pumped to unleash that same excitement and a whole lot more in animation. It’s time to kick some skulls!”

Reading Material: SKULLKICKERS + WAYWARD Vol. 1 for FREE

2020 has thrown us all a bunch of curve balls and it looks like a lot of people are going to be home bound over the course of the next few weeks, possibly even months. In that case, you and your friends might need some extra reading material on your tablet or laptop.

Over on my Patreon page, free of charge and with no strings attached, are two full volumes of my comics:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/34846589

SKULLKICKERS is a bit like Deadpool meets Dungeons & Dragons. It’s an irreverent sword & sorcery action-comedy.

WAYWARD is a bit like Buffy in Japan, a supernatural teen drama set in modern Tokyo.

Enjoy, share, and be good to each other.

Jim Zub

Wayward and Skullkickers on ‘Best Of’ Lists for 2015

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As 2015 comes to a close it was a real pleasure seeing some of the comics I worked on this year pop up on annual ‘Best Of’ lists. Here are a few standouts:

Comics Alliance nominated WAYWARD in two categories for their Best of 2015 awards: ‘Best Fantasy Comic‘ and ‘Best Comic For Teens‘. SKULLKICKERS was nominated for ‘Best Comedy Comic‘.

Comic Attack nominated the WAYWARD creative team for ‘Best Indie Artist‘, ‘Best Indie Writer‘, ‘Best Ongoing Indie Series‘, and ‘Best Colorist‘, the end of SKULLKICKERS for ‘Best Comic Moment‘ and SAMURAI JACK for ‘Best Licensed Series‘.

Bleeding Cool included WAYWARD Volume 1: String Theory on their ’11 Best Graphic Novels of 2015′ list.

• Review aggregator Comic Roundup listed their 20 Highest Reviewed Comic Series for 2015 and WAYWARD made the list at #9.

Wayward + Skullkickers Nominated for ‘Best Of’ Categories – VOTE!

CA_Vote-TeensCA_Vote-FantasyCA_Vote-Comedy

I’m thrilled to let people know that my comics WAYWARD and SKULLKICKERS are nominated in THREE different categories for ComicsAlliance’s ‘Best of 2015’ Awards: ‘Best Fantasy Comic’ , ‘Best Comic For Teens’, and ‘Best Comedy Comic’! You don’t have to register to vote, just scroll to the bottom of the article, check off your choice and hit the vote button!

Click here to vote for ‘Best Comic for Teens 2015’

Click here to vote for ‘Best Fantasy Comic 2015’

Click here to vote for ‘Best Comedy Comic 2015’

Voting ends this Friday. Thanks so much. I deeply appreciate the support.

Talking to the Beat About Wayward and Skullkickers

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Over on the Comics Beat, I chatted with Matt O’Keefe all about wrapping up Skullkickers and the road ahead for Wayward. It’s a nice little interview that covers some different ground. Give it a read!

The End of Skullkickers

SK100-Cover-FRONT

SKULLKICKERS #100 (aka. Skullkickers #34) arrives in comic shops today and I’ll be celebrating the end and signing at The Beguiling tonight from 6:30-8:30pm. Some thoughts about wrapping up the series:


Done.

Yeah, it feels really weird even typing that.

Five years ago Edwin, Misty, Marshall, Chris, and I launched SKULLKICKERS. Since then it feels like the entire world has changed and, at least for me, it really has. Back then I wanted to prove that I could write a professional-quality comic and show people my storytelling skills. That unleashed hundreds of pages of comics for Image and a host of other publishers, meeting readers, peers, and lifelong heroes, travelling the convention circuit in North America and abroad and a whole new career as a comic writer.

“Comic writer.”

Even just seeing that in front of me on the page, it seems impossible and surreal. People ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a “comic writer.” For real.

It sounds dramatic, but Skullkickers has changed my life. It became my own creative Crucible where I learned how to open myself up to new ideas, push through my fears, and carry through on my professional commitments. It’s a rambling and childish yarn inspired by tabletop RPGs and the fantasy stories I grew up on but it’s also a representation of me in the here and now as a creator. My creative journey doesn’t end here, but this milestone is incredibly important to who I am as I look ahead to challenges still to come. Saying “thank you” for that kind of thing doesn’t seem adequate, but I’ll try.

Edwin Huang is one of the most professional and hard-working artists I know. His eagerness, energy, and dedication to this book that didn’t even start off as his is staggering. No matter what ridiculous visuals I asked for, Edwin hunkered down and found a way to deliver it. Watching his art grow issue by issue, arc by arc has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working on the series. Whatever he works on next, it’s going to be something special.

Misty Coats took Edwin’s line art and made it explode on the page. Her animated color sense was always on target and she delivered her best right up until the very last page. We couldn’t have done the book without her taking it to the next level each and every time.

Marshall Dillon is a rock. Solid, dependable, unflappable. His lettering took a whirlwind of disparate ideas and brought them together in a way that made even the most ludicrous things I wrote flow across each page. They say good lettering feels invisible because you’re too busy enjoying the story to realize how effortlessly the captions and balloons guide you across the page and that’s exactly what Marshall did. Great flow, unforgettable onomatopoeia.

The rest of the pitch hitters: Kevin, Ross, Mike, Espen, Chamba, Royce, and all the wonderful writers and artists who lent their talents to our Tavern Tales short stories – you rock. You made something fun even better and helped forge lasting friendships.

Thank you to Eric Stephenson and the rest of the Image Comics crew. Your unshakable support for this book has been wonderful. I can’t believe we were able to take it this far. Thank you for your expertise, your guidance, and good humor. I should probably also thank all the far-more profitable Image creators whose successes helped create Image’s stalwart cash flow reserves for printing and distribution.

The readers who stuck with us, the retailers who helped push the book, convention promoters who brought us out to shows, the people who have shared the book with their friends… There are too many people to thank and I wish I could high-five you all right now.

Chris Stevens asked me if I wanted to make a short comic story with him back in 2007. Eight years later it’s become the foundation of my creative career. Thank you, Chris. Your stunning artwork put this series on the map and I’m thrilled you were able to contribute the final cover to wrap it all up.

I hope that if we’ve all learned anything this issue, it’s that stories are eternal. We’re closing this particular book but I’d optimistically like to think that out across the infinite these characters and their foolishness will live on.

-Jim Zub


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Skullkickers Treasure Trove 3 Arrives in October!

Skullkickers-TreasureTrove3

Arriving in October, pre-order now!

Skullkickers Treasure Trove, Vol. 3 HC
story: Jim Zub
art / cover: Edwin Huang & Misty Coats
October 14 / 302 pages / Full Color / 12+ / $34.99
The fan favorite SKULLKICKERS story concludes in this gorgeous oversized hardcover edition collecting the fifth and sixth story arcs along with lots of spiffy extras and rarities.
Collects SKULLKICKERS #24-33, and our ridiculous #100.


Skullkickers-TreasureTrove3
Skullkickers Treasure Trove 3
Deluxe Hardcover

(issues #24-33, 100, plus extras)

Beer, blood, and battle! The brawl to end it all! The Skullkickers are going out with an epic sword & sorcery war for the ages! The fan favorite Skullkickers story concludes in this gorgeous, oversized, hardcover edition collecting the fifth and sixth story arcs, along with lots of spiffy extras and rarities.
PRE-ORDER
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
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TFAW

Wayward #7 and Skullkickers #32 Reviews

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Wayward #7 arrived in stores last week. It’s my favorite issue of our series so far. Cover to cover content as our dramatic story continues. Let’s see what reviewers thought of it…

Big Glasgow Comic Page: 9/10 “The art is, as always, one of the strong points of this already brilliant series. Every character, every object, every frame has been brilliantly drawn, inked and coloured”

Black Ship Books: “Wayward remains a ‘must buy.’ It’s consistently been one of the most entertaining books to come out from Image over the last year and the art itself is worth more than the cover price.”

Comic Attack: “Cummings and Bonvillain have done excellent work in this series that has had fine attention to detail in both scenery are characters that transports you to Japan.”

Comic Book Bin: ” This seventh issue of Wayward is, so far, the best issue of the new story arc.”

Comics: The Gathering: 9/10 “Wayward has yet to slow down with seven excellent back to back issues. This is a story that could go down as one of the best if it keeps this consistency up.”

Comix I Read: 5/5 “I am heavily invested in the plot and characters and cannot wait for what’s to come. I 100% recommend this issue.”

Fandom Post: B+ “A very solid issue all around that again brings Japanese locales and cultural aspects in a great way to North American readers”

Geeks of Doom: “Wayward has quickly become one of my favorite comics, with its mix of exotic setting, interesting characters, and an unfolding mystery that makes me want to come back each issue to find out the next part of the story.”

Moar Powah: 5/5 “Wayward uses all of its pages to its advantage. The tantalizing ending seems to signal they’ll need all the new-found willpower they have.”

Nothing But Comics: “The art is outstanding, the characters are fun and the stakes are high.”

Omni Jer Bear: “One of the best storylines I’ve read in 2015. It’s like X-Men without the school.”

The Read Pile: “I love the characters and I love that they’re all kids in Japan.”

Shadowhawk’s Shade: 9.5/10 “The time away from the series doesn’t seem to have had any downsides for the art team, and all the supernatural stuff feels as vivid and engaging”

The Telltale Mind: 4.5/5 “Great dialogue, story and utterly captivating artwork help this book make its way to the top of the read-pile every month.”

We The Nerdy: 8/10 “…the comic looks stunning like always. I love how fluid Ohara’s powers are, how they move, and I’m impressed at these still images can convey their motion so well.”

TM Stash: 10/10 ” I find myself completely immersed in every issue, drawn in by Jim Zub’s script and amazed by the beautiful artwork by Steve Cummings (with colors by Tamra Bonvillain).”

Under the Comic Covers: “Steve Cummings art is really spectacular and this issue is no exception. I love the artwork and the story flows so well.”

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Skullkickers #32 also hit stores the same day and the brawl to end it all continues.

Comix I Read: 8/10 “Writer Jim Zub ups the ante in this issue, bringing the Demon Lord of the Dwell onto the scene to fight Thool for supremacy.”

Inside Pulse: “Lots of characters from earlier in the series are showing up, as the bar gets more and more full, and the mayhem increases exponentially.”