‘DC Universe Presents’ was probably the first issue of DC’s New 52 that I was most curious about because it was opening with a tale about one of it’s most interesting and underused characters… Deadman. Deadman, for the uninitiated, is (or rather was) Boston Brand. Brand was a circus performer who was killed under mysterious circumstances and now walks the line between the worlds of the living and the dead. He cannot be seen by the living and must interact with the physical world by possessing the bodies of living people. I love the character of Deadman and, despite some flaws, I liked this first issue. However, those flaws may hold it back from gaining ground with readers unfamiliar with the character.
Writer Paul Jenkins makes an admirable attempt at recapping Deadman’s origin story as odd as it is. When the tale opens, Brand is already Deadman but we get the origin in flashbacks. We learn that, after Brand was murdered, he traveled to a limbo where he met a mysterious Hindu-influenced goddess/angel who explained to Brand that he must atone for a life of greed and selfishness by helping others before he can pass on. We’re then given a lot of brief back stories of the people Deadman has helped up to this point and a few glimpses as to what he is trying to do now to get out of his limbo-state.
That’s not a bad way to handle Deadman but Jenkins bogs the tale down with far too much of Brand’s inner dialogue and explanation. I understand that this is to help new readers understand what’s going on but it makes the brief twenty pages seem like thirty, and not in a good way. The end result is a thickly-worded setup that ends up being less interesting because of it. Deadman is best when he is character driven and Jenkins fails to introduce us to any characters that the reader can connect with.
On the other side of the comic coin, artist Bernard Chang does a great job of portraying the strange world of Deadman. His broad pen lines are great at highlighting the wrinkles and sadness in Deadman’s face. There’s more story told in Chang’s art than in all of Jenkins’ inner dialogue and that’s how it should have remained.
Flaws aside, this is Deadman we’re talking about. So if, like me, you’re a fan of the character, you’ll probably stick around to see where this first story arc goes. If not, ‘DC Universe Presents’ is an anthology series that will highlight a new character every few issues or so with an entirely new creative team. So, if this first arc isn’t your cup of tea, wait until issue #5 or so when the focus will shift to a new character.
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #1
Written by PAUL JENKINS
Art by BERNARD CHANG
Cover by RYAN SOOK