There was a time where anything and everything put out by Marvel comics was no more than a half a degree of separation away from their top selling poster boy Wolverine. After all, what’s not to like? He’s got mutton chops.
But those days are over.
In the days of Marvel’s New 52 countermeasure, Marvel NOW, there’s nary a title out there that doesn’t boast a tongue and cheek variant cover adorned with the Merc with a Mouth, Wade Wilson, best known as Deadpool.
Deadpool’s got a lot going for him – mostly the fact that he’s entirely aware of his own fiction existence as a comic book character. He’s been known to talk to the reader or even redraw battles so that he can come out on top. It’s all kinds of fourth-wall-breaking meta goodness, though it more often amounts to a hilarious gag than a serious literary accomplishment. Go figure. So when it was announced that the Marvel NOW iteration of Deadpool was going to be written by a standup comedian, Brian Posehn, expectations were high.
Having finally concluded this week, Posehn’s first Deadpool story arc saw Wade Wilson become an honorary inductee of S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to thwart a demonic gang of revived, mystical zombie versions of the deceased Presidents of the United States of America. Sign me up!
And sign up I did. Now that the series is six issues and one arc in, however, I can’t tell if I’ve been reading the dumbest comic on shelves, or the smartest. Okay, that was generous. I can’t tell if I’ve been reading the dumbest comic on shelves, or just a regularly dumb comic on par with other dumb comics.
I suspect the first time Deadpool directly addressed his readers it was pretty wild and unexpected, but nowadays every other panel more or less amounts to the Merc with a Mouth making a “hilarious” pop culture reference and then turning and winking at you. It’s fun to think about interacting with your favorite heroes, but those interactions shouldn’t be limited to me yelling “stop talking to me and do your job” at a comic book while I hide from my made up wife and kids in the bathroom of my made up house.
What job would that be, you ask? Deadpool is the Marvel Universe’s walking, talking reality check. There’s nobody too important, too well-loved or too gritty to escape Deadpool’s non-stop smart-assery. And let’s face it – they have it coming! Yeah, yeah Wolverine is an ageless mutant who’s fought his way through persecution, adversity and torture time and time again – but guess what? He’s also a comic book weirdo who runs around in a yellow costume with metal claws that come out of his knuckles. Captain America is a grown ass 100-year old man who runs around with a shield draped in an American flag. Spider Man is a d-bag!
By running his mouth constantly and refusing to be serious Deadpool teaches the comic book universe a very serious lesson – get over yourselves nerds, you’re comic books.
Which leads me to a revelation – what if Posehn’s Deadpool won’t stop bothering me while I’m trying to read his own book because he’s trying to teach me something too? What if Deadpool’s idiotic crusade against the zombified former Presidents is really a metaphorical crusade against a generation of comic book readers who lose their shit anytime a creator tries to expand or reinvigorate a character, a generation who dogmatically adhere to continuity like doctrine and to heroes like prophetic idols?
When Deadpool talks his way through his books he isn’t just dumbing down his own comic book, he’s dumbing down our comic book, for our own good. It’s Marvel Comics, not Charles Dickens, and while comic books certainly have their place in the literary cannon, they’re still supposed to be fun, and I’m glad Deadpool could show me that.
Deadpool’s own mouth consistently holds his own book back from being anything more than a silly, stupid comic book that your parents will roll their eyes at. But maybe that’s because he’s trying to tell me that I shouldn’t spend time pouring over Batman comics and analyzing them to death because the Caped Crusader isn’t supposed to be an icon of American literature, he’s just supposed to be a goofy guy in spandex.
And that’s when I realized the Posehn’s Deadpool isn’t dumb at all – it’s an indictment of the comic book industry, from writers to artists to critics to fans, taking itself far, far too seriously. It’s a statement on the current status of an entire literary medium, and one that raises the medium as a whole.
LOL WTF JK
You guys, Deadpool is dumb.
Deadpool is so dumb.