Where I come from, we have a name for things like Boom! Studios’ super-battle book, Deathmatch. I believe its etymology has roots in Latin, originating in the phrase “phallus-fatigo,” which is roughly translated, in the urban vernacular of today’s complex linguistic quagmire, to “cock-tease.” That’s right, Deathmatch is a total cock-tease ... in the most delightful way.
Ironically, of course, the fourth issue of this mysterious little series written by Paul Jenkins with art from Carlos Magno, which pits kidnapped heroes and villains against each other in a life or death battle - the reasoning behind which remains unexplained - begins ... with a bang. Get it? Cock. Bang. Whatever, grow up!
Like the rest of the book’s ever-dwindling cast of heroes and villains, the Moriarty-esque Professor Hierogymus Higgins and the Dame Knight known as Sable are locked in the throes of a good old fashioned slobber-knocker. As ever, when they are thrown into the arena by their Light Guard jailers, they are immediately reminded why they must kill each other. Not that it matters, since their memories are wiped immediately after returning to the holding area which houses the rest of the super-powered posse, leaving them (and us) completely in the dark. And that’s exactly why I call Deathmatch such a glorious cock-tease!
For the past four issues, our appetites have been suitably whetted as to why these avengers have been so forcibly assembled, with only tantalizing hints as to the true nature of their imprisonment. However, the rogue genius Higgins has apparently figured out not only how to harness and manipulate the transformative powers of the arena, but also how to tell his fellow captives the secrets behind their personal thunderdome by broadcasting to them from inside it. Once again, though, our (metaphorical) balls are left a blueish hue, as one combatant claims a deadly victory, and we are left to live another month wondering what the hell is going on.
And yet, I don’t mind. Chasing this dragon has been, and continues to be, a big highlight of each month for me. With an intrigue drawn-up with the same fantastic orchestration as the classic, gorgeously textured art, this is not a mundane trip through mysteries, but a completely gripping, fun enigma. I literally raced to the end of this book, and then stopped just before its end, preparing myself for the spuff of some big reveal ... before being once again denied. God. Damn. Cock-tease. But oh how I love the way it fellates my curiosity.
Jenkins, as ever, has deftly tipped his hand here, doing so slightly, with a smirk and a wink, just like any coy seductress. Before his battle is done, Higgins begs the other watching warriors to think, “How did we get here? Why do I not remember arriving in the prison?” In so doing, Jenkins’ clever plotting and dialogue-dance between characters effectively forces the reader (or at least me) to think back for him or herself on the scant evidence given thus far, rather than just discounting it as some lofty idea that will eventually solve itself. And that’s the key, I think, Deathmatch makes you want to learn more.
We are also told, by one of the best new characters in comic books - the Rorschach-like, sub-epidermal hoarder known as Rat (who, I continue to believe, requires his own series) - that this whole thing is not a randomly generated gauntlet, but rather a predetermined sequence; a sentiment further echoed by the villainous Jellyfish-Man, Cube. What this means, of course, remains unclear.
But just as Rat escapes his fight with the She-Hulkish Abnormal Girl, in the process carving a hint into his own leg like a goddamn pimp, something goes very wrong, and we are led to believe that the true story is about to be unleashed.
Oh, Deathmatch, you clever little cock-tease, you’ve done it again. Of course I’ll be back for more next time, fully expecting to walk away engorged with more story, and I will continue to do so until what I hope will be an epic climax.
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Carlos Magno
Colors: Michael Garland
Publisher: Boom Studios
Release Date: 03/27/13