Review: “The DeaDBeat” (Alterna Comics, Monochrome May Special)

Welcome back to Monochrome May, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things color deficient.

Speaking of deficient, today we’re going to take a look at The DeaDBeat, a 112-page graphic novel by Jeremy Massey and published by Alterna Comics in YEAR. The story was originally published as four mini comics, but the Alterna edition collects the entire tale in a handy trade paperback format. A preview of the The DeaDBeat was also featured in the Alterna Anniversaries Collection, which we recently reviewed here

The DeaDBeat follows the life of an aging, retired superhero whose finest days of heroics are clearly behind him. His life is upended when his daughter Vera suddenly comes back into his life after he believed her to be dead for years. Not only is Vera seemingly back from the dead, but she has also inherited her father’s powers, as well. 

The events that follow are what you’d expect from any drama with this premise: awkward exchanges, trust issues between father and child, and a flashback explaining the mental state of the father when he abandoned her. In the case of The DeaDBeat, however, these are all compounded with the added action and drama of superpowers and saving the city. Not only has an old nemesis named Salvadore Kane returned to threaten the world once again, but Vera herself is hiding a dark secret from her father.

Why don’t flying characters wear goggles when it’s raining?

The book itself reads very quickly, and the story is quite skeletal as a result. The plotting hits all of the main points it needs to in order to make sense, but there isn’t much meat on the bones. For starters, we never even learn the main character’s name. He has a giant D on his chest, which I assume is meant for the reader to think “DeaDBeat” (which is the name I’ll use for him from this point on), and I assume that he was left nameless on purpose. However, for a book intended to deliver an emotional, empathetic impact, this omission places an artificial hurdle between the reader and the protagonist, and I’m not convinced that it was the best creative decision. 

The surrounding world is also not fleshed out. We are really only introduced to a couple of other heroes in the form of Spook (the self-proclaimed “Greatest Detective in the World” and unabashed Batman stand-in), and DeaDBeat’s drinking buddy, Squid. Just before the big, final showdown, the other heroes’ dialogue implies that they are fully reliant on DeaDBeat to come out victorious, though his importance was not established before this point, and nobody seemed to care that he had been retired just a day or two earlier.

Spook: the “Greatest Detective in the World”

The story would have benefitted greatly from a bit of worldbuilding, more suggestions on how important or beloved DeaDBeat is/was as a hero, or perhaps more extensive flashbacks, particularly some that offer more of Vera’s background and upbringing. If DeaDBeat was so revered by his fellow heroes and the world, it would have been more impactful to see this flaw of his being a “Deadbeat Dad” come to light. As it is, I found the resulting story to be too superficial to be impactful.

While Massey’s art style doesn’t lend itself to the bold, over-the-top superhero genre, the action sequences were presented in an adequately fun way, and the art reinforces the rapid pacing of the story. On a more specific note, DeaDBeat’s flashback sequence is presented with lighter gray tones and no hard, black inks. This was an interesting visual choice that set the scene apart, though I think I would have preferred it with some black by the time it ended. 

Young DeaDBeat before he became a DeaDBeat… wait…

The DeaDBeat can easily be read in a single sitting, for better or worse. While this may be disappointing as a graphic novel, with an original cover price of $6.95, the price of admission is more than fair. 

Seeing as how Jeremy Massey unceremoniously cut ties with Alterna Comics in 2018 over the founder’s customer service-centric social media policy, it is highly unlikely that there will be another print run of The DeaDBeat, at least not from Alterna, anyway. I picked my copy up not too long ago on the secondary market, so copies are still out there, and at reasonable prices, but if you’re hoping that The DeaDBeat could still manage a recommendation from me, I can’t give one.

You’re going to need more alcohol than that, fellas.

Thanks for reading! You can check out more of our Monochrome May content here.

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