Deathmatch is one of those stories that will always be remembered for the rise of its fall, rather than the topple itself, with more fun in the death rattle than the demise itself. It is, at its core after all, a murder mystery: who is bringing all of these heroes and villains together and why is he or she making them kill one another in combat? Because this book had such a compellingly tenacious build, which saw a world meticulously constructed not just at its facade, but thanks to its peripheral elements like character highlights, at every sinuous layer. Coupled with a ruthless, determined rending thereof, Deathmatch demands as strong a finish as it had during its core building phase.
Unfortunately, despite Jenkins’ valiant attempts here in its twelfth issue, unless something big happens in its ultimate adventure, I don’t think we’re going to get the ending this book deserves. Part of that is because it already happened...
Issue twelve sees Benny Boatright (aka, The Dragonfly) and the enigmatic vigilante Sable forced by the digital apparition of their fallen comrade, The Manchurian, to engage in one final throw-down to the death, this time with each other.
The winner doesn’t get to just live, as he or she will have the esteemed honor of saving the world, most likely in a suicide mission that will see them cast into The Rift, an event that plagued the heroes of this universe seven years ago as much as it does now.
Now, on the surface, the fight scenes in this issue are great, once again benefitting from the electric colors of Garland and of course Magno’s viscous (yet perhaps here marginally more muted and rushed) art. Between the fisticuffs, however, there is something missing.
The end fate of the victor feels thoroughly over-explained and without much resonance, and I think Jenkins’ reliance on complexity post-reveal has ultimately ended up hurting the story here. This whole issue feels drawn-out, repetitive and surging toward a finish that is ill-defined, despite the word count it has employed to do so.
The mystery behind Deathmatch is what kept its heart beating for this long, and since its adequate solution, I’ve been willing to warm myself around its after-burn, with all of its twists and turns recently. What this issue proves is that after blowing its load, its formula is finally running out of steam.
I suppose that is somewhat appropriate, given that Deathmatch seems to be winding down to its inevitable conclusion, but I’m not loving its falling action, which in turn is somewhat undermining what has happened in the story thus far.
The heart of the story just isn’t there anymore, allowing its labyrinthian complexity and scientific gobbledegook to feel bare and clinical, yet equally overwrought and plodding, at least in comparison to the fantastic lead-up that brought us here.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy this series as a whole and continue to urge everyone out there to pick up its first and second trade (both of which are now on the shelves), but the amazing intricacies that kept me hanging onto Deathmatch so far feel here like they have overstayed their welcome.
Saying all that, we’ve been here before in this series, and Jenkins has proven quite adept at proving me very, very wrong, so I will be sticking around until the end. I honestly just hope that he and the team pull the plug on Deathmatch soon and with suitable brilliance, giving it the worthy swan song it deserves.
Writer: Paul Jenkins Artist: Carlos Magno Colors: Michael Garland Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/11/13