Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

30 September 2008

Deadpool Classic, v. 1

Collects: New Mutants #98, Deadpool: The Circle Chase #1-4, Deadpool v. 1 #1-4, Deadpool v. 1 #1 (1991, 1993, 1994, 1997)

Released: April 2008 (Marvel)

Format: 264 pages / color / $29.99 / ISBN: 9780785131243

Deadpool Classic, v. 1, is a different kind of collection, one of those character-centric books that don’t have a single storyline (or like the last two books, two related stories). Deadpool has two complete miniseries plus two stories that aren’t related to anything else in the book. This gives the book the appearance of being suited for those obsessed with Deadpool or continuity. But is that true?

Deadpool Classic, v. 1 coverWell, it is more than slightly disjointed. One story doesn’t really flow into another; Deadpool lurks around the fringes of X-Force between his first appearance and his first mini. The two miniseries are marginally connected, though, and there doesn’t really seem to be any missing information between the two stories. But writer Joe Kelly doesn’t feel obligated to tack the Deadpool ongoing directly onto anything that came before. So it’s a mixed bag in that aspect. They are all representative stories, though, each embodying the insane loudmouth who likes to hurt people for money. (Or as Marvel says, “Merc with a Mouth.”)

The issue of New Mutants is mostly a New Mutants story, with Deadpool showing up to harass the heroes for less than half an issue. It’s really an inauspicious debut for a character who became as important as Deadpool did; he fails in his mission, is used by Cannonball for training purposes, and is completely humiliated by Cable. Scripter Fabian Nicieza and plotter / artist Rob Liefeld had Cable punk an awful lot of people, so it wasn’t that unusual.

The first miniseries, The Circle Chase, was written by co-creator Nicieza, with art by ’90s hot artist Joe Madureira. While you might think having a writer so familiar with Deadpool would be a plus, it actually acts as a detriment at points. Yes, Nicieza gets the dialogue right, and his Deadpool is true to the original mercenary, villainous Deadpool, but the book gets bogged down with X-Force continuity. The grudge between Kane and Deadpool, Copycat’s past, Black Tom’s affliction and connection to Deadpool, Tolliver’s death, and the very existence of Weasel and Courier are uncommented upon and unfootnoted. Given that Deadpool helped deliver Black Tom to his horrible fate, it would make sense that the book would make some note of it, but no — and since Black Tom doesn’t seem too worked up in the first mini, maybe that’s OK. But the continuity, Nicieza’s love for MacGuffins, and a convoluted plot — what purpose do the assassins sent after Deadpool serve? — make this little miniseries a bit more complicated than necessary.

Mark Waid wrote the second miniseries, Sins of the Past, with art from Ian Churchill, Lee Weeks, and Ken Lashley. Waid built upon the heroic possibilities from Circle Chase and downplays the character’s violent, sociopathic tendencies. He also links Sins more strongly to the most profitable franchise of the day, X-Men, by adding mutants Banshee and Siryn to the cast. Waid, despite some distaste for the character, manages to write convincing dialogue even as he takes a little of the edge off the character. The plot works more smoothly than Circle Chase; it’s simpler, although eliminating treacherous Interpol agent Peyer would have improved the story even more. I’m also not sure about the malfunctioning healing factor he gave Deadpool for the story, since Wolverine was going through a similar trial at the same time.

The gem of the volume is the double-sized first issue of Deadpool’s first ongoing series. Kelly and artist Ed McGuinness defined Deadpool, and although their run was low selling, it was extremely critically well received. Kelly unites the “Merc with a Mouth” personality with “Deadpool as a reluctant hero” in a way that is both more satisfying and convincing than either Waid or Nicieza (who arguably wasn’t trying for reluctant hero). He even gives Deadpool a new status quo that simultaneously humanizes and distances him from the reader. Kelly quickly established himself as the master of Deadpool’s dialogue with this (and subsequent) issues, joining a pop-culture sensibility with insanity, bad jokes, and murderous tendencies. Interestingly, Deadpool doesn’t have a monopoly on the funny lines, with the unsuspecting and befuddled characters who interact with him occasionally being more funny than the title character.

McGuiness also is the best of the Deadpool artists in my opinion, with art that is kinetic and slightly exaggerated when necessary to get the action or a joke across. He’s able to go quickly from comedy to action and back to comedy again. Although his heavy lines aren’t as graceful as the other artists, it’s arguably more appropriate: given Deadpool’s penchant for gunfire and loud explosions, he needs a more emphatic line.

I’ve never cared much for the exaggerated style of Madureira, whose art essentially screams “’90s!” over and over again. It certainly seems a bit dated today. On the other hand, it is appropriate for extended limbs Slayback and Black Tom, and his storytelling abilities are still very good. The art team for Sins — Churchill, Lashley, and Weeks — are similarly dated as a ‘90s look, but they avoid the obvious distortions featured by Madureira. Their battle scenes are often a bit confusing, though, which is a problem: the book seems to be one running fight scene. I will admit to liking the flashback scene at the beginning of #2 quite a bit, however.

The work of Liefeld calls out for many jokes, but I’ll restrict myself to one: he made an interesting choice in drawing Deadpool as a pinheaded woman with giant breasts on the cover the book.

There is a slight reproduction problem in my copy. It’s nothing major; it’s just that the Kelly / McGuinness issue and some of the Sins miniseries look a bit off — like it’s been photocopied rather than printed. It’s not a major problem, as those parts of the book are just as readable as the rest of the book, but once you notice that the quality doesn’t quite match the rest, it’s a little distracting.

I’m looking forward to Deadpool Classic, v. 2, although in a practical sense, I’m not sure it will ever be released. I have most of the issues that would be collected, but the Kelly / McGuinness run that would be collected next is excellent, easily the character’s creative high point. And I don’t have the Deadpool / Daredevil Annual ’97, and given its price, I would just as soon have it collected with other Deadpool stories in one nice, neat trade paperback.

Rating: Marvel symbol Marvel symbol Marvel symbol Half Marvel symbol (3.5 of 5)

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