Review: Deathmatch #9

Hey there friend! Question! Does the sound of a malformed meatsack of mutant tumors deploying a gaggle of day-glo poisonous tendrils that look like sentient luminescent strands of Bubble-Tape against an electric blue version of Spider-Man, who has the ability to shoot bright blue shit out of his face, excite and entice you? Well then, have I got the book for you! Deathmatch: the superhero event you should be reading. If you can’t tell by now, I kinda love this book a little bit. Ludicrously brutal and sizzling with superpowers, Deathmatch has the kind of forced battle royale between capes that everyone loves; well, everyone who’s not an asshole. In its latest issue, the trend continues with two massive, quarter-final round throw-downs; and yet, with so many voices silenced, there seems to be a more hushed sense of urgency underfoot as the few remaining combatants try, some less vehemently now, to solve the question of their incarceration.

As the brackets of this terminal gauntlet begin to shatter and collapse like the chapped lips of a hungry maw, our trapped heroes and villains are forced to become especially ferocious, and with less of them alive than ever before, this means we get even longer cuddle time with beautiful, sweeping panoramas of quality ass-kicking, the outcomes of which remains largely up in the air.

That’s another beautiful thing about Jenkins and Magno’s Deathmatch: no matter what happens, this book remains unpredictable, except in terms of quality. The trick is that Jenkins actually preys on your comic book preconceptions. These characters look and sound a whole helluva lot like your favorite heroes: analogues of Superman, Spider-Man, even a fucked-up version of Black Canary abound, and yet not one of them is totally safe from the possibility of culling via gruesome dismemberment. The effect automatically throws you off-balance and keeps you on your toes in a refreshing way that just couldn’t be mimicked with their more precious mainstream counterparts.

Deathmatch_09_preview_Page_1I do have to admit, the tone this issue felt a bit off somehow, though I’m beginning to wonder if that was on purpose. With that more fervent and immediate sense of impending doom in the air, some of the dialogue has naturally become more intimate, and while it stops just short of maudlin, it flirts perhaps a bit too closely, jarring character redefinition. The normally gruff Sable, for example, eschews her more stoic physical and fundamentally moral stance, giving way to a very scared someone, who quite clearly is barely holding on to not giving up entirely. However, she seems almost a bit too blasé, almost at some points immature, which was something I at least, didn’t pick up earlier.

Meanwhile, Dragonfly (the aforementioned Spider-Man analogue) has become all but fatalistic this issue, more remorselessly ready and able to trade barbs that are not necessarily verbal in nature, having all but accepted the inevitability of his situation. I won’t go into the voice of The Manchurian, as his mental state is clearly addled thanks to the presence of a fucking demon, but the out-of-nowhere backstory here between he and his opponent is a bit sudden, as was its resolution.

Jenkins continues to do a great job in teasing his revelations this issue, although, having been with this title from the beginning, I am desperate for some pay-off. The threads in this story may finally be unravelling - thankfully not in a big, overly-grandiose reveal, and instead almost as an overheard stage whisper - but this slow boil is begging to be lanced. I’m happy that “pop” is now just around the corner, despite the fact that it means the series will inevitably come to a close, I’m guessing - its raison d'être having been extinguished. I’m not happy about it, but this was always going to be a terminal venture. The spoiler’s in the name.

Magno’s art continues to be phenomenal. I’ve gone on about how much I love his overly-textured style pretty much ad nauseam, but here it works into a goddamn frenzy during a particularly sickening final panel. His character and costume designs may pay homage to better-known heroes and villains, but he has also established his own look to this world, setting his cast apart from just a generic rip-off. I could also look at this guy’s action all day long, and I swear I’m not trying to come on to him by saying that.

Accentuating Magno’s art is Michael Garland, who absolutely murders every page featuring Melody Toon and Dragonfly on it; I love the way their powers manifest on the page: bright and fucking barbaric, which as regular readers will tell you, has happily been a pretty standard fixture in this series from the get-go.

If you are tired of the same ol’ in other big superhero events and want to try something with a little different flavor, I couldn’t recommend Deathmatch more. As morbid as this is gonna sound, it’s the most fun you’ll have watching something die ... unless you’re really, really weird.

Score: 4/5

Writer: Paul Jenkins Artist: Carlos Magno Colors: Michael Garland Publisher: Boom Studios Cover Price: $3.99 Date: 9/4/13