Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 Review

411745-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_By Sarah Vaughn, Lan Medina, Jose Villarrubia, Janice Chiang, Stephanie Hans

A haunted, remote mansion, three ghosts, and a woman trapped in her heart and mind.

This is a weird book for DC to be publishing, and I mean that in a few ways. One) the book’s imagery is anachronistic to its characters, two) it’s unlike most of the other books DC has put forth in either Rebirth or Young Animal, and three) this is an unusual comic period.

Starting off with the easy, it looks great. Lan Medina is a name I recognize but had to look up to recall. I like his work, but don’t recall it having a painter-esque quality to it in say, Fables.  His art here is really expressive and dark, not in imagery but in atmosphere. It’s framed like Crimson Peak, full of shadows and classic decor. His style in this issue is like a mix of 1970’s Bernie Wrightson and Mike Mignola. I like the way he captures Deadman just floating in the air, fighting another ghost without feeling the pull of gravity. His human characters look more frail and drab, which contrasts well with the ghosts who seem to glow naturally.

In a way you could mistake this book as being published decades previously, as this kind of art is pretty rare.

Vaughn’s story is decidedly modern, despite everyone and everything looking like the mid-1950s in the country. Berenice is an unusual woman, who feels alone in her boyfriend’s newly inherited home while he works on his latest book. She is also bisexual but has hidden that from her boyfriend but not entirely from her friend Sam. I had a hard time deciding who Sam was, as at first I was convinced they were a man until I started to pick up on Berenice’s attraction to females. Sam is non-binary, which is one of the ways this book feels modern despite the cars, clothes and general tapestry. Berenice’s main problem is that she can see ghosts. From the beginning of the book, she sees Boston Brand as he flies into the dark manor to investigate a woman’s screams. Berenice is the only person he can possess in the mansion, but had to promise not to do so every again in exchange for her help in solving the mystery of the woman and the dark shadow that kept appearing.

This is very much a book of suspense; not horror, gore, or action. Deadman is almost a supporting character despite his name on the title. Still, DC has failed many times to have the character sustain an ongoing comic that maybe this approach is best.

I’ve seen reviews complain that this should be a novel, or that it’s too boring, as if there weren’t literally hundreds of other comics all dealing more or less with the same stories. I don’t remember seeing many throwback issues that literally do it old-school with slow reveals and classic art that you’d see in non-mainstream 70’s comics. It’s very cool, very unique and not what I expected from the creative team.

A fine showcase for DC’s favorite acrobatic ghost and a fitting comic to read for October.

Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent

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