Death's Head #1 Review

by Charles Martin on July 31, 2019

Death's Head #1 Review
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Kei Zama
Colourist: Felipe Sobreiro
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Let me start with a slightly spoiler-y but critically-important piece of info, in case you don't scrutinize every line of every solicit every week:

This is a Death's Head miniseries. But it is also, amazingly, a Wiccan and Hulkling miniseries. It absolutely shouldn't work, but it very much does.

Hold tight through the first act, in which poor Death's Head is shunted to Earth after Yondu gets sick of paying for his upgrades in exchange for not a lot of bounties brought in.

After a 13-week sojourn as a heap of scrap, the robot reboots himself and is embarrassed to discover he's been repurposed as an amp at a punk concert. And when he reattaches his limbs and gets a little rampage-y, Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman happen to be in the audience. It's sheer good fortune.

Or is it?

It's not yet clear what Billy knows about Death's Head; what is clear in this first issue is that he definitely knows more than he should.

Other points of clarity: Death's Head still has a marvellously dry robo-wit, Billy would like to get back into full-time super-heroing, and Teddy, while still deeply in love, is not fully on board with that plan.

Finding themselves in possession of a space robot bounty hunter who's quite interested in killing them will surely help the boys deal with their relationship issues, yes?

Kei Zama's art extends the comic's punk feel out of the concert and throughout the entire issue. Big line weight variations and strong shadow work pack a lot of detail into chunky panels laid out with inventive angles. The artist likes to fill up the foreground with extreme closeups while also showcasing significant stuff in the background. It makes for dynamic compositions, but it also makes the action scenes challenging. 

The challenge is worth accepting! Scrutinizing the action art reveals crazy subtle ideas (like Hulkling whanging Death's Head with a barstool) tattooed around the edges of the bigger plot beats. The story hangs together fine if you overlook them - but missing out on the artistic density would be a shame.

Felipe Sobreiro's colour work also plays to punk sensibilities. His intensity ranges from washed-out yellows used for Death's Head's robo-vision to throbbing fluorescent shades used in the concert. It's noisy and it's fearless, complementing Kei Zama's work and breathing gritty life into the whole spectacle.

Tini Howard's script gets a lot done. It serves up an ample share of action and fighting, but it also makes space for fascinating characterization. While Death's Head isn't exactly shorted on that score, it's Billy Kaplan that wins top honours. The words paint a gorgeous portrait of a young man afflicted with that most human of problems: A yearning for something more. 

The insight into Wiccan brings the whole story to life. Though this first issue doesn't get around to it, future installments will no doubt build parallels between the human magician and the robotic peace-keeping agent. They're both looking for meaning, and making them hunt for it together is going to be more productive and more entertaining than looking at either one alone.

Death's Head #1 reserves the lion's share of its attention for Hulkling and Wiccan, particularly the latter hero. It's an effective strategy that doesn't short the star as much as you might think. Death's Head always works best as a foil for more straightforward heroes, and this issue lays the groundwork for a doozy of a team-up. It's also got a gloriously distinctive visual style that's worth a look all by itself.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I want to see more of every one of the Future Avengers rosters Wiccan looks at.