Death's Head II #1-4
Issue(s): Death's Head II #1, Death's Head II #2, Death's Head II #3, Death's Head II #4
In addition to Knights of Pendragon, Marvel UK had already been running a Death's Head series, although it was canceled back in 1989. The character already has some critical success and he met Marvel universe characters on a couple of occasions. So it is kind of surprising to see the character getting displaced, as we'll see in this series, by a creative team that doesn't include Simon Furman, the original Death's Head's creator.
The character that will become known as Death's Head II is originally called Minion. He was built by AIM in the year 2020, and AIM is sending Minion around to assassinate various targets and absorb their memories and attributes. AIM is preparing for a threat discovered by their precognitive unit that says their organization will be destroyed in the near future. The exact nature of the threat is unknown.
The first target that we see Minion being sent after happens to be someone that the robot mercenary Death's Head has been hired to kill.
We're already a little out of character. You can see Death's Head's narration calling himself a "bounty hunter", when all fans of the character know that he prefers "Freelance Peacekeeping Agent".
Death's Head confronts Minion. It turns out that Death's Head is actually on Minion's list of targets, but he's not next on the list, so Minion teleports away for now, and returns to his handler, a Doctor Necker at AIM.
Minion completes his next mission successfully (note the precognitive alien calling Minion "Death's Head"; her name is Phaedra)...
...although Necker thinks he's acting erratically. And when Minion returns to the AIM base again, he's followed by Death's Head, saving Minion the trouble of going after him.
Minion is able to defeat and assimilate Death's Head.
Absorbing Death's Head makes Minion act even more strangely, and he teleports away to go after his next target without letting AIM examine him.
His next target happens to be Mr. Fantastic in 1992. Necker travels back into the past (she apparently has to strip for the time jump) to deal with the malfunctioning Minion.
She approaches Mr. Fantastic before Minion arrives...
...but not by much.
Necker convinces Mr. Fantastic to flee, and explains the whole story, including the fact that she's an AIM scientist from the future. Minion pursues them, and has to face the Thing and the Human Torch along the way.
I don't love the idea that Minion can make the Thing bleed, just because we
It's not clear why Dr. Necker is working against Minion here, aside from a vague idea that Minion is malfunctioning. That said, she is a very sympathetic character for an AIM agent. She apologizes for sending Minion after Mr. Fantastic, justifying it by saying that from her perspective he was just an already-dead historical figure.
Reed's idea to defeat Minion is to help Death's Head's consciousness come to the forefront.
That works well enough that Death's Head is able to satisfy Minion's programming by absorbing Mr. Fantastic's knowledge from his computer system instead of killing him and taking it directly from his brain.
Then Minion/Death's Head teleports away, and Necker follows.
The Invisible Woman does appear in this story too, but mainly to show up at the end and wonder about the lipstick that Necker left on Mr. Fantastic's cheek.
Issue #3 has Death's Head (as he's calling himself) retreating to a planet called Lionheart to play Robin Hood with a group of cyborgs and robots.
The main thing to take away is the introduction of a partner for Death's Head named Tuck.
Necker winds up with Lionheart's ruler.
Despite having absorbed Death's Head and despite that personality having been brought to the forefront, and despite now calling himself Death's Head, he does not speak like the original Death's Head, yes? But there is still an attempt at making the character flippant.
Well, sometimes he does use the "yes?", but very infrequently.
Necker is able to hire Death's Head to do the job that Minion was supposed to do. But when Death's Head, Necker, and Tuck get back to the 2020 AIM base, it's already been wiped out. They trace the culprit back to 1992 again.
Meanwhile, we see a Baron Strucker the Fifth acquiring Death's Head's old body.
Death's Head's old partner Spratt is killed by him, and Strucker becomes Charnel.
I should note that in 1992 it was projected that all super-heroes would have pouches by the year 2020.
We learn that it is Charnel that destroyed the world in 2020, using necromancy.
Some 2020 heroes, including a reformed Rhino, travel back to 1992 to try to stop Charnel before he becomes as powerful as he will in 2020.
They wind up teaming up with Death's Head and friends. Note that everyone that meets Dr. Necker discovers that she shares a name with their mother.
So much of issue #4 has the 2020 Avengers and Death's Head fighting Charnel in 1992.
It's actually a hex from future Scarlet Witch that transforms Charnel into the more powerful body that he had in 2020.
Charnel is defeated by splitting Strucker from his Death's Head body, sending each into a different point in time.
The surviving 2020 Avengers disappear, since with Charnel defeated their future will no longer exist. Then some of the present day Avengers show up to investigate the wreckage caused by the battle. The FF return as well.
Death's Head and Tuck escape in a truck prior to the heroes' arrival. And Dr. Necker teleports/time-jumps away. The series ends with Death's Head and Tuck being pursued by the Avengers, the FF, Ghost Rider, and what looks like the classic Hulk.
But it doesn't seem like that final scene is continued anywhere, so i guess Death's Head was able to give the heroes the slip.
I'm a fan of the original Death's Head, so this series was working from a disadvantage, but it does manage to overcome that. Dan Abnett makes all the time travel and alternate dimension heroes stuff more tolerable than it should be, although things do slow down a bit during the Robin Hood story. The writing is succinct and the dialogue is snappy, and that helps a lot. And so does Liam Sharp's art, which i will say at this point combines elements of Alan Davis with Jim Lee (on the less positive side, that includes Lee's penchant for dressing women in skimpy outfits).
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: This story jumps around to several alternate-futures, but the characters visit 1992 twice and end there, setting the stage for Death's Head II's continual presence in the present for future Marvel UK stories. So unlike the majority of the first Death's Head series, i'm including this in my project. When it comes to character tags, obviously the title of this series is Death's Head II, and that's basically what most people think of as the character's name. But that character is really a merging of the future AIM robot Minion and the original Death's Head. You could say the same thing about Charnel, really. Minion has Death's Head's mind, and Charnel has his body. I'm not going to be tagging the original Death's Head with every Minion or Charnel appearance, though. Despite that final panel, the MCP does not list the Hulk as appearing in this issue. I've decided to include him; even though it doesn't look like the current version of the Hulk, we're seeing him from a distance so we can't be sure. This therefore needs to fit in a break for the Hulk as well as Ghost Rider, the Avengers (including West Coaster Iron Man), and the Fantastic Four. I'm placing this relatively soon after Operation: Galactic Storm with an eye on the fact that Iron Man will soon become incapacitated.
A character named Spratt, a kind of Rick Jones to the original Death's Head, appears in this series, but i don't tag him as a character since he only appears in the future.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
The 2020 characters shouldn't have ceased to exist, should they? I thought Marvel time travel specifically DIDN'T work like that.
Posted by: Thanos6 | February 8, 2016 5:23 PM
That looks like Ghost Rider chasing Death's Head in the last panel too.
Posted by: S | February 8, 2016 6:00 PM
The 2020 characters in that panel are possibly the most 1992 bit of comic art ever put to paper. Spider-man has a pony tail coming out the back of his mask for God's sake. All he's missing is the leather jacket and maybe a cyborg arm.
Marvel UK put out some stinkers in the 90s. Yeesh. Mys-Tech Wars (note: I think it had a different name in the US) was one of the stupidest comics I ever read.
A lot of these were written by Abnett and Lanning too, both of whom would go on to do much higher quality work in the future. All due respect to them, but a lot of their writing during this time period came off as a couple guys who didn't realize all those Pat Mills stories were satire.
Posted by: Red Comet | February 8, 2016 6:10 PM
@S, you're right. I've added Ghost Rider too. The whole scene can probably be written off as conceptual, but if i can fit all the characters i'll treat it as real (which is the case so far).
Posted by: fnord12 | February 8, 2016 6:20 PM
@Red Comet: I think Mys-Tech Wars had the same name over here. At least, the issue I have is called that. Dunno if I somehow got hold of a UK copy though.
Posted by: Thanos6 | February 8, 2016 7:52 PM
Fnord, a question about Evelyn Necker- we see an Evelyn Necker in various AIM stories starting in 2008, and she seems to be intended to be a younger version of the character in this story. Do you want to list them as two different characters or one character?
Posted by: Michael | February 8, 2016 9:15 PM
Yeah, i'll add a second tag for the present day Evelyn Necker when i get there, similar to a few other time travel characters.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 8, 2016 10:25 PM
The 2020 Avengers accurately predicted Wolverine as having joined the Avengers at some point in the future. That sure would have looked weird back in '92! Also, that 2020 Scarlet Witch costume is pretty accurate to what she wore in the Heroes Reborn debacle, which is about 5 years down the road from this point in time.
Posted by: Bill | February 8, 2016 10:45 PM
I disliked this series when it came out, as the original Death's Head was a favourite character of mine. I was annoyed that the Death's Head I knew was basically being killed off and replaced by a "new" Death's Head that seemed less interesting, both visually and as a character. The character change I guess is partly due to Simon Furman not writing him anymore, but I still don't understand why they thought they needed to change his face, which was a great distinctive look.
At the time the whole thing felt to me like a "Image" remake of Death's Head.
That said, some parts of the story were enjoyable, even though I was against the whole idea of it. And this was still better than most of the rest of the US-style Marvel UK stuff at the time, which I thought was pretty dreadful.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 9, 2016 1:55 PM
We have seen the Thing bleed before when the Deathlok robot shot him with a laser in MTIO#54.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 12, 2016 4:57 PM
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