Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Deadpool #26 - Awesome or Filler?
Deadpool has always been one of those guilty pleasure comics. It's so obscene and off-the-wall that you feel dirty and are obligated to get on your knees and pray to whatever deity you know to forgive you for laughing your ass off at something so ridiculously awesome. There's never been a whole lot of depth to the Deadpool comics and that's by design. Deadpool is crazier than an army of horny rats on PCP and it's not possible to turn that into the fucking Iliad. In a ways that's a major limitation for his titles because if you can't tell a story of sizable depth you're left with novelties and novelties always wear off the same way a hangover inevitably follows a three day bender.
To the credit of Marvel and writer Daniel Way, they've made Deadpool's story plenty entertaining despite these limitations. Since the end of Dark Reign he's gone on his share of smaller adventures, occasionally mixing with other members of the Marvel universe like Spider-Man and the X-men. These stories have been a lot of fun in most respects, but lately Deadpool has been trying to stand on his own. The last arc had him go on a little adventure in Las Vegas that involved his old friend Weasel and giant killer robots. Now it's next to impossible to make a story with Deadpool and charming robots suck, but the ending was underwhelming. Deadpool #26 picks up after that issue and begins a new story and once again Daniel Way has to find a way (sorry, I couldn't resist) to keep Deadpool's story going.
The issue starts not with Deadpool, but with someone he's clashed with in the recent past, Johnny Blaze. Right off the bat some may be thinking "Really? Again? Is Marvel contractually obligated to team these two up once a year just to remind readers that Ghost Rider is still relevant?" It really does seem the only valuable screen time Ghost Rider gets is when he crosses paths with Deadpool. He's essentially David Spade to Deadpool's Chris Farley (minus the fat and cocaine overdose).
As with all Chris Farley movies, Deadpool gets the spotlight first. He picks up right where the end of the last arc left off, confronting the greedy Casino owners that foolishly hired him to ensure their proverbial and literal edge. You would think men as rich as these guys would know not to give a guy like Deadpool a giant killer robot suit. Unfortunately, money can't by common sense. Deadpool, still struggling with this ongoing theme of being a hero, decides working for a bunch of money grubbing Terry Benadicts is not very heroic so he quits. The casino big-wigs don't like that and try to stop him. Again, Deadpool is the one in the killer robot suit. That leads to a very unheroic resolution.
Once Deadpool is done taking out the Casino elite, the book goes through a classic non-transition with Ghost Rider showing up all decked out in his flaming skull and over supped motorcycle. There's no witty exchange this time as is so common and expected in a Deadpool comic. Ghost Rider just takes his changes, ropes up Deadpool like he's a bull at a rodeo, and drags him along the back of his motorcycle like he's deer that got tided up under a pickup truck. There's not much explanation here and not in the Lost kind of way. Ghost Rider just says he's here to make Deadpool face vengeance. It's about as original as the concept of giant robots, albeit with fifty percent less awesome.
Ghost Rider drags Deadpool the entire length of the Las Vegas strip and out into the desert. It isn't until Deadpool pulls one of his trademark nasty tricks and causes them both to pull an Evil Kinevil minus the lengthy hospital stay and annoying knock-off of a son with a far less awesome name. The two men go for a tumble and Deadpool blows up Ghost Rider's motorcycle for good measure. That tears his uniform and breaks a few bones, but does little to stop Ghost Rider from grabbing him by the throat and doing his signature (by signature I mean obscenely predictable) move in the form of his penance stare. Anybody who has seen the less than stellar Nicholas Cage movie (all six of you) knows that this stare reveals the past sins of anybody who gazes into it and anybody who knows Deadpool's history knows he has a long list second only to Dick Cheney.
Not to be completely unoriginal, but there is a slight hiccup in Ghost Rider's plan. When he tries to give Deadpool that proverbial look, something short circuits. He shifts right back to Johnny Blaze for some reason, but Deadpool is still in a daze looking like he just did a shot of Tequila mixed with GHB and horse tranquilizer (not as fun as it sounds). Blaze is understandably confused, but since he's been about as exciting as a mosquito bite to this point that's not too disappointing. The real show is going on inside Deadpool's fucked up mind.
So cue the flashbacks and we get an all too familiar glimpse into Deadpool's past. Now this seems a little redundant because only a few months ago, Marvel released a Deadpool Origins book that dealt with this exact same issue. The story is well-known to anybody who has access to wikipedia. Deadpool was dying in a hospital bed before he underwent an experimental procedure that saved his life, gave him a healing factor, and made him bat shit insane. There's nothing ground breaking about that story, but at least the Origins story did tie a bit into Deadpool's family. Here, we get none of that.
The first flashback is just Deadpool lying in a bed talking to some nameless guy in a suit. He says he's been in a coma for 21 days and was so fucked up they had a funeral for him, which nobody showed up for. So not only is he messing with his head, he's really hurting the guy's self-esteem. Is it any wonder he went crazy? It's pretty bland and reveals nothing that hasn't already been revealed before. How this is supposed to be part of Ghost Rider's penance stare is a mystery that Scooby and the gang couldn't solve.
This guy in a suit, of course, isn't just any guy. He's part of some clandestine cell for the CIA called Oscar Zero. It may very well be the least intimidating name in the history of black ops. It sounds more like a Sesame Street character than a cell of dangerous government agents. But this happens before Deadpool gets sick and undergoes the Weapon X treatment so there's no witty remark about it. He's just a kid whose looking to become a killer stooge for Uncle Sam. He's not given much choice in the matter. It's either join or go back to being dead, essentially the sales pitch of every government agency in the Marvel Universe. So he does one of the few logical things a young kid does and goes along with it.
More spotty transitions come next and without even a tiny narration quote, it shows young Wade Wilson getting along nicely with his fellow operatives. He has little problem killing and his fellow agents are understandably jealous. Then without much detail or spectacle, Wade gets sick and we're once again back in familiar territory. It feels like a wasted opportunity because this could have been a great time to show how Wade became so skilled. Instead, they spend one freakin' page on this point in his past and that's it. It's like the readers are expected to fill in the blanks. I'm sorry, but isn't that what we're paying the writers at Marvel to do?
The story plays out as expected. Wade wakes up in a hospital bed (again) and gets told he has cancer. His only hope is an experimental procedure that's extremely risky and extremely painful. Again, the guys in the suits don't give him much of a choice. Either he goes along with it or dies a terrible, agonizing death. There's no dilemma. There's no drama. It's basically all laid out for Wade Wilson and that's about it. Again, how the fuck is this supposed to relate to Ghost Rider's penance stare?
If anyone was expecting an explanation, go bury your head in a pile of blow because you won't get it. The flashback ends on the very next page and Deadpool wakes up from this half-hearted trip down memory lane. He's understandably a little pissed and slugs Johnny Blaze across the face. It's not clear on whether or not this is for the Penance stare or because his little display of power was so fucking weak it is an insult to Deadpool and the comic that bears his name. I'd like to believe the latter, but with Deadpool there could be any number of reasons (including zero).
Not much else happens after this. Ghost Rider and Deadpool are now stranded in the desert (remember, Deadpool shot up his motorcycle). They have a few witty exchanges. When Deadpool asks Blaze what he saw, he replies with a statement that best sums up this entire comic "Nothing I haven't seen before." Truer words were never spoken. Deadpool also asks Blaze if he things he deserves to die. Blaze said based on what he saw, he does. But you have to wonder, if all he saw was what was shown on panel earlier than how the fuck does that make him so deserving? Deadpool has done a shit ton of other crazy antics and that somehow makes him deserving a death? Either Johnny Blaze's standards are impossibly high or impossibly lame. Either way, it doesn't bother Deadpool one bit. A guy as crazy as him can't be bothered by it or make much of a story from it either.
That's basically it. There's not much else to say about this story other than it was pure filler to compliment the end of the previous arc. I'm not against using filler as I understand it's necessary between books, but there's a fine line between filler for arcs and the filler MacDonald's uses to make their food the chemical and nutritional equivalent of radioactive shit. This story wasn't just filler. It was painfully unimaginative. Deadpool and Ghost Rider crossed paths as recently as this year and here they do it again this time without a decent fight. Most of the comic is spent going through some flashbacks for Deadpool's past and since none of them are all that ground breaking, you could completely skip over it and not miss anything whatsoever. It's bland, it's lame, and completely unfit for a comic like Deadpool that has had such a rich tradition of awesome.
I'm normally very high on Deadpool comics and will cut them a lot of slack. But I can't give much credence to a book that's such a blatant filler issue that feels like an excuse to get Ghost Rider back into the mix. As cool as flaming skulls and motorcycles are, they don't stack up in a Deadpool comic without some substance. This is one of those issues you can completely omit from your collection and not miss a beat. For that reason I can only give this issue a 1.5 out of 5. It's still a Deadpool comic with a touch of Deadpool wit, but without any substance behind it there's not much to enjoy. Hopefully the beginning of the next arc bucks this trend. That's the good thing about filler. As disgusting as it may be, like a MacDonald's burger it's always consumed quickly to make way for something bigger.