By Ken Tucker
Updated December 19, 2012 at 03:13 PM EST

One of the best comic books of 2012 slides right in under the wire with today’s release of The Whistling Skull #1 (DC Comics). The first of a six-part miniseries written by B. Clay Moore and drawn by Tony Harris, The Whistling Skull is at once a throwback to pulp fiction of the 1930s and ‘40s (think Doc Savage and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels) and a beautiful, witty new piece of comic-book art.

The Whistling Skull and his sidekick, Nuckles, are actually William Massey and Nigel Singleton, Brit boyhood friends who’ve grown up to fight Nazis and other criminals in 1940s Europe. Harris, who has done such marvelous art-work on books including DC’s Starman, is superb (along with colorist Dave McCaig) at conjuring up foggy menace, using dark greens, grays, and sallow yellows as his primary colors to (barely) illuminate figures drawn with lantern jaws and thick bristly eyebrows of determination.

Moore’s script has The Whistling Skull roaming Europe driving a gigantic Art Deco auto dubbed The Battlewagon. Skull and Nuckles out of costume are like creations born of a cross between Arthur Conan Doyle and P.G. Wodehouse. The mysteries are well thought-out; the humor is boisterous; the crime-fighting is bone-crunching.

This new series is officially titled JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull, to bring these characters into the DC Comics universe. Expect appearances by the Justice Society at some point. But really, The Whistling Skull is its own creation. Funny, grim, and poignant, The Whistling Skull is an awfully good time.

Twitter: @kentucker