There’s an episode of the television show Boston Legal wherein two new, attractive lawyers join the cast. They show up at the firm for work and a befuddled Denny Crane, played by the incomparable William Shatner, insists that they can’t be new at the firm or they would have been introduced in the season premiere.
It’s called breaking the fourth wall and it’s awesome: an action on the part of a character that implies or outright insists said character is aware that they are a character within a work of fiction.
It’s also something of a superpower for Wade Wilson, the mutant mercenary known as Deadpool, in the Marvel Comics Universe. His extreme self-awareness, coupled with a Wolverine-esque healing factor, make Deadpool a character full of potential for a fun, thoughtful comic book. That potential has only grown alongside Deadpool’s saturating popularity over the years.
Naturally, a hugely popular comic book character that’s fully aware of their status as a hugely popular comic book character put into the hands of a stand-up comedian would seem like a successful equation. I know I assumed as much.
I’m retreading some old ground with this piece. The last time I wrote about the current Deadpool title I commented that it was either the dumbest comic book on shelves or the smartest. Well I’ve made up my mind.
The cover of Deadpool #1 saw the Merc with a Mouth going at a grossly anatomically inaccurate dinosaur (or a highly anatomically inaccurate non-dinosaur lizard monster) with guns blazing. Awesome.
The synopsis promised bouts between Deadpool and zombified Presidents of the United States of America (not the band). Awesome.
The comic was co-written by a hilarious comic – Brian Posehn. Awesome.
Were you paying attention? That was three awesome things. Three. Only none of them turned out to be actually awesome. They just turned out to be three things.
First and most egregiously, the dinosaur/non-dinosaur only lasted like two pages. And it didn’t even lay eggs in Madison Squad Garden or nothing.
The zombie presidents? Well they were summoned by a kooky sorcerer in a kilt who believes the great men of America’s past are the only thing that can keep it from a terrible future – which is actually a compelling enough jumping off point for a comic book, only the narrative does less jumping and more tripping.
Every new cover promised awesome new possibilities in the form of awesome new presidential zombies, be it a shotgun-toting Teddy Roosevelt amongst throngs of game animals or Abraham Lincoln in a Vegas boxing match or Richard Nixon. Every month brought with it so much potential and every month came up short.
Which leads to cowriters Brian Posehn and Gerard Duggan.
Deadpool is a funny guy, largely because he’s an unbearable smartass. But in the wrong hands an unbearable smartass is just an unbearable smartass – and unbearably so.
Duggan and Posehn’s Deadpool lives up to his title of the Merc with a Mouth, only nothing that comes out of it is particularly worth reading. For a character that has the ability to directly communicate with the reader and all the possibilities that come with that ability most of the dialogue Deadpool spews reads like the results of a caption contest. There are a lot of jokes in these books, but few if any are memorable.
I had nearly quit reading Deadpool when the dead president arc wrapped up. But then I saw that the next issue was a throwback tie-in to the decades old classic Iron Man story Demon in a Bottle and I couldn’t resist. It was actually pretty awesome. The art was old school and the gimmick was well worth the price of a single issue. It kept me going through the next issue.
Unfortunately the next issue didn’t do it for me.
But then I saw the issue after that had a giant godamn shark on the cover. So I got it. And low and behold there were indeed sharks inside. My interest was restored. And with the next issue uniting Deadpool with the new Superior Spiderman I was ready to rock.
But Deadpool wasn’t and his team up with Superior Spiderman was damn near all the smartassery I could handle.
Then I forgot to cancel my subscription.
The last issue of Deadpool I read saw Wade Wilson (sort of) run across Luke Cage, Black Widow and Daredevil. And only two of them were the product of a shape-shifter. It was a preposterous amount of shoe-horning for a single issue and yet the quality didn’t suffer in the slightest, because the bar was pretty much on the floor already.
Deadpool knows he’s in a comic book. At any moment he could literally stop everything, sit down, and have a one-sided conversation with the reader about the season finale of Game of Thrones. He could examine the very medium he occupies from the inside out. He could call into question the very seams of fiction and reality.
In Deadpool #11, the last issue I read, Deadpool is cooking for the family of the sassy black lady whose soul is residing in his body and tells them “I can make a pretty good salad, but that’s it. You can call me Wolfgang Suck.”
I don’t read Deadpool anymore.