Old Man Wade and Petey, The Savage Lands, and more robot foes than you can shake a web shooter at – our dads need a very special set of skills to keep up.
The seventh volume of Spider-Man/Deadpool from writer Robbie Thompson and talented bevy of artists including Scott Hepburn, Flaviano, Matt Horak, and Jim Towe includes the series’ 40th issue – no small feat for a comic by any measure, especially in 2018 where reboots, offshoots and cancellations seem frequent and fast to happen. In the face of those things, and with monolithic books like Venom and The Amazing Spider-Man vying for Marvel reader’s attention, what is the special stuff that keeps a book like this running through that many issues you might ask? Three simple things which this volume, despite its low points, is a great example of:
First and foremost, this is a Spider-man and Deadpool book. You’d be hard-pressed to convince me that any two characters are known better among the Marvel ranks for their quick wittiness and snappy comebacks. 40 issues in, these characters, bringing all the levity on their two backs almost entirely, still have it. There’s a definite conceit in making the book balanced in seriousness and humor that means that Deadpool ends up funnier than Spidey here, punching the web-slinger down to a more serious, sometimes fun-loving figure that’s hard to ignore. But nevertheless, lines like “FOR JEFF GOLDBLUM!” delivered as a spear goes flying towards a dinosaur in The Savage Lands, as well as whole plot point centered around Deadpool finally getting a bathroom break really speak to a unique, quirky, and surprisingly affable energy that few stories today get to revel in this much.
Speaking of keeping things balanced, the stories here – a finalization of the overwhelming, confusing LMD plot from a previous arc, as well as new one focused on Spider-Dad and Dadpool trying to raise a surrogate son together, deliver fantastic consideration to the more serious side of our characters as well. Spider-Man typically plays the straight and narrow, disappointed but also accepting counterpart to Deadpool’s destructive, and defensive, but sincerely trying foil. It’s a recursive loop they get stuck in, further emphasized by some fantastic mirrored art that compares an older Spidey and Deadpool in issue #35, but ultimately an endearing one that speaks to who these men are both with the mask on and beneath it alone, and together, in a relatable, applied way.
Finally, it’s especially apparent in this volume, among the many that have come before it, that Thompson as well as the artists here are more than willing to shake things up when the story might otherwise get stale. It’s compressed, episodic storytelling that pivots from LMD-based superhero-heavy all out warfare, to fatherly politics as they adopt Master Matrix for a time, to dinosaurs and grand theft S.H.I.E.L.D weaponry all in one volume, but it works! The ever moving target seems to keep both writer and artist, as well as Spidey and Deadpool themselves, from standing still for too long, allowing instead for relatively deep thoughtful moments and insights into Deadpool’s shifting mentality about heroism and his place in it, as well as his knack for lying to even his friends that he considers the closest of them all in quick succession with great set pieces and action framing everything.
When things start to stagnate, like the start of this volume feels as it gets overwhelming and a little self-serving in closing out the previous arc, the quick pace allows everyone to shift away with little issue and we’re back on track — it’s sleek, fun, and endlessly inventive. Making Spidey and Deadpool dads, surrogates as it may be, is a refreshing, unique take that finds room to explore often overlooked parts of their character, of how they view heroism for themselves and for others, and ultimately how they view each other, just the right kind of new, but honed framing the book needs.
The Final Word
Ultimately, Spider-Man/Deadpool remains a sometimes flighty and overwhelming or self-serving, but earnest and sincerely enjoyable book that succeeds because it puts its heart and efforts into the right place: the characters. I still like the narrative and art’s reactive nature, feeling lively and moving, inventive and fun even 40 issues in. That’s an accomplishment all on its own.