Death’s Head #1
Written by Tini Howard
Art by Kei Zama and Felipe Sobreiro
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The last generation’s greatest bounty-hunting robot returns in the densely detailed and dryly funny Death’s Head #1. Helmed by new Marvel exclusive writer Tini Howard and Optimus Prime artist Kei Zama, Death’s Head #1 finds the Marvel UK import staring down the face of obsolescence. Determined to not go quietly into that good junk pile, he lashes out after reactivating in New York — pitting him head-to-metalhead with Young Avengers alums Hulkling and Wiccan.
Though a great display of Howard’s broader comedic sensibilities, she also manages to sneak in a pretty large vat of pathos centered around Wiccan and feelings of super-inadequacy. Artist Kei Zama also makes a great use of the larger platform with this series. Supported by Felipe Sobreiro’s blazing, almost acid-washed colors, her pencils nail the visual comedy of the fornlorn murder robot as well as the emotion of Teddy and Billy’ strained relationship. I don’t know what I was expecting going into Death’s Head #1, but thanks to Howard, Zama, and Sobreiro, this old robot has a bit more charge than we realize.
For those unfamiliar with Death’s Head, Tini Howard opens with a fairly succinct reintroduction. Reactivating after weeks as a prop and amplifier for a New York metal band, Death’s Head rewinds his internal cameras to find out how he got there — namely, by scrapping with his former employer Yondu Udonta and his new squad of female cyber-assassins. While readers will surely appreciate the team opening with a thunderous action sequence, this opening also does us one better. It proves that Howard is capable of handling the dry, often prosaically funny way Death’s Head speaks, as well as how good of a “straight man” he is for more colorful characters like Yondu.
From there, Howard delivers the opening’s secret weapons: Hulkling and Wiccan. After another boldly colored and blocked set piece from Zama and Sobreiro, the weakened Death’s Head crosses paths with Wiccan and Hulkling. It is here where Howard and the team reveal an unseen heart to the issue, one driven by want and a need for acceptance from the super-community — suffice to say, Death’s Head isn’t the only character in this story searching for purpose and meaning. Death’s Head #1: come for the murderous robots, stay for the struggle to self-actualize.
And stay surely for the artwork, yes? Kei Zama, who impressed over on IDW’s Transformers line, brings that same attention to detail and density over to Marvel, accompanied by the searing colors of Felipe Sobreiro. Making great use once again of a robotic leading man, Zama finds real emotion in the largely unmoving face of Death’s Head and it is quite an accomplishment. His mug may be mostly static, but the little ways she tweaks his eyes looks superb — sometimes they look like largish radar dishes, and other times imposing blood-red check marks. There’s one particularly hilarious instance where a dejected looking Death’s Head looks like he’s about to cry real tears.
The same kind of expressiveness spreads to Billy and Teddy, too. Just on a much more uncontained scale. While Death’s Head’s visage is largely set in metal, Billy and Teddy wear their hearts on their sleeves, which Zama renders with a sort of Jim Calafiore-esque flair. It may not look as regimented or “clean” as the pages and scenes concerning robotics, but it offers a nicely untidy comparison foil to the pages that proceed them.
Though certainly not the Marvel UK reboot you would expect, but for certain the most fun, Death’s Head #1 is another win for Tini Howard at Marvel. Backed by heavy, but engaging artwork and colors from Kei Zama and Felipe Sobreiro, the team bring Marvel’s most posh assassin robot back into the fold in a really funny and narratively promising way. You enjoy cool robots and superhero boyfriends, yes? Then Death’s Head #1 has you covered this week.