By: Paul Jenkins (writer), Bernard Chang (artist), Blond (colorist)
The Story: He’ll force himself inside you whether you like it or not. That’s just wrong.
The Review: Like most of the series in DC’s new lineup, this title received its fair share of controversy even before it launched. The point of debate in this case had nothing to do with costume changes or snarls of continuity, but revolved around the choice to feature characters through extended story arcs rather than one-shots. Some people figure, not inaccurately, that a title meant as a vehicle to expose lesser-known heroes should have a quicker revolving door.
Despite their lack of fame, these characters generally have a certain continuity and appeal all their own. To discover all that, you really need more time than a done-in-one can often provide. Does this mean we should always get stuck with one character for six months’ worth of issues before moving on to the next? Perhaps not. But before we start judging stories by their length, let’s take them on by their merits, shall we?
It’s easy to catch on to Deadman’s gimmick, but beyond the whole possessing people bit, you don’t really get a sense of what his purpose is. It turns out the friendly ghost may not know that either. Jenkins fills the issue with questions that have no easy answers, some for Boston to mull morosely upon, and some for our own speculation as well.
The big theme that flows through the center of all these questions is why must Deadman do what he does? You can see how Boston’s circus skills come in handy when he works with people with practical, tangible problems. But what use can he have for a priest questioning his faith, a doctor making a life-or-death choice, an innocent on death row, a stripper with daddy issues, or a man dying alone? Compelling situations indeed, but also a little disappointing since Jenkins doesn’t actually tell us how Boston dealt with these seemingly insolvable conflicts.
Boston’s boss, Rama, bringer of balance, claims by helping others, he helps himself become the man he should be. Completely inscrutable, of course, as Boston himself says (“You kinda lost me at ‘living bricks’”…). And it begs the question: why him? Sure, he was a jerk when he was alive (or so we’re vaguely told), but the world is full of jerks, and you can’t expect they all turn into wandering spirits when they die. And even if he does achieve self-actualization through possession, what can it possibly matter to a Deadman?
The exciting part is Deadman wonders all this himself, and he’s willing to take some fairly drastic measures to force them out of his mysterious blue employer. How does one take drastic measures when one’s invisible and can only act viscerally? I won’t spoil the answer, but I will say it involves a military vet with missing legs and a brain injury, and if that doesn’t give an immediate sense of tension and import to a scene, nothing much else will.
Chang’s highly angular, slick style feels, especially with Blond’s neon and blacklight colors, more suited for a high-action thriller than an introspective tale of the supernatural, but it catches your eye just the same. He has an instinct for working the art so the story feels like it’s clipping along, even when the script drags its heels with narration. His dynamic POV choices keep the most repetitive paneling from looking too static, even though they’re little more than expository character blurbs.
Conclusion: While Jenkins asks some intriguing questions and promises juicy answers to come, this hardly makes for an instantly engaging debut issue. Perhaps people had a point about the dampening effects of an extended story arc.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – “…and that’s why Rufus preferred the blue Frisbee. He wanted you to know.” Honestly, comforting the owners of dead pets is probably the only real use I envision out of psychics. That and entertainment when you ask them what you’ll have for dinner that night: “But what kind of broccoli? It’s very important I prepare for this.”