A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent trapped in an experimental cyborg body. An rogue Clown from the Circus of Crime with a vendetta. A super-villain running for President. Joe Casey and company came in at the end of the ‘90’s and tried something different, and while it only lasted 11 issues they succeeded in creating a new iteration of Deathlok that was actually interesting and unique.
Following the events of Joe Casey’s run on Cable (#51-70, also recommended), agent Jack Truman’s body was all but destroyed. After what’s left of him is used to create a new type of cyborg soldier, Truman uses a little trick he picked up in Tibet to jump bodies and escape his imprisonment. Piggybacking through a S.H.I.E.L.D. science officer into the body of a young child, Truman loses his sense of self until his consciousness resurfaces and he realizes he’s made a mistake. But without a mind to pilot the advanced cyborg body, the machine goes on a rampage and escapes custody on instinct. That’s all just in the first two issues.
The series has an interesting development arc for the main character as he finds his way back into his body only to see his attempts at coping through his new existence fail miserably. Attempts to make any type of human connection are dismally short-lived and only active assignments keep him from going crazy. Even then, Truman can’t cope with the levels of corruption and corporate mishandling he’s subjected to when on mission. Casey made this an interesting series that focused on what makes a person truly human and what they have to do to deal with their own mistakes and decisions.
Leonard Manco was the main artistic talent associated with the series although fill in issues include talents such as Eric Canette, Matt Smith, Richard Case and even John Buscema. I’ve always liked Manco’s style as he tends to lend a ‘dirty’ level of detail to his work that makes everything pop. His work on issue four is beautiful and groundbreaking as he blends a little bit of sci-fi horror along with futuristic Kirby/Steranko tones. Canette handled two issues, one featuring the Clown and another featuring a super-villain street fight. While a step in a different artistic direction, they certainly are well designed and energetic issues that lend some more personality to the series. The Matt Smith/Richard Case issue features more of a clean line style that definitely offers up a Mike Mignola homage in numerous scenes. Buscema’s issue is clean and well crafted, taking a little bit more time than the other guest artists to keep more in step with the atmosphere and designs put forth by Manco. Overall, great art across the entire run.
Most people don’t even know that this run existed and it’s doubtful that any shops really consider this worth pricing up for their back issue bins. It’s more likely that you’ll be finding these issues in a quarter bin somewhere, but you’re really going to have to hunt for them. Marvel has finally announced that they are reprinting the run along with Cable issues #59-62 and some other relevant material for $34.99. That’s not a terrible price point, and it does save you a lot of hunting. What it doesn’t include however (and you might not care) is the Marvel mini-series Vengeance. While not Deathlok specific, it does feature the return of Jack Truman as he helps a group of young heroes that includes Miss America from the Young Avengers.