So how many different versions of Deathlok is this then? At least four, maybe five if you count the guy that showed up in those Bronze Age “Captain America” issues as a different incarnation from the Rich Buckler original. What’s that you say? There was an Ultimate Deathlok, too?
Well this is the Marvel Knights version, so it’s edgier than that. And it’s a comic written by Charlie Huston, so it has a dozen or so fake swear words represented by a bunch of god##### pound signs. It’s a comic in which a scientist squeezes someone’s face until it explodes in a cloud of blood, and the eyes fly out of the sockets, and that panel is drawn in sickening detail by Lan Medina. But apparently the word “damn,” is too much for the sensitive eyes for the reader. That doesn’t make any sense, but it has become a Charlie Huston trademark, even when the pound signs are used three or four times in a single monologue. Maybe it’s just Marvel policy, but Huston might want to look into using some synonyms if he wants his comics to be a bit more readable.
This isn’t a terrible comic. It has some low-budget, back-alley appeal, like a made-for TV movie that’s surprisingly tasteless. But in an entertaining way. “Deathlok” #2 certainly doesn’t seem to be aspiring to anything more than that. It embraces its trashy roots.
At its core, “Deathlok” is the story of a cyborg killing machine, but the first two issues of this series have spent more time on the behind-the-scenes machinations rather than the machine itself. Or perhaps one way to think of it is that the Roxxon corporation — the group behind the cyborg — is the machine. Luther Manning is a cog in a machine that goes much farther than his robotic eye and his six-million-dollar implants. In this issue, we see the spin the corporation puts on the “tragedy” that occurred at the end of issue #1, when, during one of their war-as-sport contests, Manning killed their pretty boy Brad Pitt superstar type, and everyone got all blown to bits.
The above mentioned face-crushing doctor, a man with the unlikely but appropriate name of “Hellinger,” is working on some fancy robotic solutions to Roxxon’s lack-of-a-superstar problem, but his operation is ultimately diverted for the best interests of the corporation. Soon, his program becomes something called “Deathlok” and he’s helping (begrudgingly) to support an action figure line.
Meanwhile, Luther Manning thinks he’s in some medieval gladiator fight, but really it’s all in his mashed-to-hamburger skull as he fights off a bunch of futuristic soldiers with his new cybernetic, Deathlok-y, body.
The story’s a mess, but it does have its satirical elements, and between Huston’s on-the-nose sadism and the 1980s Epic Comics-style painted artwork of Lan Medina and Brian Heberling, there’s a certain campy charm to this series. It’s about as subtle as “Small Soldiers” combined with “Terminator,” but in a comic called “Deathlok,” subtlety’s probably not something you’d expect anyway.