Anyone remember Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? Not the great Robert Downey Jr. movie, but the old Crossgen comic book? It was sadly cut short by the collapse of Crossgen, but the five issues we got were really good. It was written by Tony Bedard with pencils by Mike Perkins. I was thinking of that while reading Deathlok, if only because it reminded me of just how awesome of an action artist Mike Perkins. That's kind of a silly thought to have, honestly, since Perkins has done some great action comics in the years since (including a stint as the alternate artist with Steve Epting on Ed Brubaker's Captain America run), so I don't know why my mind went all the way back to 2004, but I guess you never know what kind of things will trigger a memory in your mind. Unless, of course, your mind is being manipulated by some secretive shadow agency to block out your memories and use you as a killing machine. Which just happens to be the exact plot of Marvel's new series, Deathlok, by Nathan Edmondson, Mike Perkins and Andy Troy.
As good as an action artist as Perkins is (Perkins, by the way, is ably paired by color artist Andy Troy in this comic), Nathan Edmondson is just as good of an action writer, as he is currently showing on his two excellent series for Marvel, Punisher and Black Widow.
Here's an impressive sequence of Deathlok in action...
You have to love the bit with him shooting the phone.
This is a well-written and well-drawn action comic. It definitely succeeds on that level. However, I do have a couple of issues with this comic.
First off, I found the references to Deathlok's first appearance in Original Sins #1 to be odd, since there is a clear reference to what happened in that story - it even seems to be the basis for S.H.I.E.L.D. beginning an investigation into Deathlok, but there really isn't a whole lot of retelling of that story (where a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent discovers, via the Watcher's eye, the secret behind Deathlok, only to be killed by Deathlok) and not even a "See Original Sins #1" bit. I am not asking for them to tie in with Original Sins #1, but once they decided to do so, they really should, well, DO so.
That's a minor complaint, though, but it ties in with a larger complaint I have with this issue. That Original Sins #1 story ended up getting the hook that THIS issue should have received. That story revealed that Henry Hayes does not realize that he is the cybernetic soldier known as Deathlok because his mind is wiped before every mission and then restored (without the memory of his actions as Deathlok) after every mission. He thinks he is just a former soldier with a cybernetic leg who travels the world acting as a medic in war-torn countries. So it got the dramatic reveal when Hayes doesn't understand what the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who confronts him is even talking about, only to be activated as Deathlok and killing the agent. That was a great ending. That's a powerful story. And that was not present in this issue. In this issue, everything about Deathlok is already a given - we go into the issue knowing that Henry Hayes is a former soldier who gets "activated" and fights as Deathlok and then is "de-activated" and goes back to his regular home life with some memory gaps. That's how the issue begins and that is how the issue ends. For the first issue of a series, I want to see some change to the narrative by the end of the first issue. One way would have been to use the ending to show that Hayes doesn't realize that he is Deathlok. That was used by the Original Sins #1 story. Another way would be to have Hayes end the issue with some new knowledge that causes him to doubt himself. That didn't happen.
It's interesting to note that Marvel has, in my book, had a lot of cool approaches to the Deathlok character. The original Moench/Buckler Deathlok was cool, the McDuffie Deathlok was cool, the Joe Casey Deathlok was cool and the Jason Aaron Deathlok was cool. For a character who has not maintained much of a track record as a solo character, he sure has had a lot of cool creators doing interesting takes on the concept. And Edmonson, Perkins and Troy are definitely a fine creative team that I will continue to follow on this book, I was just expecting a little extra something in this first issue.