Adventure Comics #465
Deadman appeared in Adventure Comics from #459 (Oct-78) to #465 (Dec-79) after which the series changed format to digest size and carried reprints of things like Golden Age Captain Marvel. Len Wein wrote the series and Jim Aparo provided beautiful art for the first 3 issues while Jose Luis Garcia Lopez illustrated the rest of the series with vibrant well crafted art.
Issue #465 (Oct-79) featuring “Brick Battle Ground” was the first issue lovingly depicted by Garcia Lopez. Len Wein wisely chooses to start off the issue with an inner city street scene with guys sitting on the stoop drinking and chatting and people buying fruit from a produce vender. Deadman hovers above, sadly contemplating the meaning of it all.
This is the kind of setting Deadman really does well in. Being dead, we often find him contemplating his fate and his place in life. Here on a lively liter-ridden street, life seems more potent and visceral.
On the second page Deadman interestingly muses about how the people complain about there lot in life. We only have time for just a few brief thoughts before the action kicks in. Deadman comes upon a gangster colleting “protection money”.
It’s unfortunate that Wein didn’t take this musing further or mix it into the main story line. This is the whole beauty of Deadman. He of all the heroes gets to contemplate the really big questions. Without the big questions he’s just a sub-par superbeing.
Predictably Deadman jumps into a body, this time it’s the body of the “heavy”, Chilly Willy” where he lets the arm of the store owner, Danny Mason, “slip” free and get the upper hand.
The excited Danny organizes a neighborhood meeting to discuss the problem.
Their meeting is interrupted by the Pimped out gangster, Stallion, in gloriously garish 70’s black fashion. Wein/Garcia Lopez have done a wonderful, loving tribute to the blaxploitation movies of the time with this story. We’ve got the great setting, interesting characters though the names feel a little forced. I would've liked to have seen more of Stallion (can we give him another name though?)
The story gets predictable from here on in. After the meeting Danny goes to his store where it is blown up in front of him.
He decides to take matters into his own hands and breaks into Stallion’s place to get incriminating evidence against him.
Predictably he is caught red handed by Stallion. Not only that, Stallion has upped the anti by bringing Danny’s wife along as leverage.
So what does Deadman do? Well being dead, there is only a few things he can do. The most obvious would be to take over the body of Stallion and give himself up to the cops.
This story has many things going for it but quickly becomes predictable. It’s not easy to write for Deadman because he is not your average hero with weaknesses and all but you’d think Wein would find some way to twist this into something cool, or combine it with Deadman’s own issues of looking for meaning in his un-dead predicament. But alas all we get this time is predictable fare from him. Unfortunately this story is typical of the Deadman stories in Adventure comics. We get really competent stuff but ultimately uninspired and being a Deadman lover, it’s hard not to feel that Deadman himself deserves better.