Written by: Tini Howard
Art by: Kei Zama and Felipe Sobreiro
Letters by: VC’s Travis Lanham
Although a little uneven at times, last month’s opening issue of Death’s Head did a good job of plunging us into the decidedly weird world of the eponymous robot bounty hunter and threw in a pair of ex-Young Avengers for good measure. The issue ended with a rarity in comics these days – a genuinely surprising reveal that suggested this series is going to be a lot more fun than I’d previously thought. How do things pan out for our homicidal anti-hero and his young erstwhile targets soon to be companions? Let’s find out…
Well, I suppose it had to happen. After all the wackiness and excitement of this issue, explanations were most definitely in order and that means that things have to slow right down and characters need to stand around talking to each other. A lot. That’s not to say that there aren’t some moments of action but they’re mostly filler and the plot as a whole would be better without them. Last month’s revelation that Wiccan has been, for some weird reason, keeping a version of Death’s Head stashed in his bed is explained in a way that is almost disappointingly mundane. He stole this version of Death’s Head (version V, incidentally – which leads to him being referred to as ‘Vee’ throughout the issue) from an abandoned Project Pegasus facility. This facility is introduced in the opening flashback as is Evelyn Necker, and AIM scientist who is a key part of Death’s Head backstory in the old Marvel UK universe. This works up to a point, but it’s all a bit prosaic and Wiccan’s motivation is, although understandable, a little vague – in (obsessively) scrying potential futures in which he and Hulkling are Avengers, he consistently sees this version of Death’s Head as a part of that team. Makes sense to find and steal him, eh? Hmmm…
Needless to say, when Vee reboots there is a clash between him and his earlier version and the issue is sidetracked by a fight that spills over into the apartment complex pool area and involves revealing that robot bounty hunters are not entirely waterproof. None of this is bad per se, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for from that cliffhanger ending last time around. Tini Howard’s dialogue is energetic and engaging enough (as is the fight as a whole), but there are times when characters seem to be speaking more for the reader’s benefit than anything else. (“Call him Vee, you maniac!”)
That Vee is not as keen on combat as his namesake is interesting and there is, to be fair, some fun to be had in seeing Hulkling go into battle with a rolled-up pool parasol as a weapon. Kate Bishop shows up to save the day and the issue hits something of a low point with Kate watching over Death’s Head, while the boys get some much-needed rest. She is curiously laid back when Death’s Head and Vee start arguing with one another, largely, one suspect, because their differences need to be resolved before the story can move forward. Because we’ve spent so long getting to this point, the resulting exploration of the Project Pegasus facility is less atmospheric than it could be and the confrontation with Necker (albeit by video call) that ends the issue is abrupt and a bit unsatisfying. A character dramatically explaining who they are (and who they’re not) is not really the stuff of gripping cliffhanger endings, after all.
This is not to say that the issue is without its merits. The character interaction is, for the most part, fun and engaging, but there was the opportunity for a more substantial story here than the one we got. It’s difficult to see what the opening flashback added to anything; other than it (sort of) tying in with the issue’s final section, it’s almost entirely superfluous. The story does have some nice moments, although not all of them hit: Death’s Head attempting to tell Kate that she’s not Hawkeye is funny; Wiccan making Death’s Head waffles is mildly amusing; Vee threatening Death’s Head with a glass of water is just silly.
So, is this issue worth your while? A lot depends on what you want, who you like and what you’re expecting. There’s action here but it’s very much of the fighting-between-characters-you-already-know-are-going-to-work-together variety. If you like off the wall banter and silliness, well there’s enough here to fill your boots. If you want an issue that builds on last month’s ending in interesting and inventive ways, well, you might be a bit disappointed. One thing I will say is that I think Zama’s art is better this time around. The script clearly calls for characters interacting with the environment in greater ways than last issue and the art renders that pretty well. The issue as a whole, though, is neither as fast-paced nor as engaging as I’d like it to be.
There is fun to be had here, but the sense of the story dragging its feet is reinforced by some in-fighting and overly verbose dialogue. The introduction of Kate Bishop is welcome, but the story doesn’t really get going until the last few pages. A little disappointing.