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Welcome back to 1993. . .a time when Image was known for superheroes instead of Zombies and they really REALLY wanted to be Marvel.  This title was sort of the odd man out. . .

DEATHBLOW

ISSUE 0

I don't remember much about Deathblow except that it was the place where I discovered the awesomeness that is Tim Sale's art, and that it was a supernatural/military mashup featuring a non-superpowered superhero and more on the realistic gritty side of things than Image was generally known for at the time. So how does this 0 issue serve to (re) introduce me to the world of Deathblow?

I'd say it does a pretty good job. It's pretty much a story of Deathblow being tasked to take out a Central American dictator, while at the same time, a special ops team has been tasked with taking out Deathblow without realizing that he is operating on orders from the same place as they are. It's a very nice game of cat and mouse and showcases how badass Deathblow is as he avoids and defends against the other team. It also introduces the character quite well through both inner monologue and other characters talking about him. All in all, I'd say this issue does exactly what I expect from a 0 issue.

Let's talk about the art. Jim Lee. Legendary artist. The cover is OH so sweet! The inside art is. . .different. It's not Lee's usual style and is pretty much an homage to Frank Miller (Lee admits as much on the letters page). I have to confess, it's not bad, but I didn't really like it. Jim Lee channeling Frank Miller is very strange when you're used to his usual style. It doesn't help that the art switches up in the middle of the book. . .this issue was originally published as 'Darker Image" and had some pages added to make it a full issue.

All in all, except for the odd art choice on the part of Lee, this is a great introduction to Deathblow.

ISSUE 1

So. . .Deathblow #1
I was disappointed with this opening issue. First off, the art is Jim Lee's odd "Frank Miller Homage" phase and not the Jim Lee you might be thinking of. It's not bad, it's just a strange choice and not his best. Why Jim Lee felt like emulating Frank Miller for a while is beyond me (and this isn't just my opinion, he full on admits the art is Miller homage in the letters page). 

The other thing that disappointed me about this issue is that it's really only 10 pages of Deathblow. It is extremely short. This is because there's a flipbook (Cybernary) and lots of ads, so only HALF of Deathblow's first issue is actually Deathblow. I find this an odd and disappointing choice.

That said, the story (what little of it there is) is well written and the art isn't BAD, it's just strange for Jim Lee. 

That said. . .

Half of the book is Cybernary, so let's talk Cybernary.

BONUS REVIEW!

In my humble opinion, the Cybernary flipbook was actually the superior part of this issue. It's a hard sci-fi/cyberpunk tale with FANTASTIC art. It was also extremely short, but it has something to do with a female android escaping from somewhere and being captured. I found myself enjoying Cybernary a lot more than Deathblow.

All in all, I was sort of disappointed with Deathblow, but blown away by Cybernary.

ISSUE 2

Once again, I'm a bit disappointed. It's not that the writing or art is bad. . .as a matter of fact, Lee's "Miller Homage" style looks a lot better in this issue. I think he modified the inking. No, what's disappointing is that this book is 1/3 Deathblow, 1/3 Cybernary and 1/3 ads. There are a LOT of ads in this issue. The whole back third is ads! No bueno. . .

But like I said, the art is improving and the story (what there is of it) is good. Basically, it's Deathblow moping about his brain tumor, an operative named Trickle doubting Deathblow still has what it takes, and Trickle and Deathblow getting a mission briefing. Not much there, but whatcha gonna do with 10 pages?

CYBERNARY:

Once again, I was blown away by the flipbook feature. The story is a bit hard to follow. . .the female cyborg is taken to some sort of mad scientist who wants her secrets while corporate Hunter-Killer cyborgs start on the hunt to recover her. It's the art that steals the show. It reminds me a lot of Simon Bisley, but in a less painted, darker inked way. It's Fantastic!

All in all, between an improving Deathblow and a surprising Cybernary this is a good issue.

ISSUE 3

A funny thing about this issue. I completely forgot I had it signed by Jim Lee (worst cover ever for signtures, BTW). Showed up to an out of town comic shop and was like "What's the line about?" They told me Jim Lee was there to autograph books. Completely random and unexpected for me. I was like "HELL YEAH!" and quickly dug through their back issues for something with a Lee cover. Deathblow #3 was all I could find. I completely forgot until I opened the issue up and the certificate fell out.

ANYWAY. . .

Cool random Jim Lee meeting story aside, once again there's only half an issue here. At least they toned down the ads so Deathblow and Cybernary are 50/50 in this one, so there's that. . .

Lee begins to swap out art duties with Tim Sale in this issue, and you can really tell where Lee did layouts with his "Miller Homage" style and where Sale took over completely. It's like night and day. The art is a little confused because of it, but it's not bad. . .just strange. The story (what there is of it) is still good. Some supernatural elements start showing up at the beginning as a being known as "The Dark Angel" starts invading Deathblow's dreams as he's headed to Iraq to take down a dictator called. . .wait for it. . .Kussein. Yeah. Still, all in all not bad.

CYBERNARY:

The art continues to blow me away on the flipbook. The story is still a bit all over the place as the mad scientist hooks into the female cyborgs mind and he gets flashbacks of a hijacking gone wrong. I still think Cybernary is the better half of this series.

ISSUE 4

So. . .still only half an issue of Deathblow, but it looks like the bad news is that this is the last issue of Cybernary. . .which I have been enjoying a lot more than Deathblow.

This is also the first issue with Tim Sale on full art duty, and it looks great! It's not quite up to the level of his later work, but you can definitely see the awesomeness that Tim Sale will become in this issue, especially with the center foldout poster. I REALLY wanted to tear it out and frame it in my mancave, but I didn't want to ruin the $3.00 value of the issue. . .

Lots of action in this issue as Deathblow and company hit a command center in Iraq and proceed to kicking what asses are available to be kicked. It's well written, well drawn, and all in all, well done. Best issue yet.

CYBERNARY:

Like I said above, unfortunately, it looks like this is the last Cybernary backup. Too bad, because the story is JUST starting to really get there. The mad scientist realizes that the vyborg he's been hacking into is actually a modified human just as the Corporate Hunter Killer forces attack in a completely outrageous, detailed, and awesome double page battle spread that has to be seen to be believed! I checked the 'net and saw that Cybernary was continued in 2 series of 11 issues total, so it looks like it didn't go too far after Deathblow, probably because they swapped out both the artist and the writer from the Deathblow backups and the quality took a severe dip.

A damn shame. it COULD have been great.

ISSUE 5

In the first full-length issue of Deathblow, we have the beginning of a new arc. Most of the issue is setup for things to come. . .Deathblow finds out his cancer has spread. Lynch and Craven find out that the cancer is actually the "Gen Agent" he and his team were exposed to years ago manifesting. A serial killer is taken down by a hot lady cop. A boy raises the dead in New York City. A nun who is a former cop is sent by 'The Order of The Cross" to watch over the boy. The Order sends assassins after Deathblow for revenge because he took out one of their operatives in Iraq and they assume he's got something to do with The Black Angel.

I think that's all. Like I said. . .lots of setup. A lot of story threads and irons in the fire. I'm liking the religious/supernatural/military mashup that looks to be taking shape in this book. The art is great on this issue (once again especially the center poster), the writing is good. Here's hoping this title can stay on the rails at least for a while (If I recall, later issues have some superhero nonsense. . .but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it). So far, so good.

But I miss Cybernary, damn it.

ISSUE 6

Things are still going strong as Deathblow learns the origin of The Order of The Cross and The Black Angel. Tim Sale's art is just getting better and better on this title. The writing remains strong as well. . .I especially liked Deathblow's awkward reunion with his ex girlfriend, who turns out to be the hot policewoman chasing a serial killer we saw a couple issues back.

Can things stay on the rails? I hope so, because this story is really starting to grow on me.

ISSUE 7

Nuns with guns! 
First, check out that sweet cover by Lee. . .

The action heats up as Deathblow teams up with a gun-packing nun to try and get the "miracle child" to safety. The black Angel and Trickle go on an all-out assault to prevent Deathblow from succeeding.

I really liked this issue, even though it was mostly running and fighting. There's a nice sense of urgency here instead of it just feeling like an excuse for some violence. Good stuff!

ISSUE 8

I really liked this issue.  We get to see the human side of Deathblow as he confesses his sins so that he can take a drink from the Holy Grail.  I also liked that afterwards when offered a spot in The Order's forces, the writer does the unexpected and has him decline.  He wants to live a life of peace now that he's been given a second chance.  Unfortunately, this is issue #8 of 29.  I don't think that's gonna work out.

This issue looks like it's pretty much setup for a violent run toward the end of this arc, but given that, I thought it was one of the better ones so far for taking a breather to focus on some character work.

ISSUE 9

This issue is pretty much all out battle as the Black Angel and his minions invade the Order's fortress and take the miracle child. 

I suppose this issue was okay, even though it would have been nice to see Deathblow TRY to be peaceful for a while instead of the whole 10 minutes it took between his deciding to leave a life of violence behind and Black Angel attacking. But then again, what else is a guy called Deathblow gonna do? Run a Bed and Breakfast?

Not bad. . .not great. 

But LOOK at that cover! I love it!

I give this issue an extra star for Jim Lee's extreme cover game this time out. . .

ISSUE 10

Another issue that's mostly fighting as Deathblow and Sister Mary catch up to the Black Angel. Trickle A.K.A. "The most annoying character" goes down and so does Deathblow's ex-wife Gaby. 

A good thing they're trimming the cast a bit because at the end of it all, Lynch decides Deathblow needs some help and his old Team 7 gang (Dane, Backlash, and Grifter) show up in a super-sweet last panel by Sale, whose art just keeps getting better. . .including another fantastic poster that I had to stop myself from pulling out so I wouldn't decrease the value of my $3.00 comic.

Not a great issue, but not bad either. Sale surprised me by actually making me WANT some costumed superheroes in the fight. Damn he's good.

ISSUE 11

Thing are getting real! Dane, Backlash, and Grifter find out that maybe they shouldn't have split up to take on the Four Horsemen one at a time as they get taken down quick.

Deathblow does a little better as he confronts the Fourth Horseman (Death), who turns out to be the commander of the team chasing him way back in Deathblow #0, and figures out how to take him down.

Not a bad issue, but some of the dialogue doesn't hit the mark and seems a little off for some reason. Also, I guess Sale didn't read Darker Image or Deathblow #0 because there, Lt. Conrad (who was turned into Death in this issue) was a giant white guy. Here, Sale makes him a kind of small black dude. That and for some reason the pullout poster in this issue is the same one that was in issue #10. . .not that it's bad. It's really good. Just a bit odd. 

I wonder if I'm seeing signs of editorial slippage not even halfway through this run. . .

ISSUE 12

And a big finish for the second arc in this series. It's a fight to the finish and pretty much everybody dies. . .until Deathblow uses love to power the sword of heaven and destroy the Black Angel.

I thought the ending was kind of a cop-out when the miracle child is suddenly able to reset almost everything back to the way it was except that Gaby is still dead, so sorry Deathblow. Thumbs up on ending the apocalypse, though!

It just seemed a bit of an ex machina ending, but it was written and drawn well, especially the scene where Deathblow jams the love sword through The Black Angel's chest in a sweet double page spread.

On a bad note, there was an announcement at the end that this was Tim Sale's last issue as regular artist. Too bad, Sale is one of my all-time favorites.

All in all, I really enjoyed this whole arc. The combination of military action with supernatural and religious elements was a very nice change of pace. I sort of remembered Deathblow as "Image's Punisher" but I see now that I remembered wrong. 

More to come.  Be there or be square!


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