In this episode of Deathmatch ... SHIT. HITS. THE MOTHERFUCKING. FAN! And I couldn’t be happier about it.
Now, this is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the book thus far. Not at all. In fact, its tremendous build makes it one of the most compellingly fun superhero titles out right now, let alone my favorite Boom book. And the reason is, like I’ve said before, Paul Jenkins has shown a great ability to create and fully flesh-out a living, breathing, super-powered universe that feels at once familiar, yet unique.
He shows equal talent in crafting the mystery behind the story itself, which pits a ragtag group of heroes (Supes), villains (Fears) and justice-neutral players against one another, forcing them to engage in mortal combat (“c” not “K”) within what I like to call the “fortress of maulitude.” Incidentally, that’s also what I call my bedroom ... much to the scoff-ridden dismay of my wife.
Anyway, this jailhouse rocks not only as an impregnable, inescapable prison, but also as a fairly deep well of secrets, particularly as to how this warring crew became trapped there in the first place, who is holding them hostage and, most importantly of all, to what end? All of these, however, are as tightly locked away as the heroes themselves.
So far, I’ve been more than happy to watch this diverse gaggle of super-folks being corralled into this or that VS. battle, watching them momentarily reach enlightenment, only to have it ripped away after one of the combatants dies and the other is forced back into de-powered detention. It’s been like watching a slow motion implosion with death metal blasting in the background.
In issue five, however, things decidedly, and with no small measure of gusto, get turned way the fuck up to 11. With the normally muted heroes now re-energized after the energy powering their thunderdome (and blocking their abilities) suddenly shuts down, they quickly knuckle-up and do what they do best: get organized to punch the forces of chaos in the dick!
As the born leaders delegate, and the heavy-hitters roll out, we jump from personal vendetta to unruly skirmish, showing the god-like beings as little more than cornered and caged animals, each of them without a clue. Tucked amidst the din, however, is teased a very real threat of another, hidden prisoner trying to escape ... one with a close (albeit opposing) relationship with this universe’s version of Superman, The Meridian.
This whole series has been a methodical, but hot burn, and just when you think nothing else could be thrown on the blaze, Jenkins chucks in a couple firecrackers; in this instance, it’s a caustically-prophetic, emotionally-undermining inner voice that assails the Iron-Man analogue, Omni-Engine, with self-doubt and the story with a deeper sense of nefarious mystery. None of the questions we are ... riddled ... with are answered, but the gravity of the situation continues to feel increasingly more dire.
The art from Magno continues to have a classic big superhero team style, but one that is draped more deeply in shadows and texture, making it feel both fun and more raw. Colorist Michael Garland, to his credit, does a great job playing in that framework by allowing the visuals to appear more piercing. All of this together makes Deathmatch #5 the best of the series to date, and a great twist on the modern superhero tale, without forgetting the basics of what makes stories like this so great.
The author has previously stated that if we gave him a 5/5, he’d consider making a book for my favorite character, Rat, the anatomical hoarder who takes something of a back seat this time, while maintaining what threatens to be a larger sense of importance to the story. Well, he’s definitely earned that score here, coincidentally, in issue five.
Your move, Mr. Jenkins.
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Carlos Magno
Colors: Michael Garland
Publisher: Boom Studios
Release Date: 4/24/13