The Comic Book Club: Deadpool MAX

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: we end up talking about what we picked up. This week, Douglas Wolk, Graeme McMillan, Evan Narcisse and Mike Williams discuss Deadpool MAX #1 and the new DC Comics Presents project.

DOUGLAS: Unlike a couple of you, I was expecting Deadpool Max to be at least interesting. I like a lot of David Lapham’s stuff (especially Young Liars, although it took a while to grow on me), I think Kyle Baker’s just alarmingly gifted, and I figured that if they were signing on to do a work-for-hire series together at this point it’d be something so cool they had to do it. And the MAX imprint has yielded some great stuff in the past, especially Alias and Garth Ennis’s Punisher: it turns out that sometimes there’s superhero material you need to have an explicit-content license to do right.

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But this is just wretched–a generic Deadpool story like any other, except with extra gore, cussing, poop, gay-baiting and domestic-violence jokes. Baker draws it in the freaky-distorted style that he used on Special Forces, in which everybody’s gestures and expressions are pumped up to outlandishly silly-looking levels–it’s technically fantastic work, and in the service of a genuinely funny story, I think it’d be really effective. But Special Forces had a legitimate satirical sting; this doesn’t have a single successfully funny moment, and it has a lot of failed attempts at funny moments, starting with the “crumpets” bit on the first page. I’ll repeat what I said last time we talked about Deadpool: he’s funny when he’s the only character who’s not taking his surroundings seriously at all.

Punisher worked as a MAX character because Ennis mostly toned down the superhero stuff, and gave him a single, clear, unstoppable motivation; after that, he could pull off everything from comedy to psychological horror, because the stories’ engine was always what happened when Hurricane Frank came to fulfill his mission, and the MAX tag let him make those stories as vivid as he liked. Lapham’s Deadpool is a delusional, unkillable psycho with scraps of motivation that don’t even begin to make sense, in a setting where everyone else is at least as much a loose cannon. There’s no drama and no comedy and nothing to bring me back for the next issue.

MIKE: Wretched will have to do, Douglas. I want to use coarser, more low-brow adjectives. After reading this I assumed we could just go back a month or two to the last time we talked about a Deadpool comic in The Club and just copy and paste it. It’s zany without being funny. It’s over the top without being remotely interesting. Now with the MAX rating there’s more sex (but somehow it feels like less violence), more blue humor, and more all around adult content but as you mentioned no payoff.

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Yes, Deadpool is a mercenary and an assassin, but that doesn’t mean he needs a MAX title. In fact, he doesn’t need a title at all. If the last three years or so have shown us anything, it’s that Wade Wilson is a support character. Fine, he can keep his team-up book. I’m scared to even look at the sales figures for his titles, I just don’t want to even know.

All of this is made worse by the fact that Rick Remender just wrote a fantastic opening sequence starring Deadpool in this week’s Uncanny X-Force. It was well paced, witty if not laugh out loud funny, and above all he kept the spirit of the character intact without turning him The Mask. Ugh, Deadpool MAX has actually put me in a bad mood. I don’t even want to scan images for this post.

GRAEME: I am so glad that it’s not just me that thought that Deadpool MAX was such a failure. I’m actually kind of surprised that I didn’t find it funny in the least, because for all my problems with Lapham’s writing – generally, I think he goes for style over substance in almost everything he doesn’t create himself – I normally find him amusing, but here… Nooooo. It tries too hard, but doesn’t actually have any comedic punch at all, and instead comes over as nasty and misanthropic. It felt, at times, as if Lapham was trying to write a parody of the Deadpool cliche (“It’s Looney Tunes but with a mental superhero!”) with added “Aren’t gay people funny.” Storywise, it’s really, really bad, and a little troubling, as well.

(Tying in with Mike’s comment: Wade Wilson is a supporting character in this book. He’s a McGuffin at best here, barely on panel and just an excuse for Agent Bob to do whatever he has to do for Lapham to feel comedic – Hey, he’s been raped! That’s HILARIO… Oh, wait.)

Artwise, I’ll admit, I’m glad to see Baker back in a style closer to I Die At Midnight and You Are Here than some of his recent, very-clearly-done-using-CGI-programs, work, but I think you’re right, Douglas: It’s not really working here. I’m not entirely sure why, because I think it isn’t entirely reliant on the writing to succeed, yet it fails anyway. Maybe it’s too garish to work with the story, and the dissonance is throwing me off?

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