Another close contest this week, but with a narrow margin of victory, there are spoilers ahead for…
Writer: Neal Adams
Artist: Neal Adams
Cover: Neal Adams
“I will SO kill you. I don’t need my hip.”
The thing that stands out as most bizarre for me with these Neal Adams books is the dialogue.
The plots take some odd twists and turns, and contain some head-scratching elements, but they’re relatively straightforward and they at least make a kind of sense. In the hands of a more competent/less eccentric writer, they could make for interesting if ultimately forgettable stories.
But the dialogue…
It’s not even (just) that people, in general, don’t talk the way the characters in the books talk; it goes well beyond just using strange turns of phrase and figures of speech that are not at all recognized figures of speech. It’s that he presents established characters speaking in a way that is so utterly inconsistent with what we know about the characters and how they talk.
Going back to Batman: Odyssey, which is somewhat infamous for Batman saying, “Such a thing. Such an octopus of a thing,” I think about the manner in which Talia al Ghul, the refined and highly-educated daughter of Batman’s deadly foe, Ra’s al Ghul, greeted her beloved Dark Knight Detective: “C’mere, you big ol’ hero you.”
If you’ve ever read anything featuring Talia, I ask you, can you honestly imagine her saying something like that?
Or how about Batman telling Aquaman, “You are one scary dude,” as he did in Odyssey? Even setting aside the question of whether or not that is an honest and sensible sentiment, there is nothing in the world that could make Batman utter that phrase.
Nothing, of course, except for Neal Adams.
In any case, in this issue, Deadman makes his way to the address Batman provided him last issue, where the late Boston Brand is confused to find that the Sensei is not there, and that it is home to a nice young couple and their baby. While he admires the cuteness of the baby, the Sensei’s spirit appears and attacks Deadman, who is shocked by the fact that the Sensei is able to actually cause him physical harm, despite the fact that both of them lack any kind of physicality. As they struggle, Deadman notes that the baby appears to be dying, which causes the Sensei to cease his assault and dive back into the baby.
As those of us who have read Odyssey know, the baby is the Sensei, who, after being fatally shot by Batman was restored to life, and to infancy, and then given to the couple to raise, allowing the Sensei to have a second chance at living a better life.
As much as Deadman hates the Sensei, once this becomes clear to him, he realizes that he can’t kill a baby, and so his quest for vengeance is at an end.
Well, kind of – he still wants to kill Hook, and, unfortunately, he doesn’t know where to find him. That is, not until the Phantom Stranger shows ups and tells him that he should go back to where it all began, which is to say the circus where Boston was killed.
Also, and this goes back to the bit about characters saying things they would never say, this happens:
What. The. Fuck? That is…I can’t imagine the Stranger even knowing that stupid old gag, let alone actually busting it out.
Anyway, Deadman heads back to the circus, where he learns that his twin brother has kept the Deadman act, er, alive, though he’s actually expanded it to include two other trapeze artists, and, collectively, they’re known as the Deadmen.
Boston spies on Cleveland for a while, and is surprised to learn that their parents are in the audience for tonight’s performance, though Cleveland’s wife and daughter aren’t exactly thrilled, as they’re convinced that Mr. and Mrs. Brand are bad people – which, I mean, they named their sons Boston and Cleveland, so they kind of have a point – who are only showing up because Cleveland is going to do the triple flip in that evening’s performance.
Apparently, the elder Mr. and Mrs. Brand plan to steal it. Somehow. I’m not really sure how you go about stealing a move that that a trapeze artist makes, especially when the very name of the move tells you everything involved in performing it. This isn’t exactly “The Transported Man” from The Prestige, after all, where there’s some mystery as to how it’s performed. You just…do…three flips.
Anyway, Cleveland doesn’t want to hear it, and tells his wife and daughter that they’re WITCHES and to leave him alone, then angrily storms off to do his performance.
Floating there invisibly, Boston wonders what it means that his that his parents are there, but that doesn’t come up again in this issue, and he never actually bothers floating over to see them in the crowd or anything. He also seems puzzled by his sister-in-law and niece’s negative opinion of Boston and Cleveland’s parents.
While Cleveland is performing his act, and is just about to complete that triple flip, history repeats itself, and a shot rings out. The target isn’t Cleveland, but rather his fellow Deadman, who is supposed to catch Cleveland after the completion of the flip. Even as the man is dying, Boston dives into him and keeps the body going long enough to catch Cleveland, then jumps into the body of the third member of the act as he lets the dead Deadman’s body fall to the floor.
While he’s in the body of the other aerialist, he points in the direction that the shot came from, then flies off in that direction, thinking about how the person he was just in possession of and caused to point in that direction was pointing that way, as if…I…
Anyway, I’m not clear if it’s supposed to be Hook again. Adams himself doesn’t seem to know, as he asks the question himself in a caption.
“Does he have a hook, Boston Brand…holding his gun?”
The answer is no, because he has two hands, but…he looks like Hook? And the vicious beating that Boston delivers to him, using the body of Tiny, the ironically-named circus strongman, seems excessive if it isn’t Hook, as does the gruesome final fate that Boston sentences him to.
Whoever the assassin is, after getting shot a couple of times by Boston when he was in possession of a security guard, and then having his hip shattered by Boston after he jumps into Tiny (see the opening quote), he realizes that he’s facing Boston Brand.
Despite his protestation that, shattered hip or not, he could so too kill Boston, even though Boston is already dead, the assassin is no match for Boston/Tiny, who tosses him into a nearby lion’s cage.
The Phantom Stranger appears, and Boston realizes that the Stranger had set things up for Boston to kill the assassin…because reasons, or, as the Stranger puts it, “One hand washes the other.”
Anyway, apparently the Stranger wants to take out the League of Assassins, but can’t act to do so directly, so he’s got Boston doing his bidding.
As they discuss this, The Spectre appears out of nowhere, and seems quite upset with the manner in which Deadman disposed of the assassin, which seems odd, given that it’s exactly the sort of twisted, grisly way the Spirit of Vengeance would deal with a murderer. Hell, it’s positively tame compared to the sick shit that The Spectre has come up with to kill people.
Before The Spectre can let the assassin out, Etrigan appears and warns about the danger or opening the cage, what with the lion and all. Spectre calls Etrigan a “wretch,” and tells him to get out the way.
He pulls the half-eaten killer out of the lion’s cage and demands that Etrigan provide “a healing rune,” but Etrigan says no, in verse, of course, and the Stranger says, “It’s too late. He’s dead. Ya might want to cover him.”
The Spectre accuses Boston of being manipulated by the Stranger, the Stranger cops to it, and Boston jumps out of Tiny’s body and tells them all to go to hell. (Etrigan replies, “Been there, done that!”)
And…yeah. That’s it.
The art, of course, is as good as the writing is bad, but it’s just wasted on this…mess.
I really don’t know what more to say about it, though I do want to call out one more odd dialogue-writing tic that Adams has: people saying “you” in an extended way.
In one instance, in his Superman book, it made sense, kind of, in that Lois called Clark a dirty rat. It didn’t really make sense in the context of the conversation for her to do that, but in any case, it makes sense for someone to say “Youuuu” when following it up with “dirty rat.”
Here, after Boston shoots the assassin while possessing the security guard, the assassin (and, again, it’s not clear if it’s meant to be Hook, and “assassin” is how Boston keeps referring to him), says, “Youuu should have shot me in the head, you idiot. I’m covered in Kevlar.”
That “youuu” seems really important to Adams, as the letterer draws special attention to it:
The first issue had a glow-in-the-dark cover, or at least a variant cover that glows in the dark. (Mine doesn’t glow)
This one also has a bit of a gimmick; the inside front cover is blank except for a picture of a leaping lion, so if you open the book and hold the cover up to the light, you see the lion leaping in that big blank, smoky area. Kind of neat, I guess.
In any case, that’s that for this issue. We’ll see what kind of depths of wackiness the next issue manages to plumb.
Ehh, just read something. Not sure anyone has been particularly interested in this feature anyway. Is it something you want me to keep doing?
As the current storylines wrap up, I’ll most likely be phasing this out, too, unless there’s some popular demand for it. (Don’t let there be popular demand for it.)
Anyway, Superman #36 brings us the conclusion of “Imperious Lex,” in which we find the warring factions on Apokolips all coming together into conflict, and the reunited Super-Family trying to manage the chaos. Lex, meanwhile, is still conveniently unconscious, and so remains unaware that he inadvertently dragged Lois and Jon along for the ride when he kidnapped Superman and brought him to Apokolips.
Meanwhile, the prophet who foresaw a man from Earth ascending the throne in Darkseid’s place, and initially thought it was Lex, before realizing that it was Superman, decides to take a different tack in order to get Superman to acknowledge his destiny. Rather than trying to force Superman to adopt the ways of Apokolips, he chooses instead to get Apokolips to adopt the ways of Superman.
With Kalibak dropped down into one of the now-extinguished Fire Pits, and Granny locked up in jail, Superman realizes that he must set aside his biases and admit that he can play a role in providing hope and guidance for the people of Apokolips the way he does for Earth, because no one deserves to be written off completely. He provides them some guidance in finding a way to govern themselves, and after promising that he’s just a Boom Tube away should they ever need him, he returns to Earth with Lois, Jon, and (the still-unconscious) Lex in tow.
After Lex (finally) regains consciousness, Superman is there to apologize for ignoring all of Lex’s earlier requests for help. Lex isn’t in a forgiving mood, and demonstrates this by ripping the S shield from his armor and incinerating it, and the evil grin on Lex’s face lets us know that this is the moment in which Lex makes the full heel-turn and is going to become the villain we all know he is and that he’s meant to be.
In the “Rebirth” continuity, I’ve never actually been clear as to why Lex adopted the S and Superman’s colors for his armor in the first place. Prior to “Rebirth,” it was ostensibly to honor the life of the recently-deceased “New 52” Superman, but now that he never existed (and therefore never died), I don’t know what the reasoning was behind it. I guess to adopt the symbol in a way that shows that anyone can be a Superman?
In any case, that’s all over with, now.
And so is this week’s Spotlight Sunday.
Thanks to everyone who voted, and be sure to come back for the next Weigh In Wednesday.