New 52 Review: DC Universe Presents – Deadman #1

He's got a TV show in the works, and now Boston Brand is headlining his own series - so long as the DCU continues to "present" him.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

DCU Presents: Deadman #1

After the failure of the Wonder Woman pilot, it may have surprised some folks that the creator of the show Supernatural was trying to develop a Deadman TV series for CW.  However, after reading DC Universe Presents: Deadman #1, it's fairly obvious why this could work – it's essentially a moodier, mystical version of Quantum Leap.

Whether or not this is an official ongoing series for Boston Brand or whether or not the DC Universe Presents moniker means he'll be roated out after a while remains to be seen, but given that recent multimedia development, chances are this undead acrobat will be hanging around for a while.  As long as Paul Jenkins keeps writing it and Bernard Chang keeps drawing it, it should be a keeper.

This is a great introduction for those unfamiliar with Deadman, and a great set-up for a wide array of different stories to be told.  Boston Brand was an arrogant asshole trapeze artist who was such an ass that one day he was shot in the middle of his act, and when he dropped to the ground as a dead man, he found himself in the presence of a goddess known as Rama: She Who Brings Balance.  In order to redeem himself for his life's assholery, he will be tasked with inhabiting the bodies of various different people in order to put right what could go wrong.  The main difference between Boston Brand and Sam Beckett is that Brand has no Al and no Ziggy to tell him what the hell he's supposed to do to help these people he's inhabiting.  All he's got is the uncommunicative Rama, so he's got to just wing it every time out.

Deadman has been played for laughs in the past, but if he's got a sense of humor, it's not on display here.  The only lightness here is when Boston tries to contact the psychic Madame Rose from his old circus troupe, only to have her freak out about it.  For the most part, this is a sad tale of a lost man who has long since realized the error of his life's ways, but who has a long way to go yet before he earns his redemption.  We see the misery of the lives he's entered, from death row inmates and faith-questioning priests to troubled artists, stubborn old men, and emotionally damaged strippers, and how he retains pieces of all of them.  Finally, just before entering the body of a paraplegic war vet wracked with survivor's guilt, he figures out an elaborate way to bring Rama to him to get more answers, and it's possible that maybe he hasn't entirely overcome his selfish impulses after all.  Now, however, it's more due to his immense feelings of guilt than self-aggrandizement.

Jenkins is a damn good writer when he really gets to sink his teeth into something, and he hits a lot of great emotional notes that Chang's art serves pretty beautifully.  It's full of emotive reds and deep blacks and it really merges to create this magically somber mood that has a strange way of balancing the wonder of the afterlife with the sadness of actual life.  The more I re-read this book, the better it seems. 

The potential for great dramatic storytelling here is unlimited, and the DCU can keep presenting Deadman for as long as Jenkins and Chang want to keep bringing him to us.  If the TV series is half this good, we'll be okay, and it'll probably be better than Smallville.