Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Deadpool 26, originally released March 26th, 2014
Drew: Third-person omniscient perspective is perhaps the most common in all of storytelling, but it’s also the weirdest. That kind of birds-eye-view of a situation we’re otherwise not involved in is utterly unnatural, yet we almost never question it when we read it. Who is it that’s telling us this story? Why are they telling it? Sometimes these questions are addressed in-narrative, but more often than not, we’re meant to accept that our narrator is not a character at all, but some mysterious force that reveals this story to us just for the sake of it. This can get even more complicated in visual media, like comics and film, where the visual narrator can exist independent of the voiceover narration. Deadpool 26 takes gleeful advantage of that complexity, creating a comic that very explicitly feels like a comic, effectively challenging all of our notions as to what exactly that means.
The issue begins with an almost shot-for-shot reproduction of the famous scene from The Downfall. You know the one — it’s been comically re-subtitled hundreds of times — where Hitler receives some bad news and goes apeshit. This is a scene famous for being sent-up, yet writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan play it largely straight, basically only altering the dialogue to inject Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandoes into the mix. The effect is strange — the scene is now so strongly associated with humor that taking away the jokes is a joke in itself, delaying our gratification for a punchline that never actually arrives. That Hitler would be throwing a fit about a small band of roughnecks also calls to mind a similar scene from Inglourious Basterds, which itself twists history to suit a narrative with decidedly un-historic aspirations. Together, these two allusions establish exactly the kind of irreverent approach Posehn and Duggan take to the material.
A time traveler arrives to assassinate Hitler (as all good time travelers do), but fails miserably, leaving his time machine in the hands of the Führer. Hitler, of course, chooses to kill Nick Fury, but after running into some trouble doing so in the past, attempts to assassinate him in the future (1954, that is). Fortunately, time-traveling Deadpool and Cable are there to save history, armed with the next day’s newspaper to give them hints on how they’re doing. They finally manage to kill Hitler (in another homage to Inglourious Basterds), and pop him back in his own time, staging his suicide. Wade and Cable then head off into the sunset that is the beginning of issue 20.
It’s a clever little explanation for why they were shuffling through time before, which makes me suspect that we’ll eventually see how they came to be in 1954 in the first place somewhere down the line. Indeed, the issue plays pretty loose with causation here, allowing Deadpool the “Mulligan” of sending a postcard to Cable in the future so that he can save them. It’s a moment ripped right out of the end of Back to the Future part II, but used with hilarious flippancy here.
But that chronology wankery is nothing compared to the strange narration that occurs throughout the issue. You can see a sample in the image above, but it’s truly strange. It ranges from omniscent narrator to someone reading and commenting on the story as if the events actually happened, to someone who comments on the story as if it is a comic. My favorite bit has to be where Deadpool is proving that he’s traveled through time, but we never really see how.
Here, the narrator is a natural audience surrogate, but is effectively powerless to help us better understand what is going on there — his questions can’t be answered any more than ours can. In drawing attention to the source of the narration, the issue forces us to confront our own role, and the role of the narrative itself, making us acutely aware of the comic as an object.
That comic-as-object awareness is only emphasized by the craft and care the entire art team takes with making this issue look truly vintage. Artist Scott Koblish absolutely nails the style, muting his brushwork a bit, and making liberal (but appropriate) use of zip-a-tone. Colorist Val Staples is the obvious MVP, though, delivering page after page of slightly-offset, distressed color work that feels very much like a classic 64-color comic. Of course, letterer Joe Sabino is no slouch, varying kerning and line spacing to achieve a truly hand-lettered feel.
The result is a comic that feels very authentic, but obviously couldn’t exist, tapping into that same kind of fantastic fictionalized history that Inglourious Basterdes trades in. Add in the narration, and the experience of reading this issue is a bit like watching Inglourious Basterds with an incredibly enthusiastic friend. It’s fascinating and strange, but first and foremost, it’s AWESOME, whether you really want to pay attention to it or not.
Boy, Shelby, I hope you enjoyed this issue as much as I did, or I’m going to feel like quite the ass. Don’t let that intimidate you though — I know I’m an ass, anyway.
Shelby: Drew, I am often that enthusiastic friend; heck, I am watching Inglourious Basterds as we — uh, speak. I obviously enjoyed this issue immensely. My biggest problem with comic books is they occasionally take themselves too seriously. DC especially has a problem with this; they get bogged down in their own idea of what they are and they image they are trying to project. Marvel, I feel, doesn’t take itself nearly so seriously, which leads to more freedom for the creative teams and more unencumbered story-telling. If there ever were to be a poster child for not taking oneself too seriously, it would be Deadpool, and Posehn, Duggan, and the whole art team know exactly how to use Deadpool to his maximum Deadpool-ness.
This might be one of the most cleverly crafted issues I’ve seen this year. It oscillates between incredibly meta and super dumb; “This is really smart and so stupid,” was running through my head my whole reading. The team knows exactly who their audience is. As comic book fans, we instantly recognize the alliterative puns and half-tone coloring style. It seems cheesy to us, but it’s what comics used to be. For a generation of readers, that was the comic book experience.
At the same time, as a near-30-year-old, I immediately recognized Downfall, not from having seen the movie, but from the meme it spawned. Team Deadpool looks back to the early days of their medium while referencing contemporary media. And the media they’re referencing is rather cleverly tied back to those old comics which made Hitler out to be a buffoon. We’ve got Downfall, a move recently famous not for depicting a pivotal moment near the end of Hitler’s reign, but for the absolute nonsense the internet made him say. The meme made him into a caricature as much as those old comics did. And while this issue may not be specifically referencing Inglourious Basterds, the influence is pretty obvious. There are elements of those same old comics in that flick, with our heroes beating the snot out of the Nazis in an alternate history; the movie is just an amped up and gory version of Cap socking Adolf square on the jaw.
So basically, we’re looking at a comic book that uses a retro style to references new media, which in turn can be said to be influenced by the very same retro books whose style we’ve borrowed. It’s a rabbit hole of old and new media that also happens to include Cable and Hitler fighting each other in mecha robots. Smart, dumb, and incredibly fun; that’s Deadpool in a nutshell.
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?