Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review- DEADMAN: BOOK ONE

DEADMAN: BOOK ONE (DC, 2011; Softcover)
Collects the Deadman stories from Strange Adventures Nos. 205-213 (cover dates October, 1967- August, 1968)
Writers: Arnold Drake (205, 206), Jack Miller (207-211), and Neal Adams (212, 213)
Artists: Neal Adams (206-213), Carmine Infantino (205), and George Roussos (205)

The gist- Boston Brand was a circus trapeze artist who was assassinated during a performance. Brand was a difficult man to get along with, and the murderer could be anyone. The Indian God Rama Kushna refuses to let Brand pass on to the afterlife until he finds his murderer. As Deadman, no one can see, hear, or feel him, and he is quite alone in his torment. He can enter people's bodies and essentially possess them, using their eyes and mouth and body to fight crime and search for his murderer known only as The Hook. I love the serial whodunit, on the trail of the murderer vibe of the comic. It's a great hook (no pun intended). 
The writing is generally excellent but has some dated rough patches. Ham-fisted dialogue, characters with unbelievably short fuses, and sexism are all hallmarks of the Silver Age of comics. Once Adams took over the writing he helped massage some of these rough edges off and helped DC move forward to better compete stylistically with Marvel. Marvel had buried DC during this time and left DC looking like Elvis at a Grateful Dead concert in 1969: conspicuous and painfully out of step with what was going on at the time. 
Modern comic book fans might not realize how brilliant Neal Adams' artwork was/is without proper context. Aside from Ditko and Steranko, there was no one more innovative with their panel layouts and use of perspective and depth in comic books during the Silver Age. Adams is a true visionary whose impact on comic books as an artform is beyond measure. Thankfully we can all sample his genius in these affordable trade paperbacks. 
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Ugh. Why does DC allow Neal Adams to rewrite, or more accurately, redraw history? Much like George Lucas, Adams likes to tweak and refine past works and make them “better”. Except that, like Lucas, he makes them worse. He re-inked and recolored the story in Issue 206, eliminating George Roussos' original inks. It looks like shit. Adams' modern inking style sticks out like a sore thumb when mixed in with his clean inking style of yore. This was done for a 2001hardcover release of this material. The re-coloring in that lone issue also looks like shit when compared to the rest of the book's traditional, flat coloring. I noticed one or two other panels in the book that look “improved” by Adams. I believe that old comics are essentially historical documents, snapshots of a bygone era and should be left alone, for better or for worse. Remastered and presented in collected editions, sure, but redrawn and recolored with a color palette completely unfaithful to the original? Absolutely not.
Linework restoration rating: 4.75 out of 5*. With the exception of what I affectionately refer to as the commission of issue 206*, the linework is maintained extremely well, with maybe a stray dropped line now and again.
Color restoration rating: 4 out of 5*. The original color palette is maintained except for Issue 206*. I deducted a point because the colorist allowed the computer to fill in the shapes rather than doing it “by hand” on computer. The result of the former method is crappy gradient shades and blends instead of smooth, soft blends that better replicate the brushstrokes and gnashing of printer plates. There are times when I wish that I never educated myself on all of these restoration tricks and techniques, as I am fairly certain that if I read these books to simply read the stories that I'd be happier. Instead, I look at these books as high definition, definitive restorations for the ages.
Paper rating: 4 out of 5. The paper in this book is a fair weight coated stock. It's too glossy for this material but I prefer it to the toilet paper DC was using in their collections of classic material.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Glued binding. Nothing to get excited about here.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 4 out of 5. The cardstock has a decent thickness wax coating.

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