Patrick: There’s a weird impulse when writing about Deadpool, to address the character directly. Whenever Wade Wilson turns to the reader and shares a fun little inside joke that we share, somehow one level or artifice is stripped away just as the other is being amplified. With each joke and wink, I’m tricked into thinking that I’m connecting with Deadpool himself and not with the myriad of writers and artists that bring him to life. (Incidentally, I think this is why we – as a culture – like the Muppets so much.) Plus, I’m a pushover for anyone — fictional or otherwise — that can adhere to the Always Leave ‘Em Laughing rule.
Deadpool’s mission is straightforward: murder the remaining undead malicious presidents. The first of which is Zombie JFK, who is planning to take American missiles over to Cuba to launch them back at the States. Since that’s the kind of nonsense the bad guys are up to, here’s the kind of nonsense that Deadpool’s up to: disguising himself as Marilyn Monroe to seduce JKF before slicing him in half with a katana. Deadpool thwarts a number of other acts of presidential attacks (almost always by slicing them in half with a katana) and eventually finds himself in an MMA area with Zombie Abe Lincoln. Deadpool wins this fight — this time with some clean decapitations — but a flying-bathtub-bound Taft swoops in to retrieve Lincoln’s head and body.
Last time we discussed Deadpool, there was a lot of conversation in the comments about the nature of comic book characters identities, and what responsibility one incarnation of a character has to the previous. Deadpool has a whirlwind history, from a grim caricature of Deathstroke to post-modern anti-hero jester, to everything in between. Writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan have decided firmly on fourth-wall-breaking version of the character, turning almost every line of Deadpool’s dialogue into a joke or pop-culture reference. I understand where that might upset fans that had grown to love a more grounded version of the character (and just about any other version of the character is bound to be more grounded).
But then there’s this scene near the end of the issue when Deadpool is up against the ropes – clearly losing his fisticuffs brawl with Lincoln (reach counts for a lot, I guess). Zombie Lincoln momentarily takes on the voice of every critic of the character:
Deadpool claims that his one greatest strength is that he doesn’t ever give up, and then jumps up and slices Abe’s head off. It’s kind of a classic underdog achievement moment, and despite the asinine context, it’s also sorta stirring. All of our favorite heroes keep going, even when the should have given up long ago – for whatever reason, that’s an inherently compelling narrative. Like Rudy or Lord of the Ring or Goonies (any Sean Astin movie, really), Deadpool tells the story of characters who won’t give up no matter what.
So, what’s with Lincoln’s attack on Deadpool? He is attacking the character, but more pointedly, he’s attacking this version of the character – and those who made him this way. I love the criticism that he’s “everywhere” – as Marvel is currently publishing a bunch of Deadpool series. But how neat is it to consider that Deadpool’s rallying cry of “I never give up” is in response to Abe’s “I don’t understand your appeal?” There are tons of jokes in this issue, and while they don’t all land, there’s probably a killer joke that will tickle your funny bone on every page. The humor is relentless – it never gives up.
My favorite moments are when the non-Deadpool entities break the fourth wall in some way. It’s fun to have Deadpool acknowledge that he’s going to kill ten presidents in six pages, and then suggest Pantera’s “Five Minutes Alone” as the sound track to this slaughter, but it’s something else altogether when the boxes identifying characters and locations get in on the joke too. Like here, when we’re introduced to the presidents scheming to blow up the Hoover Dam.
First, it’s nice cute that the narrator points out that this is Herbert Hoover’s damn. But I absolutely adore this non sequitur where James Buchannan is sort of mistakenly placed with this group of presidents, when he’d be much more at-home with Taylor, Tyler and Fillmore. The detail has no bearing on anything, it’s just a good joke.
In fact, sometimes the world around Deadpool seems just as eager to match his level of hyperactive post-modern silliness. Like our necromancer simply named “Michael.” That’s silly for a dark wizard to have such a common, mundane name. But the similarities between Deadpool’s insane world and the mundane details of our own aren’t always so toothless. Like when Deadpool happens upon the group of protesters at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Pudgey old white dudes in tri-corner hats picketing in support of small government? Oh, those are Tea Party wackos – make no mistake about it. Posehn and Duggan don’t make any explicit commentary about these people, but you can draw your own conclusions about how they’d feel about them (cheering on the murdering zombie presidents, it shouldn’t be too hard to decode). Regardless of the politics, these two panels are about as funny as this series comes: the fact that both the narrator and this dude in the crowd feel it is beneath them to explain the Golden Gate Bridge any further is pretty fucking funny.
Tony Moore’s art is dense, kinetic and more than a little bloody. This series seems like a perfect application of his talents, as anything with a darker tone might suffer from his splatter-happy drawing. But nestled in the chaotic kill-fest of Deadpool, it just makes sense.
Ethan! We’ve mostly been talking about the self-serious adventures of time-traveling X-men – how about this for change of pace? ALSO, are you reading the letters page? That thing makes me laugh just as reliably as the book itself. There’s a great third-grade-level letter from Patton Oswald. Adorable.
Ethan: As Patrick mentions above (and as Mikyzptlk and Drew touched on previously), the humor in Deadpool comes from all directions: non-stop jokes in the dialogue, admissions of guilt in the captions, and visual winks like the tri-corner hats. Deadpool #4 was no exception and a few of the jokes worked into the images in Deadpool #4 had me wondering whether they were authored by the Posehn/Duggan duo or whether Moore snuck them in when no one was looking. A few examples: in the very first panel of the issue, as Deadpool crashes JFK’s Cuba re-invasion party, one crate of guns/explosives/weapons is labeled “DEFINITELY NOT GUNS” while another reads “PLUSH TOYS”. Then, a few pages later, we see Wade reading the “Moron’s Guide to the American Presidents (Also for Canadians). And it took me a few seconds to parse one of the protestor’s signs on the facing page, but I’m glad I took the time to squint to catch the George-W-Bushism:
Personally, this is what I’ve always loved about Deadpool and his comic: jokes coming at you 90 miles a minute, and the tone of irreverence so pervasive that it seamlessly flows to and from the dialogue and the art. Other comics have comic relief; Deadpool is comedy. I can’t say that all – or even the majority – of the jokes stick the landing, but I don’t think that’s really the point. Where a stand-up comedy routine might be based on trying to get a solid laugh out of every one liner, Deadpool seems to be more about establishing a mood that could be accurately described as “wtf?” I do think that if you’ve got a halfway easygoing sense of humor, you will be laughing out loud at least a couple of times every issue, but even Wade knows he’s not going to be crowned a King of Comedy. Yes, he cracks himself up, but he’s also willing to admit that sometimes (ok, a fair amount of the time) he’s reaching for it, admitting after one line “[I] Almost broke a sweat going for that joke.”
Speaking of “wtf?” can we take a moment to talk about intestines? We see a lot of people die in a lot of horrible ways in comic books, but Wade survives in a lot of horrible ways in Deadpool comics. Let me put it this way: about halfway through the first issue in Vol. 4, I started keeping count of how many panels feature intestines, both those belonging to Wade and those belonging to the other characters. Here’s my tally so far.
- Deadpool: 1
- Others: 4
- Deadpool: 7
- Others: 0
- Deadpool: 0
- Others: 1
- Deadpool: 1
- Others: 4
Let me clarify: this is not a count of panels featuring brains / viscera / compound fractures / decapitated heads / etc; this is the count of panels that have actual visual loops of small and large intestines. This brings me to a few conjectures and conclusions:
- Tony Moore really likes drawing intestines.
- Posehn and Duggan really like making Tony Moore draw intestines.
- If you’re not really into intestines, maybe you should focus on issue #3.
- If you’re not really into intestines, DON’T read issue #2. Just don’t.
So as I’ve been trying to explain in a roundabout fashion, the creators of Vol. 4 have followed tradition and firmly entrenched themselves in a very weird place, but they pull it off quite well. Yes the setting changes constantly, and yes most encounters seem to be more setups for jokes than anything else, but it’s not all intestines all the time. I too had to stop for a second to absorb the panel that Patrick zeroed in on in which the writers engage in a very frank roast of themselves and the series overall. Deadpool is a comedy, but it’s also a completely novel medium / art form in which you can do almost anything they want and get away with it. Obliterating the 4th wall is one of the fun recurring techniques; insane non sequiturs are another. Tons of comics deal with zombies, several incorporate historical figures, but Deadpool makes a mash-up of the two, calls it a plot, and it’s just too bad if you aren’t ready to climb aboard and deal with that.
Finally, thank you for bringing up the Letters pages, Patrick. I stumbled into the first one and have been reading them each issue, and they are amazing. My favorite few (so far) are in #4, starting when one Vicky coins the word “Spideypool” which she clarifies by writing, “If a definition is needed, Spideypool = Spider-Man x Deadpool. You and Spider-Man together.” Deadpool apparently proceeds to Google “spideypool” and consequently throw up on 3 different computers. His reaction is so extreme that it actually spills over into his reply to the following letter : Miss Kasteelen of Sunderland, England asks him to marry her, prompting Deadpool to request “pics. Of you. No spideypool pics, please. I’m out of throw up.” For a hero who splits dead presidents from sternum to tailbone with a katana on a regular basis, he’s awfully squeamish when it comes to hooking up with the Spider-Man. If I were Peter Parker, I’d be a little offended.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?