Friday, November 24, 2017

The Art of a Master

Deadman #1 (DC, January 2018, $3.99)
After the recent miniseries Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, I was excited to see this new six-issue Deadman series, especially because it was written and drawn (and colored!) by Neal Adams, who drew some of Deadman's earliest stories in Strange Adventures and other titles in the '60s. But be warned: This first issue is messy in several ways.

First of all, the comic isn't much of a reintroduction of Deadman as it is jumping right back into an ongoing Deadman storyline, if there was one. So if you're new to the character, don't let yourself be overly put off. There are a couple of pages of back-story exposition to explain the connection between Deadman and Hook, but other than that, new readers are largely on their own.

Secondly, Adams is inking his own pencils, which means that—while readers get to revel in the art of a master—the resulting art is relatively sketchy and scribbly, rather than featuring a cleaner line had the art been inked by, say, Dick Giordano. That effect is compounded by the full-page nature of the art. There are no outer margin panel borders (i.e. there are full-bleed panels), and many pages are free of in-page gutters, as well. That can make for some awesome panel and page design. It can also make for some confusing visuals. Adams doesn't pull readers through a page like Gene Day might have.

Boston Brand remembers searching for Hook, his killer, while watching Commissioner Gordon on a tour of Japanese nuclear sites. After encountering a mysterious stranger, Gordon faces Hook, who tries to kill him. He and Brand team up to fight Hook. Brand then turns his search to the Sensei, Hook's employer. Possessing Alfred and Gordon, Deadman learns that Batman didn't kill the Sensei, so his search continues.

The story is a little difficult to follow, as are the visuals, but it's a fun read all the same. Deadman is an underutilized character, and I'm glad that DC continues to showcase him occasionally. Adams's art that makes this comic notable, even if the pencils might benefit from another inker.

Availability: The three issues of Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love have been collected. Adams's earlier Deadman work in Strange Adventures, Brave and the Bold, and other series has been collected in two volumes (1, 2).

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