Flashback to… Deadpool?

November 25th, 2015

As previously established, middling superhero comics are so much better when you read them for free from the library, but what about mediocre comics you valued at an earlier age?

What about ones that feature characters whose longevity seems baffling?  Characters who you had assumed would have died with your dreams of a better life but who will soon be starring in their own movie at a cinema near you?  What about bloody Deadpool?

Deadpool, #2-11, by Ed McGuinnes, Joe Kelly and various

I have teenage X-Men damage and I enjoyed these stories a lot the first time round, but this material is as dated now as a ’60s Marvel comic. It has considerably less dynamic force behind it than your average Lee/Kirby/Ditko joint though, and on this read through Deadpool’s trademark yellow word balloons were quickly recontextualised in my mind as a sign of unspectacular rot:

The comedy of these stories comes mostly via a range of pre-curdled pop-culture references, fourth wall breaking asides and “inappropriate” outbursts, reliably backed up by pointless flurries of PG violence. Ignore that and you’re left with an above average 90’s X-Men comic with delusions of Frank Miller: 

“Runny Chris Claremont blended in with regurgitated Mickey Spillane and served in a pair of man-sized clown shoes” doesn’t exactly sound inspiring, but jaded as I am I struggled to truly hate this collection all the same.

A big part of this comes down to Ed McGuinness’ art, which is far clumsier here than it is in, say, JLA: Classified or Superman/Batman but which nevertheless points toward the blocky playtime textures of those comics. There are clumsy attempts at dynamism here, with rote speedline rushes and strange, closely cropped images of fists, feet and knives trying to do the work that McGuinness’ composition wasn’t quite up to at the time; none of this detracts from the bloated and enjoyable goofiness of his figure work.

In McGuiness’ hands this world of merciless mercs and gentleman stalkers is goonishly likeable. The characters try hard to be charmless, but they look big and cuddly and inoffensive, earning the Might Marvel redemption despite themselves.

Ultimately, it’s hard to hold their context as pawns in a game designed to sell a perma-scarred bargain basement Wolverine who looks and talks a bit like Spider-Man against them:

Well, okay, there’s one squirmingly transphobic pop culture reference that makes for plain unpleasant reading, though it’s interesting to reflect on how much less standard or unremarkable that would seem in a comic today – you can complain about twitter ranters all you want, and lord knows I do when the right mood takes me, but I like the fact that the effects of that sort of casual, unthinking bullshit would be impossible for a comics creator to miss in 2015.

[Awaits froth-flecked complaints about “SJWs” from a bunch of billowing gimps who can’t handle the fact that a Scottish comedian could kick their arse at Tekken.]

Speaking of blithering manchildren, as I indicated at the top of this post I used to wonder at the fact that this character has survived so long and maintained such a relatively high level of popularity separate from this creative team but perhaps it’s not all that surprising: he’s the ideal action hero for those who feel that their unimaginable pain justifies a lifetime of acting like an A+ bell-end.

Speaking as a child of the 90’s who had every opportunity to do something half-decent with his life but who’s somehow ended up writing about sodding Deadpool comics on the internet again, trust me, I get it.

I just don’t know that I can find this routine even remotely loveable if you take Ed McGuinness out of the equation…

EDITED TO ADD: This post has been so thoroughly eclipsed by comments by Thrills and Plok that I would feel like I was being straight up responsible if I didn’t encourage you to break with received wisdom and READ THE COMMENTS.

It also occurs to me that another, more Mindless conclusion to this post escaped me at the time and that this might provide me with a way to rip off pay back those bold contributors by incorporating their insights into the post itself.

So: Deadpool’s personality is a clumsy Frankenstein’s monster of a thing, battered pop culture references hanging limply off a warped slab of fourth wall breaking self-awareness.  There are qualities in this mess that some of us might be able to see ourselves in – maybe he’s bi-or-pansexual? maybe he’s a protagonist with mental health issues? maybe we’re smart arses who use dead pop culture references as a shortcut to sounding smart, witty, ALIVE! – but he exists in a children’s painting of a cut-throat environment, so you know that they will be obscured or made to appear silly at every turn.

There are charming moments, moments where it looks good, like something we might want to be a part of even, but it’s generally just a flailing monster that’s been driven stupid by unfathomable pain and marketing pressures.

It’s Twitter. Deadpool is Twitter, my friends, and like Twitter this means that he is made of us.

It are him. We are they. All of that flailed branding.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.