NEW 52 REVIEW: DC Universe Presents #1

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Or – “Have Y’Ever Noticed How Deadman Looks A Lot Like Daredevil?”

Daredevil’s second costume is ridiculously similar to Deadman’s: Short boot cuffs, short gloves, red bodysuit, big D symbol on the chest.  (I suppose Daredevil is technically a Double-D, but…

Y’know, there’s no good way for that sentence to have ended.)  Either way, the new DCU wouldn’t be the same without Boston Brand and his body-hopping exploits.  But what does the new status quo bring our favorite ghostly presence?

DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #1
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Bernard Chang
Cover Artist: Ryan Sook
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in DC Universe Presents – Deadman: Boston Brand was a world-renowned aerialist and world-class jackwagon in life, flying through the air in corpse makeup and a big red unitard as “The Deadman.”  When a mysterious one-handed assassin cut him down in his prime, Deadman was empowered by the Hindu deity/presence/what-have-you called Rama Kushna to solve his own murder.  Eventually, with the help of the Batman, he did so, but remained a wandering spirit, becoming more and more desparate to find his final rest.  During the events of Brightest Day, Deadman was returned to the living, but since I only skimmed that story, we’ll presume that none of it was relevant, and frankly, very little of it was even readable.  The new day that has come thanks to Barry Allen’s selfishness (ironically, trying to solve a murder case) has led to a new Deadman, but how much of the song remains the same?

DO YOU THINK SAM BECKETT’S NAME IS AN IN-JOKE?

The new take on Deadman is pretty clearly laid out in the very first page of this book, which is something that I really appreciate.  We witness a very-Evel-Knievel inspired daredevil type jumping his motorcycle over a pile of wrecked cars, with only the acrobatic prowess of Deadman possessing him to save his life.  “I didn’t die,” says the narration.  “I mean, Albert didn’t die…  I was already dead…  Let me start over.”  We then segueway into a retelling of Deadman’s origins from Strange Adventures.  I’m troubled by this, actually, because so many of these first issues (aside from the ones that I knew wouldn’t do anything new, such as the Bat and Green Lantern titles) aren’t actually FIRST ISSUES.  The story of Boston Brand is tweaked here, but only slightly, making him an even bigger d-bag than before, and making Rama Kushna much more humanoid than I remember.  The gist of it is, though, instead of solving his OWN murder, Boston Brand’s mission is to help a series of random people, “human bricks” in the road to his own redemption.  It’s an interesting premise, but I can’t help but think it resembles the television show ‘Quantum Leap’ a bit more than I’m comfortable with.

I MEAN, SAMUEL BECKETT WROTE ‘WAITING FOR GODOT.’

We meet Deadman’s newest “client,” a soldier named Johnny who lost his legs in what is clearly Afghanistan, which could be a good hook for a story.  Unfortunately, we quickly get trapped in a quicksand of cliches, and his helpful therapist (there’s one) tries to overcome his defense wall of anger (two) by telling him that he can “honor [his dead friends] by LIVING.”  (Three through ten, inclusive.)  It’s an interestingly moody book, bordering on dark, but some storytelling flaws affect it.  At one point, it seems that Johnny might be attempting suicide by taking pills, and Deadman spends a great deal of time watching him rather than helping.  We have an extended sequence wherein Boston haunts an old friend, and the issue ends on a pretty shocking note, as Deadman does something unprecedented enough to bring Rama Kushna physically to Earth.  The ending is a bit of a shock, and could be percieved in bad taste, I’m sure, but it’s one of the bold choices that the book makes, and I kind of want to know what happens next with our character.

THE VERDICT:  WILL THIS LEAP BE THE LEAP HOME?

The problem, of course, is that I’ve only really known this character for 20 pages or so, and having him move this quickly to what seems to be a status quo breaking move seems like awkward storytelling, and moreover, Deadman appeared in ‘Hawk and Dove’ as Dove’s boyfriend, something that I hope gets referenced here.  (Or maybe I don’t?  Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of the things they’re not telling us is that not all the relaunched titles take place on the same Earth?)  Either way, the issue is intriguing enough, and the main conceit seems like it’ll hold water for a while, at least.  Deadman is one of my fave-rave characters, although many of his recent appearances have done nothing for me, so I’m just happy to read a book with him as the central character again.  DC Universe Presents #1 is a mixed affair, but is successful in positioning the character as a lead, and keeps me interested enough to want to come back next month, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  I sincerely hope they don’t go the evil/crazy goddess route, though…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  If we were to posit that multiple Earths MIGHT be involved in this relaunch, how many do you think we have in play so far?