Strangers # 6: Deathwish Returns

strangers6The Strangers # 6
“The Tao of Physiques!”
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by Rick Hoberg and Dave Simons
Edited by Chris Ulm

After being dispatched last issue, the supervillain Deathwish makes a speedy return… it was such a quick rematch that even Englehart had to joke about it on page one: “Thought he was gone, didn’t you? So did they…”

Now, one might ask if Deathwish was an interesting enough foe to deserve a return bout, especially so soon. I’ll admit to not feeling the Deathwish love but both last issue and this one gives us the opportunity for some really great characterization – so even if Deathwish himself is kind of blah, he serves as a useful tool for exploring David’s powers and their limitations (last ish) and Electrocute’s status as an artificial lifeform (stay tuned).

After doing some cleanup at the scene of last issue’s battle, Zip-Zap continues teasing Yrial about her membership with the team. Though she continues to loudly proclaim that she’s not really a Stranger and has no desire to be, her actions suggest otherwise. At this point, Yrial is becoming a little more interesting but I still find her to the one member who sticks out like a sore thumb.

At the hospital, Deathwish returns out of the body of G. Lawrence Bushnell, empowered once more by all the beings who are lying near death in the medical facility. Another fight ensues, with Zip-Zap showing off his powers in close quarters. Eventually, Lady-Killer, Zip-Zap and Yrial follow Deathwish into the morgue, where they’re forced to take on their foe while the other members of the team rush to the scene. When Yrial initally refuses to enter the fray, a disappointed Zip-Zap declares “This is the coldest, lowest, sorriest, slimiest–! I thought behind all that shuckin’ an’ jivin’ — I thought we were friends!” It’s a powerful moment though I didn’t know a single person who still said shuckin’ an’ jivin’ in 1993. Perhaps I was just around the wrong people.

Anyway, the other Strangers show up and a massive battle takes place — with Electrocute taking center stage. In a really well-done scene, she declares “I was made in a factory! I can’t die — and I hate it!!! J.D. Hunt made sure the fear of pain and death weren’t programmed into me — so he could anything he wanted with me! You think I’m proud of that? I want to fear death! I want to be able to die — so I can know I lived! But I can’t die! I can’t die! I cant dieee!!!”

Yes, it’s powerfully overwritten but the moment kind of demands it. The expression on her face (as depicted by Hoberg and Simons), coupled with her words really makes the character (forgive me) come alive. Her desperate need and desire to be “real” has never been as clearly depicted to this point. It really, really works.

Meanwhile, Yrial has found the nurse for Deathwish’s host and unleashes Henrietta’s full potential. The nurse, too, was changed by the Jumpstart… and within her is a beautiful embodiment of Life itself. Freed from the shackles of her physical form, Henrietta goes in search of Deathwish and the two of embrace, vanishing before the eyes of our heroes. Yrial proclaims that “I helped the woman of light come forth, knowing she would nullify the man of darkness…!” Zip-Zap apologizes for doubting her while the rest of the team mulls over the fact that people changed by the Jumpstart sometimes don’t show those effects for many months. As they wonder who else is out there, we’re teased that next month brings the crossover known as Break-Thru… and for The Strangers, that means Prototype!

We get a nifty Lady-Killer pin-up by Statema & Schellinger to round out the issue.

Great story by Englehart, especially the parts with Zip-Zap, Yrial and Electrocute. The art was quite nice and I think that Simons is a really nice complement to Hoberg, especially on the facial work.

The series is really hitting its stride, folks!

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