Monday, 20 October 2008

'Who the Necker you?' - A missing link in the Death's Head chain?

I don't know how many of you out there are currently reading Nova, by Marvel UK fan favourites Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning? I'm going to assume probably not as many as perhaps it deserves. I too am guilty of this. It's purely been a financial issue that has prompted me to trade wait on this one. And more fool me - because when #17 came out, a few weeks back, I started getting emails telling me that I aught to check it out.

Why? Well, it all centres around a supporting character who turned up in this issue.

To cut a long story short, in #17 Nova has made his way back to Earth to get involved in protecting it from the Skrull invasion (See this summer/autumn's Secret Invasion crossover event at Marvel). Upon arrival he discovers that his family are really worried about his brother, who has recently taken a job working for Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. (More info on them can be found here: Project Pegasus). So Nova jets off to check on him.

But that's not the big deal here (Well, as far as we're concerned, right now). It's more to do with who Nova's little brother is working WITH at Project Pegasus:

That redhead look familiar to you? May be not to all of you. She's been MIA for over a decade now, but back in 1992 (click to enlarge):

The guy at the table is indeed Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, and despite the slightly more revealing attire that is indeed the same Doctor Necker. Doctor Evelyn Necker. And if you're wondering where that name rings a bell from, maybe this might help?

Take a good look at those schematics on the wall. Look familiar to you? That's right those are the schematics for Death's Head 3.0 - Marvel's attempt to relaunch Death's Head in the pages of Amazing Fantasy, back in 2006. I don't want to go into too much detail about Death's Head 3.0 (Largely because I'll be tempted to rant) but I'll just say that it wasn't received very well, and generally was not very good. The central complaint about the story has always been that this revamp of Death's Head (Which came about through winning a front page readers' poll on had no connection to the character we all knew and loved, the time-travelling cyborg Bounty Hunter, with the cranky attitude and the arsenal of weaponry. Where did Death's Head 3.0 fit into that? And should it even fit at all? (Sorry, no more rant).

But this little footnote in Nova appears to be putting some of this right. So this is 2008, and Evelyn Necker is working for Project Pegasus. She has a private project up and running under the name 'Minion'. Now fans of Death's Head II will recognise that name. Minion was the also the name of a project and a cyborg Necker created for it, in the year 2020. The very cyborg which killed and assimilated Death's Head. The joke was on it, of course, because (With a little help from Reed Richards) Death's Head then took control of the Minion Cyborg, and lived on in its body (In a story which was of course written by Dan Abnett).

We know, from Marvel continuity that by 2020 Dr Necker will be under the employ of A.I.M.

This set of events, for fans who want to draw the lines, infers that by 2020 she will have taken her pet project away from Project Pegasus and over to A.I.M., where the project results in all of the events we read in Death's Head II.

In short Death's Head 3.0 could effectively be seen as the prototype for Death's Head II, tying up the loose ends, and tying Death's Head 3.0 properly into the Death's Head mythos. Now how's that for snappy writing? ;D

But that's not all. I do have a further theory attached to this issue.

When Evelyn Necker created the Minion construct it was designed with one very specific task programmed into it - to travel through space and time, and assimilate the minds of the greatest Scientists and the most skilled warriors of all human history. But how exactly does one go about compiling the kind of database for that? How the hell could you even go about harvesting the information for it?

Enter Nova #17...

The Nova Corps (Before they mostly died in Annihilation) were effectively Marvel's intergalactic police agency. They policed the galaxy, using a giant supercomputer on their homeworld, which had access to information about pretty much any being on any planet. They called it the 'Xandarian Worldmind' as it was based on the Corps' homeworld of Xandar.

When Richard Rider became the last Nova Corpsman left alive the whole Worldmind was transferred into his new costume. He was able to communicate with it as if it were another person. Impressive, huh? Only he kind of... broke it.

In Nova #17 Project Pegasus is being invaded by the Skrulls, and they are desperately trying unlock their big secret weapon - but cannot unleash it because they don't have a powerful enough computer system do do it. And that's when Nova brings up the fact that he kind of does have one such system capable of that in his suit. And if they were to be able to fix it then it could do the job. Now how might they fix that supercomputer:

So let me get this right? You're going to take one of the greatest supercomputers ever made, with knowledge on almost all the life forms in the galaxy, their planets and cultures, and just... drop them into the Minion Project's mainframe - for safe-keeping? The kind of information that could be used to - oh, I dunno - collate a list of the finest minds and sharpest warriors in the history of the Galaxy - for later assimilation by a cyborg lifeform?

Do you really think that when this story is done Dr Necker's isn't going to have at least kept hold of some of that information, for her own end? ;D And there you have it. Abnett and Lanning build up some more of the Death's Head mythos, from within a book you probably didn't suspect.

Now I know that seeing this got a few people excited online. I was hearing phrases like 'They're SO bringing Death's Head BACK! The REAL one!'. But hold your horses folks. Don't get carried away. I'd be just as excited as you about that prospect, but unfortunately Messrs Abnett and Lanning have already scotched that rumour, in an interview they did for Comic Book Resources (Quantum Leap: DnA Talk "Nova"
)where the subject of Evelyn Necker was brought up.

The other Project Pegasus staffer Nova encounters is Dr. Necker, a character whose name will strike a chord with fans of Marvel’s old UK line. “Dr. Necker, for those of you with long memories, is a character from Marvel UK's 'Death's Head II' series created by Dan and Liam Sharp in the early ‘90s,” DnA explained. “She was the creator of the robot body that eventually housed Death's Head and was depicted as working for AIM in the near future. This is us just having fun- the Death's Head thread has recently been worked back into the Marvel Universe via Planet Hulk, and we thought we would tie a few loose ends together.”

(Btw - for those who don't know 'DnA' is the acronym Abnet and Lanning use for their collated dual responses)

This is true. There was a whole legion of Death's Head 3.0s in Planet Hulk (But to avoid my ranting I'll steer clear of those, too).

So no, there is not REAL revival on the cards. But don't entirely give up all hope. I mean if you see who got brought back for the cliffhanger of Nova #17, after fans bothered Marvel so continuously over it, there's hope for anybody.

Ladies and Gents - Death's Head NEEDS you. ;D

That's all for now, folks.

Mark (Sword), out.


  1. To be fair the Amazing Fantasy story was Simon Furman, and if anyone should be allowed to reinvent Death's Head, it's him.

    Personally, I'm only really interested in the original Furman/Senior version of the character...

  2. Granted, if anybody had the right it is him.

    But something went very wrong with Death's Head 3.0. It didn't feel like it was Furman writing it, and I suspect that a fair amount of the series suffered greatly from some heavy handed editorial interference.

    This was a character which had been polled on Marvel's own site, with a fairly significant press coverage. People were voting for the character of Death's Head. But what was delivered did not look like Death's head, speak like Death's Head (In fact was largely mute throughout), was missing the gun arm or the morphing weapon arm, was not a Bounty Hunter, and had no direct ties to the character other than it having the name 'Death's Head 3.0'.

    Simon Furman himself has said that he originally tried to get SOME trademark Death's Head speech placed on the final panel of the story, but it was removed by the editors. I suspect that this might not be the only thing that was altered.

    What response I have seen to Death's Head 3.0 has not been positive. Far from it. It's not the character people wanted - be they fans of either of the previous versions of the character.

    I'm pleased with what Abnett and Lanning have done here, because it plausibly makes the 3.0 construct little more than a prototype for what we later knew. And that makes it far easier for it to be left as that, and for any future appearances of the character to be either of the previous incarnations.

    Heck, we know Death's Head was capable of moving between dimensions. There's no reason that the Death's Head from that 'What if... the original Death's Head lived?' story couldn't make it back into the MU...

  3. All good points, although it's worth pointing out that almost total reinvention was part of the remit for Amazing Fantasy. I would have preferred something closer to v1 as well though.