Thursday, December 29, 2011

"The End" Week: Deathlok #34!

Relaunched in 1990--the same 'future' year the original series was set in--the new Deathlok was off to a good start with a mini-series popular enough to be reprinted a year later, as he began an ongoing series. Written by Dwayne McDuffie and Gregory Wright, with art by Jackson Guice; the new Deathlok was Michael Collins, a scientist and family man, forcibly transplanted into the cyborg killing machine. Overriding the onboard computer, Collins escaped the control of the Roxxon corporation, and began his search for his old body.

McDuffie and Wright made a lot of interesting updates to the character: whereas the old Deathlok was a former soldier in a dystopian future; Collins was in the mainstream Marvel Universe's present, and a firm pacifist. That's not to say he wouldn't fight, or smash up a robot or two, but he installs a 'no killing' rule for his computer early on. And most Marvel characters would've moped and moaned about being a soulless automaton monster for the run of the book, Collins bucks up and shares his situation with his family.

Of course, since this is "The End" week, you know the book didn't last: from 1994, Deathlok #34, "Cyberstrike, part 4 of 4: Out of Time" Written by Gregory Wright, pencils by Kevin Kobasic and Anthony Williams, inks by Greg Adams. Like it said, this was part 4 of 4, so this wouldn't be overly accessible in the first place; but it's made less so by three (or more!) versions of Deathlok running around: Collins, the Luther Manning version, and a farther-future Manning called the Demolisher.

Tying into the classic J.M. DeMatteis/Mike Zeck Deathlok Lives!, the villain Timestream is trying to alter the um, timestream; while Godwulf the reformed murderer is trying to keep Timestream from changing the alterations he himself made. The mysterious jerkwad timecops of the Time Variance Authority might just wipe the whole timeline if there's any more alterations, so there's a bit at stake, just not the mainstream 616-universe. (Per Marvel U. time-travel rules, changing history generates an alternate timeline reality: the original timeline continues, with the alter branching off.)

Unsurprisingly, this is a bit all over the place; with the time-travel and too many similar characters. It would be hard enough with the various, hard-to-differentiate Deathloks; but there's also the other cyborg Siege, and Justice Peace. The entire issue congeals into a sludgey mess; somewhat endemic to Marvel's over-production at the time. (To get a glimpse at the implosion, take a gander at Deathlok #32's Statement of Ownership: "C. Total Paid and/or requested Circulation (sum of 10B1 and 10B2): Average no. copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 106,938. Actual no. copies single issue nearest to filing date: 54,385.")

It ends with a Deathlok or two less than it started with, along with a Gordian knot of timelines holding each other mostly together. Collins returns, pretty much to go into limbo until the 2006 limited Beyond!

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