I picked up Deadman #1 a couple of months ago and found it to be a pretty incoherent mess. Glutton for punishment that I am, I read issue #3 and found it to be…, surprise, surprise…, again an incoherent mess.
It feels like writer Bruce Jones is trying hard to tell a complicated story of parallel universes and shifting timelines. There’s talk of “history repeating itself” and people coming back from the dead and other dead people talking to living people. Meanwhile, there are other guys chasing our heroes and some other odd scenes. It feels like there’s some potential for a good story in the midst of all this confusion, but the good story never comes to the surface. At moments this story is intriguing, but its bizarre and confusing structure completely does the comic in.
Well, that and the kind of bizarre stupidity of the plot that we can decipher. For example, our lead characters, Sarah and Brandon, wander into a restaurant and find they have no money, and “banks are closed today.” Insanely, neither of the characters has a bank card, so Brandon pulls out a gun and robs the cash register. They steal a car, which our hero can hotwire because “every American knows how to hot-wire,” drive away and suddenly are chased by bad guys. Umm… what? Did I miss hotwiring in school? Why does nobody think of other ways to pay the waitress? Where do the bad guys come from? And why, for goodness sake, does Sarah wear a sexy, low-cut red dress throughout the issue?
This is one of those comics that’s so badly constructed that a reader ends up asking questions all throughout the issue. Like why is the only way for Sarah to escape from bad guys to get naked, and what is the meaning of the Deadman costume at the end? How does Brandon know that Sarah will be attacked in her home? Who are the bad guys? And why does the escape from Sarah’s house make no sense physically? All the questions take the reader away from the story. The reader never gets caught up in the story’s flow because the story has no flow. It’s so full of distractions that I found myself stopping every couple of pages trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.
It feels like Jones is working to create a dreamlike story for his characters, where we’re continually supposed to be assessing the scene, keeping readers off balance so that we’re as confused as the story’s characters. If that’s the case, Jones misses his target by a good distance. The story is so dreamlike as to feel incoherent and so bizarre as to feel pointless. John Watkiss’s art doesn’t do much to make the story more coherent, either. I usually like his thick-lined and intense style, but it’s a terrible match for the story. Watkiss’s art makes the story feel dark and ponderous, with too many close-ups and not enough shots to help us figure out what’s going on.
Deadman #3 was as much an incoherent mess as issue #1. It may be that there’s a thoughtful and intelligent comic in this story somewhere, but it’s not clear to me after three re-readings.