I have read issue eight of digital publisher Monkeybrain Comics’ Knuckleheads twice now, and I’m not ashamed to admit that both times I teared up. If you have read issue seven, you probably have a pretty good idea why this issue packs such an emotional punch, and it really, truly does. Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson IV’s sci-fi buddy comedy has always focused on the hilarity and complexity that exists within friendships, and the importance of having a support system when facing tough and unexpected challenges, or when trying to unlock superpowers. Bringing the first story arc, Fist Contact, to a close, the Knuckleheads solidify that necessity for relationships as Trev, Lance, Emma, and Guy finally become something of a family, and we celebrate their triumphs alongside them.
This issue, and the arc as a whole, ends on a wonderfully high note, though it is still tinged with an element of mysterious drama, and we know that when Knuckleheads returns, our team of heroes will have their work cut out for them, but they will also be operating as a unified front as never before. There is a revelatory flashback, or perhaps it is a buried memory triggered by a traumatic experience, that sheds light on a thought-provoking question asked in the very first issue, and which is answered in perfect Knuckleheads fashion. Winkeler’s script reaches new depths of emotion, stripping away the affable façade in the face of a real-life crisis, even if it is initiated by aliens. I felt the intensity of my own closest friendships in the relationship between Trev and Lance, and that relatability, which Winkeler seems to cultivate so effortlessly, brings a rewarding emotional resonance to this story that rings true and reverberates long after you’ve finished reading. It is exciting and incredibly rewarding to realize that we are as invested in these characters’ lives as they are in each others’ lives, and thanks to Winkeler and Wilson IV’s nuanced emotional and situational comedy approach, that realization comes as a marvelous surprise, one that catches you off guard in the best of ways.
As always, Wilson IV’s art is outstanding, and there is an ephemeral, almost everlasting quality to his work here, and he creates a myriad of indelible images that are sure to become canon. Jordan Boyd’s sharp and bright colors infuse everything with a hope and, at times, almost a fleeting sense of regret. There is a beauty to the world that Winkeler and Wilson IV have created, and Boyd takes that beauty and makes it shine, from outer space landscapes to interstellar meetings to moments of heartfelt pathos. Linking it all together is Thomas Mauer, who weaves the dialogue through the pages in a way that provides the greatest impact without distracting us from the story. As I’ve said before, this is a team working at the top of its game and in perfect tandem. I cannot wait to see where they take Knuckleheads next and to see where they go individually in the interim.
This last issue is full of extras just like all the others, with the addition of a celebratory shout-out to all of the fellow creators, writers, and artists, to the critics (a list in which I was mentioned, making me feel a part of something special), and, most of all, to the fans, who have supported Knuckleheads from the very first issue to where it is now. If you haven’t heard, IDW released Fist Contact as a print collection, so if you want to spread the love to your friends, or just want to glory in a physical Knuckleheads book, that’s the perfect way to do it. Winkeler and Wilson IV have always called their fans Knucklefriends, and that moniker goes to show just how much they and the rest of the Knuckleheads team value friendship and creative support. I must say I couldn’t be happier to be an advocate of such a positive and exciting relationship.