I’ve been excited for this series for a while now. When Neal Adams spoke of getting back into Deadman, his enthusiasm was palpable. There were reservations, sure, but Adams indicated that he wanted a story that was Boston Brand-centric, a story that focused on him as a character instead featuring the person he’s possessing. This was a classic Adams character ready for classic Adams art! So, how’d this go?
Well, let’s start with the positives because there were a couple.
First, Adams brings a nice silver-age bombast to the narrative. His dialogue, though awkward at times, matches well with the dramatic character movements. Every panel is chock-full of something BIG happening, regardless of the action being minor or major. This harkens back to a time where DC made stories with huge amounts of melodrama, and Adams calls back to that age precisely. In fact, the angry omniscient narrator was extremely enjoyable, injecting levity into those sometimes overly-dramatic panels.
Second, Adams colors his own art here, and it was pretty damn good. As someone who is primarily known as a penciller, he did a great job establishing a palate to create ambiance, and he really uses it well within the context of the narrative. He dabbled in strong, vibrant colors and weaker, lighter colors with good effect.
The lettering was also good, as Clem Robins was able to find fonts that helped reign in just how crazed the dialogue could be. The effects, the hysterics, all of it was handled with care by Robins. The tone used in this book could very easily have gone from “fun nostalgia” to “shitty 90’s” VERY quickly, but again, Robins manages to ground the narrative with excellent lettering choices.
Now, one of the things that did not work was something that’s been really bothering me about modern Adams – inking his own work.
The best Adams, the Green Lantern/Batman/Jimmy Olsen Adams, had clean line work, art that could really breathe on its own and strike an epic panel. His inking here makes his lines just seem so damn sloppy, sloppier even than Batman Odyssey and Coming of the Supermen. This is something that one has to assume any inker in his or her right mind would kill to do: ink the great Neal Adams. However, he persists in producing sloppy inking that further accentuates some poor design choices.
His designs for Commissioner Gordon are extremely bad. It’s like he couldn’t choose a particular iteration of Jim Gordon, and instead tried to create something new…but it was so awkward. Honestly, outside of Deadman, most of these character designs are dated and sloppy, and the only thing salvaging them is Adams’ colors.
Adams was also trying to do too much with the narrative, trying to hop around the time frames too liberally. It made this storyline a bit difficult to follow - which is a Deadman flashback? Was it a memory or a vision? Where are we in the story? I had to read this a few times to get a better grasp on the timeline, which is NOT what a reader should be doing with a #1 issue.
And lastly, the choice of pairing Deadman with Batman is just so disappointing; Adams made it seem like this was going to be a straight-up Deadman story, with Brand serving as the lead, being the one who drives this story, but instead, we get him paired with Batman. Really? In a time where there is almost literally a Batman in every DC book, we had to have yet another one? Deadman is a character near and dear to Adams’ heart, and it’s sad to see him force feed Batman into his story.
All the stars were aligned for this to be a killer series: the heat from the previous Deadman mini, Adams’ open love for the character, and a promise to put Deadman front and center. And yet this issue’s cons outnumber the pros, leaving some uncertainty heading into the second one. Maybe I'm being overly critical because I bet longtime fans of both Adams and Boston will really enjoy this - it has the hallmarks of vintage Deadman comics, but this issue just didn't sit well with me and leaves me nervous about the rest of the series.