Issue(s): Deathlok #12, Deathlok #13, Deathlok #14, Deathlok #15
Regardless of what you think of the art, the story here is a breath of fresh air. If, after reading the first year of this title, you assumed that the formula was going to be Deathlok continually searching for his body (but never finding it) while getting sucked into random adventures, all while pining over never being able to face his wife again, you are in for a surprise here. SHIELD finds out that Deathlok's wife, Tracy, is pregnant (with Deathlok's baby; it's only been 3 months in-story since Michael Collins became Deathlok). So they tell Tracy about Deathlok, and then tell Deathlok that his wife is pregnant and that she knows that he's alive and what his current situation is. So a pretty big deal: Deathlok goes home to his family.
But speaking of getting sucked into random adventures, Deathlok starts off on a mission for SHIELD, in return for a favor that SHIELD did for him recently. His mission is to take out the villain (and Dwayne McDuffie creation) Powderkeg, who is holding the Symkarian ambassador and his family hostage (i guess Silver Sable is out of town).
The fight doesn't take long.
The scene is really meant to emphasize the fact that Deathlok does not consider himself a super-hero and does not like doing stuff like this. We're also shown that maybe Deathlok isn't as terrifying to other people as he thinks he is.
The real point of the Powderkeg portion is to really emphasize the idea that Deathlok doesn't consider himself a super-hero (with McDuffie kind of poking fun at the genre).
It's at this point that Fury tells Deathlok about his wife.
Meanwhile, a creature is loose at SHIELD. It eats the brain of a SHIELD agent in order to learn his memories, and then it accesses a computer file on Deathlok.
Say what you will about Cowan's art; it's perfect for depicting stuff like that.
The creature leaves a residue behind that has a composition that matches the fluid inside Deathlok, so SHIELD thinks it's possible that Deathlok was responsible for the attack. And since Nick Fury is currently talking with Deathlok, they worry that Deathlok will attack him next, so they assume the worst and go after him. And to complicate matters, the father of the SHIELD agent that was killed is leading the attack. So he's trying to kill Deathlok, not apprehend him, and he's not listening to Fury's orders.
I continue to love the running dialogue between Deathlok and his computer. Always fun.
With some help from Fury, Deathlok is able to stop the Mandroids. Fury doesn't even consider the possibility that Deathlok was responsible for the murder, and he puts an investigative team on finding the real killer. Deathlok then goes home to his family.
Tracy is in the process of explaining the situation to her sister, Arlene, when he arrives.
This is where Dwayne McDuffie really starts to shine. There's real apprehension from Tracy, but it's done in a way that feels natural. She's not immediately accepting, but she's also not histrionic. There's humor, but it's the real life humor of people in a weird situation.
There's a different kind of humor from Deathlok's computer, who describes Tracy's pregnancy as if she's a Mecha unit.
Deathlok then goes to see his son, Nick. Michael has seen his son since he became Deathlok, in the Punisher team-up story where Nick was caught up in a drug dealing scheme. At the time, Deathlok was pretending to not be Nick's father. Now that it's open, Michael gives his son "the talk" that a lot of black parents give their kids (see Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me for an extended version of it).
Nick asks his dad why he pretended to be dead, but seems to accept that it was to protect them, and that seems immediately forgotten when Nick finds out that his mom is pregnant. Going forward, Nick is much more accepting that his father is Deathlok than his mother is, and it's suggested that he really has known since the Punisher incident.
Another thing i've liked about this series is that SHIELD has continued to keep in touch with Deathlok, almost as if they feel a responsibility for him. And now a SHIELD HR person shows up to get Deathlok enrolled in their benefits program. And the SHIELD guy is very accepting of Deathlok.
But Tracy still isn't entirely accepting. Here's a conversation about their sleeping arrangements.
And here's a scene where he startles her at the breakfast table. Very reminiscent of a scene from Hulk #383, except Tracy is more open about her feelings (no doubt that Dale Keown did it better artwise, though).
Deathlok gives Tracy all the letters that he's been writing to her but not sending. As she reads them, we see that Nick doesn't see a problem at all (and McDuffie makes a nod to the similarities between Deathlok and Robocop).
Meanwhile, the creature that we saw at SHIELD, which will be called Biohazard, continues to kill people. We see it dig up the grave of Billy Hansen (a deceased Cybertek employee) and eat him to learn his memories. It then gives "birth" to a Billy Hansen replica.
"Hansen" goes to visit Deathlok. Hansen tells Deathlok that Biohazard was made from the brain of John Kelly, the first Deathlok. After Kelly died, Hansen tried to bring his brain back to life.
He says that the Deathlok brain was infused with nanotechnology, which meant that it was possible for it to grow and evolve. Deathlok's body is also infused with nanotech, which is why Deathlok has subtly morphed to looking more like Michael Collins than John Kelly.
Hansen's experiments with Kelly's brain seemed unsuccessful, so Hansen ending up throwing it out. But it turned out that it was just evolving slowly, and it continued to rebuild itself in the junkyard, which is how it eventually became the Biohazard monster it is now. The creature is trying to restore its memories to fully be John Kelly again, which is why it's going after people that knew Kelly and getting info on the Deathlok project.
Deathlok's wife and sister-in-law then wonder why Hansen would come here to warn Deathlok about all of this, and indeed it turns out that Hansen is really a kind of timebomb sent by Biohazard.
So Deathlok has to fight Hansen.
Possibly because he's fighting for his family, or maybe just because the creature seems unstoppable, Deathlok experiences fear for what i guess is the first time.
Tracy tries to help out by grabbing Deathlok's dropped gun, but the gun only fires for Deathlok.
It's Mike Manley, not Cowan, on art for the above fight. He also does a good job depicting the creepy grossness of Biohazard (or the Billy Hansen offshoot).
Luckily for Deathlok and his family, the SHIELD agent whose son was killed shows up to help out. He first sprays a mist that inhibits the creature's nanites (and note the spray affects Deathlok as well)...
...and then he shoves it into an adamantium biohazard drum.
(We're back to the Cowan art.)
But the creature that was defeated is just the Hansen offshoot that Biohazard gave birth to. The big one is still out there. The SHIELD agent asks Deathlok to come along with him. Deathlok continues to insist that he's not a superhero, but Tracy, having read all his letters at this point, tells him that he's lying to himself, and both she and their son encourage him to go.
The "do what's right, not what's easiest" line is advice that Michael has been giving to his son from the beginning.
Deathlok figures out that Biohazard would go after the wife and daughter of John Kelly, so they track them down and Biohazard is indeed there.
This creature is too big to stuff into a drum, so Deathlok has to climb inside the creature and pull out its core, the "brain" that Hansen removed from Kelly.
True to his character, Deathok did try reasoning with it first, but it was to no avail.
While they're burning up the body (which can no longer regenerate now that that the brain is removed), the SHIELD agent makes a comment about how the creature wanted its family so much it was willing to destroy it, and that causes Deathlok to think about his own situation. So when this is all over, he decides that he's going to go back to living with Jesus at Coney Island. Tracy says that she's not sure she agrees with him, but she knows that she can't change his mind. But despite the fact that Deathlok is sort of going back to his old status quo after all, there's a definite change here.
Earlier, even after Deathlok moved back in with his family, we saw that he was still writing letters to Tracy, an indication that they weren't really back together yet. But at the end, we see them talking on the phone.
This is a really strong story. It always helps when creators are able to shake up the status quo of their characters, and this would be an "important" story (for the series, not the Marvel universe) just based on that, but what really matters is how well Dwayne McDuffie executes it, with great scripting and some nice parallels in the plot. Deathlok is still in desperate need of a good rogue's gallery, and Biohazard doesn't change that. And i definitely understand why some people don't think much of Denys Cowan's art, although it's great for depicting the amorphous monster. But it's the human side of this story that makes it great.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Since Nick Fury appears in this and seems to be head of SHIELD, i've pushed this back in publication time. The good news is that even though this story does make a major change in the status quo, it retains the status quo in a superficial sense (i.e. he's still living in Coney Island with Jesus and still works as a software contractor) so generic Deathlok appearances (like, say, the one in Daredevil annual #8) can still take place after this. John Kelly will soon come back as Siege, which is why i'm not tagging him for this story, even though Biohazard was made from his brain. It's also sort of a metaphysical question whether or not Billy Hansen was really resurrected in this story, but in any event his corpse also appears, so it counts either way, and this is has last appearance in any event.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBilly Hansen, Deathlok (Michael Collins), Jesus Badalamente, Nick Collins, Nick Fury, Powderkeg, Tracy Collins
This was an awesome set off issues. I agree with fnord, it was great and unexpected that Dwayne McDuffie decided to upend the status quo after only a year and reunite Michael Collins with his family. McDuffie wrote some really good stories in these issues, really did an amazing job showing the interactions between Michael and his wife and son.
Looking at these now, I'm reminded of just what a great writer McDuffie was. His untimely death at the age of only 49 in 2011 really was a tragic loss for the comic book field.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 20, 2016 4:35 PM
McDuffie was a great writer. He is missed. I wish Milestone had lasted longer.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 20, 2016 6:54 PM
According to a post Dwayne McDuffie made on rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe. on 12/13/97, John Facchino was supposed to be John Porter from Damage Control but the editors vetoed it. (Facchino is Italian for Porter.) A lot of Marvel editors hated the idea of Damage Control and Tom Defalco sent out a memo stating that "while Damage Control is not in Marvel continuity, Marvel continuity is in Damage Control". Hence the line "I get a lot of complaints about joking around too much. No harm intended."
Posted by: Michael | March 23, 2016 10:36 PM
If this is John Kelly's brain, should he be tagged as "Siege," like he is in MCP #62?
Also, Deathlok and not-Porter playing with the Collins family cat is adorable. It's climbing on top of Deathlok! AWWWWWW.
Posted by: Thanos6 | March 24, 2016 12:38 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|