Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Deadpool 13, originally released June 1, 2016
Patrick: Hey, do you think we’re too comfortable with Deadpool? We know he’s a bastard that plays fast and loose with the value of human life, but there’s a jeu de vivre to the character that makes him immanently lovable. But what do readers and fans stand to gain from looking past Wade’s uglier qualities? He’s supposed to be chaotic, he’s supposed to be subversive — those are the Deadpool qualities that we celebrate. But readers sorta need to employ their own fan-canon in order to reconcile that chaos, with the often-adorable, infinitely accepting, ultimately heroic Deadpool we have in our minds. It’s that second version of Deadpool that writer Gerry Duggan has tapped for the better part of the last three years to build up Deadpool’s cast of friends, employees and even family. Recent issues have seen those relationships strained, or even destroyed, leaving Wade Wilson to be reflected upon and defined by people outside his inner circle in issue 13. Cleverly, issue 13 is also kind of an issue of Daredevil and kind of an issue of Power Man & Iron Fist, meaning the opinions we’re getting aren’t just from characters outside of Deadpool, but creators outside of Deadpool. The consensus? Wade Wilson kinda sucks.
The first and final issues of this four-issues-in-one story are penned by none other than Duggan himself, but even he is putting a little extra distance between himself and Deadpool. There’s a framing device of Ben Urich debating on the newsworthiness of the story presented in this issue. In fact, Urich reiterates his credentials at the end of the story the same way he does at the beginning: “I’ve been writing about crime in New York City since the Bonannos…” There’s a pretty clear line from Urich to Duggan, both of whom could purport to be experts in their respective fields at this point. The thing is: neither one of them can construct a useful or meaningful narrative around the events portrayed in this issue.
That’s mostly because this is a profoundly messy story, featuring characters that don’t much like each other, doing morally dubious things. I maintain that this is part of the allure of Deadpool to begin with: he’s anarchic, and subverting narrative conventions is part of his DNA. Duggan leans into this early, starting the issue off on a disorienting series of zooms into and out of stories and flashbacks. What starts as Ben gathering facts for his story morphs into Marvin catching Deadpool up on the details, which then turns into a Polaroid flashback to Deadpool and Typhoid Mary’s relationship. It’s at that point that Duggan makes one of the bigger narrative asks in the whole uber-issue — he asks the reader’s sympathies for Wade Wilson: rape victim.
I suppose it’s appropriate (in a totally inappropriate way) that Marvin’s speech balloon where he stutters his way to the word “rape” partially obscures a Finding Dory reference. Wade Wilson is perhaps not the best vehicle to address this sort of issue, and Duggan seems to acknowledge that with Deadpool’s clumsy joke about that being the worst thing in his handbook.
But then again, Deadpool is also a lousy hero. He rescues Marvin from one set of bad guys before immediately delivering him to another set in a fit of revenge-fueled rage. And poor Marvin visibly suffers the indignities of being “helped” by Deadpool — he starts off wearing that nice suit you see in the panels I posted above, but by the end of the first chapter, his clothes of been burnt off to his skivvies and he’s got a goofy side-car motorcycle helmet stuck to his head. Give it a couple more pages and he will have added a garbage bag and a reflective vest to his ensemble.
Deadpool also makes for a pretty crappy tourist in these other series. I was excited to get to read Charles Soule’s Deadpool again — it’s been a couple years since Wade was on his Thunderbolts team — and Wade proves to be a crummy conduit for the themes of Daredevil.
Look — Deadpool doesn’t know how the law even begins to work. Soule was a practicing attorney, so he grants a level of expertise and verisimilitude to every Daredevil or She-Hulk story he writes, but his hero here is willfully ignorant of the subject. A couple pages latter, Typhoid Mary burns Wade’s eyes of of his sockets, and all insight about that specific disability go right out the window. Of course, Matt pushes back against all of Wade’s bullshit.
Drew, that’s about where I’d transition into talking about Chapter Three, but I’m about at my word count. I think you can trace this thru-line of “Deadpool is bad” through the remaining half of this issue, but I have to ask: what’s the point of that? Does a story like this add to Deadpool’s anarchic mystique? Or does it just make Deadpool more of a frustrating character? And what’s the difference? Before parting ways, Daredevil sums up my feelings pretty well:
We may be able to predict what Iron Fist or Power Man or Daredevil are going to do — but we can never anticipate Deadpool. Maybe that’s where the character’s appeal lies.
Drew: It’s certainly the appeal of Duggan’s Deadpool. Generally, I think the reason readers can like Wade Wilson in spite of his actions is because his actions are cartoonish nonsense — in the same way we might enjoy a Chuck Jones short, but would be horrified to see a real coyote crushed by a falling anvil. He doesn’t annoy or disgust us (generally) because he’s not real to us, so the annoyance and disgust he prompts in other characters is only hypothetical — we can’t really imagine what it would like to be around Deadpool because his whole schtick is how cartoony he is.
But Duggan’s take has always been more complicated than that. Rather than simply writing him as a cartoon character unleashed in relatively un-cartoony world, Duggan has forced us to consider what would make a non-cartoon act like Daredevil. The results are often pretty bleak, finding actual darkness in a character whose “darkness” always felt more like ’90s comics posturing. Of course, stripping away the cartooniness, forcing us to confront the implications of his actions, makes Deadpool a profoundly unsympathetic character. We come to be as annoyed and disgusted by him as his costars are.
It’s a daring move to make your lead utterly unlikeable, but Duggan has mostly pulled it off by simply not flinching — he’s perfectly comfortable allowing Deadpool to not be funny for pages on end, embracing the consequences of Wade’s actions. Unfortunately, David Walker isn’t on the same page, and the jokey tone of his Power Man and Iron Fist undermines the “reality” of Duggan’s Deadpool. It hits the same “Deadpool is bad” messaging of the rest of the issue, but the lighter tone comes at the expense of the sadness-behind-the-laughs approach.
Is Deadpool being an inconsiderate ass a joke, or a problem with actual repercussions? Walker’s contribution suggests a decidedly different answer than Duggan’s.
Unfortunately, the issue never really recovers from that tonal misstep, veering hard from its dark portrait set-up, which was the one thing that distinguished this issue in my mind. The result is not only decidedly less daring, but also much less interesting. I’d probably delete it if I was Ben Urich, too.
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