“I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.”
Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Drew: The duality of man might just be one of the most central notions of all philosophical thought. Indeed, it might be one of the simplest — is man good, or evil? — but that doesn’t stop fiction writers from coming up with insanely complicated ways of approaching it. Scenarios like Dr. Jekyll’s or Bruce Banner’s are obviously artificial, but they allow us to ask questions that might not make sense in our day to day lives: what actually defines us? Is it our actions at our best? Our actions at our worst? Our sense of humor? Our intelligence? If any one of those things changed, would we be fundamentally different people? Deadpool 38 puts these questions front and center, as Wade’s newfound passivity continues to effect the people around him.
This issue mostly focuses on Wade’s efforts to rescue the fauX-Men from the now evil X-Men, in spite of his desire to avoid conflict. They manage to get away, traveling partially through Wade’s own museum of the mind, which maybe got me the most excited out of anything here.
This series has already mined a ton from Wade’s spotty memories, but writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn have taken extra care in establishing intrigue around this one (which they seeded back in their brilliant ’90s inventory issue). That’s mostly a look back (and ahead — perhaps the truth is what jars Wade back to normal), and is over just as soon as it comes, but it’s no coincidence that the path to freedom leads through that obscured memory — nor that the danger room they’re escaping from is looking more and more like the collective history of the X-Men.
Unfortunately, Wade doesn’t have time to dwell on any of this, since he still needs to escape the X-Mansion. He manages to get away with his North Korean friends, and while Shiklah welcomes them with open arms, she’s less happy to see Deadpool. That she misses the Deadpool she fell in love with is one of the most touching and unsettling notions of this issue. If someone you loved started to act like someone else, how would you react? Would you want them to change back? What if they didn’t want to change back? Would you still love them? The rapidness of the change makes this scenario feel fantastical, but may just be an accelerated version of what happens as old friendships drift away, or romances fade out. As people grow and change, sometimes the way we relate to them gets stronger, sometimes it gets weaker. In Shiklah’s case, she’s missing all of the crassness and violence that made Deadpool Deadpool.
Which I think brings us to the point of the story: as much as Posehn and Duggan make it seem like the relationship at risk here is Deadpool’s marriage, I think this is really about his relationship to his audience. In fact, as artificial as the “what if everything you liked about somebody suddenly went away?” question feels totally artificial when talking about a real life person, it actually makes a lot of sense (and happens a lot) when talking about comic book characters. How many times have you faced a hard choice when a new artistic team takes over a character you loved? Is it the character we liked, or the way they acted? Is there a difference?
Posehn and Duggan have always been incredibly smart when relating their series to Deadpool’s history, reconciling his silliness with his tragic nature, and finding joy in his anger, and this issue is really no different. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” may have been their essay on why Deadpool might need to act the way he does, this issue seems to be priming us for some lasting change to the character. Will we still love him? I know my answer, but I’m curious to see what conclusions they draw.
Taylor! The last time we talked about this series, you mentioned having only a passing familiarity with the character, so I’m curious if seeing him act totally out-of-character is at all effective for you. Between all of the references to past events, does this even make sense? Oh! And how about that Mike Hawthorne art? That spread of danger room constructs was breathtaking, but I’m most impressed at his gift for visual jokes. What do you make of Ernie and Bert being servants of Shiklah?
Taylor: In any other title, I would probably despise the appearance of two beloved muppets. However, Deadpool is no ordinary series so I actually find it pretty cute and funny. From the little exposure I’ve had to the Deadpool title, what I’ve come to know and appreciate about it is the sense that anything goes. You wanna have Deadpool become a Zen master? Sure! Want to have him physically hold his missing memories? Go right ahead! How about Bert and Ernie as henchmen? Great idea! There’s just so much unbridled fun to be had in Deadpool because it’s so irreverent. While most comic series play by some set of rules, Deadpool seems to play by few to none and I love it. The inclusion of Bert and Ernie oddly doesn’t feel out of place or gimmicky to me. I think that’s partially because they are monsterfied a little but mostly because…well, why the hell not? When there’s no rules to break, why not just do anything you want? The mood of this comic is joyful in the zaniest way possible.
Also, did you notice that Shiklah’s other two servents appear to be Cthulu and the Devil? Great stuff!
This inclusion really hits at what you were saying about Hawthorne’s visual humor, Drew. The henchmen, as drawn above could have easily been something much more normal — your normal black-cloaked evil doer if you will. While the cloaks certainly are present here, I love the hint at who these henchmen are. Showing either Cthulu or the Devil in full view would probably have been a bit much, like someone trying to hard to get a laugh at failing. Instead, Hawthorne keeps us in the dark (kind of) about their identities but gives us just enough information to make an educated guess about who they really are. This is a subtle laugh that you really come to appreciate when you’re discussing this issue with other people. It’s like an inside joke shared between you, your friends, and creative team. It’s goofy and funny.
Speaking of which, I enjoyed seeing Deadpool climb into bed wearing his leopard print underwear. While that’s pretty high up there on the list of sentences I never expected to write, it just goes to show how much this issue charmed me.
There’s a couple reasons this sight gag is effective. The first reason is that Deadpool supposedly is now a Zen master, one who has foregone the…finer things in life for one of aesthetic sparseness. Just why an enlightened being would be wearing such exotic underwear is a bit puzzling and you can’t help but enjoy the humor of the situation. The second reason I enjoy this gag is the juxtaposition between Deadpool’s scarred body and his sartorial choice. They don’t exactly compliment each other. Generally when we envision a man beclad in fancy underwear we imagine someone with impeccable skin and a chiseled physique. Not so for the wonderfully confident Deadpool! Seeing him wear that underwear is both oddly heartwarming and hilarious.
(Note: does Deadpool always wear this style of underwear? It seems plausible both that he would and that die-hard Deadpool fans would be aware of that. Regardless, the joke still holds water.)
Like you mentioned Drew, this series loves to balance the silly with the thoughtful. In particular, I found myself thinking about how this issue raises questions about relationship dynamics. Deadpool likes his new self, Shiklah does not. Just how are they going to solve this problem? This brings to mind the question of what to do when one partner in a relationship wants one thing, and the other partner wants another. There’s not an easy answer to this with the exception of one partner giving into the desires of the other. However, that means someone is having to surrender what they want. It’s a hard situation that any serious couple has had to confront and it’s fascinating to see it dealt with here. In this case, Deadpool makes the decision to try and change himself back to his old ways. This is ultimately a tragic move and but one that justifies Deadpool being considered a hero.
As you maybe could tell, this issue won me over. I was on the fence with Deadpool before, but now I see what all the noise is about. I love the balance of comic and tragic — it basically mirrors life. That’s the highest praise I can give a piece of fiction and I’m happy to have discovered such a nice title, albeit late in the game.
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?