Review: Astonishing Tales #33

Astonishing Tales #33 cover
Cover by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson

Astonishing Tales #33
Published and © by Marvel, January 1976

Title: “Reflections in a Crimson Eye!”
Synopsis: Deathlok’s quest to restore his humanity brings him to Maj. Ryker’s brother Hellinger and a Luther Manning clone.

Writer (plot): Rich Buckler
Writers (script): Bill Mantlo
Penciler: Buckler
Inker: Klaus Janson

Review: Boy, Deathlok wants to be better than it is. Rich Buckler’s signature serial isn’t shy about dealing with weighty themes including the dehumanizing impacts of militarization and technology. But far too little time is spent on world-building and character development. How did Deathlok’s apocalyptic world get this way? What do the characters who inhabit it want? This issue brings a new villain (Maj. Ryker’s brother, who goes by Hellinger) and a Luther Manning clone. It’s unclear what role either of these additions will play. At least the addition of Klaus Janson as inker brings a more-consistent look to the art.

Grade: B

Second opinion: “The art/story job on each issue is very good, but overall the series did not gel.” – Richard Ashford, Comics Unlimited #44, June 1977 … “Wow! If only every installment of the ‘Deathlok’ strip could’ve looked like this!” – Pierre Comtois, “Marvel Comics in the 1970s: An Issue By Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon: Expanded Edition,” 2021 … “From #33, Klaus Janson superb inks raise the quality level another notch. … Recommended.” – The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003

Cool factor: Klaus Janson is a good fit for this series. Here’s hoping he sticks around for an issue or two.

Notable: First appearance of Harlan “Hellinger” Ryker and the Luther Manning clone.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a 9p British variant of this issue. … Beware, this issue contains a Marvel Value Stamp (Series B) #3.

Character quotable: “I am what I am!” – Hellinger (hey, isn’t that Popeye’s line?)

Editor’s note: This review was written May 17, 2023.

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