Nov 22, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 636: Deathblow #1, April 1993

While it may look like I've read two comics today, that's not the case. As I mentioned a couple of times over the last few days, I've become a bit fascinated with the early Image universe, and its remarkable internal consistency, so I thought I'd read a bit more. And if that bit more includes Steve Gerber, so much the better. The first installment of the Gerber/Manabat Cybernary is presented as a back-up feature in the first issue of Jim Lee's Deathblow, and is even given a flip cover (which is how I always have it catalogued). Unfortunately the next three issues of Deathblow, even though fully half of the issue is devoted to the Cybernary story, don't have flip covers. A pity.

Deathblow finds Jim Lee and co-writer Brandon Choi at the Frank Millerian best - short, clipped caption boxes, chunky, almost etched-looking artwork, remarkably different from what I would have characterized as Lee's usual style. Though maybe it's a bit too much Miller, and that's why his later work bears only scant resemblance to this one. The story is pretty tame, considering the violence we see in flashback, but perhaps over the next few issues it'll pick up.

For Cybernary, Gerber is credited as scripter, rather than writer, though I think this changes over the next few issues. The beginning of the story is quite good. Manabat's art calls to mind the work of Kelley Jones, though inflected with the Image house style, which sounds weird but actually works. We get these first four issues of his work and then Manabat sadly lost a battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, leaving behind a small, but impressive body of work. Gerber went on a couple of years later to do a Cybernary mini-series, partially in tribute to Manabat, so the character as introduced does get to play out at least a brief story. Escaped sex-bot becomes resistance badass on the island nation of Gamorra. It sounds like typical power-fantasy fare. But it's not.


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