Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 Review and **SPOILERS**

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, Spooky, Scary

Writer: Sarah Vaughn
Illustrator: Lan Medina
Color Artist: José Villarubia
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Cover Artist: Stephanie Hans
Cover Price: $5.99
On Sale Date: October 5, 2016


We’re now in October, and you know what that means, kiddies! Apple picking! And also Halloween. I like the holiday, but I think October gets kind of a bum rap as being the “scariest” time of year, when much of it is rather pleasant. As the leaves change color or, if you live in California, front lawns turn from yellow to brown, Mother Nature’s wond’rous cycle plays out like fireworks before our very eyes, while all the succulent summer fruits wither on the vine, and are replaced at our tables by gourds and hardened fruits…okay, I’ll admit it. October is the season of death. But that doesn’t have to be a spooky thing. Leaves must fall and turn to mulch in order to propagate new growth in the spring. Mangoes must go out of season or Reggie will eat too many of them and be unable to fit into his winter clothes. But we still regard October as the month of haints and spooks. Let’s reinforce that gimmick, with a review of Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love—book number one!

Explain It!

Meet Berenice: a bookish, retro-style lady with the ability to see ghosts. She’s had this ability since she was a baby, but has been able to mitigate it somewhat throughout her life by staying in newer, less spooky places. That was ruined when her dashing but withholding boyfriend Nathan inherited a mansion from his uncle…a mansion named Glencourt Manor! If a house has an official name, it’s basically guaranteed to be haunted. Actually, things were pretty quiet until Berenice spied Deadman rushing ahead of her to the manor, while she was on her way home from antiquing with her pal Sam. Her pal who she has a major crush on. Her pal who has a gold stud earring in their ear. So her pal is clearly bad to the bone. Deadman tries to take over his body, but finds he’s somehow barred by some magic force field. So he takes over Berenice as well.

She awakes to Sam standing over her, having tended to Berenice while her boyfriend is nowhere to be found. Just as well, since Nathan keeps getting terrible headaches from being infused by the dark spirit of Glencourt Manor, an effect that only Berenice can see but will not mention. That’s pretty messed up, right? I mean I know she doesn’t want to talk about her spiritual ability, but this seems like a matter that should supersede her shyness. He comes out of his study to hang out a bit, and while there Berenice hears the house tell her that she’s not wanted and that the house will destroy her. Knowing that only sticks and stones can break her bones, Berenice sort of takes it in stride until Deadman shows up and dispels the evil spirits somehow.

Later, Deadman possesses Berenice again in an attempt to breach the magic bond that traps him in the house, which seems to be the same that kept him from taking over Sam’s body. He cannot breach it, and when she touches Sam’s hand, it sort of ejects Deadman from her body and causes Berenice to almost kiss Sam. After things get awkward, Sam leaves and Berenice confronts Deadman, telling him never to possess her again without buying her dinner first. Deadman explains that she came to the house because he heard a ghost cry out for help, but he hasn’t been able to find her, and some force is trapping him  within Glencourt Manor because, frankly, he would have scrammed out of there a long time ago if he had his druthers. Deadman and Berenice then go rooting around in the creepy attic, and find a picture that looks like the ghost that called out to Deadman, though I’m not sure how he saw her since he was following only her scream. They find her name is Adelia Ruskin, so they call out to her, and her phantom form appears! Spookily!

Okay, there’s one major problem with this book: Berenice’s thoughts are captioned in teal-colored boxes with white lettering. I don’t know who signed off on this, but that person is an idiot. It’s nearly impossible to read. Deadman’s captions are white on red, which is perfectly legible, but Berenice’s are just frustrating. The story is okay, there’s a lot of seemingly superfluous stuff thrown in, but it may come to bear down the line so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. The art is interesting, nicely-rendered in still scenes but looks a little “folksy” when there’s physical action. The watercolor style coloring gives this the perfect mood and definitely aids the atmosphere of the dark, creepy manor. My biggest misgiving is that this Deadman reads nothing like the Boston Brand I know—doesn’t even have the stilted, street talk that is a hallmark of the character. I wonder if this needed to be a comic book, or if it might have been served better as a scary prose story. I can’t help but be hopeful for the next book, but I am also a preternaturally naïve and stupid person.

Bits and Pieces:

A spooky location and a sensitive medium seem like great components for a Deadman story, but it hasn't taken off yet. Indeed, this Deadman doesn't seem familiar, and I wonder if this might have been served better as a prose novel. I suppose that's something we can assess once this short series is concluded.


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