By: Paul Jenkins (writer), Bernard Chang (artist), Blond (colorist)

The Story: I have a question for y’all: why ask the question?

The Review: Wow, hard to believe it’s been five months since I first considered the merits of applying a story-arc format to this showcase title.  I’ve tried to reserve my judgment along the way, but now that we’re at the end, I believe we can say conclusively that this has been largely a waste of the format.  If the purpose of this series is to brighten the dimmer stars of the DCU, then it’d be difficult to consider this story a success.

To follow the recurring motif of this issue, consider this question: would you consider Deadman any more appealing a character now than he was at the beginning of the series?  After all he’s been through, and all the information he’s gleaned from various sources, both human and divine, Boston has failed to learn anything of permanent value, and certainly nothing that’s changed him in any significant way.  He first appeared to us a wise-cracking rebel, and he ends on pretty much the same note.

The first problem is so much of what he’s learned has been plot-focused.  His encounters with the Son of Morning and the demon-angel who guarded his book of life yielded much to deepen his suspicions of Rama, but little to affect his outlook on life.  By the end of the issue, it’s hard to assess exactly how much he’s accomplished.  While he’s forged a new deal with Rama, presumably with better terms, the fact remains that he is still, for all intents and purposes, her servant, and his mission is essentially the same as before.

Perhaps the only difference in his renewed contract is that he’s no longer attached to the souls he possesses, or at least those he’s possessed before.  Jenkins tries to pass this off as a major point, but he’s failed all this time to explain what, exactly, is the peril in having Boston’s fate connected to his many lives.  He vaguely states these people “deserve to go on with their lives,” maybe implying that they now exist in some kind of purgatory, but considering how many of them are still counted among the living, this explanation doesn’t entirely work.

But the biggest problem with this arc as a whole is that it resolves none of the thematic or philosophical elements of the story.  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s quite a lot of time and effort put into a series, only to basically end on a rhetorical question, whether it’s “Why me?” or “Why not me?”  Jenkins may claim that the whole point is such questions don’t have answers, and only immortal, empowered beings have enough time on their hands to search for one.  That doesn’t make the story any more entertaining or substantial, however.

The most accessible part of the issue, and unsurprisingly the most enjoyable, is Deadman’s tactic of getting war vet Johnny to move on with his damaged, but not irreparable, life.  Even so, it may make you wonder, a bit troublingly, whether the ghost’s interference means Johnny’s great dead isn’t so much his own, and thus a bit unearned.  Perhaps Jenkins would have better served Deadman and this story by answering that practical question, rather than such ethereal ones.

Chang has been more than competent on this series, but maybe not the best fit.  His sharp style lends great sleekness to the characters, which works very well in the action scenes (love that image of Johnny swinging from the rafters, Rambo-style, to fire upon the Gotham gangsters), but it doesn’t have the dramatic depth the script demands.  And his liberal use of paneling doesn’t have nearly the sense and taste J.H. Williams III or even Francis Manapul bring to their attempts of the same thing, so it’s more distracting and cluttered than artistic.

Conclusion: Beyond the flaws of the story and the unflattering portrayal of the character, I want to alert DC to the misuse of the title’s format, which now seems better suited to one-shots or two-issue arcs.  At least if the story’s a dud, you can get over it quicker.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Deadman to Rama: “But you never considered what would happen if I was successful.”  Really?  She went through all this trouble without thought of succeeding?  Rama’s not the brightest bulb in the bunch if that’s the case, is she?

– So the Gotham cops aren’t interested at all in how an ex-soldier got hold of what look to be all kinds of illegal firearms?  Yeah, he’s a hero, but a little curiosity would be warranted, I’d say.