Review: Deadpool Vol. 7: Axis trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

It's possible that Axis has set a new record for the number of good stories resulting from a bad crossover. Books like Loki: Agent of Asgard used it as a starting point to warp their heroes, while tie-ins like Carnage took the main crossover's concepts past their limits. Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, much like Al Ewing on Loki, were able to fit a personality inversion into their plans for a merc who has a history of changing personalities at whim, in Deadpool Vol. 7: Axis. Before I get to that, however, I need to address the trade I skipped over, which is the tie-in to Original Sin.

At its core, Deadpool's Original Sin story is extremely important to the overall arc of the title since it introduces his daughter, Ellie. It also ends with a spectacular inventory issue featuring Scott Koblish impersonating Rob Liefeld to answer an important question about Wade Wilson's past. (No feet appear in the comic at all.) A couple of unfortunate decisions made Deadpool: Original Sin the weakest trade of the series; primarily, the plotting is jumbled. Too much of the story revolves around a wacky team-up with a time-lost Dazzler, whose personality barely goes beyond the many disco-related jokes made at her expense. Her presence killed a lot of momentum of the Deadpool/Shiklah relationship. Even Duggan and Posehn realized that they had messed up since Dazzler is returned to her era off-panel.

While I appreciated the skills of the artists on Deadpool, I never paid much attention the series' regular penciler, Mike Hawthorne, until Original Sin saw him temporarily replaced. John Lucas is a good artist in his own right, but his style doesn't fit in with Hawthorne's or Koblish's; his characters are too exaggerated and the panels feel too dark and cluttered. I was relieved to learn that Hawthorne and Koblish are returning for the relaunch of the book as part of the strategy of changing nothing about this awesome creative team. In particular, Koblish deserves an extra kudos for drawing issue #40 as a coloring book, assisted by Val Staples doing a purposefully sloppy coloring job to make it look half-filled-in.

Back to Axis, one of my biggest complaints about the affected heroes and villains was the inconsistency of how the Inversion affected them. The villains became complete superheroes; in turn the heroes became either jerks (like Superior Iron Man) or piles of rage (like the Hulk, and I refuse to type the name he took in Axis.) Duggan and Posehn took a third path: instead of being a goody too-shoes or an asshole, Deadpool found inner peace through Inversion. It creates a new personality, "Zenpool," which pushes his regular persona into the depths of his brain. With this change comes a new, white costume with prayer beads and a hood that will hopefully get an action figure before the Ryan Reynolds movie comes out. It's unfortunate timing that he gets a non-violent personality right when heroes are turning against his friends.

This mental shift is a big payoff for the dozen or so issues that Emily Preston spent trapped as the second voice in Deadpool's head, as well as his combination and separation from Madcap. I'm reminded of the classic Batman: Going Sane in which the Joker gets cured by seemingly killing Batman, or when the Martian Manhunter tampered with both his brain and the Joker's in Grant Morrison's JLA. Deadpool's issues have always been part of his brain, both in the physical sense and in the composition of his thoughts and memories. The writers have essentially established that there are extra "slots" for other personalities that are jockeying to take the wheel. Perhaps Steve Rogers will end up in Wade's head after his elderly body dies ... or maybe this could be the path to Wolverine's resurrection.

Duggan and Posehn use Deadpool's required presence in Axis to bring back and pull together some subplots that needed revisiting. A visit to the X-Men's Jean Gray School confirms that Deadpool has kept up his brotherly relationship with Evan Sabah Nur, the young Apocalypse clone he bonded with in Uncanny X-Men. This bond proves important to both the conclusion of this arc in particular and to Axis in general. Even better, the North Korean X-Men return and relocate to the school in an attempt to stabilize their decomposing bodies. This allows Nightcrawler to meet Kim, his Korean duplicate, a meeting arranged back in The Wedding of Deadpool. This supports Deadpool's continuing improvement in the eyes of other superheroes; it's no wonder he'll be an Avenger after Secret Wars.

Even with the relative seriousness of Deadpool's acceptance and rejection of Nirvana (the Buddhist concept, not the band), the laughs still keep coming in this trade. Yet another subplot resurfaces in the form of Dracula and his plan to defeat Deadpool ... using a classic '60s Spider-Slayer with his face on its television screen head. Shiklah's a frequent source of humor thanks to her very inhuman way of thinking, demonstrating the character's potential that would lead to the Mrs. Deadpool spin-off. Issue #40, the coloring book issue, is the most humorous as a way to cool down after a dramatic arc, and even then it gets into controversies about fracking (or as they call it, "gracking") by everyone's favorite fictional company Roxxon. The punchline comes in the form of a couple of real-life celebrities making unexpected appearances. This story does an impressive job of not being overly preachy while still discussing real ecological issues.

The Deadpool title proved that it was able to recover from its Original Sin missteps quickly with the Axis tie-ins collected in Deadpool Vol. 7: Axis. Marvel editorial agrees since the entire creative team, minus Brian Posehn for a few issues, is returning for the book's All New, All Different relaunch. I've never been happier about a lack of change.


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