In the Wildstorm Universe, in the shadowy world of covert operations, the mere mention of one name was enough to chill the blood of even the most hardened operator. The name was Deathblow, the code name of former Navy SEAL Michael Cray. This October, people will learn to fear that name again as Cray makes his return to the Wildstorm U in the pages of “Deathblow,” a new ongoing series by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Carlos D’Anda.
This isn’t the first time Azzarello and D’Anda have told a tale of “Deathblow.” The pair previously collaborated in 2003 on the three issue “Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire” mini-series. Azzarello said this new “Deathblow” series will have a different tone than what came before.
When Azzarello was asked to try his hand at the character again, this time as part of an ongoing series, it was current events that drew him to the assignment. “In this installment, events in the real world are what drew me to ‘Deathblow,'” Azzarello told CBR News “They’ve drawn me to a fucking comic book character (laughs).”
Some readers might be surprised at the news of Deathblow’s return given he supposedly died ten years ago during “The Fire From Heaven” event in issue #29 of the first “Deathblow” series, but Azzarello assures fans that his book is not a reboot; it stars the same character they knew. “It’s the same guy. It’s Michael Cray,” he said. “It’s comics – no one ever dies! [Laughs] That’s the number one rule of comics. No one dies. He never died. He only looked dead.”
Since, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “The events of Deathblow’s demise have been greatly exaggerated,” old time fans might be wondering where he was and why he’s been out of action for so long. When “Deathblow” begins, readers will learn out the answers to those questions. “He’s in prison,” Azzarello said. “He’s been locked up for some time. He’s not in a good place. It’s not really a prison; it’s what’s referred to these days as a detention center.”
With Deathblow’s former employer, International Operations (I.O.), involved in operations both legal and illegal, it’s possible that Cray has been imprisoned by agents of his former government or agents of other countries, “It’s not one of ours,” Azzarello said of the detention facility that Cray is imprisoned in. “It’s in the Middle East.”
Azzarello’s first arc on “Deathblow” will be about brining the character back into the world. “He’s in a detention center and he’s got to be broken out,” Azzarello said. “Then he’s got to be reintroduced to the world he’s been away from all these years.”
As Michael Cray tries to get himself reassimilated into an unfamiliar world, he will encounter many obstacles and enemies and most of them will be very familiar. “Most of them will be in the mirror,” Azzarello explained. “But that’s the way it is for all of us.”
In addition to wrestling with his own personal demons, Deathblow will meet a colorful cast of characters composed of both familiar and new faces that will offer him assistance and opposition in achieving his goals. “Some of the cast are prior Wildstorm characters, but not very many,” Azzarello stated. “We’re out to kind of create something new here. I. O. plays a big part and so does Ivana Baiul, but for the most part it’s all going to be fresh, surprising, new characters. So, if I tell you now it would ruin the surprise.”
In the past, Deathblow fought along some of the more prominent characters in the Wildstorm Universe like Grifter, Jackson Dane, John Lynch and Backlash as part of the U.S. Government’s elite Team 7 unit. And some readers may wonder if any of Cray’s former brothers-in-arms will make and appearance in “Deathblow.” “No, there are other plans for those characters,” Azzarello said. “I prefer to treat this thing as completely independent.”
The old “Deathblow” series often mixed elements of horror with action/thriller type stories. The new series will be more grounded in reality, but horror fans shouldn’t be disappointed. “Reality is pretty horrible,” Azzarello said.
Since this new series will be grounded in reality, Deathblow will be confronting his enemies solely with his wits and whatever weapons are available to him. In the previous series, Michael Cray was aided by his the regenerative powers provided to him by the Gen-Factor, but Azzarello confirmed that in this series Deathblow doesn’t have any super powers.
The powerless Cray’s mission in the book will be to search for a very important person; he’s out to find himself. “He’s a soldier with maybe two masters,” Azzarello hinted.
Azzarello couldn’t say when or if Deathblow will ever complete his mission, but the writer knows when he’ll be finished chronicling the adventures of Michael Cray. “There is an ending where I’m going to take it,” he said. “The series itself isn’t going to end, but I know when I’ll be done with it.”
He may know when the story he wants to tell is over, but Azzarello will be writing “Deathblow” for the foreseeable future. When asked how long his run on “Deathblow” would last, Azzarello replied, “As long as it takes.”
With storylines involving the Middle East and the solicits for the first issue mentioning things like “unjustified nation building” and “corporate greed,” some readers may wonder if “Deathblow” is just a political thriller or a commentary on events in the real world. Azzarello feels that’s up for readers of the book to decide; he thinks individual readers will bring what they want to the book. “I hope they do because I’m bringing something,” Azzarello stated. “I really try not to write anything if I don’t have a reason to write it.”
Azzarello is aware that the reason many readers will pick up “Deathblow” is because of their love for the character. “It’s funny I get that a lot,” he said. “The character, for some reason, really struck a chord with fans back when he was originally out. There are a lot of people who have really, really strong feelings about the character. So, we’ll see how pissed off they get when I’m done with him (laughs).”
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