Answers have come to Deathmatch, and they couldn’t have come at a better time. In my review of issue six, I worried whether the plot of this series was beginning to cool beneath its slow-ish burn, and while the pace of its mystery doesn’t necessarily pick up, Jenkins has managed to inject some gratifying answers into the story without giving away anything too important, at least not in terms of the book’s long game and more overarching questions. We’re drawing closer to the tootsie roll center of this thing, but by circling it, answering one of its smaller (yet pivotal) mysteries in a flashback-laden conversation between this universe’s Superman (The Meridian) and its Spider-Man (Dragonfly). The truth behind a crisis surrounding something called The Rift is finally revealed, as is the true identity of the series’ sparkly pink energy beast from a couple issues back. SPOILER: it’s not Richard Simmons.
Amidst the three fights that follow - the most remarkable of which sees a pretty intense affair, with both classic and fresh repartee cast between the lady-Batman known as Sable and her nemesis, Chuckles - we continue to receive coy, clever teases stroking the throbbing mystery straining behind the pants of this book. There is so much going on here - such in-depth universe building, it would be easy to get lost if Jenkins didn’t run such a tight ship; very little seems wasted or cursory in Deathmatch, a trend I’m happy to see back on track and continuing throughout the series.
By the end of this issue, Deathmatch begins to feel like the film Memento, in that this may not only be a collaborative effort, but very much an “inside” job. With an explosive and hugely unexpected ending (the ramifications of which I sure as hell hope are not permanent), this offering may otherwise appear fairly exposition-heavy, but Jenkins proves once again adept at splicing his more verbose moments with gratifying action; a hallmark of this series as a whole.
There is, however, an issue beginning to surface within some of the voices here, in that, barring a few notable examples like Rat, Chuckles and Omni-Engine’s sick, slick “inside voice,” it feels like they are beginning to coagulate into one homogenous cadence. Sable sounds like Dragonfly, the Manchurian sounds like the Meridian, etc.
In other words, where a more nuanced characterization was established previously throughout this personality-rich cast of characters, in issue seven, the varying articulation feels more generic than I’m used to in Deathmatch. This may be a plot point, but I sort of doubt it. Mind you, nor do I believe it to be a negative game-changer; more of a hiccup during a particularly plot-driven issue.
The art from Carlos Magno continues to fit the story like a fully-textured terrycloth glove. It’s got this lithe stone feel to it that makes the universe feel fully-realized, even from its nascency; although it’s only seven issues old, the characters and the world they are forced to inhabit feel deep, scarred and heaving. It really is impressive how this team has been able to give birth to such a well-formed organism all at once, and then develop it further into one of the most compelling superhero stories in the market today.
Props again need to go to Michael Garland, who continues to light the dark corners of this gladiatorial world with bright, sickening flashes of color. His and Magno’s collaboration here has successfully etched deep grooves into these pages in a way that should make other creative teams sit up and take note - this is how superhero comics in the 21st Century should be drawn.
As ever, Deathmatch was a highlight this month, as issue seven continues the series’ build into what I think will be a very satisfying final conflagration. If you’re not reading this, it’s you who needs to be locked away.
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Carlos Magno
Colors: Michael Garland
Publisher: Boom Studios
Release Date: 7/3/13