Paul Jenkins and Carlos Magno's "Deathmatch" #9 brings readers down to the final four contestants, giving characters one last chance for freedom before escape starts not to even matter.
This issue is a bit less successful than those previous in that the battles don't have as effective executions -- mostly on the illustration side. There are some clever ideas here, but they're not easy to illustrate and feel slightly clunky in illustration. Still, Jenkins' willingness to kill off characters (unless none of them are really dead?) and commitment to his concept remain strengths, even as it's been sad to see certain characters go.
The mystery at the center of "Deathmatch" doesn't get much development in this issue, except in that Sable believes she's on the verge of figuring it all out. Certainly the reader with any hope left wants to believe that Sable and Benny Boatright are going to make it out, even if they have to face each other in the final ring together. Overall, Jenkins has done a nice job with character development throughout these nine issues, and paired with the intriguing concept, it's hard to look away, which is likely what Jenkins was hoping for.
Magno's art is wonderfully consistent, as it has been throughout the series, and he clearly revels in drawing The Rat in battle as he makes the most of those panels. The attention to detail in Magno's work is astounding, and even in this issue where he's tasked with drawing some ideas simply very difficult to convey, he still gives it his all. One of the best things about Magno's work throughout this series is that nothing ever looks thin. Backgrounds are never conveniently dropped out, costumes don't lose their components, faces don't lose character -- instead, everything is well-considered and finely detailed. Without Magno's consistent and detailed work, it would have been nearly impossible to connect to and keep track of all these characters.
"Deathmatch" has proved to be that high-concept book that just works thanks to bold storytelling, smart writing, and highly detailed art. "Deathmatch" #9 isn't the best issue of the series, but it's a solid comic book that edges readers ever closer to what's sure to be a bold conclusion.