Review by Ian Keogh
Henry Hayes is ex-military, but now works for Medics Without Borders, travelling the world to help people in need in trouble zones or after disasters. Or at least that’s what he believes. He has a state of the art prosthetic leg, and in an intriguing opening chapter we learn he’s far more, but doesn’t realise that himself. Activated by code word, a switch in his head flips and he becomes the perfect killing machine. The entire concept is neatly introduced in Nathan Edmondson’s short introductory tale, also noting that Hayes has his mind wiped after each mission.
Hayes looks the same as previous versions of Deathlok, but unlike them, elements of his design are armoured costume rather than cyborg accessories, and in action Deathlok is a terrifying proposition. He’s a murder machine without conscience, and this is superbly conveyed by Mike Perkins, imitating the familiar feel of an action movie by cross-cutting panels, giving them sloped borders and jumping from one victim to the next. In quieter scenes Perkins has a near photo-realist approach, also very effective.
Over much of this graphic novel we see Deathlok on missions, merciless efficiency personified in slaughtering people around the globe, but despite efforts to stay under the radar several organisations have a keen in interest in locating him, not least S.H.I.E.L.D. Edmondson works up the tension well, generating it by Hayes’ ignorance of his own condition, and the consequent vulnerability of his teenage daughter. A sense of mystery also prevails, as Edmondson also shows us the control room from which Hayes is guided. By the fourth chapter, however good the art, there’s starting to be a feeling of repetition, but Edmondson follows that with the excellence of the closing episode in which a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent so far underused comes into her own. He pulls the rug, and there’s a great ending to take us into Man Versus Machine.