Book of Doom: Deathblow #1

Deathblow #1I didn’t have any kind of high expectations for Deathblow, and in fact I had ridiculously low expectations, until I saw that Brian Azarello was writing it. I thought, “A ha, what a sign of the times, when a book that originally launched from the Jim Lee boom of the 90s is now intriguing based upon the writer.”

It read to me like a book that was intially intended for mature readers but was then toned down for all ages. The biggest clue of that was the opening scene in the bathroom, with the bathing woman’s carefully placed towel as she rose from the tub, even though she was wearing a swimsuit. Not that I look to Deathblow for hand-drawn nudity, but I was wondering if that suit wasn’t added later.

That apparent withdrawal from an ideal level of intensity seemed to suit the rest of the book as well. Deathblow is a hardcore toughguy, but the intensity of the breakout just played a little too cartoony for my tastes. The parallels between the Americans and the locals was a little too cute for me, and Greenie’s violation of war movie rules was just too self-aware. Speaking of self-awareness, I was not the slightest bit fond of being looked at by the people from within the book.

That said, I am a little bit intrigued by the nature of the higher-ups interest in Deathblow – that the drama in this series isn’t just “the hardcore killing machine isn’t going to just be unleashed on the baddies.” But this issue failed in the same way that many #1s fail – it was all introduction. I would much rather pay an extra buck for a longer issue that’s more than a teaser if it gives me a sense of how a regular issue is going to read.

If Deathblow #2 comes out on a slow week for me, I might give the series a chance. Not all of my fellow LODers felt the same way.

Doom DeLuise‘s full review was “Wave a skunk in front of it.”

Fin Fang Doom said “Deathblow was bad. I’m tired so I’m not going to go into a tremendous amount of detail, but two things stood out as particularly bad. The characters looking directly into the ‘camera’ for half the issue was annoying as hell. And that guy taking a dump while his secretray implies she masturbates with her fake hand was just gross and added nothing to the story. Oh, and the ‘unstoppable killing machine on the side of good’ has been done better so many times that Deathblow seems like a waste.”

And for a longer take on this issue, we turn to Jean-Claude Van Doom:
Expectations can make such a huge difference in the way one reacts to anything. Even after reading Deathblow #1 twice, I’m not quite sure if it’s actually a pretty good comic, or if my expectations of a yeti-sized pile of dung were so low that I was impressed by a simply average-sized pile of crap. As per usual, the answer is probably somewhere in between.

For starters, I don’t think I ever read Deathblow. But I read some of the Wildstorm stuff back in the 1990s, and some of it I liked at the time. Most of it I thought sucked. And when I heard of Worldstorm (part of this bizarre resurgence of mid-90s pap including Heroes Reborn), I figured it would suck. Big time. Colossal time. Expectations established, on to the review…

The first pages are fun. A vicious if confusing interrogation/torture of someone we can only assume is Deathblow. Then there’s some army guy, some random hot chick, some other random hot chick, and finally action, as soldiers go and free Deathblow. The rest moves fast and is fun (which should be expected from Azzarello). There are a few missteps in execution. Mostly, it’s needlessly confusing as the soldiers storm the place where Deathblow is being held. Then, Deathblow frees himself while his torturers are distracted by the soldiers. Except, if he’s able to free himself whenever the people watching him are distracted, why did he wait until this moment? Surely his watchers would’ve been slightly distracted before. It’s a needless and pointless mistake, which seems only to allow for Deathblow to deliver his namesake to a torturer’s head. Ka-splat.

So, what makes it seem so good? After flipping through a third time, I think the moment I bought in to the possibility of this not sucking came early as the army guy is ordering the strike to free Deathblow. And his hot crony woman has a metal hand, which is just typical 1990s oh, look at me, I’m so cool, kind of a thing. Azzarello gives a winking nod to the readers though, by having the woman boast, “It vibrates…” This is followed by a panel in which the army guy looks straight to the reader with a kind of pained smile. To me, in two tiny panels that acknowledged the ridiculousness of the series and said, “It’s okay. Just sit back and enjoy a fun stupid ride.”

Now, on the other hand, there’s the letter from Jim Lee, which talks up how it’s great to revisit Deathblow and Azzarello is a good enough writer to “infuse Deathblow with the pathos, the existentialism, dare I say the humanity…” This is pretentious tripe, the kind of attitude that eventually convinced most everyone to give comics the collective finger a decade ago. And in the end, I think Jim Lee’s stupidity wins out, which means this is both the first and last issue of Deathblow I buy.