It’s here! Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love continues! I’ve been waiting on pins and needles this week and was one of the first people in my local comic book shop this morning to get it (yes, I’m that hooked!). No spoilers here, but if you want context, here’s the summary for Deadman 2:
“After Deadman and Adelia’s sudden disappearance, Berenice begins to unlock the mysteries of Glencourt Manor. With evil lurking around every corner, Berenice longs to confide in her boyfriend Nathan about what she has discovered, but she fears what he may think of her…instead, Berenice finds a sympathetic ear in Sam, who shows Berenice what it means to be a true friend.”
Why pick this up?
I adored issue one of Deadman when I picked it up over a month ago. The combination of beautiful artwork, creepy horror, and a compelling romantic subplot for the bi, woman of color protagonist was hard to pass up. My only critique was a minor nitpick about the difference between the style of the cover art versus the interior art. In every area that Deadman excelled for me in issue one, it continues to excel in issue two. With 2 of 3 issues release without disappointment, I’d say it’s well worth reading. Plus, they’re double sized issues but not double the price. How can you pass that up?
What I loved
The artwork continues to impress with it’s muted tones and atmospheric quality; even the uncolored pages have a stark beauty to them. The contrast between the black alternate plane Adelia (and Deadman for a brief time) inhabit when the issue starts effectively communicates the vast emptiness of ghostly existence. It’s a sad kind of half-life bereft even of memory. The art manages to distinguish even this blackness from the sinister Darkness looming over Glencourt Manor, which is an impressive. The cover art feels closer to the interior while still having a similar tone to the first issue, which is an improvement given that was one of my nitpicks of Book 1.
The pages were cleaner in many places, less crowded. This fits with the overall tonal difference to Book 2. The tone is much more sad and meditative this issue where last issue it was frightened and anxious. The strong lines of energy last issue with character movements fit the more frenetic pace and tone, the building anxiety and fear regarding the dark presence in the mansion. The places where dialogue is briefer this issue fits with the more somber and reflective atmosphere.
The internal dialogue for both Berenice an Deadman is more lyrical and reflective as well. Deadman’s interactions with Adelia provide space for him to ponder just how much he differs (or doesn’t) from ‘normal’ ghosts and what that might mean for his self perception. Berenice, in turn, meditates on how the environment effects her headspace (nature is ‘quiet’; people, full of regret and sorrow), and why it is that she hides her nature from others.
“I shattered this bowl to pieces…but I still sense its happiness when I touch it. —Berenice”
While in as many pages as Nathan this issue, Sam’s presence shines brightly on the pages they appear in. They’re most definitely the cinnamon roll of this series, and I want them to be happy. Preferably with Berenice. Sam’s full, unmitigated acceptance of Berenice strikes a strong chord with me as someone who belongs to a frequently marginalized minority, which is fitting given that both Berenice and Sam belong to that same minority: the LGBT+ community. I can’t tell you how much it matters that one major and one minor character are LGBT+, especially since theirs is the major romantic tension of the series. And both of them are non-white. This is how good representation is done people.
I also appreciate that Berenice’s abilities resonate with disorders like ADHD, sensory processing sensitivity, or the like. Not only does it add one more layer of representation to an already groundbreaking character (a plus sized, bi/pan, mixed race woman of color no less), Berenice’s loud, exhausting headspace heightens the central romantic tension. She’s hiding parts of herself for fear that people will reject, despise, or think her crazy. And can you blame her? She has lost a lover before when she tried to open up about her ‘gift’ (see Book 1). The question now is whether or not the SPOILER will lead to her being more honest with Nathan, Sam, or both.
I have seen others critique the writing, and while I can understand the criticism, I ultimately disagree. I find the characters to be overall compellingly written and distinct. Berenice’s and Deadman’s voices are unique yet cohesive. The plot might not be the most unique, but it fits the genre well and still intrigues, rather than feeling hackneyed. Injecting diverse characters into the protagonist and love interest roles more than makes up for any tropey aspects to the mystery.
The pacing this issue might be slower than the first, but it didn’t bother me as much as one might expect. I have read my share of gothic romance novels and the heirs of that genre (I want a copy of Jane Eyre put in my grave). Deadman fits well within what I expect of a gothic romance novel, and therein might lie a critique from others. Act two of a gothic romance novel relies more on atmosphere than action. Like the middle of an Agatha Christie mystery, it’s more about setting up clues that will provide payoff later than in a lot of moving parts. The last few pages deliver on the rising action, though, and I expect excellent payoff for the slowly unraveling mystery in the final issue.
My only nitpick is with the character of Nathan. We know little about him at this point and the more compelling romantic beats exist between Sam and Berenice rather than Berenice and Nathan. As a true romantic rival for Sam, he falls short since we know so little about their relationship. He’s not on page for us enough to know how things stood before Sam entered Berenice’s life. There are also some red flags character-wise that I am looking forward to see addressed in issue 3 (they’re spoiler related, so I can’t talk specifics here). If they aren’t, I might have a bit more to say once the final issue comes out.
Ultimately, this is a minor nitpick. I am far more invested in Berenice’s and Sam’s dynamic anyway. I’m hoping that part of his opaqueness has been for plot reasons, as he seems to be somehow connected, or at least strongly affected by, whatever it is that haunts the mansion. The rest of the romantic beats—both between Sam/Berenice and even Adelia/Deadman—make up for his rather lackluster role as a romantic interest for Berenice.
Other than that, I have nothing else critical to say. This comic is a gem.
Is it worth continuing?
At a 9.5/10, I give a resounding ‘Hells to the yes!’.
- Gorgeous artwork that conveys ambiance and tone well.
- Deadman gets a chance to reflect on the nature of his purpose and existence.
- Berenice has a lovely premonition? Fantasy? Read it and decide for yourself!
- Sam is a cinnamon roll.
- The mystery surrounding Glencourt Manor is coming to a head, with new information and a great cliffhanger for the final issue.
Eh, I could Do Without It
- Nathan is in the way 🙂 (I want Berenice with Sam, so sue me.)
Images courtesy of DC Comics
Deadman, Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love Credits
Writer: Sarah Vaughn
Illustrator: Lan Medina
Colorist: José Villarrubia
Cover: Stephanie Hans