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The First 3 Issues: BOOM!’s Deathmatch

Deathmatch battle royale #1 BOOM! Jenkins Magno

Highs

  • Superhero Battle Royale
  • Pseudo Iron Man vs Fake Superman
  • The Rat
  • Light Guards that looks like Star Wars Imperial Guards
  • Fast starting action
  • Acid tentacle to the face
  • Lazer vision to the face

Lows

  • Poor cover art
  • You don’t know any of these characters
  • WTF is the Rift?
  • Names like Replic-8 and Sol Invictus
  • Mr. Chuckles, BOOM!’s Joker

Admit it; you’ve argued who’d win a fight between Batman and Superman. (Batman, by the way.) Or perhaps, you’ve entertained the outcome of a scrap between Iron Man and Green Lantern. Despite comic events like Civil War or the more recent Avengers vs. X-Men (and the accompanying AvX: VS. titles), we’re rarely treated to the slug-it-out, who-would-win, all-out fights between mutants, magicians, techno-mavens, and other-worldly beings.

Enter BOOM! comics, the company that answered the question, “What if Superman went bat-crap crazy?”  (See Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, and then snuggle up with a bacon-wrapped puppy-kitten to feel better.)

Like Irredeemable, Deathmatch is rooted in a new comic universe. This is not necessarily the BOOM! universe, mind you, where the Plutonian might exist, but a fictional comic universe that was built from the ground up by writer Paul Jenkins. In order to create it, each character in Deathmatch is given a cursory back-story complete with origin tales, adversarial affiliations, and even first appearance comics. Just to be clear, I say fictional comic universe, because none of the comics from which these characters originate are real. Sorry, friends you can’t bag and board Dragonfly’s first appearance issue, Super Stories #26.

Deathmatch battle royale bracket #1 BOOM! comics

This allows Jenkins to do several things most writers wouldn’t be able to do, like kill heroes. I’m talking dead as a doornail kill, not place-them-in-super-sleep-that-seems-like-death-but-actually-isn’t-because-ALIEN! kill, but really kill. It also gives Jenkins the freedom to experiment with heroes we may already know. The character’s name may be Meridian, but I know Superman when I see him.

It is in this area that the series excels, after all, that’s its main premise – to cut these beings loose in a super-powered battle royale and answer these age-old questions. Oh, and they’ve already killed off like four or five characters, no big whoop.

Though the series is only three issues in, it’s already done a fantastic job of introducing nearly a dozen recognizable Supes (heroes like Dragonfly), Fears (villains), Neuts (neutrals), and the luminescent Light Guards – super-powered prison guards that resemble Star Wars’ Imperial Guards. You’ll recognize several familiar archetypes that smack of Iron Man, Blue Beetle, Superman, Batman, the Question, Punisher, Joker, and even the Iron Patriot/Captain America, while meeting new characters like Nephilim, Cube (yuck, really), The Collective, and that Professor Moriarty-looking dude.

At the moment, not much is currently known about their mysterious captors, the people (person?) responsible for imprisoning them and forcing them to kill, not just subdue, but utterly destroy, each other in a massive battle arena. Oh sure, the Rat and maybe even that one dude that looks like he could be Professor Moriarty have an idea, but we, the readers, don’t know much. Actually, up until now, we know diddly-squat. Based on the prison guards’ design, it could be glowing Darth Vader or light Emperor for all we know. I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

Thing_Namor_AvXWhile Thing can subdue the Submariner by pinning him to the ocean floor with a pair of fish teeth – yes, that was very strange to type – Deathmatch has head-exploding victories, proving that Jenkins and Mango don’t pull any punches. Or kicks.

What’s intriguing to me is the simple addition of the first appearance comic in every character’s biography. After all, Jenkins and company could have very easily left this detail out and let the newly-created universe stand on its own. Their origins, affiliations, and other anecdotal details would’ve sufficed to establish them as powerful beings in their own right. But by including a simple First Appearance issue, we’re reminded that this is a comic book universe. A new one. And, in a subtle way, Jenkins leaves a back door open to break the fourth wall, so to speak. Not by any character, but by establishing one very important ground rule: Whatever you may expect or think of this new universe, comic rules apply. You know what? I really dig that.

Deathmatch_issue1_coverDeathmatch_issue2_coverDeathmatch_issue3_cover

At first glance, the covers of each issue do a really good job of selling you on whichever comic is next to it. Sad, but true. They range from the generic guy-standing-over-fallen-enemy cover, to the even more generic full-page-angled-shot-of-random-character-emerging-from-a-portal cover. Though they’re terribly underwhelming in a 1990’s comics sort of way, they do highlight characters that are sure to resonate with comic readers and gamers. Now that I know the set-up, all I see are the Iron Patriot, Goro from Mortal Kombat, and Iron Man without his helmet. Not a bad thing, mind you.

Luckily, Carlos Magno’s art inside the books does a great job of supporting Jenkins’s narrative. The prison is a complex and dizzying web of technology that is at once as mysterious as it is oppressive. While triumphant flashbacks are vibrant, visually appealing and frequently feature the quintessential heroically posed super team – arms victoriously crossed, team members staggered across foreground and background, and at least one hero in mid-flight as he lands behind them. Yeah. Bad ass.

So, here we are. Three issues in and at a crucial decision point. Jump in or continue to pass this one by at the shop?

Ask yourself these questions.

  • Did you read AvX: VS.?
  • Can you invest in an all new universe of unknown characters?
  • Do exploding heads bother you?
  • Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?

If you answered Batman to any one of those four questions you’ve found youself a new series to dive into.

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