Issue(s): Deathlok #22, Deathlok #23, Deathlok #24, Deathlok #25
This story has Deathlok getting hired for a job in Wakanda, and he takes his family with him, and of course winds up in a team-up with Black Panther (for what it's worth, though, Klaw isn't the villain). On my entry for Jungle Action #6-8, i've preserved an article by McDuffie talking about his reaction as a kid to finding the depiction of Wakanda in the Jungle Action series, and i want to call out the positive feelings he had from seeing a country "where black people were visible in every position in society, soldier, doctor, philosopher, street sweeper, ambassador -suddenly everything was possible". I see those feelings being channeled into these issues; it's a kind of subtext for how Deathlok decides to take the job and makes sure that his wife and especially his kid can come along with him. I think it's also noteworthy that this is one of the few depictions of Wakanda not written by Don McGregor that features the supporting cast that McGregor built up, characters like Taku, W'Kabi, and Venomm. McDuffie will later write the Black Panther character in a few issues of Fantastic Four, but i feel like these issues are closer to what he would have done if he had ever written a Black Panther series.
Things actually start off with the villain of the arc, Moses Magnum. He's making a complaint at AIM world headquarters; AIM has recently underbid him on a munitions contract.
When they refuse to withdraw their bid, he goes super-villain on their asses.
Probably not a good long term move, but i guess he can take comfort in knowing that other writers probably weren't paying attention to what was happening in this book.
Meanwhile, Deathlok and his family are having a barbecue with Deathlok's roommate Jesus when a Wakandan flying ship arrives. A pair of Wakandan troops come out, but when they start to say that Nick Fury recommended that they contact him, Deathlok goes a bit ballistic, calling Fury a "manipulative bureaucrat" that he thinks is threatening his family. But that is settled when W'Kabi comes out of the ship.
Here's the introduction to Wakanda.
Deathlok has been hired to look into a security breach in their computer system.
I don't know if the reference to "other security breaches" is just about other things going on as part of this plot or if it refers to other stories. Wakanda's computer system was hacked in Panther's Prey, for example.
While Deathlok is working, his wife and son explore Wakanda. Tracy spends time with Monica Lynne. Nick meets (a miscolored) Venomm.
Inside the computer, Deathlok meets an entity called Phreak.
This may be overly generous, but one thing about McGregor's Jungle Action run was that he kept introducing villains with pretty awful names (Baron Macabre, King Cadaver). I feel like Phreak is in that tradition.
Deathlok chases Phreak but can't catch up with her.
Love that "Who told you?". The dialogue between Deathlok and his computer is always great.
Meanwhile, W'Kabi finds another infiltrator in meatspace.
He chases him, but the guy makes it to Moses Magnum's Terrordome.
Back in cyberspace, Deathlok gets ambushed by Phreak, and Black Panther jumps in to help W'Kabi. The art in issue #23 is overly busy and crowded.
Deathlok manages to drive off, but not capture, Phreak. He also learns that Phreak moved to another computer system in the country of Canaan. He tells that to Wakabi, who is trying to interrogate the other Moses Magnum agent after destroying the Terrordome. Black Panther doesn't believe that the king of Canaan, Baru, would be involved in anything illicit. So he goes to Canaan, and allows Deathlok to go with him. (I know Canaan has real historical and biblical origins, but i can't help thinking of the New Canaanites from Cable's future. I believe this is the only mention of this fictional country, though.)
Meanwhile, some downtime scenes with the rest of the cast. Good dialogue, terrible art (and i'm not sure what those purple lines are).
Some more nice dialogue as Black Panther and Deathlok head to Canaan.
The Panther and Deathlok learn that Baru has ceded the throne to Moses Magnum.
When presented with the captured agent, Moses admits that he's one of his, but he says he was acting without authority, and executes him. Despite Deathlok's outrage, Black Panther says that there's nothing to be done, and they leave. After they're gone, we learn that Moses has another costumed agent named Killjoy (the third character with that name around this time).
Magnum is also bringing a large number of African-Americans to Canaan and naturalizing them, playing off the fact that his name is Moses.
Killjoy, meanwhile, is sent to Wakanda to assassinate the Panther. We see him struggling with a code of honor.
The Black Panther takes a hit protecting Monica during the assassination attempt.
Then Deathlok shows up. Killjoy tries to recruit him, talking about the same racial injustices that Moses used to recruit Americans. He doesn't consider himself a bad guy.
But Deathlok isn't buying it. Killjoy manages to slice off Deathlok's arm with an adamantium blade (it's not mentioned, but Deathlok's armor is also adamantium).
We're into issue #24 and our next artist with the second scan above. It's at least cleaner.
Deathlok and Killjoy have a long back and forth, verbally and physically, with a critique of Punisher-like heroes thrown in for the bargain.
A good portion of the fight is just Deathlok chasing Killjoy, who ultimately begs to not be killed (which Deathlok of course has no intention of doing).
Deathlok then passes out, a result of having lost his arm. He's taken to Wakanda's cybernetics facility for repair. W'Kabi assures Tracy that the Wakandan scientists know what they are doing by showing her his own bionic arm.
Meanwhile, a bit suddenly, we see that Nick is down on his father. But he gets a pep talk from Venomm.
Deathlok is repaired successfully. When he goes back to his room, Moses Magnum is waiting for him in hologram form. He also makes a pitch to Deathlok about joining him.
After that fails, Magnum declares war on Wakanda. Wakanda is bombarded by Terrordomes.
There's a a humorous scene where W'Kabi brings Deathlok an armful of weapons so that he can help. But Deathlok only wants to find his son, who is out in the chaos.
While he's searching for his son, he sees a boy get caught in a Terrordome blast. He finds himself feeling relief that the dead kid is not Nick, and then feels shame about that and decides that he's going to participate in the defense of Wakanda after all (and loads up with nearly as many guns as W'Kabi brought out).
He passes the cell where Killjoy is imprisoned along the way; Killjoy calls him a hypocrite for fighting. He then does find Nick, who reminds him that the Black Panther has saved the world multiple times without killing anyone, so Deathlok should be able to save one country.
Nonetheless, Deathlok removes safety locks that he's installed in his AI. Not the "no killing" parameter specifically, but (as i understand it), he allows the computer to take over completely. When he's in this mode, the computer itself is in full control; Deathlok describes it as "like watching a movie". However, he also tells the computer to run in "plowshare mode", so he's still operating non-lethally. He does handle the Terrordomes with ease, and he avoids killing.
He ends up in a one on one confrontation with Moses Magnum (to whom he says "You ain't hardly Marcus Garvey").
After Magnum is defeated, we see a kind of coda of the conversation that Deathlok and Black Panther had on the plane.
An epilogue - written by Gregory Wright (who was left off the credits but credited in the lettercol for issue #26) - shows Luther Manning, whose alternate future self was the original Deathlok, having dreams.
Dwayne McDuffie's Deathlok was an occasional gem for this period. It's kind of a shame that the art didn't match his writing. Denys Cowan's rather unique style probably kept the book from keeping too many fans after a promising initial launch, and since then the book has gone through multiple artists who didn't really set the book on fire. McDuffie's issues were great for providing a voice for black characters and also critiquing the 90s era Punisher-like trends, and more generally they just had fun dialogue and good characterization. Gregory Wright's issues have been interesting, too - better in my opinion than his runs on Nick Fury and Silver Sable - but i regret that McDuffie wasn't the sole writer / didn't stay longer / didn't move on to write higher profile books at Marvel. Of course that's selfish of me, since what McDuffie did with Milestone was more important. But i'm a Marvel fan, and greedy me wants the good writers at Marvel.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showBlack Panther, Deathlok (616 Luther Manning), Deathlok (Michael Collins), Jesus Badalamente, Monica Lynne, Moses Magnum, Nick Collins, Taku, Tracy Collins, Venomm, W'Kabi
I agree about the art. That splash page of Wakanda makes the country seem pedestrian and boring, even though the panther-topped building and waterfall-building should have been cool.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | October 6, 2016 1:45 PM
It appears that nobody told McDuffie that Brannex was supposed to be the Super-Adaptoid, since he could have given Magnum a real fight. (To be fair, it's possible he was away from AIM headquarters on business.)
Posted by: Michael | October 6, 2016 7:56 PM
I've added the scan where the Panther gives a little debriefing on Magnum. It's said he's "wanted for felonies on several continents" but he now has diplomatic immunity. Along the lines of what i guessed in his last appearance, i guess that his return wasn't known to the public until he made his move here.
Note that the same scan also acknowledges the Moses was born in Ethiopia at the same time that he's said to be recruiting African Americans.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 6, 2016 8:50 PM
The first time I stopped reading comics cold turkey was in the early 90s, and Deathlok was one of the books that I was starting at the time. Looking at these page scans, I regret doing so. That really is some great writing and characterization on both McDuffie and Wright's parts. McDuffie had so much potential. We lost him way, way too soon and the field is so much poorer for it.
Posted by: Clutch | October 6, 2016 9:51 PM
A correction here: i had written that issue #25 was by Wright, per a correction in issue #26. I was misled by the UHBMCC, which says exactly that. But the correction actually just says that Wright wrote the Luther Manning sequence at the end.
Michael, i guess this answers part a of your objection.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 20, 2016 3:37 PM
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