Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Deadpool 15, originally released August 28th, 2013.
Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my sadness hid
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room
I cry the tears of a clown
When there’s no one around
Smokey Robinson, Tears of a Clown
Drew: The tragic clown is a surprisingly persistent archetype. It’s no coincidence that Smokey Robinson could name-check Pagliacci in his own song about sad clowns, but there are just as many modern examples, from the claustrophobic depression of Louie to the exaggerated kvetching of Krusty the Clown. There’s something about the smile as a mask that speaks to the little things we grin and bear throughout the day. Of course, there’s also something very true about the idea — comedians are famously unhappy people — suggesting that humor is most often honed by those that use it to cope. The reveal of deep sadness behind the jokes is always a bit of a shocker, subverting our expectations something fierce, and recasting every subsequent joke in a tragic light. In Deadpool 15, Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn start to hint at what’s behind Wade’s mask, revealing a past that may be as ugly as the man himself.
Functioning as a secret origin of sorts, the opening reveals that Wade was a Weapon X test subject (just like fellow Canadian-with-a-healing-factor Wolverine), but was rejected because of his mental instability. Left for dead in an open grave, Wade basically wandered off, much to the chagrin of Butler, a ruthless killer who was hoping to mine the Weapon X program to cure his cryogenically frozen wife’s terminal illness. Meanwhile, Wade is trying to piece that story together, based only on the name “Butler,” and some vague facts about a super-soldier program. Wade first visits Wolverine for clues (noting their aforementioned similarities), but doesn’t get much. Hoping instead to work the super-soldier angle, Wade makes his next stop with Captain America, who again doesn’t have much to add. Hoping to regroup, Wade uses a police scanner to find a nice, quiet, sealed murder scene to crash at for the night.
It’s a funny idea, but it’s also sobering in its horror and crushing sadness. What a lonely guy. The past several issues have brought Wade in contact with Spider-Man, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Power Man, Wolverine, and Captain America, but they’ve all made it clear that he isn’t their friend. I suspect at least some of them might offer him a bed if they knew how desperate he is, but they haven’t exactly made him feel welcome to ask.
Anyway, Wade wakes to find Wolverine in the apartment, who arrives just before a crew of goons sent to capture Deadpool. The two successfully fend them off, with Wade boldly declaring that he will not be captured, but the issue closes on the reveal that Wade is already captured and dreaming in a Weapon X testing pool.
It’s a fun pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you reveal, which Duggan and Posehn only start to hint at in the final pages leading up to the end. Actually, the bigger reveal may be when the lab technician refers to Wade’s previous “visits,” and that they found him in “another crime scene,” as in: this has all happened before. The thought that this has maybe all played out before — and has maybe been wiped from Wade’s memories — is disturbing, but may also suggest that Wade’s mental instability may be the result of chronic tampering.
Of course, this issue suggests a way that Wade might break that loop: he inserts some kind of device into his leg, but exactly what isn’t clear. Is it a tracking device? A bomb? I’m guessing we’ll find out next issue, but in the meantime, I’m already adoring this arc. It’s a bit shocking to see such an irreverent series pick up so much pathos so quickly, but I’m intrigued by this new tone. There are fewer quips-per-page, but that just allows us to look a little more closely at the man behind them. Scotty, how are you liking this darker turn? Oh, and how do you think Declan Shavley’s art fits this new tone?
Scott: Shavley’s art is a great fit for the new direction Posehn and Duggan are taking. Looking through this book, right away it’s clear that something is different artistically. It’s not his characters- Deadpool looks about the same as he always has- but there’s a little more gritty realness to his drawings than we’ve seen in this title before. You can see it in the murder scene Drew posted above. There’s nothing funny about that panel; the way the blood is soaked into the sheets and smeared across the floor as if the victim was being dragged or, worse yet, trying to crawl away, is very unsettling. It’s a far more gruesome image than anything the previous Deadpool artists ever gave us.
Shavley’s art reinforces the loneliness of Wade’s existence, which seemed to be the theme of the issue. There’s hardly a more depressing thought than being left for dead in a mass grave, and Shavley shows us the cold, sad truth of Wade’s past.
You don’t get over something like that. There’s no forgiving the people who did that to you. Wade’s had a much more tragic life than I’d realized, which makes it harder to see him get rejected by Wolverine and Captain America, two people who can relate to him on at least some level. Wade is the ultimate outcast. It’s a good thing he still has Preston around to keep him company, or this title would be in danger of becoming too sad.
Overall, I’m a fan of the darker turn we’re seeing Deadpool take. The complaints I’ve had about this title have never been about the content of the jokes; when writers shoot for such high qpp (shorthand for quips-per-page, the term Drew used above, though the usefulness of the shorthand has been negated by this long explanation. Hey, while we’re hanging out in here, how ya guys doin? Crazy weather we’re having, huh?) they’re bound to have some misses. I’m ok with that, I respect the effort. Rather, I disliked how the jokes started taking precedence over the story. This was especially apparent in the recent “White Man” mini-arc, which was stretched to a second issue seemingly because Posehn and Duggan thought of a few more pimp jokes and had nothing else to do with them. The second half of this issue, on the other hand, featured hardly any jokes, and the absence was liberating. I’m encouraged by the focus on story and character development, though I hope we still get to have some fun. A tragic clown is still a clown, no?
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?