06th Aug2019

‘Death’s Head #1′ Review (Marvel Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Tini Howard | Art by Kei Zama | Published by Marvel Comics

deaths-head-1-cover

Death’s Head was the best thing that ever came out of Marvel UK. Created by Simon Furman and Geoff Senior, he was originally created as a bit of a throwaway character, but ended up becoming a massive cult hit. The late 1980′s and early 1990′s were of course the highpoint of the ‘anti-hero’ craze and Death’s Head fit in nicely. The down side of course was that when that craze ended, he was banished to the ‘unfashionable’ box, and pretty much stayed there, with the occasional mention here and there, and a revival of sorts came in the 2014 mini-series. The cult status remains firmly in place with creators of a certain age, who were fans like us back in the day, managing to integrate Death’s Head into Marvel continuity through a cameo here, a mention there. Marvel seems to have decided now was the time to dust down the property and see if there is any life in it. Cough…Multi-media licensing…cough.

The first thing I noticed was no Simon Furman or Geoff Senior involvement. Boo. A lot of what made Death’s Head the cult hero he was, was Furman’s dialogue and irreverent storytelling, and Senior’s visuals gave him his distinctive look. Scripting duties this time round fall to Tini Howard, with visuals by Kei Zama. This will be the first thing I have read by Howard, and I’m expecting big things, seeing how much work Marvel have been giving her lately. She’s clearly flavour of the month after all. Let’s take a look.

Any doubts about how much Death’s Head (or DH as I will call him) will be integrated into the mainstream Marvel Universe are shot down almost immediately, when a rebooted DH is face to face with Yondu, of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. It seems Yondu and DH had a professional relationship, where DH brought in bounties for Yondu in return for Yondu funding upgrades. Only problem is, DH is getting on a bit in the robotic mercenary trade, as Yondu’s killer fembots prove. One skirmish later, Death’s Head crashes to Earth where, after being used as an amp (read it yourself!), his Marvel Universe integration continues as he encounters Wiccan and Hulking, of the Young Avengers. Wiccan is an immature Dr Strange, Hulking a Kree/Skrull hybrid who is super-strong, for those not in the know. The obligatory fisticuffs ensue, before Wiccan teleports DH to a secure place. A prison planet? alternate reality? pocket dimension? Nope. Their bathroom.

While DH is immobilised we get a little glimpse into Wiccan’s life. Wiccan it seems is obsessed with scouring other realities to see what versions of himself have done, what decisions lead to what outcomes. Very unhealthy. This time though he has the justification of trying to see where, and when, Death’s Head has come from, and what version of him it is. There have been several of course, but this one seems to be the creaky, though very dangerous still, original. Wiccan hears a gunshot and fears the worst, with DH confronting a caught off guard Hulking. More fisticuffs ensue, and just when we think it’ll all end in tears, it actually all ends in open mouths all round. Under the bed is another Death’s Head. Say what now?

This was a likeable bash at Death’s Head, but one that felt at times a little unsure of itself. Death’s Head was always a character that plays best with others, needing to be part of an ensemble to shine, but ultimately they would allow him the spotlight. This book felt much more like a team -up book, with Wiccan probably having the best lines and role. The humour is nicely done, and Howard throws plenty of action into the mix too, so that’s classic Death’s Head right there, and overall there’s a lot to like. The art by Kei Zama is perfect for this book, and Death’s Head in particular. Lots of kinetic energy, lots of detail, and a jumble of perspectives and angles to keep us off balance. Once or twice perhaps too jumbled, making it an effort to follow exactly what was going on, when, and to whom, but on balance very nice work.

An interesting book. Unorthodox, funny, action packed, and ever so slightly odd. This may not be the Death’s Head you were looking for, or expecting, but he will be after reading this. Yes?

**** 4/5

Death’s Head #1 is out now from Marvel Comics.

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