Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Death’s Head II #2, which was published by Marvel (Marvel UK, to be exact) and is cover dated January 1993. Enjoy!
For some reason, I obtained the entire Death’s Head II mini-series several years ago. I think someone knew I liked comics and just gave me a bunch of them – these were in the bunch, and I know several issues of Hyperkind were in there too. Anyway, I think I’ve read this series once, and even though I got them when I enjoyed this kind of book more than I do today, even back then I knew it was crap. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t get a good first page, does it?
Dan Abnett simply sets the scene here, as he at least engages in some of that wacky banter that even “serious” comics engaged in back in the day. I mean, there’s something inherently stupid about a man dressed in a bright yellow and blue costume with claws coming out of his hands fighting a dude with a horned head and a giant codpiece, but most Marvel and DC books these days are so deadly serious that they never wink at the audience. Abnett isn’t exactly doing that, but at least he goes over the top with his description – the reader needs popcorn and a ringside seat to the “fight of the year” between Wolverine and Death’s Head. With not a lot of prose, Abnett gives us the names of the participants and the fact that they’re in Paxton, Oregon (which doesn’t exist, by the way, in case you needed to know). So he does his job for a splash page – tells us some very basic information, hyperboles it up, and gets out of Liam Sharp’s way!
It’s Sharp who defines this mini-series, because it’s really very NINETIES X-TREEEEEM, and Sharp was pretty good at giving the readers what they wanted. Sharp was only 24 when this comic came out, and he got a lot better over the years, but this is standard pencil work for far too many comics of this era, in case you’re a young’un who missed the 1990s. Sharp designs the page perfectly well – our eye travels down the diagonal well, and Wolverine balances Death’s Head nicely. Sharp can’t resist some ridiculousness, though – Wolverine’s right arm muscles bulge crazily, and Death’s Head’s legs are … well, they’re something. The thing that might bother a new reader is the weird right arm of Death’s Head, because it’s too long and it simply looks like a mass of metal, to the point where, because it’s behind Wolverine, we might wonder whether it’s actually his arm or not. However, Abnett and Sharp show us pretty quickly that Death’s Head can somehow regrow and reform his arm in whatever shape he wants, so a reader’s confusion would be momentary. As this is before comics got all serious (which means blood and guts fly freely), the only indication we get that Wolverine is wounded is the ripping costume next to Death’s Head’s arm. Sharp adds some blood to his arm and face, but it’s not all that bad. It’s a bit tough to “read” the scene without thinking about how wrong the drawing is – did Wolverine leap at Death’s Head, and if so, from where? Is Death’s Head supporting Wolverine with the arm, or is Wolverine falling toward his opponent? How did Death’s Head not impale Wolverine if Wolverine was leaping through the air? Did Wolverine somehow twist in mid-air to avoid that massive right arm? What the fuck is up with that codpiece? But if we can move past those nagging doubts, Sharp does give us a fairly dynamic splash that gets our juices flowing for the big throwdown. Helen Stone does a good job with the colors, too – as with most of these mainstream comics, she has no choice but to use the standard colors for the costumes, but Sharp wisely draws Wolverine so Stone can emphasize the yellow in his costume, which contrasts nicely with Death’s Head’s blue. She chooses browns and greens (and a weird pink) to surround the two main characters, so that their bright colors stand out among the drabness of Paxton, OR. It’s one place Stone has some leeway, and she chooses wisely.
I guess the only good thing about this comic is that somewhere in England, a teenaged Kieron Gillen read this thing obsessively and decided to use Death’s Head in S.W.O.R.D. many years later. So there you go!
Next: Well, I’ve done this before, and my random pulling of comics has turned up another issue that has been recolored, and I have two different versions of it! Come along as we examine what modern coloring can do (or can’t do!). Can you find the other instance of recoloring I’ve shown in the archives?