Deadpool: X marks the spot and Deadpool: Monkey Business collects Deadpool #13-22, and are the first steps of my "let's be a serious comic geek and not a leech and start buying good shit" campaign. For safety I will not divulge how I got to read #1-12. It's a personal campaign, of course, worry not, I'm not going to go righteous bitch on you.
I loved the earlier Deadpool series by Priest and Simone, especially the one that connected with the Agent X series, and I was at first unconvinced by the new writer mr. Daniel Way and the "inner voices" (Deadpool has two more or less consistent "extra selves" that he has conversations with). Although I found Deadpool's role in Secret Invasion (a big, global "Event" in Marvel Universe) to be brilliant and in a way properly introducing him into the big boy game by throwing him in with Norman Osborn, anyone can shoot a pony once, and the inner voices deal was still bothering me.
I've always felt that the difficulty in writing Deadpool has been to balance his good-vs-evil. Insanity implies randomness, and randomness doesn't know good or evil; it hardly knows consequence. How to get a coherent character with interesting storylines with that in mind? It's a deadly balance act.
I'd say that Way has now proven his pony-shooting abilities to me with these two collections. X Marks The Spot has Deadpool out to become a pirate, and through a series of events has him helping rather than hurting the islands he set out to rob. What follows next is what impressed me most; a sort of looking-glass peek into a darker part of Deadpool that no one else seems to have paid any attention; namely, immortality itself could serve to drive a man insane, so what will a man do with it who is already insane? This philosophical bout with himself brings him to the fever-dazed conclusion that he'd rather be a hero, and he makes an attempt at becoming an X-Man. The story from there is a lot more complex than one first realizes, and the balance act can be summed up with one of the lines from the book: "He may be insane, but I'm starting to think he may not be crazy".
Monkey Business picks the story right up as Deadpool continues on to New York to try and soak up some hero-moves from Spider-Man, and suddenly finds himself on the best seat of the house as Spider-Man has to protect him from a mercenary-hunting monkey hitman. Again, Deadpool proves himself as much a hallucinating lunatic as a man with a plan, turning Spider-Man's life upside down in the process. The writing impressed me still, in this case because it is skillfully focused on Deadpool. What Spider-Man thinks about the whole thing can most often only be read from what he says and does, so as a reader I get the feeling of watching the frustrated hero rub his forehead through a camera stuck on Deadpool's suit, that bounces a little as Deadpool chuckles to himself.
The art is good in the two "main" stories here, the X-Men and Spider-Man stories. As for the pirate story as well as a short extra as Deadpool leaves New York, they have more looney cartooney or caricature style drawings. I can appreciate different styles of drawing, I think, but especially in the case of Deadpool I'm for a more "realistic" style because although he himself is like an mad bugs bunny, he is real in the Marvel Universe, he is in fact brutally real as many who have tasted his bullets have had to realize. A conversation with him should perhaps never be taken literally, but he as a force, an immortal man with amazing weapon skills, should always be taken very, very seriously, and that is the tragedy and the comedy. A cartooney style marginalizes the violence he does upon others, but that is a part of what makes the character complex and fascinating. Reading Deadpool should always bring along a tint of disgust, a wince where you go "what the HELL man" as he cracks a joke and a skull at the same time; just seeing him as a funny guy does not embrace all that the character is.
I always feel like I walk away from reading Deadpool having learned something subtle and difficult to pinpoint, which is also part of the charm. As when Deadpool spared Killbrew's life in the earlier series, I now await Way's followup with hesitant enthusiasm. Deadpool's chase for heroism allows a bit of creative ballet on the delicate balance of good and evil, now I can only cross my fingers and hope Way doesn't overstep and break a toe.
Spider-Man goes, as usual, for the anvil-to-the-head kind of life lessons: "It's always easy being what you are... what's hard is being what you want to be."
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