Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Deadpool 40, originally released January 14th, 2015.
Taylor: The old saying goes “art imitates life.” we here at Retcon Punch believe comics to be art, so that means these funny little picture-books imitate life the same as your Van Goghs and Shakespeares of the world. Being things that are published every month, comics are perhaps better suited than other art forms at reflecting life since they can comment on real life situations almost as soon as they happen. Given this, we shouldn’t be at all surprised that a title like Deadpool would find time to comment on life, especially considering it’s unique ability to break the fourth wall and speak directly to readers. But who would have ever guessed that the comic would tackle such a loaded topic as environmental policy? Always surprising, Deadpool once again takes a unique approach to story telling in issue 40 and in so doing, enters a major environmental debate.
Deadpool has been hired by the Roxxon Corporation to star in a promotional coloring book touting the benefits and safety of “Gracking.” Gracking is a process wherein the Roxxon corporation uses dangerous chemicals to drill beneath the surface to harness natural gas. Unsurprisingly, this has negative side effects which Deadpool and Darrio Roxxon attempt to downplay. They’re successful for a bit, but then Sarah Silverman shows up to set the record straight about the dangers of gracking. Darrio turns into a minotaur, kills some writers, and finally is taken down. At the end of the issue it’s hard to tell if anything has been done about gracking or not, but at least everyone gets a hamburger out the deal!
Of course the big and thinly-veiled metaphor of the issue is that “gracking” is analogous to the real-life practice known as fracking. For those unfamiliar with the process: fracking is a process wherein water, chemicals, and sand are pumped into the ground to create fractures in the subterranean earth. The end goal is to release natural gas which companies can harness and then sell as a source of power. If that sounds exactly like what Darrio explains in the book, it’s because it basically is.
Fracking has come under fire because it’s a devastating extraction process that can cause earthquakes, taint local water supplies, and cause just as much emissions as coal. It’s a current debate in the United States because some see it as a way to wean ourselves off of petroleum and others see it is yet another way humans have found to fuck up the earth.
All of this loaded information has to be taken into account when reading this issue. It’s clear from the start Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn have strong feelings about fracking and frankly this is a bit surprising. I should say I’m not surprised they are against fracking, but I am surprised they devoted an entire issue to the subject. It’s just another way that this title has come to surprise in how and what it presents.
What grabbed me most in this issue was the presentation of the book as a promotional coloring book published by the Roxxon Corporation. Simply put, it’s charming and funny and delight to read. Perhaps the most endearing aspect of this issue is the color work of Val Staples, who beautifully fills in the colors of this comic as if a child had colored in all of the figures.
It’s a gesture that constantly reminds the reader that they are reading a book intended for children. The joke, of course, is that Deadpool isn’t a book for kids and the dissonance that creates throughout the issue never gets old.
That dissonance reaches its apex in the battle between Minotaur-Darrio and Sarah Silvermann (aided hilariously by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour). What makes this scene such a funny bit is that everything being portrayed is rendered in great, graphic detail by artist Scott Koblish.
Again, this is supposed to be a kids book and we’re seeing a man’s intestines splayed across the page. This is certainly not material most would associate with children. The fact that all of this is still rendered in crayon by Staples makes it a hilarious gag.
What also makes this scene satisfying is that it’s the culmination of Darrio’s inability to explain away all the dangers of gracking. First, sick Timmy raised the cancer issue, then protestors raised the income inequality issue, and finally Silvermann and company raise the environmental issue. Darrio, with basically no way to justify gracking, resorts to violence to silence his critics. In this way, Posehn and Duggan reveal the point of their comic. Fracking is dangerous and hurts the environment and society. It’s an unexpected message that reflects current events from real life and it’s one that I’m glad to see being explored by the continually surprising comic.
What about you Patrick? Do you find the environmental message a bit heavy? Did it detract or add to your enjoyment of the issue? Can you think of any other title that so readily holds a mirror up to real life in such a clever and entertaining way?
Patrick: Oh, it definitely reads like a heavy-handed piece of anti-fracting propaganda. Where this issue is clever is in how it presents itself as a bad piece of pro-fracting propaganda. While that’s a message that I can totally get behind, I do think the preachiness of the issue is hampered by two things: a) pulling the punch and changing the F to a G — a thin veil is still a veil after all and b) turning Roxxon into a straw man. The message is boiled down to simple superhero morality — Roxxon is a villainous company after all — and none of the actual arguments for obtaining natural gas in this manner are presented. Limiting the United States’ dependency on foreign oil? Actually a good thing. Relatively inexpensive energy? Also actually a good thing.
I end up having this objection just about any time Roxxon shows up as the villain in Marvel comics. As an analogue for real energy companies, Roxxon could be a much more nuanced criticism, offering up some kind of explanation for their actions that didn’t just include greedy executives with dollar signs for eyes. The presidents of Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobil and Chevron aren’t maniacal monsters like our boy Dario, so the whole metaphor falls apart from strangling the message too tightly. It’s also bewildering that Posehn and Duggan would cast their celebrity guests as people they actually know in real life. That just serves to further ground their own perspective, while diabolically exaggerating Roxxon’s.
By the end of the issue, any teeth this thing might have had have come out in wash. That’s part of the problem with satire — the effectiveness of the message may not actually be the point. Even Jonathan Swift, the master of 18th century satire, would err on the blunt side when sending up his opponents. His novel, Gulliver’s Travels, has been mostly-adapted a bunch of times for stage and screen, but there’s usually a large omission. There are four parts to Gulliver’s Travels — Part One, wherein Gulliver finds himself a giant in a land of tiny people (called Lilliputians); Part Two, which reverses the dynamic, making Gulliver an ant among the gigantic Brobdingnagians; and Part Four finds Gulliver on an island inhabited by the savage man-creatures called Yahoos and noble horse creatures called Houyhnhmn. That’s all the fun stuff, but Part Three is where Swift goes off the rails — Gulliver visits an island populated with immortals who continue to age, even as they refuse to die. It’s disgusting: people are hooked up to machines that feed their own feces back into their mouths and shit-eating is basically the order of the day. Swift reduces his own allegory to “my opponents EAT SHIT.” While that’s good for a chuckle, it hardly makes for a meaningful read.
That’s what I’m seeing in this issue of Deadpool. “Hardly a meaningful read.” There’s a pull-quote for the collected edition. The creative team is probably aware that they’re not going to start the world on fire with this thing, and maybe Deadpool was never meant to cause any real change. I keep coming back to the activity page in the middle of this issue — it was the one time where I sorta forgot that I was reading a fake inventory / fake-real-fake-again propaganda piece and was just delighted to play around in an easy, nerdy crossword puzzle or a jokey connect-the-dots. Plus there’s that maze!
Do we want to start speculating over which of those “end?” characters is going to be responsible for Deadpool’s death in a few months?
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?