By Charlie Huston (writer), Lan Medina (artist), Brian Heberling (colorist)
The Story: In the near future, war is still hell but it’s also become an incredibly popular type of sports entertainment. Countries, corporations, and private military contractors now settle grudges by pitting their teams of proxy armies against each other on the popular TV show Battlezone. At the forefront of this new industry is Mike Travers, the billionaire celebrity soldier of the Roxxon Corporation, and his conservative co-captain Luther Manning. On the battlefields of the future, their already strained relationship is about to be put to the test.
The Good: I was initially drawn to this story based on Huston’s successful relaunch of Moon Knight, and based on this first issue it looks like I was right to put my trust in his storytelling. Huston has a masterful control over his characters and does an excellent job of making dialogue sound tough and macho, and yet completely natural-sounding. Everyone from Travers and Manning to the Battlezone commentators feels like believable, fully realized people in a world that places a premium on being a badass. Huston commits to this world and its nuances completely, and that in turn sells the idea of Battlezone as an important aspect of global policy. Medina and Heberling are a fantastic art team that turn in some beautiful pages here. Medina’s illustrations perfectly convey the human arc of this story, and Heberling’s lush palette of colors render everything from the cool, metallic corridors of the Roxxon Rockers to the dry, warm battlefield where the end of the issue takes an explosive turn. Honestly, if these guys are doing this good a job on the first issue, I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with once Deathlok officially enters the picture. Well done, guys!
The Not So Good: The central premise in this issue of ‘war as entertainment’ is certainly not treading any new grounds here, and I feel like I’ve come across this type of story way too many times to be especially impressed or entertained by it. I may have not minded it so much if it hadn’t taken up the entire issue, but I felt like Huston spent too much time trying to establish the logic and society of this world and not enough on the dynamics between Travers and Manning, which would have benefited enormously from further exposition. I also became annoyed with the frequency of comments from the Battlezone sportscasters, and eventually stopped reading their captions towards the end of the issue simply because it wasn’t adding anything to the plot.
Conclusion: While Deathlok #1 did not benefit from its slow, potboiler plot, it featured enough great characterization and outstanding artwork to make me want to come back for next month’s issue. I’m curious to see where the guys will take this.