DC Universe Presents and the increased amount of miniseries are two of the coolest things about the DCnU. As much as I would like it to be otherwise, not every character can sustain their own ongoing, and stuff like this is the perfect way to showcase them. Deadman is one the of the characters most in need of a spotlight. While Brightest Day has given most regular DC readers some familiarity with the character, he's completely unknown to many others, and his presence in books like Justice League, Justice League Dark, and Hawk is a good reason to make sure everyone knows who he is. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke is also developing a Deadman series for the CW, and this assures that DC will have a trade paperback in stores should the series get picked up.
Perhaps because of the television series, writer Paul Jenkins put a spin on the Deadman concept, injecting it with a heavy dose of Quantum Leap. Deadman's powers are essentially the same, but he must now atone for his wasted life by entering the bodies of the living and setting them on a better path. It's a great hook for episodic storytelling, and is an easy way to explain the character to a new reader. With a little tweaking, this actually would've worked nicely as a one-shot or back-up story. This issue on its own is more than enough to give anyone an understanding of Deadman. One scene in particular highlights his powers in a particularly entertaining way, and I hope we see a little of that in other comics.
The set-up of this story arc is also a strong one. Deadman is beginning to think he is failing the people he's supposed to help, and is fighting to find a greater sense of purpose. What holds this issue back a bit is its overly verbose narration. There are some nicely written moments- I especially love the last panel on the first page- but in general, I wish Jenkins had been a little more economical with his words. I like my comics dense, but this often felt like it was wordy for the sake of being wordy rather than wordy because a lot of information needed to be conveyed. There's a lot to read here, but not a whole lot happens. We're given backstory, the introduction to our story arc, and that's basically it.
Bernard Chang is an artist who seems to be getting better with every comic he draws, and his improvement is very evident here. While Chang still draws in a more traditional superhero style, he also throws in some pages that are interesting and atmospheric without being overly complicated. There are some great standalone images here, along with some instances of very effective visual storytelling. Colorist Blond does a great job of changing up the setting from scene to scene, and his colors really help in rendering Deadman's powers effectively.
There are a few things I really wish we'd seen more of here, especially Deadman's sense of humor, but this is only the first issue, and there's plenty of time to show that off later in the storyarc. As a whole, I think this is a strong start to Deadman's tale, and a strong introduction to DC Universe Presents itself. More than anything, reading this left me excited about potential stories for other characters, and left me wondering who'd be showcased next. I've heard rumors that we'll see a Cyborg story somewhere down the line, and I'd love to see newer characters like Element Woman or some of the Stormwatch crew get fleshed out.
I'd recommend this to anyone curious about Deadman, as well as fans of the quantum leap concept. This may be a little better when read one arc at a time, but there's still enough here to justify reading it issue by issue. I'd also encourage those planning to pass on this tale to keep an eye on DC Universe Presents. Deadman might not catch your fantasy, but there are a whole lot of other characters to feature, and sooner or later someone you like should get the spotlight. Deadman's in charge of this title for at least another 3 issues, but come 2012, it's anyone's game.