Friday, April 25, 2014

I Reads You Review: THE SANDMAN PRESENTS: Deadboy Detectives #1


STORY: Ed Brubaker
PENCILS: Bryan Talbot
INKS: Steve Leialoha
COLORS: Daniel Vozzo
LETTERS: Willie Schubert
EDITOR: Will Dennis
COVER: Dave McKean
32pp, Color, $2.50 U.S., $4.25 CAN (August 2001)

Suggested for mature readers

“The Secret of Immortality” “Part One”

The Sandman created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, and Mike Dringenberg

Dead Boy Detectives created by Neil Gaiman and artists Matt Wagner and Malcolm Jones III

Edwin Paine and Charles Rowland are “The Dead Boy Detectives.”  They are two DC Comics fictional characters that first appeared in The Sandman #25 (cover dated: April, 1991) and were created by writer Neil Gaiman and artists Matt Wagner and Malcolm Jones III.

Since that debut, the Dead Boy Detectives have appeared in a number of comic books published under DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.  In fact, the Dead Boy Detectives recently received their own eponymous, ongoing comic book series from Vertigo.  News of that new series re-ignited my desire to read the 2001 four-issue comic book miniseries, The Sandman Presents: The Deadboy Detectives.  It was written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Bryan Talbot (pencils) and Steve Leialoha (inks), with colors by Daniel Vozzo.

Paine and Rowland are not your average boy detectives (like the Hardy Boys).  Edwin Paine was murdered at his British boarding school in 1916, and spent 75 years in Hell.  He escaped in 1991 and met Charles Rowland at his old boarding school, during the events of The Sandman story arc, Seasons of Mist.  Rowland died during this time, but refused to accompany Death (one of “The Endless”), preferring the prospect of future adventures with Paine.  The two ghosts spent a decade haunting places, preparing to become “first-rate detectives.”

The Sandman Presents: The Deadboy Detectives #1 opens with the boys settling into their new office – a tree house.  Now, the Rowland and Paine Detective Agency needs a client, and they get one.  Marcia, a young runaway, tells our intrepid duo that many of her fellow street urchin friends have been disappearing and then turning up dead.  These are not ordinary deaths, however, as the corpses appear to have been quite aged and withered.  Marcia claims that the police are not willing to put much effort into investigating crimes against runaways and the homeless.

Ultimately, Marcia decides not to hire Paine and Rowland, as she does not take them seriously.  They decide to investigate anyway, but their hunt will force them to meet people who may be dangerous even to ghosts.

If the rest of The Sandman Presents: The Deadboy Detectives is junk, then, the series would have to have taken a steep fall, because it really is good.  Ed Brubaker takes the boy detective genre (as best exemplified by the aforementioned Hardy Boys) and made it more imaginative and maybe even a little smarter.  I prefer the bookish Rowland, but Brubaker makes the alpha-male Paine not only the perfect foil for his partner, but also the tough guy that a mystery-solving duo needs.  I like how Brubaker sends his young heroes to interesting places that seem as real as they are imaginative.

Talbot and Leialoha’s art fills the spaces of the pages, which also gives the story a sense of verisimilitude.  Vozzo’s colors permeate the graphical storytelling with a sense of magic.  We have pretty pictures and good fantasy storytelling.  I’m ready for more of The Sandman Presents: The Deadboy Detectives, and I am also prepared to move onto the new series.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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