In *ahem* researching Joe Kelly’s “Deadpool” run for the podcast, I found that while it had its moments it wasn’t as entertaining as you’d expect from a defining run on a character. I was more entertained by the recent Duggan/Posehn run that managed to mix action, comedy, and drama in a more satisfying fashion. Now the tables have turned. Duggan’s first solo volume of “Deadpool” was bad enough to convince me that the writer had lost his handle on the character and future volumes would likely be even worse. Meanwhile, Kelly — along with Ed McGuinness, who illustrated a good chunk of that historic run — is back writing the character that made him famous in a team-up title with Spider-Man. This results in a surprisingly good read with a density that you don’t see often in superhero comics these days. Which is good because the time you’ll spend re-reading this will help ease the wait between new volumes of this title from these creators.
“Isn’t it Bromantic” kicks off in an appropriate fashion. With Deadpool making dick jokes while he and Spidey are tied up and at the mercy of Dormammu and the Mindless Ones. It only gets more bizarre from there as the rest of the volume has the hard-luck hero and the “still really wants to be a” hero find themselves facing off against a sewage-powered Hydro-Man, at the mercy of Mysterio’s illusions, watching Thor throw down with a succubus before our guys have to dance like their lives depended on it, and getting Peter Parker’s soul out of Hell after Deadpool shot him in the head. Twice. For both of those things.
About that last bit: It turns out that someone has hired Deadpool to kill Peter Parker because the head of Parker Industries is involved with some really shady dealings involving genetic experiments on homeless people. The problem is that Deadpool really looks up to Parker’s “guardian angel,” Spider-Man. Spidey is the kind of hero that the Merc With a Mouth wishes he could be and he wants to find a way to take this scumbag out without destroying the relationship he’s cultivating.
This being Deadpool, he goes about it in a really back-asswards manner that ultimately does more harm than good even if he winds up doing the right thing in the end. With dick jokes. Funny ones too! It’s actually reassuring to see that Kelly’s comedic chops weren’t limited to a writing a cult superhero on the fringe of the Marvel Universe in the 90’s. A lot of the interaction between Spidey and Deadpool is genuinely amusing, while the supporting cast and guest stars have plenty of worthwhile moments too. Not every line in this volume is comedy gold, but the majority of them hit and Kelly keeps flinging them at the reader fast enough that you’re never disappointed for long.
Which is good because the story re-treads some awfully familiar ground. One of the main plot threads from Kelly’s original run was how Wade Wilson was constantly trying to step up and be an actual hero, only for circumstances and his general mindset to undermine his efforts. That’s being brought up again here through his interactions with Spider-Man. Familiar as this story may be, it doesn’t feel like a retread since it’s also playing off against the dramatic tension that comes with the fact that Wilson is trying to have his cake and eat it too as he buddies up with Spidey and plots to kill Parker.
This setup is also resolved by the end of the volume when the real villain makes their presence known. It’s pretty clear that taking down “Patient Zero” and finding out the nature of the beef he has with Deadpool and Spider-Man is going to drive the rest of the series. I’d be more enthusiastic about it if the bad guy wasn’t so one-dimensional. At this point, it feels like his success has been dictated by the plot rather than achieved through his own efforts. So it’s hard for me to really get invested in a long-term story about his eventual downfall.
One other thing that might turn some people off about this volume is how steeped it is in current Marvel continuity. Outside of crossovers, most Marvel titles have been pretty continuity-light when it comes to acknowledging the goings on other titles. That’s not the case when it comes to “Spider-Man/Deadpool.” I was expecting the kind of story where the events of the characters’ ongoing titles were pushed off to the side and was instead treated to one that deals explicitly with Parker’s role in Parker Industries, hints that the marriage Parker gave up to Mephisto may play a key role in the plot, features another “Spider-Man” guest star in the form of Miles Morales, having key scenes hinge on the involvement of Deadpool’s wife and daughter, and has a cameo appearance from all of Deadpool’s “Mercs For Money.” If you’re not up on the characters’ current continuity then all of this can be a little overwhelming. Kelly smartly focuses most of the series on his two leads, so it’s not necessary for readers to be aware of all this stuff beforehand. Still, he’d be better off without scenes like the one where Deadpool makes out with Death as an homage/reference to the time the characters did it back in his original run.
While I’ve talked a lot about Kelly’s work in this volume, it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be nearly as effusive with my praise if it weren’t for McGuinness’ art. His work has always had a cartoonish bent to it, but he channels it in a way that just makes the action look bigger and bolder. That’s a great asset to have in a series that thrives on over-the-top comedy like this one. While the opening issue’s face-offs against Dormammu and Hydro-Man look fantastic, the volume’s most memorable sequence has Spidey and Deadpool dancing in their skivvies for the amusement of Thor, a succubus, and a bunch of ladies at a bar. Also, I don’t know whose idea it was to have a bamf cameo in the first issue, but they have my thanks. McGuinness’ design for them hits the perfect balance between cute and fearsome and I’d love to have a plushie based on it.
Really, it’s hard to imagine anyone else but McGuinness drawing this series. Marvel apparently feels that way too because this volume collects issues one-through-five, and eight. Why is that? Well, it would seem that the company recognizes that while Kelly and McGuinness and the story they’re telling here are the real draws, not publishing an issue of a comic called “Spider-Man/Deadpool” on a monthly basis would be leaving money on the table. So expect lots of fill-in issues as these creators work to finish the story they’re telling. (Admittedly, I am looking forward to the one written by Penn Jillette of “Penn & Teller” infamy which will involve Teller and Deadpool swapping places.) That means it’ll be quite a while before we get to see a proper vol. 2 for this series. As good as this volume turned out to be, that’s a wait I’m willing to make.