The term `Rise and Fall of' has become so famous, that it has been applied to so many things. And in my opinion, Death's Head is one of those (quite frankly) awesome things that had an amazing rise and an unfathomable fall that I always have a hard time understanding just how it could've happened.
When writing Transformers comics, Simon Furman really came up with a one-of-a-kind idea when he created Death's Head. And it was further developed and improved when Geoff Senior drew those first character designs. I mean, come on! A mechanoid bounty-hunter with a demon's skull-like head, that's capable of swapping his left hand with weapons, gets upset if you call him a bounty-hunter, and says "yes?" after almost every sentence, is BOUND to be an instant winner ANY day.
Simon Furman always knew what he was doing with Death's Head. And that's evident right at the start of this collection. "High Noon, Tex!" is a brilliant one-page strip that appeared throughout all the various Marvel UK titles so that Death's Head would be exclusive to Marvel. A smart tactic that allowed the character to live outside what was to follow.
All those die-hard Transformers fans out there know that "High Noon, Tex!" was a way of building up hype for what would be a phenomenal run in the UK Transformers comic (starting in issue #113 and ending in issue #151), where Death's Head would play a huge role in the Galvatron Saga (see the TF collections Fallen Angel and Legacy of Unicron). The second story in this collection, "The Crossroads of Time", follows on directly from the events of Legacy of Unicron. After entering a time portal with his last targets (the Decepticons Cyclonus and Scourge), Death's Head somehow went down a separate path from them altogether. So which famous character of fiction does he encounter next? Why, none other than the legendary Time Lord, the Doctor! The result is a very humorous and entertaining (yet also believable and important) tale that sees Death's Head reduced to human size so he can fit in better with the human-sized cast of characters he next encounters.
Next Death's Head winds up in the year 8162, where he encounters the government agents known as Dragon's Claws in yet another great (but this time dark) tale that showcases more of Death's Head's humour and starts to display his fearsome nature in an ungodly battle to the death with the Claws and their leader, Dragon.
Then, finally, it's onto the reprints of Death's Head (this volume contains issues #1 to #7), and it's here where the character finally `settles down' somewhat in the year 8162, sporting a new look and his own cast. The first of these stories, "Death's Head Revisited" provides a great insight into the mind of the freelance peacekeeping agent (that's the term he prefers), showing his philosophy regarding life, how he conducts business and important cases from his past. Again, there is such great humour presented here, but there's also such depth as well, showing that Death's Head was infinitely more than a one-dimensional character.
From then on, it's tales that document the cases of Death's Head and his new companion, Spratt (who subsequently rebuilt Death's Head after his battle with Dragon's Claws). A rematch with Dragon's Claws follows, along with the arrival of a rogue's galley, consisting of the Undertaker, Plaguedog, Dead Cert, Big Shot, Short Fuse and Photofit, all of whom are unique and enjoyable in their own way. The relationship between Death's Head and Spratt is written brilliantly here, showing the bounty hunter's extreme reluctance in having a partner but coming round in the end when he sees how useful one can be.
All in all, Death's Head: Volume One is a classic graphic novel, completely packed with great humour, great action and great writing. Out of all the different artists that bring this collection of stories to life, it's Geoff Senior who stands out above everyone else, complimenting Simon Furman's writing better than anyone. It was the same with Transformers, and it's the same here and now.
An exclusive introduction written by Furman is also included here, making for great reading about how Death's Head came about. And knowing what lies ahead in the next volume is something I just can't wait for, meaning DH issues #8 to #10, his guest appearances in She-Hulk and Fantastic Four, and the original graphic novel, The Body in Question.
But sadly, after all that, there was Death's Head II, which stupidly and unnecessarily changed everything Simon Furman's creation was all about. And after that, it all kind of fizzled out, which was a crying shame. Hopefully, the original Death's Head will be allowed to make a comeback of sorts, but even if it never happens, at least the character's legacy has been kept alive with this awesome graphic novel.
All fans of Transformers and Simon Furman need to purchase this. If you've never heard of Death's Head, you are REALLY missing out. Because when you think about it, any character that manages to crossover with Transformers, Doctor Who, She-Hulk, Fantastic Four and Iron Man of 2020 has GOT to be pretty cool, yes?