In the 90’s, comics exploded and several smaller publications gained the limelight and gave the “Big Two”, Marvel and DC, a run for their money. Two of the biggest, of these smaller, companies were Valiant Comics and Image Comics. In 1993, these two companies decided to team-up in an extravagant crossover that hadn’t been seen before. Enter Deathmate! A six issue series of one-shots that contained the crossover goodness. There are two bookends, Deathmate Prologue and Deathmate Epilogue, both of which carried a $2.95 cover price, and four random one-shots, which could be read in any order so instead of numbering them, they went with color titles: Deathmate Black, Deathmate Blue, Deathmate Red and Deathmate Yellow. Half of the series was published by Valiant, while the other half was published by Image. These color issues carried a hefty price tag of $4.95 and were more like graphic novels than regular comics.
As a kid, I never owned every Deathmate One-shot, only possessing the Prologue, Epilogue, Black, and Yellow. The high price tag of the color books prevented me from owning every title. I remember loving this event and ‘thinking’ it was the best crossover that I’ve ever read. Eventually I sold off much of my collection of the years, whether for space or finical reasons, but my Deathmate comics were ones that I had parted with. Just recently, my local comic store, Heroes My Mom Threw Out, was having a moving sale and had a bunch of comics outside the store in longboxes, for a quarter! In these longboxes, I found an almost complete run of Deathmate, everything except Deathmate Red. Since they were only $0.25, I snatched them up! I’ve been in a Valiant Comics mood lately. If you hadn’t noticed that in the past month or so, I’ve read and reviewed about 7 different collections (the Volume 1s and Volume 2s) from the new Valiant Comics. So a chance to read and review Deathmate, albeit minus Deathmate Red, was on my mind when I grabbed these issues.
Now, I not totally oblivious to the fact, that most things that I loved as a child, with the exception of the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, don’t hold up as well as I remember. So going into this ‘Deathmate Experiment’ was scary. I didn’t want to tarnish something that I remember being good, but I also know that pretty much everything from Image Comics that I loved is utter, utter crap. However, to my surprise, Deathmate is not as bad as I was expecting, although, its not as great as I remember either.
Most of the story occurs in the Prologue and Epilogue, where the heroes and villains prevent a split Solar from embracing…mating…no, Deathmating with Void, an Image WildC.A.T.S character. ‘Deathmate’ Solar and Void meet in the Prologue and the two company’s universe merge because of their love. However, the two universes should not be combined and all of reality is collapsing in one itself, from both the future and the past. The four colored one-shots give us a glimpse into this combined universe, however I can’t tell at times if each book is a separate world, or if they all take place on one combined Earth. Deathmate Black is a full issue tale about the the Gen 13 Resistance fighting back against Mother May I and her servant X-O Manowar. A bleak setting where characters die or are already killed. In this story, the heroes free Union, an Image character or instrumental in Deathmate Epilogue. In Deathmate Yellow, we get several stories, which involve: Armstrong and Ivan time jumping and witnessing the end of the future, an attempted assassination of Harada by Zealot, the end of the H.A.R.D.C.A.T.S., a battle involving Shadowman and Grifter and Master Darque making his plans to use Deathmate to his advantage. In Deathmate Blue we get more short stories, mostly involving Geoff, a Geomancer, and his quest to warn Harada about the Deathmate problem. Once young Geoff is able to convince Harada, the Harbinger calls on Solar for help. Solar then acquires Supreme for his assistance and the two meet up with Master Darque and his lackey, Doctor Eclipse. Together, the four make their way into Unreality and try and stop ‘Deathmate’ Solar from meeting Void. Everything ends in Deathmate Epilogue, where Solar, Supreme, Master Darque and Doctor Eclipse are meet by Union who joins them in stopping Deathmate. However, Master Darque has plans of his own and wants Deathmate to happen, so he can claim the power and become THE supreme being. Eventually, Darque’s plan is foiled and Union and Solar prevent Deathmate and restore each universe.
OK, not great but not bad! While the story feels lacking, because they only have so many pages to tell a pretty epic story and because Image’s creators are mostly artists and not writers. On the art front, I find that the 90’s/Image art style is very dated and does not hold up well. The art in the beginning of the Prologue, which is penciled by Barry Windsor-Smith, and the art in the Epilogue, which is penciled by both Marc Silvestri and Joe Quesada, are amazing and hold up very well. I have a place in my heart for the art of the original Valiant Comics, which is featured heavily in Deathmates Yellow and Blue. There’s something about Valiant’s art that I love! Being a bigger Valiant fan, it was easier for me to know who all the major players were, but most of the Image characters have faded from memory and I didn’t know who some of them were.
All-in-all, I still like Deathmate! It had a fun premise, interesting characters and a lot a different creators. With all of the stories being one-shots, you can read this series in any order and still understand what’s going on. Also, Deathmate is STILL the biggest crossover event in comics history…in my opinion, anyway!