Comics Vixen: Deadpool vs. Thanos (Trade Paperback)
Okay, here’s an embarrassing confession for you:
This was the first Deadpool comic I ever bought.
Technically, it was bought for me by my generous family as an early Christmas present during a trip to Florida last December. I picked it out, though, choosing it entirely on a whim. It was placed prominently on a shelf, perhaps in anticipation of the soon-to-be-released Deadpool film, and I thought, “Hey, Deadpool! I like this guy.” Then I thought, “Oh, shit. Wait. Have I ever actually read this guy?”
I’ve known about Deadpool for years, of course. I can trace my initial knowledge of the character back to my sophomore year of college, when a close friend of mine would often wax philosophical about his undying love for Wade Wilson. In the pathetically typical naïve-country-girl way that I did most things at the time, I would nod and smile and pretend I knew what he was talking about. Deadpool was a cool character, of course, because my friend thought he was cool. And that’s really all I knew about him.
Fast forward to now, and in spite of all the street smarts I’ve gathered since those doe-eyed days, I still hardly know a damn thing about Deadpool. But I like Deadpool, because my friends think he’s cool. Hell, I went to see the movie twice. Once with a friend—awesome!—and once on a totally awkward date during which I lied and said that it was my first time seeing it, cause apparently I’d told the guy I wasn’t going to watch it with anyone else. Heck. There’s a reason I don’t go on dates anymore.
But I digress. I’ve been going on about my love of Deadpool for years and you guys, it’s all a scam. I just finished reading my first Deadpool comic (well, trade paperback) ever, tonight. Just before I wrote this. Like right now.
And, actually, it wasn’t the best. Having never read any of his other comics, I’m hardly one to be making comparisons. But it’s safe to say the Merc with a Mouth wouldn’t have become so popular if all of his appearances were subpar. And even though I’ve never read any of Wade Wilson’s title comics, I’ve read other books that he’s appeared in. I think. I can’t remember what any of them are right now, but there’s no way this my first encounter with Deadpool on the page.
This book was subpar mostly because it fails to strike the chords that are necessary for good comedy. And Deadpool is an inherently comedic character.
(Oh—since this is a column for those new to comics, I should give a little backstory. Deadpool is the antihero nomme de plume of Wade Wilson. He’s a sassy mercenary with regenerative powers—yay!—and physical disfigurements—boo!—usually attributed to some fun scientific experiments in his past. He was introduced to the public in 1991. He wisecracks and kills people a lot. Also, he’s Canadian.)
But back to the comedy. Deadpool is supposed to be funny. And, in my experience, things that are truly funny tend to appear in one of two ways. Either they’re on the absurdist end of the spectrum, like comedian Mitch Hedberg’s one-liners, which are funny because they’re completely detached from reality. Or they’re on the poignant end of the spectrum, like comedian Louis C.K.’s touching, if sometimes misguided, affection for certain segments of humanity (like his daughters). The absurd things are funny because they turn reality on its head; the poignant things are funny because they ring true.
In popular culture, things are skewed toward the poignant side, although I’m probably a bigger fan of absurdism. But poignancy is what makes things like Deadpool’s first film appearance work for mainstream audiences and comic book nerds alike. The humor is there. But it’s grounded in a touching story about a man with a tainted past and redemption to seek.
Where Deadpool vs. Thanos misses is that it tries to strike a middle ground between absurd and poignant. It lands in the middle, all right, but unfortunately that’s just a recipe for average, unfunny comedy. There are a few moments where the story leans toward poignancy, like Deadpool’s genuine devastation when his would-be lover Lady Death is taken from him. But moments like that are rare and don’t have enough depth to carry the story into poignant territory.
What would have served the story better would be skewing more toward the absurd. It’s not as popular with modern audiences, but let’s look at the story. Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth, and Thanos, the Mad Titan, are both in love with the physical manifestation of Death (who is a lady). They start out fighting and wind up teaming up to save her, going on a romp through the highest forces of the universe with constant banter along the way. It’s not really a recipe for touchy-feely stuff. The love interest is too silly to carry the sort of depth that worked so well in Deadpool the movie, in which Wade Wilson pines over a relatable human person. But wacky? Absurd? This book could have gone much further in that direction, with great success.
But the story never goes full-on Mel Brooks goofy. Instead, it keeps pulling back to that middle ground. It seems like the creators weren’t really sure what kind of story they wanted to tell. To make matters worse is some questionable racial content. I’ll let readers discern for themselves how problematic it was, but at very least it was unnecessary and distracting. There are also a couple spelling errors that perfectionists like me will find hard to overlook. At one point, Deadpool gives a mock threat to Black Talon: “Damn. I was gonna threaten you into it by saying I was gonna pull your waddle out through your eggdropper.” (For context on this threat, Black Talon’s costume is that of a chicken.) But chickens don’t have waddles. They have wattles, the dangly red bits under their beaks. (For context on how I know this, see above, where I mention being a naïve country kid.)
Of course, eggdropper isn’t exactly a technical term, either. But I don’t think “waddle” was used incorrectly on purpose. If it was, it would have been for the sake of the humor, but it’s not actually funny. No doubt there was potential there for a pun, but it was never acted upon. I’ll admit this is a little thing to be fixating on. But shouldn’t the editors at a big publishing house be able to catch things like that?
The only other thing of note was a fairly random appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which seemed an obvious and unnecessary tie-in to the film of the same name. However, I do have to admit that as this book progressed into bigger jokes by introducing more characters in increasingly ridiculous settings, I started to like it more. There are some moments of metaphysical absurdness toward the end (involving the physical manifestation of the universe itself) that were really fun. Points for creativity to the creators there.
If I were to review this succinctly, I’d say I enjoyed most of the reading experience, but not enough to care about getting popcorn grease from my fingers all over the pages while reading. While reading something I adore, like Rat Queens or the gorgeous and soon-to-be-reviewed hardcover Tank Girl collection my roommate gifted me for my birthday, I’d never dream of letting popcorn-buttery fingers touch the pages.
But this book begs to be read carelessly. While I can’t say I disliked it, it definitely does a disservice to Deadpool, who is a really great character. Who I know all about. Cause I’ve read a ton of his comics. Just like my cool friends. Yep.