Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Deadpool 24, originally released January 11th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: What lengths would you go to to save your family? What sacrifices and compromises would you be willing to make? That’s a question we quite often ask of our heroes (comic book or otherwise), but that question usually implies that a character has some sort of ethics, values, or morals they’d have to struggle about breaking or abandoning in the first place. Deadpool doesn’t really have any of those things, though; what he has to give up to save his family is something far different, but just as important to him.
Okay, maybe saying that Deadpool has no morals isn’t totally fair, but the values he does have are rather skewed. Interestingly enough, I’m starting to think that Agent Preston’s moral compass doesn’t point as far from Wade’s as she’d want us to believe either. Both are positively ruthless in their infiltration of Madcap/Hydra Bob’s base, and Preston actually seems to be the one setting that tone. It’s her suggestion to face Madcap alone (because she knows she’ll be doing things she wouldn’t want her S.H.I.E.L.D. buddies seeing), and her clever plan to distract Madcap with a fake phone call quickly turns into a malevolent taunt. Neither’s got any qualms about straight-up murdering Bob’s goons.
To be fair, it’s easy to understand why — Madcap threatened their children’s lives, and goons are mowed down in action stories all the time without a second thought. Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli, though, force us to give that second thought, slowing down enough to give the goons a chance to beg for their lives, asking us to consider the ramifications of Wade and Preston’s actions. Should we be upset about their murdering these goons? They do work for Hydra, but under Hydra Bob, who hangs out with Deadpool all the time; they do work for Madcap, but he’s coercing Bob, and is likely coercing the goons as well. Regardless, I do think we’re meant to be at least a little unsettled by the level of violence here. It’s not unusual for Deadpool to kill, but Preston’s actions are a bit more unnerving.
She’s not a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent here, just an angry mother (with the body of a killer robot). This moment is implying that Preston almost seems to be able to turn her morals on and off like a switch; it’s apparent from the contrast between this Preston and the one who sweetly reads a story to her kids at the end of the issue. I suppose that’s a useful skill for a secret agent — being able to shut off the trauma of her job once she gets home — but, at least to me, it makes Preston even scarier than Deadpool. She has firmer morals, but it doesn’t take much for her to bend them, and she’ll feel absolutely no remorse. Man, I sure wouldn’t cross her.
Deadpool, in contrast, is definitely feeling some remorse, but not for his assault on Bob’s goons, or even for how he handles Madcap. Wade’s taunts to Madcap are interesting because they imply that Madcap’s entire motive for torturing Deadpool is false; keeping with the themes of this issue, that would be enough to make most people feel guilty, but not Madcap, who’s simply too stubborn and/or outright insane to care. Indeed, he’s already stalking Deadpool again by the issue’s end.
No, Wade feels guilty because he had to cut a deal with Stryfe to save his and Preston’s families. I wasn’t familiar with Stryfe as a character, so I did some Wiki-digging, and this dude is bad news — amongst other horrendous acts, he raped Cable’s wife and later murdered his entire family. I’m not sure what’s going on with Cable (or any other Marvel time-traveler, for that matter) that would force Wade to turn to Stryfe of all people, but it’s clear that Wade goes through with the deal not only because of his love for his family, but because he’d feel too guilty if they died — he can’t have even more deaths on his conscience, even if it takes betraying his conscience to achieve that.
It’s easy to think that Wade’s objection here comes from being worried about who Stryfe could ask him to kill, and to be fair to Wade, I imagine that could be part of it. But as I mentioned at the outset, Wade isn’t driven by his morals. No, what Wade truly fears losing here — and what he’s forced to give up in exchange for his family’s lives — is his freedom. I wouldn’t have thought of it before now, but freedom is a pretty integral part of Deadpool’s identity — the freedom to say, go, and do whatever he wants is part of what gives Deadpool’s stories their charm and manic energy. Wade’s already sacrificed more and more of his freedom across Duggan’s run in order to be there for his daughter, for the Avengers, even for his wife, and we’ve seen the strain it’s put on him (it’s a large part of why things didn’t work out with Shiklah). Lord only knows how Wade will deal with being under Stryfe’s thumb now as well. He knows he’s boned, but he went through with it anyway to save Ellie.
Wow, Patrick, are we seeing some actual growth from Deadpool?! I guess that’s not as surprising as it used to be, but it’s still always a pleasure to open an issue of Deadpool and find this much meaty thematic stuff to dig into alongside the popped eyeballs and vomit gags. What’s your take on this one?
Patrick: It’s remarkable stuff, right? We will have to wait to see the other shoe drop on this one, but I suspect that we are about to see a dovetailing of the 2099 story — which has been running between story arcs as sort of a post-Secret Wars replacement for the inventory issues — the present day Deadpool stories. I’m sure we’ll write more about it next time, but look how well Duggan has been picked up the ideas from the main run, like multiple Deadpools or the futility of revenge, and projected them onto this future story. Looking at this issue in that light, I’m incredibly nervous for the next installment in the 2099 saga, which will could take any of the following into consideration: a) Deadpool’s debt to Stryfe; b) Ellie’s safety being threatened; or c) a Madcap that is laying low but ready to strike at some point in the future.
But damn it, Spencer, you’ve got me speculating! There’s so much actually in this issue that’d be so much more fun to discuss. Matteo Lolli is such an incredible visual storyteller that I could almost pull any page or collection of panels to demonstrate how he’s using the space on the page to show momentum or velocity in novel or interesting ways. He even manages to use one of the most notoriously confusing panel lay-outs to his advantage.
The punchline here isn’t that we’re surprised that Madcap isn’t in the cheery mouse costume, but rather the inevitability of Deadpool over-reacting hurting someone who doesn’t deserve it. It would be comedically dishonest to withhold that last panel as some kind of surprise, so Lolli, utilizes the layout above because there’s no accepted order to read these panels in. There are even some internal lines — like the child’s pointing finger, and the tilt on the lower left panel — that suggest you should this sequence clockwise. The events, as they must play out in time, start top-left, then goes to bottom-left and then concludes with the tall panel on the right. Lolli jumbles that all up, presenting all the information at once, appropriately de-escalating the danger. That’s how fucking good Lolli is.
Spencer makes a pretty good case for Preston being as scary, or perhaps scarier than Deadpool, but Lolli makes the case that Deadpool and Preston are sorta equal partners in this one. Which is remarkable because Deadpool seldom has actual peers. He’s got flunkies, or hangers-on, and often teams up with others, but he’s seldom part of a pair with equal investment and equal ability. I love this sequence of Preston sliding up beside Deadpool, asserting her place in this duo.
And the issue closes with Preston rescuing both Deapdool and Bob from the burning warehouse. She’s the hero, and without any of the kinds of compromises that Wade makes.
Hey, I know we see him writhing around after Madcap pops out of his chest, but I have to ask: how the hell does Bob survive that process? At one point he mentions that Madcap has a tentacle around his heart, which is some truly grotesque writing on Duggan’s part, but also suggests that their anatomies are terminally intertwined. Y’know what? Maybe Bob, Agent of Hydra’s anatomy is like Deadpool’s morality: we’ll never really get to understand it all – we can only marvel at it.
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?