It’s pretty goddamn hard not to like Deathmatch. I mean, what’s not to love about semi-analogous yet uniquely-faceted superheroes and villains locked in a prison and forced to viciously kill the crap out of each other for the apparent amusement of spear-wielding light beings, with no other clue as to why or how they are being held there? I am, however, beginning to feel this weird undercurrent of fanboys and girls drifting away from superhero books (which is dumb, by the way), I suppose because they feel inundated by all of the choices? Still dumb, but if you are one of those people, make sure that Deathmatch isn’t one that makes your drop list in some weird quest for comic book “credibility.” Saying that, though, can the mysteries in this book keep up their superhuman pace, or will its questionable longevity end up being its kryptonite? Let’s find out ... together.
In issue six, the status quo of the Deathmatch arena has recovered from its power flux hiccup (great name for a band) and all the “cats” (who are once again de-powered outside of the battle-dome) are put back in their cages, thanks to the efforts of the Manchurian last issue, who had to switch back on the power to re-trap an overpowered threat (and probably the key to all of this nonsense) known only as “The Unknown.”
Meanwhile, as the heroes and villains continue to sink deeper into each others’ throats, there are a few other strange things afoot at this otherwise nondescript pan-dimensional superhuman gulag. Take Omni-Engine, for example. This Iron Man analogue continues to wrestle with some creepy, sinister inner voice that is definitely not his own ... OR IS IT?? Little pro tip, though? That “hearing voices” shit doesn’t hold up as well as you might think in a court of law. Trust me ... (aaawkwaaard)
Meanwhile, we get two kick-ass slobber-knockers this round, one of which pits surly solar stepchild, Sol Invictus, against everyone’s favorite grimy, nonsensical detective, Rat. The other sees cuddle-hungry female Nightwing character, Minx, square off against the human brown note, Melody Toon. Interestingly, in both of these bouts, the playing field is leveled to give the less-empowered combatants an actual chance, which as far as I can remember, is a new twist. In one case, it also shows how infinitely powerful these jailers ... whomever they may be revealed to be ... truly are.
Now, while all of this action is great and each fight ends in a shockingly gruesome yet creative death (as I’ve come to expect and enjoy from this series), there’s something a bit off with the dialogue this issue, specifically as it pertains to the quiet art of shit-talking.
At one point, the hero Dragonfly calls the villainous Cube an “ugly pile of puke,” while elsewhere, Melody suggests that she will make Minx “laugh on the other side of your face,” which Minx then follows up with probably the worst comeback of all time, punctuated further with a swift kick to the lady-crotch, or “cunt punt” as it is often referred to within the urban vernacular. At other times, though, the way Jenkins fills his characters’ face holes with words is right on point, such as when Rat opines on the belief structures of metal wire in a chilling bit of “OH SNAP!” So in the end, it balances out, and even the bad shit-talkery is pretty amusing, even if it’s not meant to be.
In terms of actual story, this issue continues in leading the plot to something that feels very close to a more confined Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the reveal at the end promises to further that comparison. Unfortunately, though, everyone is staying tight-lipped, and I do have to admit that this was the first issue of Deathmatch which I thought had any perceptible drag to it, like the thread which has been smoothly stringing us along is starting to fray.
Still, though, I continue to be high on Deathmatch. There remain so many mysteries ticking away within the clockwork of this book, from weird, subtle little things like why Spider-Man-esque hero Dragonfly is the only one to go by his secret identity (Benny Boatright) rather than his codename. Then, of course, there is the identity of this big ball of anti-matter energy, the role of the enigmatically silent Glyph and why this world’s Superman, The Meridian, is acting like such a loony dickface. Just like in the preceding issues, I can’t wait to figure all of this stuff out.
I’ve said before how much I enjoy the art in this book by Carlos Magno, and that continues here, but I also want to mention the fantastic colors of Michael Garland. His more muted tones really add to the grizzly, almost granite texture Magno has wrought in this universe, whereas his sparing flourishes erupt in garish, sickeningly beautiful splashes. Look only to the second death scene for proof of what I mean.
So, because Deathmatch is beginning to show signs of being an overpowered, yet stuck beast (much like the heroes within its pages), and this issue isn’t as captivating and incendiary as the blowout that was issue five, I have to drop it a point. Which, if my math is right, takes it down to just being “fucking awesome!”
Writer: Paul Jenkins Artist: Carlos Magno Colors: Michael Garland Publisher: Boom! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/29/13