Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]
Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s Deadpool Vol. 4: Deadpool vs. SHIELD carries a bit of a misleading title. Admittedly, Deadpool vs. ULTIMATUM and One Crooked Agent of SHIELD would be a less interesting title despite its accuracy. Much of the reasoning behind the trade’s title is synergy with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The issues collected here came out shortly before the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and concurrently with the Agents of SHIELD television show’s build-up to the film. As a result, John Garrett (Bill Paxton’s character in Agents) gets name-checked, Batroc the Leaper and Crossbones appear, and Phil Coulson plays a major role along with his flying car Lola.
This ends up not being distracting in the least. Despite some changes backfiring -- expect James Rhodes to be War Machine again by the end of next year instead of Iron Patriot -- Marvel has learned from previous mistakes when matching the comics to their films. The arrival of Phil Coulson and the new Nick Fury has worked out far better than, say, the attempts to give Spider-Man organic web-shooters. I hope that the movies and shows will repay the favor by adapting some of the Deadpool characters. One of them, Agent Adsit, is even based on actor Scott Adsit (who also voices Baymax in Big Hero 6), so it would be easy enough to cast him.
Adsit was largely out of the picture in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but he’s back now that an LMD body for his deceased partner, Agent Karen Preston, has been found rampaging through New York. Preston has been in Deadpool’s mind since the end of the first trade acting as his conscience, but it’s time to put her into a new body before it’s too late. This comes while Deadpool is reeling from finding out about his daughter, leaving him depressed and more than a little unhinged. The interplay between Deadpool and Preston has been one of the best parts of the Duggan/Posehn run, and I’ll be sad to see it go even though Preston (a role Yvette Nicole Brown was born to play in the MCU) is still very much a major supporting character in the book.
There’s a definite sense in Deadpool vs. SHIELD that the writers are wrapping up the first act of the book, settling dangling plot lines like Preston’s situation and bringing back the man whose fault this all is: her old boss, Agent Gorman. This all could have been avoided had Gorman just paid Deadpool like he was supposed to. However, he’s such an arrogant yet clueless jerk that stiffing one of the world’s deadliest mercenaries is in character for him. Instead of just finally paying what he owes, Gorman offers ten million dollars to the various criminals of New York’s underworld to take him out. This leads to a long and surprisingly funny storyline involving Crossbones trying to fulfill the contract, failing, and getting stranded in the middle of the ocean on a hot air balloon until he returns, doing his best Bane impression. Mike Hawthorne’s art is crucial to getting the Bane joke once he’s drawn with the mask on but mouth revealed.
Of course, far more villains try their luck against Deadpool, including the Trapster (whom Wade still calls “Paste Pot Pete”) and the aforementioned Batroc the Leaper. In what I’ve come to find is a running gag, another of Deadpool’s friends attacks him while they both agree that it’s just business; in this case it’s Paladin, formerly of the Thunderbolts. I’m actually surprised that the Taskmaster didn’t show up here, especially since he appears in the wedding issue. The best is Sabretooth, who never even gets a chance to fight Deadpool; I won’t spoil what he does as his bits are hilarious. The ultimate villains of the book, ULTIMATUM, were major enemies in the later part of Cable and Deadpool, and while they’re second-tier compared to Hydra and AIM, that means they can be a little less effective than either of those.
This is demonstrated in issue #23, which is my favorite non-inventory issue of the run. Let me take a moment to mention Mark Brooks, the fantastic cover artist whose semi-painted style makes the book stand out on the shelves each month. Most of his covers are only abstractly related to their contents, so when I saw the Aliens spoof on the cover of issue #23, I thought it was just a gag. It turns out that it really is an issue-long homage to Aliens with Deadpool acting as a Xenomorph while infiltrating ULTIMATUM’s helicarrier. Wade’s rage does not reduce his ability to be funny; shortly after dumping acid on some scientists, he demands “My money! My precious!” through an airduct once he finds Gorman. It’s moments like this that make the book the best incarnation of Deadpool since Fabian Nicieza’s Cable and Deadpool at the very least; at points it might be the best since Joe Kelly’s run.
Before all the madness, there’s another inventory issue, although it’s the weakest of these so far. It’s not the fault of artist Scott Koblish, who imitates Jack Kirby down to the angles and Ben-Day dots. The problem is that the story is unfocused. Duggan and Posehn use Deadpool’s quest for a cosmic artifact to have him fight as many Kirby monsters as he can, and while it’s cool to see Mangog and Fin Fang Foom drawn in that style again, the only point to be made is that some of Kirby’s stories were really weird. This doesn’t detract from the main narrative and the next inventory issue makes up for it tenfold. With the first two years of the book complete in Deadpool vs. SHIELD, Wade is free to get married in the next volume -- and my next review -- The Wedding of Deadpool.