Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: Deathblow #16

Deathblow #16, "Wildstorm Rising Chapter 16," Cover Date May 1995
Written by Steven Seagle, Penciled by Trevor Scott with Mel Rubi and Tom Raney, Inked by Trevor Scott, Rick Maygar, and Tom Rangy

I’ve expressed in the past that it’s more than a little unfair to reduce an entire decade, a decade that produced plenty of exceptional work, to its worst excesses. As easy as it is to mock the Death of Superman or X-Force, I really believe there is plenty of value to be mined reviewing these comics, and that most of the comics I review are worth a closer look.

Deathblow 16 Cover Barry Windsor Smith

And then there’s Deathblow #16, which sounds like a joke every time I write it. And the comic is about as good as you’d expect from the sixteenth issue of a title called “Deathblow.”

For those of you who aren't familiar with the smash hit "Deathblow," it's the nom-de-guerre of Michael Cray, one of the few guys in the Wildstorm Universe that isn't part of a stupid immortal angels vs. immortal demons with a sci-fi twist. He's more like the Punisher, but without a family or a cool van.

Deathblow 16 one liner
"Oh, I'll help you. Help you DIE!

The issue begins with a recap, and even though this is part six, apparently all I've missed is Union realizing Mr. Majestic wasn't a bad guy and teaming up, and Grifter getting shot by some alien guys after calling his old buddy Deathblow. That's an entire issue of this crossover where apparently nothing of note happened, and that's being awfully charitable to the two plots described above. Deathblow responds to Grifter's call by booby-trapping his own home like some sort of Rambo/Kill Crazy type Vietnam vet, while an internal monologue adds a ton of "hilarious" unnecessary captions about how he's "expecting guests." It really is a great illustration of how a generation of writers took all the wrong lessons from Watchmen.

Deathblow 16 missile launcher
"It's really more of a metal casing used to launch projectiles at high velocity."

Deathblow shoots a missile at the Daemonite crew heading towards him while monologuing about "welcome wagons" in his head, then when some aliens try to corner him, he leads them to a tarp they run directly over, where they fall into a pit full of sharp spikes that impale them.

Deathblow 16 spike pit
I'm not sure why I find this so funny.

Meanwhile, there's dissension in the ranks, as Mr. White questions "Harka" in his leadership and/or people skills. Deathblow maneuvers more aliens into his garden, which is actually a literal garden, not some sort of exploding distraction garden. It does explode though, blowing up Deathblow's prize-winning beets. Deathblow kills more aliens with witty repartee: an alien says something like "spread out!" and Deathblow responds "You'll spread, all right! Spread your blood around!" It's a good thing Deathblow is better at traps than one-liners.

Deathblow 16 Grifter
You can hardly tell this isn't the art team from earlier, can you?

After all of his work murdering aliens and destroying his own house, Deathblow hands over the key when Grifter arrives, but something's a little off: Grifter is being somewhat polite and complimentary! Some amount of time later, the real Grifter appears, and asks where the key is. Deathblow in his internal monologue talks about how he's not surprised, but... he looks pretty surprised. Maybe it's that he has no eyes? I don't know.


I don't think I've hidden my feelings towards this comic, and note that the above is a pretty thorough synopsis of 25 pages of material. It's a completely unoriginal premise, as the fact that the grunt soldiers are aliens isn't brought up in any meaningful way: it's just one super-elite bad-ass beating up a bunch of hilariously dumb scrubs for an entire issue, then getting tricked by the villain to progress the plot for the next part of this crossover. 

 Steven Seagle received most of his acclaim from his work on fringe books like Sandman Mystery Theatre, House of Secrets, and American Virgin, but he's best known to Marvel 90's zombies as the writer of an incredibly forgettable year of Uncanny X-Men, notable mostly for the story he wasn't allowed to do, along with an Alpha Flight run that produced Big Hero 6, this year's big Disney movie! He's shown he can do good work, but this reads like clumsy aping of a Frank Miller style, except without any social commentary or satire behind the over-the-top violence (aka Frank Miller post 2001 or so). Deathblow is a completely nothing character, as only Grifter and Mr. White seem even marginally interesting, and the two of them are in maybe 5 pages of this 25 page story.

Mel Rubi's art is decent for the pages he does, but by the end of the book he's disappeared and the quality nose-dives. It's all big, bombastic action, and he does a decent enough job, but he apparently lost a memo regarding Mr. White's design, because I don't recognize him here. He looks like he's aged about 50 years, he's lost his glasses his fashionable beret. Maybe that's what happened in the issue of this crossover that's unaccounted for.

All in all, as not great as part 2 of a Wildstorm-wide crossover sounded, part 6 is significantly worse. I just don't see the appeal of any of this. Granted, I didn't see the appeal in late 80's/early 90's Punisher, either, so this clearly wasn't a book I was going to enjoy, even if it wasn't a goofy mess.


  1. I'll just say that I loved Deathblow at that age. As a huge Wildstorm fan I was pumped for this crossover, the problem was that it was in every Wildstorm Title with a special first and last issue and my local shop didn't carry each one normally and so I had to pick them up later and out of order.

    Plus this crossover had the card packs that had a special version of a card set they had just released that you couldn't find in the packs. They were these extra large cards, so I bought a box of the set and then bought all these books to get it all. The comics were sometimes creased along the spines because of the pack so finding each issue at shops in NM was hard to do.

    Deathblow's series starting out was great. Jim Lee doing Frank Miller work and then early Tim Sale took over from there. Even Trevor Scott did a good job, the other in house guys that would cover on issues were terrible though.

    I loved Wildstorm's universe of all these guys that had a past together. Team 7's first series is still one of my all time favorite comics. It was so gritty and set the background for all of these characters that I loved and it was really tight continuity. Each reset to Wildstorm lost a bit of this and the last reset before Wildstorm merged with DC just didn't have that connection that made the universe special to me. The current Wildstorm characters in DC are just a joke because they no longer have any of those tight connections that made them special in the first place. Getting a series like Kindred in the mid 90's that expanded on their pasts was so amazing at the time.

  2. Also this was the first time that got all these characters together. The whole point of the series was to get Wildstorm off Planet and to have a new Home Team of secondary characters. Travis Charest was on art and I drooled over each page, I liked it more than Jim Lee himself and I believe the writer at that time was really well known or something.