Death’s Head #1 – Spoiler-Free Review

He might not be hunting Transformers, but the legendary freelance peacekeeper Death’s Head is back in a new miniseries from Marvel Comics. Read on for our spoiler-free review of issue #1!

Death’s Head #1
Writing: Tini Howard | Art: Kei Zama
Colors: Felipe Sobreiro | Letters: Travis Lanham | Edits: Sarah Brunstad

Death’s Head is one of the greats of Marvel UK’s history – a character who earned lasting and enduring popularity worldwide for reasons beyond “being British”. From prominent roles in Kieron Gillen’s S.W.O.R.D. (hinted to take place ”before” the time-and-dimension-traveler’s classic appearances) to guest appearances in titles such as Nova (2017), Black Bolt, and X-Men ’92, Death’s Head has possibly racked up more appearances than any UK-native Marvel character other than Captain Britain himself.

And none of that would be true without Transformers. As most fans of the character know, the infamous “freelance peacekeeping agent” was originally created by Simon Furman and Geoff Senior for Marvel UK’s Transformers comics, only ending up as a Marvel rather than a Hasbro one through a legal technicality. But despite the character’s popularity, he hasn’t made any substantial modern appearances without significant reinvention, ranging from the anti-heroic “Death’s Head II” to the completely reimagined “Death’s Head 3.0”. There seems to be a feeling that the mechanoid’s unchanging, uncompromising personality can’t work in a leading role in an age of more complex ideas and characters.
This feeling of being outdated or redundant is at the core of issue 1 of Death’s Head, a new miniseries from Marvel Comics. At the start of the issue, the titular character is literal scrap metal, repurposed from deadly mercenary to an amplifier for a New York punk band. He’s outclassed as a bounty hunter no matter how much he tries to upgrade himself, replaced and kicked to the curb. This conflict is mirrored in the issue’s “antagonists”, Wiccan and Hulkling of the Young Avengers, who find themselves out of place in a world where they are no longer Marvel’s newest generation of heroes.

Its star isn’t the only connection the new miniseries has to Transformers. Interior art is provided by Kei Zama, the main artist for IDW’s Optimus Prime, while covers are drawn by artist and Death’s Head mega-fan Nick Roche (who snuck references to Furman and IDW’s More than Meets the Eye onto the cover – look closely!). Zama’s gritty, heavily-inked work couldn’t feel better suited to the Marvel UK legacy that Death’s Head comes from; the action is punchy, while the quiet, more dramatic scenes are given appropriate tension. Felipe Sobreiro’s colors complement Zama’s inks perfectly, feeling grounded while still being strong and distinctive.
Death’s Head #1 is a strong start to the big return of Marvel UK’s breakout star, with a strong emotional core that doesn’t fail to get me engaged in the final twist and hungry for more.