Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Incoherent Peacekeeping Agent

Right, so "Clone Drive" then.

I read this story when it came out as individual issues of Death's Head v2 in 2019 and it didn't make much sense then. I got the collected edition as a birthday present a few days ago and gave it another go, to see if a second try and a couple of years made a difference. Alas, it has not.

The main problem is a chronic lack of coherence. Despite being published as Death's Head v2, I think it's supposed to be the origin of a new version of the character -- Death's Head V, or "Vee" -- except he gets very little screen time and achieves almost nothing. So maybe it is about the original DH after all? It does start and end with him, but then he gets pushed aside by half of the Young Avengers, also achieves very little except to get a new sidekick, then disappears with her off to deep space where undoubtedly we will see neither of them again.

We don't get enough of Vee to make him compelling enough to follow, not that we can follow him because he hasn't appeared since as far as I can tell. If it's about reintroducing Death's Head to the Marvel Universe, sticking him in deep space is an odd way of doing it. If it's a celebration of the character -- which is what artist Kei Zama suggested when it was first published -- sidelining the ostensible star is an odd way to do it.There's no room for anything to breathe, and it all feels muddled.

Then there's the nonsense. We start with Death's Head falling through a space portal into a bin in New York, which is apparently enough to deactivate and dissasemble him. Then he is somehow turned into an amplifier for a punk band. I don't know how this works. Wiccan and Hulkling run into him by accident, except it's not by accident because Wiccan did some magic that brought them there. I think? Maybe? Wiccan did this because he already has a DH -- Vee -- under his bed and wants to know what it is. Probably? Wiccan has Vee under his bed because he did some magic to see possible futures for the Young Avengers and saw vee in some of them, and then went on an untold solo adventure to an AIM laboratory and stole Vee. I think? But it turns out that the whole thing was some sort of elaborate plan by the villain to get her hands on the original DH for... reasons. Except the villain turns out to just want to hang with DH so they go off together and leave everyone else behind. It's possible that the villain just changed her mind and switched sides halfway through the story, but it's not clear. Nothing is clear.

Oh, and then at the end, Death's Head is standing, deactivated (?) in Vee's cupboard, except he's also running around space with his new friend.

I, uh, ah. No, I have nothing. I can follow the chain of events, just about, but the individual events are baffling and the storytelling is so weird. Wiccan goes off and breaks into an AIM lab on his own and steals a robot, but we don't get to see that. Why? Wouldn't that have been interesting? What's going on with the extra Death's Head in the cupboard? Wouldn't there have been easier ways for the non-villain to ask DH to be her friend? I cannot tell if I'm being dense and this is all clever plotting, or if it's just really bad. I suspect the latter.

On the plus side, Kei Zama's art is lovely. There's a nice balance between strong cartoony storytelling and intricate detail, although the inking is perhaps a bit heavy in places and makes some of the pages look a little muddy. Even so, the art is by far the best thing about the book.

Death's Head fans will probably get this because we like to follow all of his appearances, but I can't recommend it to anyone else because I'm not sure it's very good. Disappointing, yes?

Oh, and to pad out what is still a very thin book, we get a reprint of Death's Head v1 #1 by Simon Furman, Bryan Hitch, Mark Farmer, Nick Abadzis, Annie Parkhouse, and Richard Starkings. I list the entire creative team because Marvel seems to have forgotten to do so anywhere in the book. That's a poor show.

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