“Hey, don’t use the ‘h’ word around me. It ends the fun quickly.”
–Shiklah and Deadpool, Deadpool 29
Spencer: As a medium, comics seem to have a problem with happiness — and quite often, as DC especially has proven, they specifically have a problem with characters being happily married. The above quote comes from the very first panel of Deadpool 29, and is spoken as Wade and his new wife lie together in bed. It’s a remarkably prescient statement from Deadpool; life itself seems to go out of its way to make sure Wade can’t ever be genuinely happy, at least not for long. Wade and his new bride have been disarmingly happy together so far, but with the honeymoon over and real life (aka the larger Marvel universe) reasserting itself, it seems like only a matter of time until the “fun ends quickly.”
Before Wade and Shiklah can live happily ever after, Wade has to deal with Shiklah’s Evil Ex — in this case, Dracula, Lord of the Vampires. While Shiklah attempts to negotiate with Dracula’s forces, she gives Deadpool a very simple task: kill all vampires. To do so, Wade attempts to enlist Dazzler and her light powers, but Dazzler refuses (which is no surprise, since she’s currently actually Mystique in disguise — comics, everyone!), so Wade travels back in time to recruit a younger, more fun incarnation of Dazzler instead (…comics, everyone!). Meanwhile, Agents Preston and Adsit stumble into the events of Original Sin, and both receive strange Deadpool-related visions, some more horrific than others.
Woah, did Adsit lose an eye, or is it just swollen shut? Either way, it seems like a rather significant injury for Deadpool. Don’t get me wrong, this is a violent book, usually much moreso than this actually, but so much of the violence is played as frivolous or humorous; here Adsit’s injury is dead-serious, and it’s as sure a sign as any that Original Sin will be casting a pall over this book.
Then again, as I mentioned, from the very first panel this issue seems to propose that genuine happiness for Deadpool is fleeting at best. This story’s title is “The Honeymoon Is Over”, and while this issue doesn’t fulfill that phrase’s usual meaning — Deadpool and Shiklah are as in love as ever — it does signify that Deadpool is no longer playing around with the surprisingly sweet and upbeat stories it’s been telling the last few months. Instead, Posehn and Duggan not only revisit some of the dangling plot threads from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” — which signifies perhaps Wade’s lowest point ever — but also seem poised to add new Original Sin-related tragic revelations atop that pile o’ awful stuff.
What’s most interesting to me, though, is how Wade is handling — or perhaps not handling — all of this. In the very first panel of this issue Wade casually points out how happiness never works out for him, and later on he becomes positively self-loathing.
It’s easy to look at this aspect of Deadpool’s life as the Marvel writing and editorial teams finding tragedy more entertaining than happiness — and although Posehn and Duggan have downplayed this aspect of the character, Deadpool is aware of his fictional nature, so this could explain why he’s so resigned to the inevitability of his unhappiness — but it also occurs to me that perhaps Deadpool is being self-defeating here. He doesn’t think he’s worthy of happiness, so of course his happiness never lasts: it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So what does that mean for the blessed union of Deadpool and Shiklah? I’m not sure. There’s no doubt in my mind that the two absolutely love each other, none of that is fake, but Wade makes a couple of statements (again, about how he can’t be happy and about how Shiklah doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into) that make it seem like, even if just on an unconscious level, he expects their relationship to eventually unravel. The usual comic book protocols would also suggest that, but by this point I know that Posehn and Duggan won’t take the easy or expected route with this storyline. How great would it be if, instead of being a casualty of the horror in Wade’s past, Shiklah turns out to be the rock that helps him weather this storm? That’s an idea I can get behind!
Meanwhile, John Lucas makes his Deadpool debut on art duties. I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of his style — there’s something about Lucas’ faces that are just too lumpy for me — but there is a playful sense of energy to his work that suits this title well, and Wade’s baggy mask actually comes across as charming at times. That said, there are occasionally some rather glaring issues with his anatomy and posing.
Moreover, with those lumpy faces comes some strangely off-kilter expressions that don’t always match the tone of the scene — for example, when Preston presents Wade with his daughter’s birth certificate it’s a somber scene, but she just stares at him with a vacant, slightly smug look on her face. It’s jarring and totally out of place. This is the first of five issues on Deadpool for Lucas, so there’s certainly time for him to find his groove, but for now his work is a bit of a mixed bag.
So Greg, I think I’ve done enough rambling; I’m eager to see your take. Do you think Deadpool’s bad luck is a product of comic culture, or just his own self-defeating attitude? What do you think the future holds for he and Shiklah? Do you think there’s any chance that, since he’s hunting vampires anyway, Wade could murder the entire sparkly cast of Twilight? Please say yes.
Greg: There’s nothing that would make me happier than seeing the Merc With A Mouth interact with the Vampires With Awkward Pauses. Particularly if it was presented as a brand new Twilight sequel that thousands of teenage fans line up to go see. Who do I kickstart to make this happen?
Regarding your introductory statement, I’d go so far as to say that any form of storytelling has a problem with happiness as anything other than a resolution. Story engines are powered by, at the risk of seeming over-reductive, a character’s desire and conflict. If The Office started with Jim and Pam happily married, we wouldn’t have a show. Having a desire for each other with lots of obstacles in the way is what generated the stories, and in many of the later seasons after we knew they were happily married, believable story engines ran out. Of course, when it comes to longform storytelling like TV and comic books, an audience’s goodwill towards a character can go a long way, and just as I feel content watching Jim and Pam’s contentment, I feel content watching Deadpool and his bride. I wanna see them go the distance, dammit, and if that means fighting some vampires to make sure there’s still a story, then fine!
While you’re certainly correct in labeling the more intense tone of this issue, there are still numerous throwaway lines and set pieces that happily reminded me how important humor is in the world of Deadpool. The cleverly crass visual gag of turning Banner into the Hulk by turning his office into a bathroom, for example, both serves the plot and just plain works as a self-contained comedy. It’s also interesting noting that, with Deadpool a little more contemplative than usual, many of the duties of “fourth-wall breaking self-aware comedy” fall to other characters. In particular, when Adsit addresses Preston with the greeting “Hail Hydra! Just kidding,” I nearly did a spit-take.
From a visual taste level, I think I agree with you on your assessment of Young’s lumpy faces. They feel oddly misshapen, compressed and distorted, even grotesque (particularly in the display of Adsit’s eye injury you included). Yet within the context of this run of issues, a run we’re still new to, it might make sense, particularly given the emphasis on Deadpool pushing himself to the physical limit with fighting these unrelenting vampires. If these folks are pushing their bodies to the limit, the artwork thus follows suit, no? Truthfully, I’m not sure if I believe my own argument, but I’m willing to give Young the benefit of the doubt and see if it synthesizes more pleasingly with the story in issues to come.
Ultimately, I’m happy you want to see Deadpool and Shiklah in it for the long-haul, and I’m happy you’ve labeled Deadpool’s very real psychological problems. In this medium perhaps more than any other, I am always pleased to see possibly screwy elements and characters treated seriously. Let’s hope Deadpool can find the help he needs, for threats external and internal.
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