Drew: What do we expect when we read Deadpool? When I picked up my first issue just over a year ago, I was looking for a famously goofy character written by famously funny writers, and thought that issue delivered everything a Deadpool comic should. Then we published our first discussion, and started one of the longest, most in-depth comment threads we’ve ever had, all about how this version of Deadpool is missing the point entirely. It’s a strange contradiction, but comics are full of them. Is Batman a brooding spirit of vengeance or a campy man-about-town? Is Wolverine a violent savage or an impatient schoolmarm? Or, more to the subject at hand, is Wade Wilson an irreverent, fourth-wall-breaking yukster, or a tragic figure of the highest order? With the conclusion of their “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” arc, writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan make the strong case for “both.”
Wade, Captain America, and Wolverine are looking for a way into Butler’s bunker — Wade for vengeance, the others because the bunker likely holds their DNA samples, which they’d like to get back from the North Korean government, thank you very much. They split up, and Wade decides to try to negotiate with Butler. Wade manages to talk his way in to just outside of the panic room, and he and Butler piece together Wade’s complicated history.
That’s right: all of it is equally true. When Wade thinks he’s in a comic, that’s actually his own subconscious pointing out the illusion of his simulated reality. He may be unhinged, but he’s not a joke. Posehn and Duggan drive that point home in the issue’s resolution, as Wade is able to appeal to the sympathy of Butler’s captive sister. Wade understands that she wants out of the fishbowl she’s living in (a rectangular box with it’s own panel borders — a bit of meta commentary that is downright tame by this title’s standards), even if that means her own death.
It’s a dark place for this issue to find itself in, but I’m ultimately more disturbed by this issue’s conclusion. After blowing up the bunker and escaping, Steve and Logan both extend their sympathies to Wade, which he thanks them for, but then shows us what he really thinks:
We’re used to our hyper-masculine heroes (which the US Army Incarnate and Hairy Man-Beast are decidedly) showing no emotion, and while this scene subverts those expectations beautifully, Wade can’t help but remind us what a sissy he would be if he cried right now. It’s funny, but it also tragically reveals Wade’s humor for what it always was: a defense mechanism to avoid dealing with his emotions.
I have to say, I was not expecting this issue to deliver a Deadpool Theory of Everything, but it does so compellingly. We’ve seen this kind of “everything is canon” approach work beautifully in Morrison’s Batman run, but Posehn and Duggan manage to do it with a precision — and tonal unity — that makes it entirely their own. To some degree, their use of the “inventory issues” has been a way to send-up the popular habit of digging up and updating long-forgotten villains and concepts, but this arc manages to spin a stone-sober assertion of Wade’s identity out of all that joking.
Perhaps more importantly, they’re able to conclude this meditation on the true nature of the character without sacrificing any forward momentum. Wade emerges from his experience here with a newfound urgency to find Agent Preston a new body. The epilogue suggests that somebody might already be running around in a perfectly good Agent Preston body, but we’ve got another inventory issue to read before we have to worry about that!
Unfortunately, this is the end of artist Declan Shalvey’s run on the series (at least for now), which means we’ll have to say goodbye to his uniquely cinematic eye. Patrick and I had the pleasure of flipping through issue 18 with him at NYCC, which gave me some insights into his approach to layouts and a few things to look for — widescreen shots that draw the eye from left to right, washed-out backgrounds in moments of high emotion — all of which enhanced my experience with this issue. Shalvey also emphasized the importance of Jordie Bellaire’s subtle color work on this title. Her work is fantastic as ever, but I was most impressed by the flashback sequences, which use the red-blue color scheme she perfected on Manhattan Projects.
Patrick, I loved the heck out of this issue. It’s got great art, high emotions, good jokes, meta-commentary, even an explanation for how all of that fits together. Surely that’s everything a Deadpool comic should have. Right?
Patrick: I think you might have left out gory violence and explosions – but don’t worry, the issue had those too, just not in the way you might expect from a Deadpool comic. Normally, Wade’s flipping around, slicing dudes’ arms off, but Duggan and Posehn recognize just how precious violence is in this issue. Pointedly, even though Cap goes outside to fight off the North Korean army, he never actually lifts a finger. There could have been an all-out brawl, but Cap — and Duggan and Posehn for that matter — know that making us wait for it is even more fun. I love Shalvey’s drawing of Cap in that moment: he’s so confident that he faces down an entire army holding the shield behind his back.
It’s the same quiet confidence that assures the reader that there’s a fight coming, and it’s going to be a doozy. Deadpool actually does something similar on the following page, taking out his swords and leaving them peacefully on the ground. It’s another zen-like moment, with Deadpool in a posture evocative or prayer, of supplicance, but most importantly, of lying in wait.
Drew, the idea that Deadpool is a walking set of contradictions is just amazing, and I feel like this panel is a wonderful example of that. His posture is tactical – he’s about to dive under the door, which he believes will open after his stirring speech. But he’s also prostrating himself in front of his creator and stating his beliefs! Not only can he be the clown and the tortured soul at once, he can be (to quote Cap) “a great soldier” and a principled, sensitive human being at the same time.
The moment Deadpool actually gets his revenge is straight-up gruesome. Normally, I love posting images of the panels that get a visceral gut reaction from me as I read them, but I’ll spare us all the horror of what Wade actually does to Butler. Shalvey takes care to show us three separate moments of extreme violence, very close up. The first is Deadpool breaking Bulter’s arm – this is the most overtly spectacular attack, we get to see a bone sticking out and everything. It’s a skin crawling moment, but it little prepares the reader for the next. Deadpool strangles Butler, and the perspective becomes even more intimate as we watch the scene unfold from behind Deadpool’s eyes. It’s a POV strangulation. Shalvey doesn’t exaggerate a single thing about it — no cartoony eyes popping out of sockets, or comedically large veins pulsing on Bulter’s face — just the sad reality of what’s happening. And then the act of murder itself, for which, the backgrounds disappear entirely, and only the characters remain.
That’s saving up the violence to make it really count, right there.
I’m going to miss this arc something fierce, but I’m so excited to see what kind of adventures Deadpool can go on now. Even if Duggan and Posehn slip back into a sillier tone, it’s a tone that will be informed by what we’ve seen over the last five issues. Which means, it’ll matter. That’s quite the gift guys – thanks for giving it.
[Oh hey, I don’t totally understand the cover. Anyone want to make some guesses as to what it’s about? Something about Deapool being the result of a long line of comic book characters? That’s a little outside the themes expressed in the book itself, but the characters featured there do seem to be the characters that Liefeld aped to create him – Spider-Man, Punisher, Wolverine… Hell, that kid in the tie could just be Liefeld. Do any of the normal looking people look like creators anyone recognizes?]
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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?