By: J.T. Krul (writer), Mikel Janin (artist), Ulises Arreola (colorist)
The Story: Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to be amazed, dazzled, and inhumanly butchered!
The Review: When it comes to superhero team-ups, you have your classics (Batman and Superman) and your unexpectedly potent combos (Oracle and Black Canary), while the rest fall somewhere between predictable and pointless. And then you have Deadman and Dick Grayson, a circus pairing that’s such a no-brainer you wonder why it hasn’t been done before—until you remember that Deadman is, well, dead.
The world of Flashpoint pretty much removes that minor obstacle, but in doing so, it eliminates altogether Boston Brand’s heroic identity (as it does Dick’s). So now the question is: what kind of situation can Krul cook up to get the team-up we eagerly look for? And with both characters devoid of their former involvement in the world’s major crises, how can Krul tie in their story to the Flashpoint drama at large?
As it turns out, the events of Flashpoint has no bearing on Boston and Dick themselves, but on one of their fellow circusmen, a sideshow act, no less, whose name is Kent Nelson but goes by his show moniker: Fate. It’s him and his helmet the Amazons are after, and as their razing of an innocent Austrian town demonstrates, they’ll stop at nothing to get it. It’s a clever way of dragging this nomadic circus into the—I’m gonna say it—fate of the world.
The plot has a lot of potential, but Krul’s limitations as a storyteller dampen your prospects for a completely enjoyable read. One of his pitfalls as a writer is a worrisome love for melodramatic monologues, the kind that sounds great looped over a movie trailer, but cheesy in any other context. Boston Brand’s narration as he performs his stunts: “I want to hear them shriek and gasp in terror. Let them watch me step right up to the face of death—then walk away in total defiance. It is the game I play. And I always win.”
Krul also has an unsavory habit of slapping you in the face with the same thematic points over and over again, to the point where it makes predicting the rest of the story a cinch. Throughout the issue, he repetitively has the Graysons demonstrate their family bonds (not unlike the Brady Bunch in spandex), with Boston remaining abrasive, aloof, and alone. Dare I guess a painful lesson in the value of companionship is in store for our dear Boston?
The dialogue veers wildly back and forth between convincing (like the exchange about priorities between Dick and Boston at the end of the issue) and superficial. At times, it just seems Krul only has a faint grasp on the way humans talk—what kind of little kid says, “Absolutely”? It’s also interesting that even in Kalisz, Poland, people say, “Cool!”
Most of the issue’s engaging features come from Janin’s art, which gives a dramatic quality to the scenes that allow you to take them more seriously than the writing perhaps deserves. Janin also portrays Deadman and the Graysons’ acrobatic flights with energy, though the constantly fuzzy backgrounds obscure the dangers they risk in their feats.
Conclusion: As with much Krul does, the ideas are sound; the execution is not. If he can give up his flair for the overly dramatic and cliché, his stories would work far better than they do.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – It has to be said: that is one fun cover from Cliff Chiang and Jared Fletcher. I’m only sad we didn’t actually get to see Deadman chained above the gaping maws alligators in the issue itself.