(This review may contain spoilers for the story content.)
Introduction: For Halloween, I figured that it would be appropriate for my next review to be on Batman, a hero who operates during the dead of the night, and Deadman, a hero who saves the day now that he is dead. Specifically, I am reviewing Batman/Deadman: Death and Glory, a graphic novel published by DC Comics in 1996. Batman (Bruce Wayne) has teamed up with the spectral Deadman (Boston Brand) before, but this horror story is the one time they shared billing on a comic title. For anyone who does not know who Deadman is, he was a popular circus acrobat who was murdered during a performance but whose spirit was given the ability to possess living beings and act through them by the Hindu goddess, Rama Kushna. And, of course, I am sure that I do not have to explain who Batman is. Now, onward with the review I go.
Plot Summary: Batman is in the middle of taking down the Joker when he blacks out, coming to with a knife in his hand at a woman’s throat and a massive force of Gotham City police officers aiming their firearms right at him. Batman is wanted for murdering an entire restaurant full of people. He deduces he was possessed by a spirit and tentatively suspects his old friend Deadman. Borrowing a book from Felix Faust, Batman casts a ritualistic spell to make Deadman solid enough to question and/or arrest him if needed. The spell backfires and almost destroys Deadman’s essence. Boston survives, though, and speaks through Alfred, explaining that the villain responsible is the yang to his yin, the Clown. Much like how Deadman is the ghost champion of Rama Kushna, the Clown is the ghost champion of the Devil.
Meanwhile, a man named Frederick Chaplin is hunting down another man named Albert Yeats. Frederick sold his immortal soul years ago for financial success. Now, the Devil is coming to collect, and the only way for Frederick to avoid damnation is to offer up the soul of someone who was born on the same day at the same time as himself. Albert Yeats fits that description. As such, Chaplin has hired a mystic mercenary and his half-animal henchmen to hunt Yeats down, and the Clown is hunting Yeats as well. Saving Yeats’ life and preventing his soul from going to hell is important because Yeats’ soul is supposed to reincarnate, and the resulting new life is supposed to be the Second Coming, sent from Heaven. With Yeats’ soul in hell, the Second Coming would never happen. Because of this importance, Batman and Deadman work together to stop these supernatural threats and ensure that Yeats’ soul is saved. Eventually, the succeed, but Yeats dies less than a year later from a terminal illness (one he said he had at the beginning of the story). Boston escorts Yeats to as close to Heaven as he is allowed.
Plot Analysis: This graphic novel was filled with so much strong content. The plot was compelling, and the scripts were purposeful. The underlying theological concepts of religion and morality permeated the text in a way that was clever and not “in your face.” While both Batman and Deadman have had darker stories, this one was the first honest-to-goodness horror comic featuring these characters I have read. Robinson’s well-crafted story stimulated my intellect, and for this reason I enjoyed this story far more than my modest words can actually articulate.
Characterization: Robinson explores the characters of Batman and Deadman in interesting ways, giving each of them an element to his character that had not been seen beforehand.
- Many writers have had the opportunity to use Batman. As such, he has been given a variety of portrayals. Many of these portrayals depict Batman has someone who favors science, someone who feels at uncomfortable when dealing with the supernatural. This story throws Batman into a situation that is out of his element, and watching him cope made for an entertaining story. Furthermore, I believe I recall Batman denying magic on at least one occasion in a comic I have previously read, but in this story Bruce is casting a spell? I imagine Batman must have been in a dire situation if he felt compelled to perform a mystical ritual. This graphic novel may be the only time Batman has ever used magic, so this story is noteworthy.
- Batman and his relationship with religion has also differed, sometimes drastically, between writers. Sometimes, Batman has made references to God in a way that would seemingly indicate he was a believer. Other times, Batman has claimed to be an atheist. Here, Batman seems to at the very least respect religious ideas such as the Second Coming, as he told Albert Yeats that it was an honor to meet him.
- For Deadman, Robinson created a foil for the hero, something he had not particularly had before this story. Boston has had adversaries—one of which being his predecessor, Jonah—but he has not had someone who was the opposite side of his coin. I believe the Clown is exclusive to this book, but he made for a formidable foe. And the Clown’s psychotic, violent, evil-for-evil’s-sake personality also shined throughout his scenes.
Art: John Estes delivers some extraordinary art. The art is consistent, and it matches the horror theme of the book with its blurring pencils and darker colors. The art accentuated the story’s eerie vibe in a powerful way. The more gruesome elements were amplified because of the art, and I can respect it. The art may deviate from the “standard” style that other comic fans and I are used to, but I believe there is no question of its quality and effectiveness. Estes drew, inked, and colored the entire book himself, and I have to give him a high level of credit for using his art to augment the plot in such a dynamic and straightforward manner.
Final Remarks: Batman/Deadman: Death and Glory is a solid read. I have an appreciation for Batman, and I have read nearly every appearance of Deadman that I can get my hands on. Nevertheless, even without my pre-existing knowledge and fondness for the characters, I would still find this graphic novel as compelling as I did. Robinson’s writing and Estes’ art coalesce into a fine work of graphic literature that intrigues the mind in addition to entertaining it. I am surprised that I had heard so little of this graphic novel before I picked it up on a whim, but I hope this comic review encourages some of you out there to read the story if you get the chance. For my first Halloween-themed comic review, I could not have been more satisfied with a comic selection.
Closing: I know I have said a lot about this story, and I hope you have enjoyed what you have read. If you have any thoughts on the comic or on my review, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day.