So much information is available in advance of actually reading a single issue that Deathlok -- the Luther Manning version -- appearing on the cover of "All-New Invaders" #9 hardly comes as a surprise. While the shift is being made to align comics' version of Deathlok with the iteration portrayed on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," writer James Robinson sees relevance in telling one last, sweeping Luther Manning tale. Artist Steve Pugh joins Robinson and makes an impressive case for more of this character.
Pugh acknowledges the work of comic book artists before him that have worked on Deathlok, including Mike Zeck, George Pérez, Jack Kirby, Ron Wilson and more, but the end result is stunningly detailed work from Pugh on a character that is a true Marvel Comics original. One panel, a close-cropped zoom on Manning's eyes, displays the tortured determination and analytical processing side-by-side in, quite possibly, the most iconic single image of this version of Deathlok in over a decade.
The rest of Pugh's art -- depicting some of Marvel's oldest icons in Captain America, Human Torch, Winter Soldier and Namor -- is equally wonderful, mixing strong storytelling choices with dynamic posturing and heroic poses. Guru-eFX sets the mood and the atmosphere with its colors, from rich, deep blues as Captain America pilots his craft towards Germany, to intense reds, yellows and oranges soaking the pages as Jim Hammond flames on and scorches the air around him.
Robinson treats his artist properly, adding characters that bring depth to the story and excitement to the art. Not only does the writer provide a viable reason for Deathlok's presence, but also he crafts a fun fight between the Invaders and multiple Deathloks. The Jim Hammond Human Torch serves as Robinson's centerpiece for this series, and that holds true throughout "All-New Invaders" #9, but Hammond doesn't steal the story out from under his teammates. Robinson keeps everyone involved and even gives the readers a friendly exchange between Namor and Hammond. The threat, while very real, finds an odd way of being solved that leads to a dynamic final page reveal and intriguing story potential as Robinson's work on "All-New Invaders" continues to sample the Marvel Universe.
As with all series, "All-New Invaders" has experienced some ebb and flow. Some issues are better than others, some have more nuanced tales with deeper backstories and other issues push at the boundaries these characters normally keep. "All-New Invaders" #9 serves as a tight showcase for Deathlok, but also gives each of the Invaders a chance to introduce themselves to readers. Deathlok makes a fine addition to this story, and a surprising key to open up the heroes just a bit more.