Deathlok #4 Review… Spoilers ahead…

We were all surprised when ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ played their ‘Deathlok’ card, but it came as no shock when Marvel picked up the concept and ran with it.  Their choice for writer was Nathan Edmondson (PUNISHER, BLACK WIDOW), and he’s producing a book that’s surprisingly enjoyable.

Edmondson is building his own little ‘spy’ corner of the Marvel Universe, and it’s worth noting that certain factors – such as the involvement of Domino – are tied in to his other books.  That said, he’s playing a clever game, and you don’t really need any real prior knowledge to pick up ‘Deathlok’.

The first three issues have really been about setting up the status quo, getting us familiar with the nuances of the new Deathlok.  Edmondson has played a clever idea, with the latest Deathlok, Henry Hayes, completely unaware of his violent existence – he thinks he’s an aid worker!

I have to admit that I’ve swiftly become a fan of this unusual series.  I mean, let’s face it, it’s not exactly got your typical hero – a middle-aged single parent who has no idea he’s a powerful killer machine!  But the status quo Edmondson has constructed is deliberately designed to be very fragile indeed, and #4 is the issue where that status quo begins to break.

Hayes Down
The contrast between the fragile Henry Hayes and the dismissive killing power of Deathlok is beautifully done.

On the one hand, Henry’s family life is growing increasingly awkward.  His relationship with his teenage daughter is struggling under the pressures of work-life balance, and he’s even begun to look for another job.  That thread, though, is clearly coming to a climax, as in this issue his daughter’s rebellion takes a turn for the worse, and leads Henry into difficulty.  I find it fascinating that Edmondson has constructed a character so three-dimensional that I’m more interested in what happens to Henry in this issue than I am in the Deathlok missions (which are, similarly, going out of control).

And on the other hand, Edmondson is bringing the character of Domino into centre-stage, as she homes in on the new Deathlok with unerring accuracy.

They Call Me Domino

In my view, Edmondson has been teamed with the perfect artist for this series, Mike Perkins.  Perkins is able to handle everything Edmondson throws at him – the dark world of espionage, the gritty desert colours of Afghanistan, the clinical efficiency of Deathlok, and the brutality of Henry’s own experiences in this issue.  Andy Troy’s colours complement Perkins’ style beautifully.  There’s one scene – where Deathlok blows a helicopter out of the sky – that is truly chilling, as we truly get a measure of this lethal warrior.

Easy Kill
This scene is chilling. The casual way in which Deathlok shoots down a ‘chopper – not even troubling to keep his gaze fixed on it – is testimony to his efficiency.

At times, Perkins is tremendously creative with the design of the pages – there’s a violent encounter where he conveys the brutality as much through the panel-shapes as through the scenes, and a particular gunshot that I won’t spoil – let’s just say anyone who reads this comic will know what I mean.

As I said, the status quo on this book is fragile, and in comics – a medium that Stan Lee famously said subscribe to the ‘illusion of change’ – I have real respect for Edmondson’s having built a concept that simply cannot last without change.  That makes this comic a very unusual one, and I have no qualms about recommending it.

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