In Review: Deadman #1

Recommended for fans of Deadman, Neal Adams, or those who just want a good book.

The covers: There are two different covers for this book, though they feature the same artwork. The Regular cover features Commissioner James Gordon in the foreground. He’s wearing a protective suit and has his hands out to grab something that has three buttons on its top. The device is sending out a blinding amount of light. Behind Gordon is Deadman, Boston Brand, yelling as he reaches for the man. Next is the title in bold red, followed by Batman, who’s reaching for Deadman. The World’s Greatest Detective has his cape splayed out behind him, making him look awesome. This is a neat cover which teases much, but happily reveals nothing of the story. The Variant edition of this cover is one dollar more and glows in the dark. After exposing it to light, one can see the skeletons of the characters on the covers. This is cool in a kitschy way and I admit to this being the one I had to buy. These covers were illustrated and colored by Neal Adams. Overall grades: Regular A- and Variant A 

The story: Picking up from the stories that Neal Adams used to write and illustrate, Deadman is in Japan to take out the Hook, the assassin that killed him. Simultaneously, Commissioner Gordon is in Japan as an acting ambassador during a tour of nuclear sites. He asks if he can begin his tour and comments how excellently well maintained the facility is. Turning, he sees a copy of himself who tells him, “Be calm, James. Float gently to the floor.” Meanwhile, Deadman is also in the plant and finds the Hook telling his men to get below ground, while he reaches their target, Gordon. Writer Neal Adams then gives a quick origin and summary of Deadman, including his quest to find his killer, Hook. Who this mirror image of Gordon is revealed to be is neat, as is how Deadman confronts Hook. Page 12 has a good surprise, and the Hook has a neat and appropriate surprise on 14. How Gordon and Brand deal with Hook is really violent. No, seriously, I’ve been reading Deadman stories for decades and am more than familiar with Adams’s iconic work with the character, but this took me aback. Was it justified? If I were in the same situation, I would probably do the same thing, but — Wow! — it’s a lot. A supporting character is stated as committing an action that really floored me, as this is the one thing this character wouldn’t do, at least in the pre-Frank Miller Dark Knight days. I’m not thrilled with this action, and neither is Boston. The issue ends with Boston still trying to find closure. Overall grade: B+

The art: Neal Adams’s visuals are as strong today as when he began in the comics industry. The book opens with a fantastic emotional image of of Deadman screaming that he’ll have Hook on this day. The reactor that Gordon examines looks great as are his reactions to what he sees in that location. Deadman’s appearances on the third page are terrific: he’s angry in the first panel, lands on the ground in a ghost-like manner in the second, and the angst he’s projecting in the third panel while standing behind his prey is awesome. The flashback summary on Page 4 is also good, with the positioning of Deadman’s head being similar to that of the evil Sensei. I really like how Adams has Hook show his namesake at the bottom of the page, cementing why he bears that name. The Sensei is an absolute visual monster: his face is constantly angry and his fingers are like talons. When he springs into action he’s a fury that belies his appearance. Brand’s reaction at the bottom of Page 9 is fantastic: it’s not something that any hero does in their books, so it makes it exceptional seeing it in this series. There are two very strong actions on Page 12, found in the third and final panel. The last panel on the page has got a slick panel that shows that Adams is at the top of this game, it looks that cool. Pages 15 and 16 have got an incredibly gruesome beat down occurring. Is it realistic? Unquestionably. The action shouldn’t be pretty, but it really had a strong effect on me. I actually started to feel sorry for the person it was happening to. There’s a powerful close-up of Gordon on 17 that makes his words incredibly strong. A character on 17 – 19 has a specific effect done over their image to signal to the reader who is actually speaking. It’s a little thing, but it looks terrific. The final panel of the page has Deadman in a new location, walking just above a large crowd. It’s a great way to show the reader the change in location and remind them that the title character is, indeed, dead. I’m really liking the artwork. Overall grade: A

The colors: Being a triple threat on this title, Neal Adams is also the colorist. Deadman is introduced with Hellish reds in the first panel intensifying his rage. The orange safety suits on Gordon and the others at the nuclear plant will instantly signal to the reader the dangerous nature of the location, and they allow the reds and whites of Deadman’s costume to stand apart from those alive. Eerie greens appear when the League of Assassins are present, making them seem abnormal to the reader. The device that Gordon uses on Page 12 and 13 is wonderfully electrifying in white and blue. The signal to the reader on 17 – 19 is spectral in green. Not only can he write and draw, but Adams knows how to use color to enhance a story. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins, whose work can be found in most Dark Horse Comics set in the Mignolaverse, provides the lettering for this book. He creates yells, narration, the story’s title, dialogue, sounds, laughter, a whisper, and the book’s credits. Deadman is a very emotional character, so he yells often and Robins gives him a nice variety of utterances, allowing the reader to discern the level of the character’s screams. The sounds in this book are also good, with the fighting having some strong ones. I also must give particular praise to the narration being in a different style from the narration. It is a different form of communication, so it should visually look different. Overall grade: A

The final line: Recommended for fans of Deadman, Neal Adams, or those who just want a good book. The story’s got action and surprises, while the visuals are top of the line work from an iconic comic book creator. If only this Deadman went beyond six issues. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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