Today, Scott and Ethan are discussing Deadpool 14, originally released August 14th, 2013.
Scott: Nothing is more satisfying to me than making a good joke. As an aspiring writer/comedian, sometimes it’s impossible for me to get out of “joke mode”. Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you, it gets annoying. For every good laugh I provide, there are many groaners and bad puns to endure. For me, it’s worth it, as long as I get some good hearty chuckles. I’m thinking Deadpool writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan are after something similar. Like me, they seem willing to sacrifice introspection for a witty one-liner, deep thoughts for goofy non sequiturs. They tend to have a lot more hits than misses, so it’s easy to forgive any shortcomings in their writing, but Deadpool 14, more than maybe any other issue, begs the question: is it worth reading a comic that exists solely for the purpose of humor? In an issue where the plot rehashes points that have already been made, the jokes are just about the only things making it feel fresh.
After several decades frozen as a statue, The White Man is finally free and vows revenge on the Heroes for Hire. To get their attention, he takes hostages atop the Empire State Building. Deadpool, Iron Fist and Power Man assemble and confront The White Man, who causes an explosion that freezes Iron Fist and Power Man and nearly kills Deadpool. With the help of some kids from Iron Fist’s karate class, Deadpool follows The White Man onto a yacht, from where he plans to drop Iron Fist and Power Man into the ocean. The karate kids attack The White Man, turning him back into a statue and dropping him into the water for eternity (a million years, actually). Before Deadpool can celebrate, he’s attacked by the organ harvesters from Deadpool 8, but manages to kill two of them and injure the third. He doesn’t learn much about who is using his organs, but he is now zeroed-in on the perpetrator.
The majority of this issue is devoted to tying up the story introduced in Deadpool 13. Anyone who read that issue surely knew this was coming, as its final panels showed The White Man becoming un-frozen and vowing his revenge. Furthermore, if we use the last Deadpool arc as a blueprint, we know that Posehn and Duggan incorporate the plots of their “inventory” issues into their ongoing stories. The difference between the villains of the two inventory issues, however, is that The White Man, unlike Vetis, does not offer much more depth as a character upon further exposure. A ’70s-era pimp makes for much more of a novelty villain than an extremely clever, power hungry demon. I thought The White Man was an amusing character the first time around, but didn’t see much reason to bring him back for another spin. To make matters worse, he was defeated in exactly the same manner in this issue as he was in the last: frozen by his own pimp cane.
Due to the repetition, this issue relies heavily on humor to provide original ideas. Fortunately, humor is something Posehn and Duggan do very well. They really know how to milk the time-machine aspects of their throwback inventory issues. While it’s only been one issue since we saw Iron Fist and Power Man, technically it’s been 30 years, and the Heroes for Hire are now running a dojo and getting angry watching The Today Show, respectively. And the fact that none of the heroes can remember The White Man, a minor villain they foiled some thirty years ago, plays out hilariously. I have to give Posehn and Duggan kudos for pulling off an actually funny 9/11 joke. It’s always a risky move, but theirs was more successful than most. Really, the humor comes from how tasteful it is.
I shouldn’t neglect the end of the issue, which revisits the organ harvesters introduced several issues back. It’s been so long since their first and only appearance that Posehn and Duggan have needed to frequently remind readers that they haven’t forgotten about the storyline. I’ve been eager to learn more about the man who been stealing Wade’s organs and what he uses them for, but this issue reveals so little in the way of answers that it’s more like a teaser for an upcoming arc.
Speaking of things I’ve neglected, I’d be remiss not to mention the art in this issue. Just like Posehn and Duggan’s rapid-fire jokes, Scott Koblish dynamic art is responsible for bringing tons of energy to these pages. This issue is literally action-packed. With the constant explosions, gunfire and blasting of The White Man’s pimp cane, every page is an overload of light and color. It’s incredibly intense art. Just go through and count the number of close-ups on screaming faces. One of my favorite moments of the issue was Power Man’s immediate rise to anger at the suggestion that Deadpool was ever his partner, emphasized by his nearly popping out of the page.
So Ethan, it doesn’t seem possible, but we’re 14 issues deep into Deadpool. How does your level of excitement for this title compare to when you read the first issue? Is the humor enough to keep you coming back? The next issue is titled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Which, or how many, of those adjectives do you think apply to Wade?
Ethan: I love that question! Wade is easily 1 part good, 1 part bad, and 1,000,000 parts ugly. But that question could be just as easily applied to Posehn and Duggan’s approach to humor, with the proportions being a bit more skewed towards “bad” and “ugly,” yet somehow still coming out tremendously enjoyable. Maybe it’s the fact that we get accustomed to their rapid-fire near-miss jokes, and so their “good” — which I do think is really quite good — is all the more satisfying. Heck, one of their panels (the one where Zombie Gerald Ford feels the need to scream about being the only not-elected president) tickled me enough to make it the background image of my phone for a minute.
I want to say that their practice of humor falls into three types, but that would be a silly oversimplification.
Their practice of humor falls into three, basic types: violence, slapstick, and Wade’s willful denial of reality. In a title about a self-styled Merc with a Mouf (M-O-U-F according to his Twitter profile), the violence part makes sense, but it’s still pretty exceptional. In a genre that sees its superheroes clocked by a bajillion foot-pounds of monster-fist on a daily basis, with only a slightly bloody lip to show for it, Deadpool doubles down on the gore and weirdly gets away with it. In this issue, he shot someone in both knees with a handgun before neatly clipping off the ends of two of her fingers with his katana, and out of that butchering, we get this as the primary reaction:
Then there’s the slapstick, close cousin of the violence thing. Wade is not a complicated guy; he likes to solve his problems with blunt force trauma, and all the better if he can do it while also nailing someone in their swimsuit-bits.
Yes, that’s a guy, turned to stone, clutching his nether-parts. For a million years.
Finally, we get to my favorite guffaw-generator, which is Wade’s perception of reality, and the way it sometimes leaks into ACTUAL reality. This was much thicker in the previous issue, where Wade played the role of the last-picked kid on the tee-ball team, trying to insinuate himself into the decidedly hostile company of the Heroes for Hire. This issue picked up the theme here in there, with this panel as the most potent example:
I can’t tell you how much I wish that this line had been the one that was broadcasted on the breaking news while Luke Cage was watching TV. The moment that the issue cut to a scene of Luke sitting in front of the television, I was hoping/expecting/praying for that line to be the one that he got to overhear, but for whatever reason we end up with a lukewarm line about “the three Heroes for Hire” rather than the golden words we got in the panel above.
What the heck, guys? You finally found the logical conclusion to the thread of how much the real Heroes for Hire did NOT want to be associated with Deadpool, and then you toss it aside when its time to deliver the punchline to our hot-tempered friend Mr. Cage? The decision to spare Luke the pain of hearing Wade referred to as the leader of the Heroes for Hire probably disappointed me more than the weakest joke in this title ever has. Maybe that particular phrase would have exploded Luke’s head, and there’s some kind of Marvel rule against killing off the same character twice in such a short period of time, I dunno.
Whatever you think of the Unholy Trinity of the Deadpool joke machine, if you’re still reading his comics by now, it might be because you appreciate the surprisingly layered effect that arises from the combination of all of these different angles of attack. At times, I make the mistake of focusing on one or the other of the types of humor and start to get a bit listless. But read on for another few pages or so and you realize that there aren’t three, or six, or a dozen ways that Posehn and Duggan are trying to make you laugh; there are hundreds. You have the action-specific one-liners (albeit that’s a brand of slapstick), you have the straight-up puns Scott mentioned earlier, you have the immature behavior of well known, role model heroes, the non sequitur historical references, the banter between Wade and Preston, the fourth-wall stuff, and on and on and on.
These constellations of non-stop jokes eventually collapse in on themselves into a beautiful, disgusting, unique singularity of laughs and emotion. I’m still trying to process the way that Wade’s CONSTANTLY flippant statements and behavior have somehow meshed together to serve as a high-contrast backdrop for the more serious facets of his character. When we visited Wade’s subconscious in the metaphor of a museum, what was in that blocked-off wing before it disappeared? Why does he so often talk (and act) like he’s a dyed-in-the-wool criminal, yet he surrounds himself with good people — and speaking of which, how does he manage to win them over as true friends? The zany and the goofy and the gross somehow recombine to become an oddly fitting medium for the nuggets of mystery and pathos buried underneath, like a Russian novel at the bottom of a Chuck E. Cheese’s ball-pit.
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?