Who's it by?
DC Universe Presents #1 is written by Paul Jenkins (Son of Hulk) and drawn by Bernard Chang (Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors).
What's the history?
DC Universe Presents is a new anthology comic from the publisher. Anthology titles have a long history dating back to series such as Detective Comics and Amazing Fantasy, which introduced some of comics' most well known characters, through 2000 AD to the more recent (and recently revived) Dark Horse Presents.
The first five-issue arc of DC Universe Presents stars Deadman, the spirit of murdered trapeze artist Boston Brand, created in 1967's Strange Adventures #205 by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino. Brand was given the power to possess the bodies of the living by the goddess Rama Kushna to aid him in his quest for justice.
Deadman recently played a central role in the Brightest Day limited series, following on from his resurrection in the concluding issue of Blackest Night.
Apart from the newness of the title itself, there has been some tweaking to Deadman's character. The circumstances of his death/origin remain largely the same - an obnoxious acrobat who is shot during a performance and offered a second chance at salvation by a goddess.
The Deadman in this issue is more ornery than the one readers may have grown used to over the last few years (and the one that apparently remains in Hawk and Dove). The character has for quite a while been portrayed as a gentle, calming, almost fluffy presence. The Deadman of DC Universe Presents is troubled, uncertain and plagued with a sense of uselessness. It remains to be seen whether this story will resolve some of his issues and restore him to a more familiar state.
DC Universe Presents #1 follows Deadman's encounters with various troubled individuals, including a stuntman with a death wish and a soldier who has lost both his legs and all his comrades.
Weaved among those stories is a revisiting of the circumstances of Boston Brand's death and his first meeting with Rama Kushna.
Moving forward, Brand begins haunting an old colleague, looking for answers to his own haunting by the people he has tried to help in the past.
What's the verdict?
A lots is packed into DC Universe Presents #1, but not in a way that feels overwhelming. Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang have only been offered five issues on Deadman as it stands, and there is a real sense that they are making the most of them.
The issue balances a straightforward origin story with several separate strands moving towards the future, managing a look-back at Brand's life while maintaining forward momentum. Brand's voice sounds strongly throughout, with Jenkins capturing his dry humour and contempt for the man he was and the ghost he is.
Chang's pages burst with detail. He crams in panel after panel on to each page, but these add to the experience of Deadman's existence, flickering from perspective to perspective as he moves through different bodies, rather than simply feeling crowded. The tone of the art shifts from the vibrancy of life to the half-lives of Brand and the soldier and the further removed ghostliness of the presences that haunt Deadman.
The first page is arguably ill-conceived, as it sets up a situation that seems to get lost in the wash. It feels as though the story intends to return to the stuntman for a while, and causes a bit of a drag on the pace of the other interweaving plot threads.
Jenkins's Deadman is immediately well-developed, with his wry observations tempered by moments of thoughtfulness which are interesting rather than dull or preaching. The character is likeable and contemptible all at once, leaving us with a more rounded hero than the one we have grown used to. It is great to see a bit of grimness injected back into the story of Deadman.
DC Universe Presents is a clever way of leaving a space for stories about characters that might not warrant an ongoing solo series. Jenkins and Chang are so far very much making the most of the five issues they have been given. Readers may find themselves not wanting this run to end, and waiting to see if the next story arc can live up to this one.
> Buy the digital version of DC Universe Presents #1
> Read our review of Blue Beetle #1
Watch The New 52 introduction video from DC Comics below: