A strong premise with lots of potential derailed by an early cancellation.
During Marvel NOW! 2016 Edition, the company launched a few spin-off titles that broke out of Deadpool & The Mercs for Money. Among those titles was Foolkiller, which lasted five issues before it was cancelled. Recently, the complete series was collected.
Here’s the Marvel synopsis:
Greg Salinger was just your typical merc for hire — killing those he deemed “foolish” for money. But that life is behind him now. Today, he’s a psychiatrist, trying to help others. But now S.H.I.E.L.D. wants him to try to rehabilitate super villains. The catch? If these “patients” don’t make enough progress, they’re dead! Sounds like a job for Foolkiller! But when he finds himself alone with an arsenal of weapons against an army of skinhead Red Skull sympathizers, he’ll be asking questions about his own career choices! Who’s the fool now, Salinger?
The Initial Reaction
I never read any Foolkiller comics nor The Mercs For Money series before coming into this. I also only have a little experience with the writer, Max Bemis, due to his previous work with Crossed. So, I was in a position to check out this book without any preconceptions and see how it stood on its own. Reading it, things were off to an okay start initially, with a solid story foundation, a good premise, a defined supporting cast, and a mission to satirize modern comics. It was alright, but then it kept going…
Foolkiller could have been something. It has the right ingredients to create a fun tale, like a good art team and a neat premise. It’s a tale about a former vigilante turned psychiatrist, who kills the supervillains he is supposed to help if they show no signs of reforming or improving. While the book uses the cliché quirky, loveable loser trope that Marvel likes using in these indie-ish titles, it seemed like it could work. Where and why does it all go wrong?
Ugh. Why do I hang out with you losers again?
The problems start in the third issue, though the downfall is foreshadowed on the last page of #2. The comic had been slowly building up its setting, its cast, and the developing the psychiatrist angle reasonably well up until that point. Then everything is thrown out the window when a previous Foolkiller enters the picture. The premise developed over the course of two and a half issues is tossed out and the comic becomes basically plotless, with no real aim or goal until it comes to a close in the last issue. The series does thankfully wrap up all the storylines and plot threads that have been introduced, but not in a very satisfying way. With how things are written and told, it’s not hard to believe that Bemis was told that the book was cancelled after Marvel saw the sales figures for the first issue, thus forcing him to rewrite everything. It just feels like a rush job.
As for the characters, it’s hard to get really invested in them due to how things turn out. Our titular Foolkiller, Greg Salinger, is obviously the most well-written character. He wants to do good and have a fresh start at life, but this urge to kill foolish villains and his own father complex just keeps getting in the way, breaking him several times over. He’s never exactly likable or noble, but he’s the only person with a clear, defined arc and his ending is fitting as he finally seeks out the help he truly needs, accepting whatever fate has in store for him. Everyone else is sadly a blip on the radar. Deadpool is Deadpool (and is only in one single issue), Gary Span really amounts to nothing, and Melanie is a character that could almost be removed from the comic without any consequence. She’s just Greg’s love interest who doesn’t do a lot in the comic and their relationship is never really explored in any depth. The villains are rather flat as well–Kurt is a psycho-for-hire that derails the story and the Hood has no real presence. He’s the mastermind behind everything, but it feels like you could switch him out with any other crime boss and you would lose nothing.
People in the 90’s understood narwhals.
Sadly, the satire, one of the main selling points of the series, just isn’t as clever as the book seems to think it is. It just points out tropes and ideas instead of doing anything witty with it the majority of the time. The closest it gets is with the second patient and him talking about his backstory. The situation he describes is both extremely absurd, but also very serious, making for what should be a hilarious contrast. It doesn’t really work as well as it should due to how juvenile it is, but it’s trying. The worst is in the final issue, where one plotline is abruptly ended and a villain points out how anti-climactic it is. But that’s it though, and there’s nothing else to it. It’s just committing a lazy trope and pointing it out as if it’s an excuse for how bad it was.
To the Bemis’ credit, he managed to pack a lot into each issue. There’s plenty of story, character moments, and progression being made, so in that regard each issue gave you your money’s worth. However, there were a lot of problems with its pacing and exposition. The series’ pace kept starting and stopping, grinding to an absolute halt whenever there was a monologue, which there was plenty of (especially in the final two issues). The humor never quite lands; it’s too rigid and serious for most of it to work. The dialogue was fine, but when it got to the monologuing, it turned rather dull and tedious. Overall the writing is far from awful, but it doesn’t really stand out much in the end.
The art by Dalibor Talajic is the strongest part of the comic. His style is reminiscent of Ramon Rosanas, but with a bit more expressiveness. The characters are drawn well, with an utterly fantastic range of expression and emotion. You can easily tell what everyone is thinking or feeling just by looking at their faces and seeing their body language (the first scene we’re introduced to Melanie is fantastic in this regard). There’s good composition with the layouts, there’s a sense of motion and weight in the art, the story flows well from panel to panel, and the colors by Miroslav Mrva help to set the mood quite well. Outside of some color inconsistencies with Foolkiller’s mask and the hard-to-see-and-read credits page (black and dark red text on a dark purple background? Whose bright idea was that?), I had no problems with the artwork or visuals at all in the book.
Is It Good?
Foolkiller: Psycho Therapy is a comic full of potential done dirty by an abrupt cancellation. Most things are tossed out before fully being explored and there’s a lack of character development for us to fully get invested in. Despite the solid art, there’s no reason to read this other than seeing an example of a good premise not given a chance to really shine as it should.