Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]
Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s Deadpool run is a classic example of why companies need to give writers time to understand their characters. From a good first volume and a great second volume comes this fantastic third volume, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which locks them in as one of the best Deadpool creative teams of all time. Much of this comes from finally giving Emily Preston, formerly an agent of SHIELD and currently a voice in Wade Wilson’s head after her death, a key role in the story. Not only can she explore his mind, but she can also take over his body at certain points, effectively becoming the conscience he never had.
The writers seem to agree with me when it comes to using Deadpool as a foil for Marvel’s more serious characters. This volume is split between two stories, each featuring a team-up with a different pair of superheroes. As I’ve mentioned before, the book switches to an “Untold Tales of Deadpool” format every six issues or so, and this book starts off with Deadpool in the very funky 1970s, complete with an Afro. He misreads an ad for the Heroes for Hire and decides to become a teammate of Power Man and Iron Fist as they take on a neighborhood-controlling gang. Not only do we get Luke Cage in full jive-talk and tiara, but there’s also a great sequence parodying “The Warriors” along with a cameo from Aunt May Parker.
As many Heroes for Hire stories do, the gang turns out to be related to a bigger villain. In this case, it’s the White Man, a pimp who can turn people to stone with his cane. The sheer volume of “blaming the White Man” jokes threatens to stall the two-parter, but it’s saved by setting the second part in the modern day to contrast '70s “tough guy” Power Man with 2010s “dad and Avenger” Luke Cage. This is all drawn by the outstanding Scott Koblish, who makes the '70s issue and modern issue look like they’ve been drawn by two different artists. This is accomplished in part by switching colorists since Val Staples is able to create faded-paper effects and artificial color errors.
For the second story, the art team switches to Moon Knight’s Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, the latter of whom rightfully won an Eisner this year. This is, as I mentioned in the review for Deadpool: Soul Hunter, the story which began with an attack from organ thieves. The trail of the thieves leads back to a fugitive scientist from Weapon Plus. If you’re not up on your Marvel retcons, Grant Morrison revealed in his New X-Men run that the “X” in Weapon X is actually the Roman numeral 10 and that the program began as part of the advanced organization called Weapon Plus. They also created Captain America (Weapon 1), Wolverine (Weapon 10), Fantomex (Weapon 13), and, according to a popular inside joke, the weaponized animals of We-3. As a result, it was a natural fit to have Captain America and Wolverine guest star in the main arc.
Due to the popularity of Wolverine and Deadpool, retcons abound concerning who was involved with Weapon X and how those characters’ backstories unfolded. Deadpool in particular has had numerous origins with many written off as fake memories. Duggan and Posehn use this tactic again but add a twist: the fake memories were provided by the evil Doctor Butler to keep Deadpool calm while his organs were harvested. This allows the reader to pick and choose what “really” happened in the Deadpool canon (the infamous “T-Ray is actually Wade Wilson” plotline is specifically written out). Butler’s full motives are kept murky; he claims to be trying to save his sister, but when she awakens, she’s not entirely sure who he is. His utter lack of ethics is on full display with his collaboration with the North Koreans.
The story really kicks into gear with the introduction of the North Korean X-Men, a group of poor souls turned into X-Men replicas using mutant DNA and Deadpool’s healing factor. Their plight, combined with Butler’s constant mental tampering and the revelation that Deadpool has a daughter, is enough to finally force some true character development. Shalvey and Bellaire use sparsely-colored flashbacks to show the more horrific scenes, such as Deadpool escaping his initial imprisonment after gaining his powers and the “training” of Kim, the North Korean Nightcrawler. Wolverine is notably affected by Kim’s presence as this story came out a few months before Kurt Wagner came back to life. He had also lost his healing ability by this time and there’s a great deal of empathy between him and Deadpool, who also was unable to heal at one point.
I’m leaving quite a bit of Deadpool Vol. 3: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly unspoiled as there are many excellent smaller moments worth waiting for. The next trade, Deadpool vs. SHIELD, wraps up the dangling plot lines and sets up Wade’s wedding, an event set up by a digital-first title. We’re not quite at the Deadpool glut of a few years back, and the spin-offs and tie-ins have great creative teams, including Peter David and Scott Koblish’s upcoming Deadpool’s Art of War. But even if Deadpool does become overexposed again, Duggan, Posehn and their art teams have turned him into a character worth following throughout his adventures.
Next week, it’s a return to IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye as the giant robots get ready for the Dark Cybertron crossover.