Friday, October 16, 2009

Deadpool # 15 and Thunderbolts # 136

Ahh, I do love the fresh smell of comics in the morning. Got three in the mail today -- new Deadpool, new Thunderbolts, and new Astonishing X-Men. I'll be reviewing the first two, but not the third, because it, as usual, failed to really get my attention. I've been trying so hard to like Warren Ellis's run on the series, but he's just not doing anything with it... anyway, let's get down to it.

Deadpool #15
I have, over time, come to begrudgingly respect Daniel Way and his new Deadpool series. As a diehard Deadpool fan, I've been somewhere between confused and enthralled at the recent massive exposure of the character. On one hand, Marvel has finally realized that he's one of the best things they own. On the other, they're risking overexposure by giving him two monthly titles (something that effectively killed Wolverine for me) and I really, really don't want to see one of my favorite comics characters lose his integrity.

Luckily, Way has managed to keep the solo series going relatively strong. My main complaint with it has always been its focus on comedy, however. Yes, we all know Deadpool is a funny guy -- the thing that Way doesn't seem to realize, however, is that the reason 'Pool was so awesome in Cable & Deadpool (and to a bit of a lesser extent in his previous solo effort under the great Joe Kelly) was his unique blend of insanity, hilarity, and tragedy in a world that took itself far too seriously.

Way has the hilarity nailed. There is no disputing that. Every issue -- this one included -- makes me smile at least once, and more often than not makes me laugh out loud. The insanity -- yep, very much present. Wade's got voices in his head in the form of conflicting thought panels, and they're used to great effect.

The part of Wade Wilson's character that Way seems least comfortable with seems to be the tragedy. It's sometimes hard to remember that behind the fighting skills and one-liners is a man who was diagnosed with cancer, underwent treatment akin to torture to save his life, and was left horribly disfigured as a result. This does seem to be improving as of last issue (#14) however, which mostly consisted of an introspective, maskless Wilson contemplating his own flaws via hallucinations and conversations with himself. There was definitely a change of tone in this issue, and it is my favorite of Way's run so far.

Which brings us to the issue I'm supposed to be reviewing, #15. After admitting to himself that he's made some bad decisions, he decides to do good for a change and join the X-Men. Now, this has been done before -- Wade often claims to be a mutant, and even memorably strode into battle wearing Marvel Girl's old outfit in C&DP (God I miss that series). So, not entirely original, but Way seems to have thought this story through, and even brought back an old face for the ride, though why she's working with Cyclops is beyond me.

I would, of course, be a fool of a comics nerd if I didn't comment on the art. Gorgeous. Medina is great at drawing both maskless and costumed Deadpool, and the inks and colors are all top-notch. I'm particularly fond of the towering stack of pancakes.

All in all, issue 15 has enough hints of solemnity to keep me interested, even if it's not quite as deep as the last ish was. I remain excited to see what Way will do next. Rating? 8/10, with points taken off for the overabundance of Cyclops. I hate him.

Thunderbolts #136
Oh look, another Dark Reign book. Can't say I've been reading many of them (started to lose interest in these bloody crossovers about halfway through Secret Invasion) but Thunderbolts has been a solid title throughout numerous creative and lineup changes, and for that reason continues to be one of the few books I subscribe to monthly.

This issue was a stellar example of why I love this series. Not only was the art fucking hot, but the story was great and as always, it's so much fun to see these fucked-up "heroes" at work. I'm not sure how familiar my readers (hahaha, I don't have readers) are with the Thunderbolts, but it's a superhero team composed entirely of former villains seeking redemption (or psychos who are forced to join under threat of blackmail, etc.). Under Norman Osborn's Dark Reign (boom, crackle), the Thunderbolts have turned into his own personal assassination squad. They've gone and recruited Mr. X, a truly evil serial killer, as one of their latest members.

Let me tell you about Mr. X. The only appearance he had for a very long time was a three-issue storyline in Wolverine, way back in what I consider the highpoint for Wolverine, around 2003 or so (maybe earlier, who knows). As a villain, he was damn near perfect. No superpowers, other than the ability to predict his opponent's next move -- just a sadistic desire to kill and prove himself in combat against great opponents. After beating the shit out of Wolverine about ten times throughout the course of the arc, he used his incredible fortune (the best serial killers are always rich) to leave the X-Man stranded in the middle of the ocean and disappeared. I never thought we'd see him again -- that he'd just be a minor, underrated villain with a one-paragraph Wikipedia page.

Imagine how fucking excited I was when I saw him on the cover of Thunderbolts. I embarrassed myself severely by ranting on about how damn cool it was that they'd resurrected this cool, flashy bastard and put him on the Thunderbolts. I'm still kind of in awe about it. It's rare that the characters I like the most in Marvel ever get any credit.

I suppose that's kind of why Thunderbolts kicks so much ass -- great characters who don't get much exposure. In this issue alone we've got: Ghost, a crazy spy with an intangibility suit; Fixer, who I could've sworn used to be quadriplegic; Nuke, a cyborg with an American flag tattooed on his face; Ant-Man, everyone's favorite shrinking anti-hero (oh, I slay me); Headsman, who, y'know, has a big axe; and Paladin, who just kind of seems to shoot things. Are they the Avengers? No. They're much more like real people. The reason this book works so well is that these characters haven't been rigidly defined by years of exposure, and they've never had clear-cut morals: this frees them up to act more human and be much more interesting.

Anyway, great story, great art, what more can I say? 9/10, with a point taken off for two Black Widows in the same issue. That shit confuses me.

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