First, no. I know this post is partially about Deadpool but I’m not talking about going deeper in that way. So let’s all be adults and move on alright? It’ll only make things harder if we can’t let it go. I’m talking about emotional depth here people! Second, I’ve been avoiding Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness’ brilliant new series Spider-Man/Deadpool since it was released. Yes, it stars my favorite character of all time alongside the one who’s ended up symbolizing my return to the world of comics. Yes, it’s getting rave reviews from critics and fans alike. And yes, comic shops can’t keep it on the shelves. But, as I wrote last week, I’ve been trying to avoid Peter Parker’s world since I’ve come back home to Marvel Comics. Alas…I had to try it. And now I’m ashamed I waited so long!
Before we go any further, we need to make one thing absolutely clear. J.D. and Turk, (from the criminally underrated TV series Scrubs) will ALWAYS hold the title for the greatest bromance of all time. Period. End of story. No one comes close. If you don’t believe me, please click here for a clip from the Season Six episode “My Musical.” See? Now imagine that sort of love spread out over the nine season run of Scrubs (and a real life friendship to match). Zach Braff and Donald Faison have set the gold standard all other bromances seek to emulate. But Spidey and Deadpool offer us something unique all the same.
I’m one who, from time to time, is prone to hyperbole. (At least that’s what Kalie tells me.) But I exaggerate nothing when I say the bromantic exploits of Spider-Man/Deadpool create one of the most perfect comics I’ve ever read. I knew I’d enjoy it. How couldn’t I? But I couldn’t’ve been ready for something this good. Since diving in, I’ve read the first five issues of the series three times apiece and they delight me as much each time through. I began literally laughing out loud from the first page of the first issue and the humor rarely lets up. Kelly captures Spidey and Deadpool’s individual wit so perfectly. I can’t write enough of the humor in this book. This is consistently the funniest comic I’ve ever read (with the exception of Ryan North’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). Kelly doesn’t leave it at hilarious though. Just slightly behind the humor is a relationship of surprising emotional depth.
The pairing gives us so much to connect with, allowing the book to not only be wildly hilarious but resonate deeply with the reader. You see, Spider-Man HATES Deadpool…but Deadpool idolizes Spidey. It’s a situation we can appreciate from either side. After they take out Hydro-Man, Spider-Man tells Deadpool off in no uncertain terms, “So, to be clear, if you ever so much as think about messing with me again…if you look in my general direction…if you so much as walk through a spider web anywhere in the continental United States…I will web your head to your boxer shorts. Permanently. You utterly and completely disgust me.” Let’s be honest, we’ve all had someone in our lives who makes us feel this way. You know the person. You grit your teeth as soon as they come in the room and part of you (irrationally) resents having to breath the same air they do. It’s unhealthy and horrible and founded on nothing that can’t be overcome but we’ve all been there. So we can empathize with what Spidey’s feeling.
But we connect with Deadpool too. Deadpool’s wall comes down (exposing his quiet loneliness and self-loathing) as he tells Spidey, “So weird…that’s what the guy in the mirror says to me every morning.” They banter back and forth for a bit and right before Spider-Man leaves Deadpool pleads, “Would you just wait?! For one second? Please…” Spider-Man pauses as he continues, “It’s really #&$%* hard. I know…you think I’m dirt. Dirt with a key to Avengers’ Tower, but still…I’m trying to change. And you know what? It’s hard trying to be more like you. So I thought, maybe… if we palled around a bit…” Spider-Man finishes, “That I could teach you to what…? To be…good? A ‘hero’?” Deadpool replies honestly and vulnerably, “No. Something like that isn’t taught. It’s earned. I thought if I hung with you, doing the next right thing, I could earn it…and maybe your respect too.”
Everyone can identify with feeling rejected and alone. And we all know what it’s like to desperately want to fit in and belong when you ‘re unavoidably the outsider. I’d wager that’s one of the reasons Deadpool’s popularity continues to last. He’s the hero we see the most insecure parts of ourselves in. Yet in spite of it all he keeps joking, keeps laughing, and keeps going forward. Everyone also struggles with figuring out how to be who they aspire to be and we all seek validation from our role models. Deadpool wants to be like the superheroes of the Marvel Universe. He wants to be like his hero Spider-Man and have his respect. But he just doesn’t know how. This is another universal struggle we can all connect to with Deadpool’s character.
Lastly, Deadpool sort of represents the ultimate fanboy. Reading this stuff as a kid, I grew up playing superheroes. My brother and I would run around the house and the backyard when we were little imagining that we were all the various characters from the comics we read and the cartoons we watched. At times it seems Deadpool wants to be Spider-Man even more than I did. So if comic book superheroes are modern myths, meant to guide and teach us, then the reader can follow Deadpool as he tries to learn more about power, responsibility, and nobility from Spider-Man…and learn right alongside him.
See? This is a surprising amount of depth for a comic book where the first issue opened with one of the funniest erection jokes I’ve ever read. But this is just the first layer to a continually intimate and personal book.
The second issue gives the reader a new layer of depth with a difficult-to-watch example of just how harshly our words can wound another…and why we shouldn’t be so quick or absolute in our judgments of others. Deadpool is trying to help the Spider-Men (Miles Morales is along for the ride too) deal with a Goblin Army attack that is the result of a hallucination.
Deadpool knows it’s not real, and he’s trying to show Peter that something else is going on. Frustrated by what he perceives as Deadpool needlessly slowing them down, Spider-Man screams at Wade, “The world is on fire and you’re on the wrong side! You’re always on the wrong side! You want to know why I hate you? This is why! You’re selfish, stupid, and I can’t trust you to have my back.” In a heartbreaking panel Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth, finally has nothing to say…
Spider-Man is stunned when the truth comes out. “You saved us?” he stammers. “Not me. I’m a raging jackhole,” Deadpool replies. Peter offers a quiet, “I’m sorry, I…” before Deadpool cuts him off, “No big. Which is guy code for ‘shut the &%#$ up.'” Spider-Man tries again to apologize, “Wade…I…when I said you were…” but Deadpool cuts him off again, “You said it. I heard it. We’re not friends. Whatever…”
However, the sadness doesn’t last forever. In reality, one of the core themes running through the first five issues of Spider-Man/Deadpool is the idea of transformation. Deadpool saves Mysterio’s life and, in doing so, really impresses Peter. As he thanks Deadpool for his help, he texts him his number. “Call me sometime,” Spider-Man says as he swings off the building. I got a little teary eyed! It’s a surprisingly tender moment.
We see even more emotional complexity in how the growing friendship between Peter and Wade allows each to challenge the other, resulting in new growth. Obviously Deadpool is wrestling with how to do the right thing and he’s looking to Spider-Man as much for friendship as he is for guidance. But Wade has a few important lessons to teach Peter as well.
In the third issue, it’s Deadpool who opens Spider-Man’s eyes to the harsh realities of the world. Hired to battle a religious cult led by Styx and Stone, Deadpool brings Spidey and his Mercs for the Money to Bolivia. After the battle throws them through a wall, Spider-Man’s incensed by what he sees. “This is a drug lab! Are we protecting a drug cartel?” he demands. Deadpool begins to reply, “I knew the Mercado family farm was having some trouble…” when Spidey cuts in, “We’re fighting for drug dealers!” But Deadpool knows the deeper truth, “Really…? Geez, dude, open your eyes… We’re not here helping Scarface or Pablo Escobar. Look at these people – it’s cook drugs or get shot for half of them. Then it’s get shot or farm drugs for the other half. We don’t all get to be white guys in America. What they’re doing is for their own survival.” Wow! Go Deadpool! I was not ready for such an accurate and succinct presentation of the global reality of systemic injustice in Spider-Man/Deadpool #3…but I love this comic book all the more for it!
Spider-Man asks, “You think they’re gonna keep doing what they’re doing?” Deadpool continues to teach, saying, “Probably. Not my business. I don’t have the power to change all of Bolivia for pity’s sake. It would take someone with a butt-ton of money and power to do real work down here.” This is another succinct yet important nod to both the Myth of Redemptive Violence and the idea of systemic injustice. Deadpool’s reminding Spider-Man (and by extension the readers) you can’t solve every problem with your fists – especially the most insidious ones. It also illustrates the need for communal action to solve the world’s biggest problems. We can’t truly fix anything on our own.
The comic ends on a deeply moving note, as Deadpool introduces Spider-Man to his daughter, Ellie. I’ve missed Ellie’s presence in the main series for a looong time. She adds a special dimension to Deadpool’s character – and it’s an important dimension too. Full disclosure…my eyes were a little misty by the end of this sequence too.
Before Peter swings away, Wade tells him, “I didn’t know about her for a long time and then, poof, insta-daughter…no one knows. Ellie stays here, safe…until I stop playing the dumb ass and turn into a real boy. Maybe then I’ll be Dadpool… Is that impossible? People change. You went from hero of the streets to corporate shill. I’m a father. The world’s %&#*$ weird, what do you want me to tell you? I had a good day. Hope I passed your judgy test of my character, or whatever.” As Peter swings away he muses, “Just when you think you know a guy you hate…”
AGAIN, we see another layer of depth. Deadpool’s struggling to find out not just how to be a good super hero but a good father. For all the sex jokes, bathroom humor, rude innuendo, and penchant for violence and bloodshed, Deadpool understands what really matters. And he’s doing everything he can to protect his daughter and become the man she needs him to be.
The third issue ends with Peter being inspired by Deadpool. He calls Anna Maria to say, “How much money do you think it takes to protect a province in Bolivia? I’m thinking about diverting the focus of the Uncle Ben Foundation to areas in the grip of the narco-economy.” She asks him, “Think it’ll make a difference?” Peter assures her, “I think when you give people a chance to change for the better…they’ll take it.”
There you have it – transformation, acceptance, responsibility, inclusion and more laughs per page than just about any other comic book out there. It also has the best members of Deadpool’s cast (who inexplicably have been absent from the main title since the first arc). In addition to Ellie we have Shiklah too! Deadpool’s not just thinking of his immortal wife, Queen of the Monster Metropolis, or mentioning her but he’s actually with her again!
This is the only series that seems to acknowledge that Deadpool’s married. I don’t know why that is!! Shiklah’s such a great character! She’s never mentioned in Deadpool: Mercs for the Money and is only mentioned in passing comments in the Deadpool main title. I think their relationship is important! It adds a dynamic dimension to Deadpool as a character. Her regular inclusion is something else I love about this book. I adore Shiklah as a character and their relationship is my personal favorite, second only to his relationship with Agent Preston. So I love seeing them together again!
So, for me, this is the perfect Deadpool comic. And, oh yeah, Spider-Man’s there too! I still can’t return to all the Spider titles, but this is a wonderful way to spend time with an old friend. The perfect picture of Deadpool. The perfect way to experience Spider-Man. And it’s as heartfelt and intelligent as it is funny!
The humor is certainly what makes this book a great read. But it’s emotional depth is what makes it an absolutely necessary read. Spider-Man/Deadpool has quickly become indispensable to my monthly pull list. It is exactly what I read comics looking for. I think I might even cut the main title – Deadpool – for it. This book gives me EVERYTHING I love about Deadpool along with Spider-Man, emotionally complex narratives, an awareness of social-justice, and the most fun/humor in any comic book I read.