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Review: Astonishing Tales #25

Astonishing Tales #25 cover
Cover by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson

Astonishing Tales #25
Published and © by Marvel, August 1974

Title: “A Cold Knight’s Frenzy”
Synopsis: In the not-so-distant future, Col. Luther Manning manages to seize control of his cyborg body and escape from his creator.

Writer (plot): Rich Buckler
Writer (script): Doug Moench
Artist: Buckler

Review: With little access to adult sci-fi in the 1970s, there’s a good chance Little Me overestimated the originality of some of the era’s comics. In hindsight, Deathlok owes a great deal to other pulp-culture trends of its time: the horror revival; violent, dystopian futurism; cybernetics à la “The Six Million Dollar Man.” But there’s also a lot here to like. The man-vs.-technology theme is timeless, and co-creators Rich Buckler and Doug Moench have tweaked it just enough to suggest entertaining stories to come. Buckler’s rendering is rough, but his Steranko-inspired, cinematic storytelling offers similar promise. A strong debut.

Grade: A-

Second opinion: “Rich Buckler (whose concept it was) did some of his finest art and plotting in these stories.” – David W. Cutler, FantaCo’s Chronicle’s Series Annual #1, 1983 … “With Deathlok, Buckler left behind traditional superheroes and created a character whose basic premise foreshadowed the grim and violent comics of the 1990s.” – Pierre Comtois, “Marvel Comics in the 1970s: An Issue By Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon: Expanded Edition,” 2021 … “In classic 1970s exploitation style it was a mixture of ‘Six Million Dollar Man,’ ‘Dawn of the Dead’ horror and conspiracy theory paranoia, but amazingly managed to rise above that to become a strip of real quality.” – The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003

Cool factor: Deathlok was a perfect kitbash for its time.

Notable: First appearance of Deathlok. … This issue includes a two-page text feature about the creation of Deathlok titled “Mindlock … x3,” featuring a preliminary Deathlok drawing by Rich Buckler. … This issue also contains a two-page humor story by Doug Moench, George Pérez and Mike Esposito about the making of Deathlok; this story is Pérez’s first professionally published work.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a 7p British variant of this issue. … According to MyComicShop.com, there is also a Mark Jewelers variant.

Character quotable: “It isn’t every major who can dupe the entire military into funding, his private obsession.” – Maj. Simon Ryker, who takes obsession to a whole other level
A word from the editor: “I think you’ve got something here, which might inspire a new breed of Marvel characters. … The idea of Deathlok being a cyborg – as well as a sort of anti-hero by victimization – just may add another new slant to our books.” – Roy Thomas, in the “Mindlock … x3” feature in this issue
A word from the artist/co-creator: “The story of Deathlok started out, for me, as an elaborate paranoid fantasy.” – Rich Bucker, from the “The Origins of Deathlok” introduction in “Marvel Masterworks: Deathlok Vol. 1,” 2009

Editor’s note: This review was written Jan. 23, 2023.

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