Paul Jenkins' retelling of the origin of Deadman in the pages of DCU Presents has been an interesting tale of one man's search for his purpose, and that comes to a head in DCU Presents #4. The entire issue is a conversation between Boston Brand and Satan, and the deceased acrobat with the high collar actually has the meaning of life explained to him. In one word balloon.
Of course, this is The Son of the Morning, and he gets a smidge tricksy, but it's really not Super Evil Soul-Stuff going on here. It's just an entertaining conversation between the devil (working as a carny, by the way) and a guy stuck in red tights forever trying to figure out exactly what this funky god named Rama is forcing him to do and why. That's the entire issue.
Even though it comes after a slam-bang fun-time adventure where he infiltrated a metaphysical Librarian's lair and swiped a magic book, it's still risky to make an entire comic book out of one conversation. Thankfully, when Jenkins is on, he can make one conversation pretty well captivating. Satan gives Boston '20 Questions About The Meaning of Life' and his pithy, rapid-fire responses to the questions based on the lives Deadman has been living hold a truth to them, with a bit of his slant, natch. They're frustrating enough that Boston doesn't even bother trying to get all 20, but he does come away with what he's looking for - a way to force Rama to stop being so damn cryptic and hopefully get around how she keeps binding him to new hosts and intertwining their fates.
The bigger challenge is for artist Bernard Chang, who had to figure out how to make two guys talking visually interesting. The carnival setting allows Chang to work in a roller coaster motif where the two of them travel into otherworldly areas as they ride. While his normal work is really nice, clean and expressive, detailed and showing his great talent, he does spend some time playing around with distortion filters. It does somewhat approximate that clear visual distortion you get on the edges of a fire, but it still just screams "Photoshop!" That's only one quibble, though. Otherwise, Chang bested that challenge with flying colors.
It's interesting to note, however, that this version of Satan looks a fair bit like the demon Neron, although he's not referred to as such at all. Something to keep in mind as the DCnU unfolds.
This Deadman story started off setting a great, somber mood, and has slowly grown to include the more entertaining facets of Boston Brand's character, and by the end of DCU Presents: Deadman #4, what stands out the most about him is the sheer cojones on this guy, challenging the gods and having no real worry about colluding with the devil in order to get his questions answered... such as they are. Jenkins is crafting a very heady tale here, and offering some interesting philosophical insights in the process.
It's a good read. It'll make a great trade paperback.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.9/10