‘Skull Cat (Book 1): Skull Cat and the Curious Castle’ Review: A Young’s Cat Journey to Become a Hero
The path of the hero is filled with countless enemies and obstacles. These obstacles can take any shape or form. They can be dragons, ghosts, or thieves, or they can take the form of more abstract things like the economy or social anxiety. However, it is clear that the enemy that any hero must face first before any other is themselves. Skull Cat is a new comic written and illustrated by Norman Shurtliff and published by Top Shelf Productions that is arriving on February 21, 2023, and we have a review for you.
Norman Shurtliff’s work seems to be filled with an essence of the fantastic: great realms filled with magic, spectacular creatures, and great adventures, but also some dangerous places, and dangerous people. His previous works, “Amazing Scriptures”, and “Soulmate Chronicles” also have this powerful sense of adventure that you might only find in something like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign or any tabletop game. Which I am going to dare say might be something Shurtliff likes to play.
His new book, “Skull Cat” brings that Dungeon & Dragons feeling and mixes it with powerful art that feels very close to some of the most famous and relevant animated series of our time, like Rick & Morty and Gravity Falls. But always keeping it at a level that both kids and adults can enjoy. Skull Cat is a tiny adventure that follows a very innocent and charming protagonist on his journey to become a hero. It also lets us explore a small part of what has the potential to become quite an expansive universe because you can feel that this comic is only the beginning.
In short, the story follows a young cat named Scully Catterson as he tries to make ends meet by getting a new job as a gardener. Of course, just like on any first day on the job, Scully is quite nervous, but then what starts only as a normal job takes him into an adventure like the ones that he would only read in comics. Scully is in for the classic hero’s journey. There is nothing here that we haven’t seen before in terms of storytelling. There is a little of whimsical stuff here and there, but overall, everything is pretty tame.
The art style is quite cool. The panels are full of color, and the paneling is quite interesting. Especially when it comes to those fantastic double pages, Schurtliff really flexes his ability to add details to this very cartoony art style. It is hard to do, but the characters also feel unique in their designs and personalities. The supporting cast might not be as well-used in the overall story, but in terms of design, they are easy to recognize, and it makes the world feel very diverse.
The story goes into dark places in some moments, but it is all very tame. These moments are actually often played for laughs, which is great and makes everything feel more like an actual comedy. The dialogue does feel a bit stiff at times. It could be improved to allow for more of a natural flow, but it does accomplish its job of delivering the right information at the right time, and also telling us a bit about Scully as a character. The rest of the cast doesn’t get that much exposure, but they are all fun characters that I would love to follow on more adventures.
The plotting is quite simple, but this is as it should be for a book that is aimed at very young kids. However, you get the feeling that a bit more context in some scenes can be required for their full enjoyment. The story still works, but it definitely feels like there are some holes that could be patched out to make the story richer and more cohesive. However, I’m sure that this could have been one of my favorite books if I had gotten it when I was a kid. The art is really striking, and you can feel that Shurtliff has really put effort and time into the little details.
While reading Skull Cat, I couldn’t get it out of my head that this story and this world are like perfectly tailored to become a video game. Something like Cuphead or Cult of the Lamb feels especially close to Skull Cat. Any of those games could serve as a template for a Skull Cat game while adding its own fantasy/D&D campaign flavor and creating something that is unique to it. This point doesn’t really have anything to do with the comic book, but I just want to point out that I enjoyed it and I see the potential to go into other mediums.
In the end, Skull Cat shows the amazing talent of Norman Schurtliff to concoct these entertaining and charming stories. The art is charming and will catch people’s attention immediately. However, the dialogue and the plotting could have been a lot smoother than they are. In any case, the book is a fantastic adventure that kids and adults can enjoy in equal measure. I hope there is more to come from Scully and the world he lives in very soon. There are certainly some plot threads that are left hanging, and I need to know what happens to these characters.