Skottie Young, a fun, energetic artist in his own right, took up the reins of writing Deadpool alongside artists Nic Klein and Scott Hepburn with the sole intention of returning the singularly enigmatic, versatile, and unfathomably storied (there’s a staggering 22 separate trades listed in this issue on sale now) Wade Wilson back to his more basic, “merc with a mouth” roots. With the first volume, Mercin’ Hard for the Money, collecting issues #1-6 available now, how did they do in servicing that monumental task?
Not as well as one might like. But, there’s a lot of fun to be found in the failure, too.
What’s it about? Marvel’s preview reads:
Deadpool is back to mercin’ for a living! It’s been a while since Wade Wilson has struggled to make ends meet, but things are tough all over. While Deadpool tries to get his humble business back off the ground, a catastrophic threat so unfathomably huge — so mind-breakingly cataclysmic that it defies description — is heading toward Earth, and only one person can stop it! Oh no, wait — it’s not Deadpool, is it? Oh %$@#. It’s Deadpool.
A pretty compelling hook! And, again, one which really tries to avoid the superheroic highs and lows, endless event tie-ins, and weightiness that Deadpool has been bogged down with in recent history — Young goes out of his way to cut to the quick of what works with Wade’s character. And while that’s fun in the micro: Wade sporting a “Magneto was right” t-shirt and pulling smoke bomb escapes from the Avengers he desperately doesn’t want to work with (but would be happy to be paid by) which makes large chunks of issues feel light and breezy, it fails in the macro.
The problem is over-indulgence: Deadpool’s voice is the primary voice of every single issue. Even with Negasonic Teenage Warhead seemingly there to provide a more stable character to play off of, things overly favor Wade’s wacky view and tilt the characterization and dialogue of everyone around him, even the seemingly non-Deadpool voiced narration, to that same weirdness. Characters swear like Deadpool, pull pop culture references out of nowhere like Deadpool, and more — all while Deadpool himself is still there trying to ramp it up to 11 in competition with them (largely through swearing more, and getting naked in like…every issue). While fun — oftentimes laugh out loud funny — it’s just too much, foregoing big plot beats, one of which is introduced and then completely abandoned after an end-of-issue cliffhanger to my frustration, in favor of erroneous and mostly inconsequential characterization that serves no master other than Wade Wilson himself.
Thankfully, both Klein and Hepburn give a totally righteous, detailed credence to the ancillary, non-Deadpool stuff. While Klein’s efforts are prone to inconsistency, like one especially egregious exchange between Wade and Captain America where Cap’s face is constantly facing shape, the detailing on large scale, explosive set pieces like a vomiting Celestial adoring a cosmic motor bike is second-to-none. Similarly, Hepburn’s stuff tends to blend into sameness — characters and scenes are overly busy — but nonetheless gorgeous, and dense with visual gags that really ring true to the character and world that Young is bringing to life in the script.
All said and done, there’s an earnest attempt at something new here for a character that definitely, desperately needs the refresh. However, the narrative’s predilections in stretching jokes beyond their means wear that earnestness thin, and Wade is left largely fending for himself without anyone else to play off of. As we, and he, know – he’s not the most likeable guy around, so there’s definite room for improvement and reflection as things go.