A SUPERHERO STORY . . . OR IS IT?
Superhero stories dominate the comic book market. They’re the most popular genre for the medium and the reason that it’s survived this long is because it’s adaptable. Comic book readers get their usual fair of superheroics every week from major publishers, but sometimes a company, even one of the higher tier ones, puts a new spin on the genre that begs our attention. Superheroes can be the focus of a great story, but they can also serve as an element in a greater science fiction narrative. This week’s Alternative Comics Beat is about a new title that puts superheroes in a unique situation.
DEATHMATCH - BOOM! STUDIOS
Writer Paul Jenkins and artist Carlos Magno are behind the new series where Earth’s greatest heroes and villains are brought together in a mysterious tournament to fight to the death. None of them want to compete, but as they enter the ring they feel compelled to kill each other. The stakes are getting higher as the number of contestants dwindle, and even the most powerful beings assembled can’t fight their captors.
NEW SERIES MEETS RETRO FEEL
The most appealing aspect of this series is how it combines genres and builds a bigger universe. There have only been two issues so far, but it feels as if there are decades of back story to these characters. This feeling is achieved through flashback panels that look like older comics, character bios with fake first appearances, and designs that are reminiscent of classic characters, but have their own spin on them.
Deathmatch is like if Watchmen and Mortal Kombat were put into a fusion reactor with a dash of Phillip K. Dick for flavor. The science fiction elements play well with the tournament story, and both issues have fleshed out new characters with every page.
WHY IT’S A GREAT ALTERNATIVE
The one major problem with mainstream superheroes is that they can’t die. Side characters might come and go, but the big names always find a way back. In this new universe, all bets are off. Readers get to see fresh takes on power sets and character types with the bonus of not knowing whether they’ll survive. It adds a level of danger and pageturniness (a word I just made up) that only a few other titles had offered before. It’s a big task to create a whole universe of new characters, but an even bigger risk to kill them off.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT
If the reasons above haven’t persuaded you, maybe a few others will. Imagine getting to see the greatest superheroes fight to the death. You’d probably expect them to be resurrected a few issues down the line, right?
At least I think so. The series isn’t over yet, and it could all turn out to be a dream or something. But if that aspect is even half true, it adds a different mode of storytelling that you won’t find in the mainstream titles. It’s worth checking out because of the danger factor, as well as my hip new comic word “pageturniness.” My final point would be the shining example Jenkins and Magno set for world building in these two issues. If you’re looking to write your own superhero epic, I’d use this as an example of how to effectively come up with characters.
Ken Porter also writes comic books with his latest being "Ink Ribbon" from Visionary Comics.