Review: Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #3

deadman3coverDeadman: Dark Mansion of Love concludes in twisting, turning Gothic fashion, and one of these twists is in this first page as it’s revealed that Adelia is the dark, malevolent spirit that has been haunting Glencourt. But, like the previous issues, Deadman #3 isn’t just creepy libraries, spooky spirits, and gorgeously designed architecture from Lan Medina and Phil Hester. Writer Sarah Vaughn continues to dig into the budding relationship between our protagonist Sarah and her friend Sam along with the strained one between her and her boyfriend Nathan. There is plenty of blood magic, candles, secret passages, and even an explosion, but Deadman is really about finding someone who you don’t have to hide your true self from.

The romance between Berenice and Sam is definitely one of my favorite queer romances in comics. And Vaughn also makes their connection an essential part of Deadman’s plot as Berenice can see the dead while the dead don’t have an effect on Sam. But even though they have awkward moments while Berenice is chatting with Deadman and Adelia, Sam wholeheartedly believes in these apparitions and teams up with her to get to the bottom of the mystery. Vaughn indulges Gothic tropes and adds a touch of defanged vampire mythos with the reveal that the Nathan is a murderous immortal and Adelia’s ex husband, whose lifeforce is tied to the house. She doesn’t give him an overcomplicated backstory making him a man, who isn’t afraid to literally sacrifice woman he supposedly loves to make him live forever. Nathan forces Adelia to sustain his life just like he is controlling over Berenice and doesn’t want her going into his study or spending more time with Sam. This isn’t love, but abuse and tyranny, and thankfully there’s a spooky revolution in Deadman #3.

And Deadman doesn’t get left behind in the comic that bears his name and is downright heroic in a genre that is more about running away from creepy things than facing down the abyss. His possession abilities are key in defeating both Nathan and Glencourt, and Medina and Villarrubia show this by having a red outline around Nathan’s body. Deadman is in the eye of the hurricane letting Adelia do the ghostly equivalent of whaling on him before finally releasing himself while Nathan collapses as a clump of blood and meat fulfilling the gore quotient of the Gothic genre. And his ending is the most typical superhero thing ever (He flies away to save someone else in need.), but it comes off as original because for most of the series, Vaughn and Medina have trapped him in Glencourt. Deadman did save the day, but in the weirdest haunted house/bodily possession way.

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I really enjoy the way Medina draws and Jose Villarrubia colors Adelia as she switches from ghostly maiden to dark spirit of vengeance. The being is starkly inked and is just an amorphous blob of power that is hungry and can’t be contained just like Nathan suffers from headaches even though he’s immortal. On the other hand, Villarrubia uses cool colors that flow like Adelia’s dress and spin around when she is finally freed from the house like a young girl at a ball. It’s glorious to see these wide open spaces and beautiful sky and fields after being cooped up in the house (A gorgeous one, however.) for 40+ pages, and Vaughn and Medina give her a poetic moment before she fades away peacefully. This epilogue is a well-earned bit of relaxation after the full-page spreads and jagged panels of fire, destruction, and hairbreadth escapes.

Speaking of those things and the series in general, Deadman Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love is an example of how you can re-tool classic literary genres and still make them relevant in the present. Deadman has all the escapes, murderous intrigue, twist, and setting/atmosphere overload (Kudos to Medina, Hester, and Villarrubia yet again.)  of a great Gothic yarn, but it stars a bisexual Asian woman and a non-binary black person and gives their relationship great nuance. Vaughn and Medina let queer people of color be the heroes of a genre that is pretty lily white in both the genre defining novels by Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis and recent films like Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak while crafting a slow burn romance that is filled with honest words, smouldering glances, and soft touches wreathed in copious shadow.

Deadman Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #3 is an exciting and satisfying ending to a wonderful Gothic romance with exquisite set design from Lan Medina, Phil Hester, and Jose Villarrubia. Each moment that Sarah Vaughn writes featuring Berenice and Sam will give you those happy, goosebump chills that you get when you see two humans that are perfectly matched for each other.

Story: Sarah Vaughn Art: Lan Medina with Phil Hester Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review