Wow. Okay. So that happened. Right. No promises, but I’m gonna try to review Deathmatch #10 without spoilers. This may take some rather inventive finagling and distortions of the truth on my part, but stick with me, and hopefully we’ll make it through to the end, unspoiled. Saying that, maybe I should just embrace the swerves I’m about to serve you. It would certainly be in keeping with the current narrative tapestry of this book.
See, in this issue of Deathmatch, everything that you thought you knew turns out to be a lie ... which in turn happens to be yet another lie, although that too could be a lie. This thing is like a goddamn lie sandwich served on lie bread with a side of lies! And that’s exactly what makes it so fucking rad...
The battles up to this point have seen dozens of supes (good guys), fears (bad guys) and neuts (I got better) maul, slay and gorily slaughter each other. Apparently, as is revealed here, this was all a plot seven years in the making by its architect, and holy smokes is it complex! We’ll get to that in a minute.
It begins as Sable and The Manchurian are forced to fight one another in a final battle, with the former one again becoming enlightened as to the true nature of their imprisonment. This time, however, we are let in on the secret, as the baddie explains to Sable the true and nefarious purpose of their personal Thunder Dome. And it is this ... SPOILER (kind of) ...
Ostensibly built to contain and destroy an evil, parallel version of this title’s Superman analog, called the Anti-Meridian, the Deathmatch gulag is an elaborate ruse to quash its evil. Wait, did I write quash? Because I meant exacerbate. OR DID I?
As regular readers have come to expect with Deathmatch, not all is what it appears to be, but we’ve never been swerved like this before, folks. If I’m honest, when all of the revelations came pouring out in the deluge of copy this issue unleashes, I was disappointed. It all seemed so easy, so generic and cookie-cutter; frankly, I expected more out of Paul Jenkins ... who then preceded to make me look like the asshole, because he completely turned it around and on its ear by the end. Oh, Mister Jenkins, what a tangled web you weave.
And tangled it is, in heavy blankets of exposition. At first, it feels like Jenkins is playing a lot of catch-up here, turning this issue into one chatty-ass cathy. But now I think that was on purpose. The structure of this thing seems built to befuddle, so that by the end of its labyrinthian bob and weave, you feel like you’ve crashed headlong into a wall. And it wasn’t the wall you were expecting. So yeah, you’re gonna have to get ready to settle in for a nice, solid read, and it does get a bit convoluted in parts, but keep at it and pay close attention: it’s worth it. And yes, there will be a quiz.
Art-wise, I’m not sure what more I an say about Carlos Magno, other than he’s just a badass. His rich textures, detailed figure work, kinetic mastery of action, gruesome and haunting closeups and grave, grotesque profiles ... he just nails everything in this book and has established its own unique visual style. You can’t say that about many superhero titles these days, and I hope Magno’s stuff isn’t being overlooked in the rabble.
The same is true of colorist Michael Garland, who does exceptional work here, given that much of the issue takes place in a TRON-like setting with necessarily bright neon suits. This style of course takes Magno out of his comfort zone, but he’s able to kill it with Garland in some very - dare I say it - Kirby-esque flourishes. Once again, this art team proves to be a definitive one and I couldn’t enjoy looking at their joint venture more.
Deathmatch ain’t over yet, and if you’ve been keeping up, issue 10 definitely won’t be what you’re expecting ... a few times in a row. If you haven’t been keeping up with Deathmatch ... change that. Now.
Writer: Paul Jenkins Artist: Carlos Magno Colorist: Michael Garland Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/9/13