by Andy Lanning, Alan Cowsill (Writers), Nick Roche (Artist), Veronica Gandini (Colorist)

The Story: It might sound wise not to betray and piss off a time-travelling freelance peacekeeping agent, yes?

The Review
: There has been a certain re-emergence of Death’s Head in the Marvel universe. Thanks to the work of Kieron Gillen in making him a part of his S.W.O.R.D. and Iron Man runs, the vocal and somewhat polite robot made quite an impact in terms of general appreciation. With the Revolutionary War storyline going on, the opportunity to present his history as well as updating him is definitely present, yet can Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsill actually do as nice a job as Gillen when it comes to the freelance peacekeeping agent?

For the most part, the tale does represent a good lot of what is fun with the many versions of the character, with the three different interpretations being reintroduced in this issue. It is by no mean a perfect issue, with some problems plaguing it in some important areas, yet it succeeds in the most fundamental of aspects: fun.

The best thing about this issue is the characterization, with a fast-paced and hilarious attention to the speeches, declarations and actions of both protagonists. Both Death’s Head and Death’s Head II are similar, yet different in important aspects, showing who’s the actual upgrade and how they differ despite their resemblance in terms of approach and quirks. Their interactions, throughout the issue, goes from begrudging respect, comedy and rather neat action which sells that there is definitely room for both in the Marvel universe.

However, not all characters manage to steal the show as much as those two, with a variety of supporting characters that range from a bit too cartoonish to rather boring and non-essential. Tuck, for all that she does in this issue, isn’t that particularly entertaining, while Dr. Necker, as full of surprises as she is, would fit a bit more with a Looney Tunes cartoon than in a super hero comic. There are some other smaller characters, yet they don’t leave as much of an impact as those two, which makes this comic rely a bit too much on the charms of both Death’s Heads for it to properly work.

Thankfully, the emphasis on crazy action makes this rather frenetic issue work most of the time. With plenty of little twists and a plethora of fighting sequences, the issue never lets go of the conflict without getting in the way of defining its characters and advancing the main narrative ever so slightly. However, the action can get a bit hectic and non-descriptive, with both Lanning and Cowsill using it more as a setting some of the time more than as a legitimate sequence of actions and movements made to entertain. There are times when the general violence is cut short by failures in the script or with a pacing that comes as a bit too fast for its own good, but it isn’t omnipresent and overwhelming to make the issue fail in a general manner.

Another area which has more strengths than weaknesses is the art, with Nick Roche drawing robots like a professional. An artist normally associated to the Transformers franchise (particularly the superb Last Stand of the Wreckers), Roche works rather well here, with a good method of representing large group without making things look too chaotic for its own good. He does not succeed in every panels he illustrate to make things look clear and distinct, but the majority of the issue is very good, with an effective illusion of movement that serves the action very well. His poses, faces and emotions pass very well in the main robots face, letting their personality ooze on the page in a way that sells them even further as characters.

His storytelling is also quite fluid, with a creative layout that does the action a great service. What doesn’t work as well, though, are his backgrounds, with a minimal effort from the artist at putting on a setting for the characters to interact and evolve in. There is a constant switch between actually elaborate scenery and a complete lack of details that doesn’t really help most of the time. It helps put the focus on the action, but the inconsistency is a bit disappointing nonetheless.

The color work of Veronica Gandini, for the most part, is rather competent, though a bit unexceptional at times. While her handle on clear contrasts with warm and cold colors is rather efficient and her shading is certainly good, there are too many occurrence where the diversity is a bit lacking. There are so many times orange, blue and grey can serve as the essential colors before it gets a bit tiring. While she uses those colors for all that it’s worth, a bit more colors could have done a certain service to the issue, making the color decent if not a bit repetitive at times.

The Conclusion: This issue is a bit too cartoonish and somewhat unfocused at times, yet there is a sense of fun that permeates it along with two amusing leads and a very decent visual direction. Flawed, yet definitely enjoyable.

Grade: B-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière