by Michael DeLaney and Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Michael: A common criticism of a piece of fiction is “nothing really happened.” The meaning of that blanket statement can vary depending on who the critic is and more specifically what they’re expecting. A great example of this is the Season 3 Breaking Bad episode “The Fly.” Critics praised the bottle episode as a brilliant character study while it left many audiences unimpressed with the fact that “nothing really happened.” While I try to appreciate the deeper meaning of a piece of work, I must say that in Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan 1…nothing really happens.
Marvel puts Deadpool in as many stories as DC does with Batman — he’s good for business. The wild card nature of Wade Wilson makes him an ideal candidate for partnerships with characters like Cable and more recently the likes of Spider-Man, Hawkeye, and The Punisher. In Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan Declan Shalvey writes some of Wade’s trademark sillies and Mike Henderson gives us some visual comedy, but there’s not a whole lot else there.
I know, I’m probably being too harsh on the premiere issue of a comic book series. Maybe it has to do with my lack of familiarity with Old Man Logan. Outside of Mark Millar’s original Old Man Logan and Brian Michael Bendis Secret Wars tie-in, I’m not quite clear what the ‘ol scrapper’s place has been in the Marvel U. His place in this book is equally curious to me.
After Deadpool makes short work of some knife bullies, he gets his hard-earned $25 swiped by Old Man Logan. Logan is the white rabbit plot device that leads dear Wade down the story rabbit hole. Which is fine by the way — story’s gotta story — but why exactly does he do this? Initially you might suspect that Logan has his own motives and needs to lead Deadpool on this merry chase. By the end of the book however Shalvey makes it clear that Logan has as much of a clue of what’s going on as the reader.
There’s a shadowy military organization hunting a (presumed) mutant girl named Maddie, because that’s how X-Men books work. Logan and Wade stumble upon Maddie at the same time, smoke rising from her as if she fell from the sky. This is by far the most entertaining part of the book, our indestructible heroes fight over who gets to help Maddie out.
Nothing about Deadpool vs. Logan 1 makes it stand out among the many other “vs” titles, let alone the many “Deadpool vs. ___” titles. The plot thus far — while slim — is pretty stale. Besides that meta “save the damsel” moment, it’s a pretty paint-by-numbers X-Men tale, with a young girl on the run to boot.
Shalvey gives Logan and Wade a healthy amount of quips to trade back and forth but for what? $25? I know I shouldn’t question the why of the book but there’s really not a whole lot to go on here. Maybe I’d prefer a book with Young Man Logan, because personally Old Man Logan seems pretty one-note to me.
Spencer, I have a sneaking suspicion that you liked this book more than me, so sell me on it would ya? What parts did you enjoy? Anything in particular that you didn’t? Gimme some counterarguments because I’m dying over here!
Spencer: Michael, I did very much enjoy this issue — and I’m curious as to whether you’ve just figured out my taste in comics that well, or if you saw me geeking out over the Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan preview on Twitter — so let’s dive right into those counterarguments.
First of all, Old Man Logan didn’t take Wade’s $25 reward.
The old lady hadn’t actually paid Wade yet (and I love how gung-ho she is about his violent beat-down of the criminals). Logan bumps into Wade as he rushes past him, causing Wade to step out of the train right before the door locks behind him, separating him from his $25 (thus, while Wade blames Logan, his loss is partially his own fault as well).
Logan, meanwhile, wasn’t purposely trying to antagonize Wade or lead him anywhere. He’s clearly on a mission, and while Logan doesn’t realize that the task force attacking them later in the issue is after the girl (Maddie), not him, he does recognize Maddie when they cross paths. Refer to the first image Michael posted — while Deadpool is confused by her arrival (“Who’s the dork?”), Logan is calm and completely unsurprised, as if he knows her, or he was expecting her (“None of yer business” — he knows who she is, he’s just not sharing).
I don’t know whether Logan has been sent to rescue this girl by the X-Men, or if he somehow knows about her from interacting with a doppleganger of her from his world (that seems to be a popular Old Man Logan trope), but either way he seems to be there to rescue her, and of course, Deadpool has to Deadpool things up and get in his way. Wade’s beef comes from a lost $25, but Logan’s is a bit more complex — part of it stems from the fact that Logan’s always grumpy, part from the fact that Wade is interrupting an important mission, and part of it from some very specific animosity between Logan and Deadpool.
Before Wolverine’s death, Deadpool writer Gerry Duggan had been exploring a friendship between him and Deadpool. I don’t know whether Old Man Logan and the Deadpool of his timeline had a falling out, or if he’s just gotten grumpy in his old age, but either way, Logan’s lost all patience with Wade. Thus, their grudge match is even pettier than what Michael imagined — Wade’s partially to blame for losing his reward ($25!), and Logan could have just tried to explain things to Wade at any point instead of egging him on.
Humor is awfully subjective, but honestly, I find that pettiness absolutely hilarious. To be fair, I don’t exactly walk into any of these vs. books expecting anything more than a fun romp, and I think Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan absolutely delivers that. The thinness of the premise — the fact that such a petty conflict leads to two supposed heroes shooting each other and ripping down trees in a public park — is almost definitely supposed to be a joke in and of itself (and is absolutely, 100% in-character), and for my money, it works like gangbusters.
It helps, of course, that Shalvey and Henderson have this really terrific sense of comedic timing.
The cold open is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. It leads up to a killer punchline (in the jet falling towards them) of course, but each beat is also funny on its own. As an artist himself, Shalvey knows how important and effective it can be to let the art tell the story, and Henderson lives up to Shalvey’s faith — they make a smart choice to leave the camera in place as indignity after indignity (quite literally) piles up on our two leads. Not only did I laugh every time another vehicle landed, I even laughed at just the simple progression. The way the fire just burns hotter and hotter in each panel throughout the second page? That just kills me. This entire sequence has an energy to it that feels like something right out of Looney Toons, and it’s a perfect tone.
Henderson and colorist Lee Loughridge have a nice handle on the action sequences and more dramatic beats, as well.
Logan and Wade’s fight seems to be taking place around dusk, and the hue of the sky slowly gets darker until we get to this page, which all of a sudden feels entirely different. The backgrounds are gone, leaving only Logan and his enemies within the page and ramping up the drama in the process, and the suddenly-darker sky has a similar effect.
I mentioned earlier what a smart choice it was to leave the camera static during the opening sequence, and Henderson makes similar choices (which are similarly smart) throughout the issue. There’s a two panel sequence on the train where Wade approaches a thug, hiding behind a newspaper, then in the next panel he punches the thug straight through the paper, which lands both as a funny moment and an effective action beat because the two panels remain so similar, the only real change being Wade’s fist bursting through a newspaper like an alien bursting out of a dude’s chest.
Another fun instance of this comes as Wade and Deadpool flee the subway. Again, the camera remains static even as time passes, with Logan running out of the stairway in the first panel and Wade quite literally leaping out of it like a gazelle in the second. It’s a great visual gag, and also an effective way to display the two characters’ very different physicalities.
Henderson makes another effective decision on the next page by doing the exact opposite, moving the camera forward (even as the characters come to a stop) to help establish space.
The joke, of course, is that Wade somehow inexplicably got ahead of Logan despite being behind him throughout the entire chase, but it’s a joke that’s strengthened by the sense of momentum these two panels create, quite literally propelling Logan forward, him running directly from the first panel into the second, until Wade appears out of nowhere like a magic roadblock.
So yeah Michael, I liked this issue quite a bit. The plot may be thin, but it’s ridiculous enough that I can’t help but laugh along with it; Logan and Wade have a really fun, lived-in rapport; the execution of both the jokes and the action is spot-on throughout the entire issue, with each and every member of the creative team bringing something important to the table. I’ll absolutely follow this grudge match to round two.
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I’m with Michael in finding this issue a little slight, but I do think it had it’s moments. To me, the real joy of pitting these two characters against one another is just how unrestrained the “Let’s you and him fight for a while” violence can be. While other characters might need to stop and listen to reason for fear of seriously injuring themselves, these two can just hack away at each other without any real consequences. That’s far from my favorite thing in superhero comics, but it is fun to see a series embrace that with such unbridled enthusiasm.