Now-legendary Deadpool scribe Gerry Duggan has wrapped up his six year tenure on the character, passing the baton to Skottie Young with this week’s Deadpool #1 as part of Marvel’s “Fresh Start” initiative. Unfortunately, Deadpool #1 is a mostly flat, uninspired take on the character that fails to capture the comedy that makes the character so great in the first place.
Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld once infamously alluded in a New York Times interview that anyone could script a Deadpool story, even a janitor. Deadpool #1 is the antithesis to such a statement. It’s not that Skottie Young is a bad writer, it’s just that writing Wade Wilson well is so much more than vulgarity, chimichangas, and pop-culture references.
Luckily, there’s not a single mention of chimichangas in this first issue. There is an over-abundance of vulgarity that serves no purpose, however — just vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake. That’s not to say vulgarity is a bad thing. This is Deadpool, after all, there has to be vulgarity. Relying on vulgarity for comedic effect with a character like Deadpool, however, is a mistake. Deadpool swears all the time, him dropping a “#@&$” censored f-bomb as a punchline won’t always work.
There are hints of classic Deadpool jokes scattered throughout this book that show Young’s potential for writing Wade Wilson — a tort about the efficacy of pouches, his need to create an event-worthy comic for attention, and multiple re-imaginings of his origin that make for some grade-A Superman burns. Unfortunately, for every one joke that lands there are four more oh-so generic ones. One line literally reads “I’ve been paid to make you not be alive anymore, so at the end of our little exchange you will definitely not be alive anymore.” Nothing about that line feels like Deadpool, nor is it funny.
Most the jokes don’t feel like Deadpool. Rather than being irreverently funny or completely unpredictable punchlines eliciting puzzled laughter, they sound like the ramblings of a drunk former frat boy who thinks he is way funnier than he is. I hate to say it, but Deadpool almost feels annoying in this “Fresh Start.”
The clear attempt to marry the aesthetics of the film to the feel of the comic have varying effects. On the bright side, the visceral and gratuitous violence from artist Nic Klien feels right at home for a Deadpool story. Previous runs didn’t shy away from such images, but Klein’s are just much more gruesome — one panel exquisitely details Wade’s tibula exploding out of his shin and another shows Wade wiping off falling entrails from a client.
On the negative side, bringing Negasonic Teenage Warhead into a more prominent role is an unnecessary and lame move to bridge the two properties. There are way too many “Negasonic Teenage [insert string of adjectives + noun]” jokes. None of them are any good, and they’re simply clear indicators of trying too hard to capture what Ryan Reynolds does on screen. Also, there’s no reason for these two to be teamed together except to merge the movie and book, something Skottie Young even quips about in one of the better jokes in the whole issue.
The funniest moments from this book come from unexpected places — the art and characters not named Wade Wilson. Not only is Klein’s new style noticeably more violent, it packs some punchlines of its own. I chuckled when Deadpool goes flying through a window with an illustrated thought-bubble above his head showing scrambled brains and Deadpool’s “Magneto was right” t-shirt genuinely made me laugh.
The supporting characters really steal the show in terms of comedy. The Guardians of the Galaxy have their hilarious game night ruined by a cosmic threat which leads Peter Quill to call the Avengers for help in a great conversation with Tony Stark. These moments are genuinely funny, but this is a Deadpool book, and a #1- Deadpool should be telling all the good jokes.
With this “Fresh Start” initiative Marvel plans to return key characters to their roots, which means vile mercenary work for Wade. The opening pages of the book do a great job illustrating Wade’s return to form, too. However, by the end, there’s heavy foreshadowing that Wade is the key to solving a world ending crisis that will team him with the Avengers, playing hero once again. This begs one question: Why? Why remove the character’s most prolific creative team for a relaunch that doesn’t look to actually change anything?
There are signs for potential throughout this first issue that still give me hope for this series to blossom into a beautiful, violent, and hilarious butterfly of a book. The art direction is great, the supporting cast is wonderful, and some jokes really land. Unfortunately, most the jokes miss and there’s a forced attempt to make this Wade more like movie Wade. This first issue is best summed up by Wade himself: “I know there’s a joke there, but I can’t find it.”