ACW #623 – Deadman

Action Comics Weekly #623 (Deadman)
Writer – Mike Baron
Pencils – Kelley Jones
Inks – Tony DeZuniga & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Helen Vesik
Colors – Daniel Vozzo
Editor – Barbara Kesel

It’s been a minute since we’ve looked at Deadman.  He had himself a well-earned week off last time out… then we had our Christmas on Infinite Earths… in July Special.  Hopefully his adventures are still fresh-ish in your mind… because, uh, I’m not sure even I remember where we’re at!

We pick up with the twins (Stella and Delia, the “Zombie Queens of New Orleans”) relishing the fact that they’ve been brought “back to life”.  They don’t even seem to notice that Deadman has left until he’s already gone.  The twins figure he and the Madame will prove to be thorns in their side before long… and, they’re probably right.  At that very moment, Deadman-as-Clara is given the down and dirty on the girls by Waxahachie.  Turns out it has something to do with the fact that the number seventeen (heyyy, that’s the title of this chapter!) is a base-integer.  Ya see, the twins committed suicide when they were 17… and that was 17 years ago.  This, for whatever reason, enhances their twinning power.  I don’t know diddly-squat about Voodoo, so I’ll just take her word for it!

We also learn here that Legros (now being written as LaGros… now also, a vegetable) was acting in the interest of the twins as a sort of facilitator in trying to summon an African Deity called “Gage”… and, at least according to Waxahachie, it looks like they were successful!  She drives Deadman-as-Clara back to the school so he can jump-bodies.

This is where Old Luke rejoins the story.  We saw him early on in a brief scene.  He is described as odd and simple, and the Madame is certain he won’t “miss any time” if Deadman were to take up occupancy.  And so, he does!  The thing of it though, once Clara stirs back to normal, she’s none too pleased to learn she’d been possessed… like, two or three times at this point.  She calls Waxahachie a witch, and storms off.

The Madame shrugs it off, figuring Clara will cool her jet eventually… and turns to Deadman-as-Luke.  She gives him their mission… in order to stop the Peckshaw Twins, they’re going to have to find their original bodies… and destroy them!  Grave desecration, hmm?  I guess I’m starting to understand why Waxahachie might not want Clara(‘s body) involved with the proceedings! 

Waxahachie takes Deadman to Wildwood… where the Peckshaw Twins had once called home… and are now buried… so, uh, I guess technically, they still call it home.  It’s here we learn that Wellman LeGros also lived here, as when he was a boy, the family found him there.  We close out with their arrival at the boarded up Estate.

I wanna take a minute (or two) and compare the way this story is being told to a more contemporary “Voodoo-themed” book.

If you’ve listened to our Sandman Universe Gatherum series of episodes over at the Chris and Reggie Channel, you’ll know that among those titles is one called House of Whispers.  It’s a book steeped in Voodoo mythology… almost to a fault.  That’s all well and good, right?  But, here’s the thing… that book doesn’t tell us a darn thing about the mythology.  If you’re uninitiated to Voodoo lore, you’re really just dropped in blind.  You’re not likely to understand any of the references or allusions… and, because of that, the twists, turns, and revelations in the story fall absolutely flat.

I feel like writers today try and challenge themselves… overusing symbolism and real “deep cut” references in order to make themselves feel smarter than they are… and, if any of the readers actually “get” the references… well, they’re just one of the “cool kids”.

Another thing writers try to do is tell only the exciting stories.  Just like building a house, you need to put in the difficult (and comparably un-glamorous) work of laying a foundation before you can start putting up walls.  Sure, putting up walls makes it look like a house… but, a stiff wind can knock it all down without a solid foundation.

Why am I talking about this?  Well, here in this Deadman feature, we’re getting a bit of a learnin’ in Voodoo, African deities, symbolism, the effect base-integers might have (whether it’s “legit” or not)… but, with Waxahachie’s words… Mike Baron is laying a foundation.  This might have been a comparably unexciting chapter, but it was a necessary one.  Had this come out in “current year”, I fear these scenes would have been omitted… with a hope/expectation that a reader wouldn’t have a problem reading this alongside a Wikipedia tab.

What I’m trying to say… though, I’ve clearly taken the scenic route, is… I appreciate this chapter doing the un-glamorous work of attempting to educate the reader in either actual Voodoo lore, or the Mike Baron-take on Voodoo lore.  This way, as we approach our pay-off, we’ll all be at a similar level of understanding.  There (hopefully) won’t be any “out of left field” deus ex machina type stuff… it’ll (again, hopefully) all make sense in the context of the story being told.

Art’s still great, though the Madame seems to be looking more and more bestial with each panel.  I’m not sure if that’s a conscious decision… or, maybe we’re just not getting her “best side”.

Tomorrow: Antichrist Superstarman?!

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