Deathmatch #1: Battle Hunger Royale With Supes

Supertypes of all kinds are captured by a mysterious malefactor and forced to fight to the death.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Deathmatch #1

I'll let my particular biases be known right off the bat – I've never been a big fan of Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter/button-mashing fighting games, and I don't have any particular love for the tried-and-tried setting that makes up the crux of the new Boom! series Deathmatch. Sure, The Hunger Games was decent, but I'm still currently in a fit of pique about the similar set-up going on over in Avengers Arena. So I'm not predisposed to get into this book.

However, this is Paul Jenkins, and I generally like his writing. He does have some interesting dynamics going on within this standard setting of 'supes' being captured and forced to fight each other to the death by a mysterious unseen force. In Deathmatch #1, we get the backstory of Dragonfly, aka Benny Boatwright, who seems to have a mentality somewhat akin to Spider-Man as far as death in the line of superheroing goes. He's had a steadfast line against killing ever since he discovered his powers, but their mystery captors have just forced him to kill his opponent through some mental possession. He doesn't remember doing it, but he did it, and now he's trying to figure out what happens when that line is irrevocably crossed. Plus, his secret identity has now been completely blown to friends and foe alike, but that may not matter anymore if they can't stop murdering each other.

As the exposition continues to unfold while the captives try to assess their predicament and brainstorm ways out of it (and a guy named Rat [think 'skeevier Rorschach'] is apparently finds one), we also see the giant monster Nephilim – a beast of nonviolence – forced to murder Elektronika, the woman who loves that gentle soul, and all the captives are forced to watch it happen, as if their jailers are proving a point.

If this overall premise isn't something you're weary of seeing – and there's a good chance that it isn't, due to its ubiquity and current heightened position in the zeitgeist – you may enjoy Deathmatch #1, because it's also got some interesting character work going on. Rat is already kinda neat, Dragonfly is relatable, and the masked Batman-esque hyper-informed woman Sable has some potential. Carlos Magno's artwork is solid, too. Although it occasionally looks like something out of a classic children's book with its abundance of stitchy-lines just shy of Jim Lee crosshatching in lieu of shading, it nonetheless goes for broke with rendering the strange rhino-esque Nephilim and has some intriguing character designs.

It's likely safe to assume that Paul Jenkins is not going to follow any tired conventions of this theme, because he's Paul Jenkins. So Deathmatch might be worth your dollar. I'm just not so sure it's got mine yet… but that's Avengers Arena's fault, not Jenkins' or Magno's. Not at all fair of me, I admit, but we're dealing with subjectivity here. It happens. Your mileage may certainly vary.