Friday, November 4, 2011

DC Universe Presents #1

DC Comics, 20 pages, $ 2.99

Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Ryan Sook

In theory, Paul Jenkins’ take on the Deadman concept is one I have a lot of time for: In order to redeem himself, Deadman has to “possess” other people’s bodies, identify the problems in their lives and fix them, with each “solved case” taking him a step closer to salvation. It’s Quantum Leap, in other words—or Peter Milligan’s Human Target, for that matter: a fantasy concept turned into a vehicle for exploring and understanding why people in very specific situations act the way they do. What’s making them tick? What does it take to resolve their issues? What does it tell us about ourselves?

It’s precisely the kind of blend between trashy genre thrills and literary characterization that floats my boat.

The execution leaves something to be desired, however, as the first issue is all set-up—and it’s dreadfully tedious. I’m not really interested in the supernatural mechanics of Deadman’s constitution, but Jenkins spends a lot of time on that. He also stuffs his pages with prose that dumps all kinds of gratuitous information on the reader, rather than to contribute anything worthwhile to the story. Indeed, we don’t even get to “the story” here—instead, there’s a convoluted subplot that only muddies the book’s appeal.

Whatever happened to drawing the reader into the story from page 1 and filling them in on what’s relevant as you go along? Here, it’s all infodump and, worse, infodump that’s concerned with the least interesting aspects of the story. I like the idea, and artist Bernard Chang does a good, attractive-looking job with the material. But the way Jenkins dramatizes this story doesn’t speak to me at all.

Grade: C-

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