Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Deathmate Red

TITLE: Deathmate Red

PUBLISHER: Image/Valiant

COVER DATE: November 1993


54 pages


I guess you could call this series a highwater mark for the excess enthusiasm of the 90's. Here you had two incredibly popular (and at this point successful) independent comic book companies taking on the big two in their own backyard, and winning.

I remember a period of time where any book put out that carried either a Valiant or an Image logo was like printing gold. Hell, you could make a book printed on actual feces, and as long as it had the Image "i" on the cover it would sell out in minutes. I can only imagine the frenzy if the feces had come from an actual Image founder!

Actually, that's as apt a metaphor as we're likely to find, as a lot of the 90's books were shit. It was by no means limited to Image books, as DC and Marvel had their share of turkeys as well. I'm not just being a hater either, as I still have a lot of these books in my collection to back it up. So any book that gets mocked and judged against the standards of today's books was one that I bought with my hard earned money. Hell, I probably bought multiple copies of a lot of these.

This is also one of the few chances that we're going to get to read a Valiant book on this blog. I was late to pick up on their titles, and when I did start collecting a few, it was only for a year or so before I lost interest. The bulk of my Valiant collection then got ebayed away as one big lot about two years ago, leaving only a few of the multiple copies that I had originally bought still sticking around. So if you're dying to find out how the first issues of Bloodshot or Turok hold up, stick around as we'll get 'em eventually.

  • Story: Rob Liefeld
  • Script: Rob Liefeld, Eric Stephenson
  • Pencils: Rob Liefeld, Marat Mychaels, Jeff Matsuda, Richard Horie, Dan Fraga, Cedric Nocon, Mark Pacella, Anthony Wynn
  • Inks: Jonathan Sibal, Marlo Alquiaz
  • Colors: Byron Talman
  • Color Seperations: Extreme Colors, Jason Irwin, Andre Khromov, Ron Rife, Donald Skinner, Dave Smith
  • Letters: Kurt Hathaway
  • Editor: Eric Stephenson
This issue is divided into two parts. The first one being a Rob Liefeld triple threat with him providing the story, script, and pencils. The second half is a Liefeld studios jam issue with seven different pencillers.

Here's the elevator review for the first twenty-three pages of this book. And just to make it more challenging, I shall use no more words than there are panels of artwork on these twenty-three pages. That's only sixty-four words to use, so let's give it a shot.

Youngblood infiltrates a sparsely illustrated nuclear facility that is held hostage by armored protester/terrorists. Being the highly trained terrorists that they are, they decide to defeat Youngblood by rushing headlong at them instead of firing a single shot from their massively oversized guns. Their leader, pontificating about the evils of corporations, gets three arrows in the back courtesy of Shaft. Everyone grimaces.

There, that wasn't so bad, was it? I even saved myself a word, which I'll use now..."yawn"

Rob Liefeld gets a lot of flak thrown at him and has, perhaps undeservedly, become somewhat of a punching bag in the comic book industry. How you square that with his highly devoted and motivated fanbase is the million dollar question. Love him or hate him, the man has carved himself quite a niche in the industry and you can't fault him for that.

What you can fault him for, however, is a pretty shoddy comic book. Of which category Deathmate Red falls decidedly into.

Let's delve deeper into my 63 word review to avoid doing just a drive-by snarking.

If I remember correctly, the basis of this crossover was that Void from WildC.A.T.S and Dr. Solar had an interstellar fling which somehow caused the universes to merge. In this particular book, Youngblood is a part of the Harada Corporation which was from the Valiant Universe. So naturally when the terrorists strike against Harada, they send in Youngblood to take them down.

As a bare-bones plot, that's not an altogether bad framework to hang a story on, but in this case that's pretty much all we have. I know I was half-joking earlier, but this is literally twentysome pages of Youngblood taking down the world's most inept terrorist fighters, who have struck Harada simply because they are an "evil" corporation.

At least the artwork compliments the plot, as it is almost just as vacant. Of the previously mentioned sixty-four panels, less than half of those had any background drawn in. I'm being generous here, as easily half of the backgrounds consist of nothing more than a few odd lines to signify a wall or a floor.

Aside from Youngblood, almost everyone else in this issue is encased in full body armor with a mirrored helmet that doesn't allow you to see their faces. Perhaps that's for the best however, as there are only two types of expressions allowed here...a frown or a grimace. There are literally only three panels were a character approaches anything resembling a smile. Maybe Diehard's really smiling under his mask, but I guess we'll never know.

The action's well drawn and definitely energetic, but the battle is decidedly one-sided. We all know that Liefeld likes to draw his guns, and he likes them massively out of proportion. What he forgets to do is ever draw in the ammunition clips!

Quick guys! Let's ditch these state-of-the-art blasters and take on the humongous guy made of rock with our bare hands!

I realize that Youngblood is supposed to be one of the best tactical superhero teams around, but the law of averages is going to say that at least one of the terrorists should manage to get off a shot. I'm surprised none of them tried to shoot themselves in the foot to get out of this book.

Finally, we get to the big showdown with the main terrorist, but it's not much of a showdown. The biggest threat he poses is that he holds a detonator in his hands that has everyone quaking in their big cuffed boots. Well, it did scare C-3PO back in the day.

Halfway through his big speech to list his demands, he's struck down with three arrows in the back. I realize that this version of Youngblood is supposed to be all hardcore and everything, but that just seems cold. It's not like he would've fired a gun or actually used his detonator. Sounds like overkill to me (not to be confused with Overtkill, which was a different corner of the Image universe altogether).

That brings the first half of this issue to a close, and it was a relatively quick read. The Valiant side of the crossover doesn't get much exposure, with only Bloodshot getting the token appearance as part of Youngblood. Even then, he only gets to say two words..."Oh, Shi--" And he isn't even allowed to enunciate them both!

Well that's about all of the Liefeld-verse that I can handle in one night, so we'll finish up the other half tomorrow. Thumbing through the pages, it looks like we get a little more plot this time around. At the very least, we're getting about 10 times as many words. Whether that's a good or bad thing, we'll just have to find out the hard way.


  1. More about Valiant than about Deathmate in general... I enjoy reading my Valiant collection, but would I go back and spend money on it? Hmm.... Certainly check out earlier issues of Solar and Dr. Mirage. Anything Timewalker. Avoid later Valiant, when the art went to pot!

  2. Thanks for stopping by and checking in.

    Dr. Mirage I actually enjoyed very much when it was released. It was one of the few Valiant runs that I thought about keeping when I finally ended up deciding to auction the whole Valiant collection off as one big lot.

    Solar seemed like a title right up my alley, but for whatever reason I never could get into it. I actually bought Solar #1 off the racks originlly, and it retains the honor as the only comic book I've ever sold back to a comic book store. It ended up paying my rent for a month, back when speculation was king.

    Sadly, I never had any of the early Harbinger issues. It would've been cool to have my rent paid for the whole year with those.