Much like Drake and Future’s collaborative mixtape, Spider-Man/Deadpool #1 is a link-up that’s got me thinking “What a Time to be Alive” (although the hip hop cover variant homage to “Paid in Full” tells me maybe I should’ve made an Erik B. and Rakim reference here instead).
Spider-Man/Deadpool #1 (Marvel Comics)
Can Marvel make good on this marquee match-up?
Why is this important?
Deadpool, so hot right now.
Spider-Man, one of the most recognizable superheroes in the world.
Put these red-clad, smart-mouthed and filthy rich (in the All-New All-Different Marvel Universe, anyways) hombres together and whaddya got? A bromance for the ages that should sell itself.
Of course, having legendary Deadpool scribe Joe Kelly and artist Ed McGuinness, who paved much of the Merc with a Mouth’s road to success in his first ongoing back in 1997, bringing us the goods doesn’t hurt either.
- Deadpool’s new method of teleportation: equal parts adorable and demented.
- I like how Kelly portrays Deadpool’s healing factor; the guy can still heal from damn near anything, but it’s dampened to the point where it’s not instantaneous. As I’ve said in previous Deadpool reviews, writers will oftentimes have Deadpool become a punching bag on a Waspinator from Beast Wars level, knowing he’ll fully heal a few panels later; the approach can work if used sparingly, but usually deteriorates into a “Well, he’ll heal from it” mindset that detracts from the gravity of DP’s trials and tribulations.
In Spider-Man/Deadpool #1, we’re given transitional stages of healing where DP is recovering with vestigial-looking pieces of anatomy (in various states of development) sprouting from his wounds; they’re clever touches from Kelly that make for some hilarious sight gags (watch Deadpool jump off a rooftop with stumps for legs and laugh with me).
- Spider-Man, although a bit one-dimensional and overly grouchy in his “straight man” interactions with Deadpool exhibits some interesting character development in the form of this dilemma: how to balance being a superhero and a CEO for Parker Industries. Can he do both or will he have to choose between the two?
- Artist Ed McGuinness more than carries his own weight in this issue. If this is the first time you’ve seen his stuff since the Deadpool ongoing back in 1997, you’ll find that the man has stepped up his already considerable game to new heights. His style is much less cartoony but not lacking any visual panache; characters are no longer relegated to squat, over-exaggerated musculatures — here Spider-Man has a lean swimmer’s build that suits his acrobatic nature and Deadpool a slightly bulkier one that really sets them apart in action sequences where they’re juxtaposed. From crisp character designs, beautifully constructed splash pages and action sequences to the body language and visual gags — the art in Spider-Man/Deadpool #1 nails it on every level.
- Although I came into Spider-Man/Deadpool expecting plenty of verbal synergy, the physical synergy was even more impressive — the best courtesy of the two’s deranged version of the “Fastball Special,” a scene where Spidey web-shooter whips Deadpool into a group of demon attackers like the head of a medieval flail:
- Little flourishes like the names Deadpool gives to his pistols are welcome and funny as hell:
- Spidey’s shoulder muscles all flexed up as he leans forward in a classic web-shooting pose facing the reader is one that would make John Romita Sr. proud:
- The inks (Mark Morales) and colors (Jason Keith) are also pivotal in making this book an immersive, visual juggernaut, evident in the opening scene with Deadpool and Spidey trapped in Dormammu’s fiery hellscape:
- A later scene with an enormous Hydro-Man attacking the two across rooftops in New York is also made indelible by not only the point of view and scope but by the inks and colors giving the villain’s liquidy body a sense of rushing, violent movement.
Also a useful maneuver when you want to avoid the dreaded “morning after” talk.
This pretty much sums up how Spidey and Deadpool feel about each other. Awesome facial expressions.
Unfortunately, the story boils down to what we’ve seen before: Spidey wants nothing to do with Deadpool and Deadpool, like a fawning teenager with a man crush, is out to get in his good graces — so the crux of this first issue lies in finding a way to make the two actually team up despite this begrudging nature.
The banter between DP and Spidey is pretty entertaining, but becomes quickly formulaic: Deadpool rambles/makes a distasteful joke, Spidey retorts with incredulity/irritation and the process is repeated.
Kelly’s jokes pander a bit more than I remember and seem to be aimed at a much younger audience as well. That’s not a bad thing in itself, though it does paint DP’s jokes in more of the annoying “he so funny cuz he’s random and crazy and says chimichangas” light that most comic fans associate him with today rather than the irreverent, mischievous wit that Kelly himself cultivated in the first place. Whether I want to admit it or not, Deadpool is a different character than he was when Kelly first took him on in 1997, and it shows even if the trailblazing writer is back at the helm here in the present day; I guess that’s the price a comic book character must pay once they start sitting at the cool kids’ table. (Believe it or not, Deadpool was once relatively unknown.) Instead of the character he could portray pretty much however how he wanted back in the day, Kelly’s ironically stuck with the new Deadpool paradigm that the character’s surging popularity forged and now perhaps, dictates.
At this point the character isn’t quite steeped in the throes of Flanderization just yet (“the act of taking a single ((often minor)) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character”), but even as a huge Deadpool fan, the humor in this issue and the exchanges between DP and Spidey came across as a bit contrived, “try-hard,” and more annoying than they should have been. Simply put, this issue won’t ingratiate any fans who found DP annoying before — and that seems like a missed opportunity.
In my experience with Kelly, his set-up issues usually start off a little restrained like this one and… then completely enthrall the hell out of me once they get going, so maybe that’s the case here. Here’s hoping.
Is It Good?
Spider-Man and Deadpool #1 is an entertaining, although somewhat underwhelming debut for the power duo. The art is amazing and the mere potential of what the two characters under writer Joe Kelly can do is bright, but this issue holds back and even panders a bit to get the set-up stage out of the way.
The reveal at the end of this issue suggests some awesome things to come though, so pick this one up with tempered expectations and get ready for what will surely be an even better second showing.