THE COMIC COMPENDIUM: Deadpool: Dead Presidents (2013)

Is this recent outing for the Merc with a Mouth worth a look? Edward breaks the fourth wall to find out. 

Who made it?:  Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan (Writers), Tony Moore (Art), Marvel Comics.

Who’s in it?: Deadpool, Benjamin Franklin, Thor.

Original run: Deadpool #1-6.

Released: 2013.

Although regularly noted to be an “unintentional” imitation of DC’s wise-cracking mercenary Deathstroke, Deadpool is somehow the immediate favourite character for people who like to think themselves comic book fans after having discovered him in the ridiculously bad film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the excitement around the announced solo film that never was. Known for his use of humour, breaking of the fourth wall and complete inability to die, Deadpool has always been a character whose strengths, for me, lie in his being a supporting character. Fabian Nicieza’s Cable & Deadpool run was, for the most part, generally amusing yet there are multiple other titles out there that leave much to be desired, specifically the ridiculously awful Deadpool Max and the pointless Deadpool Corps.

Yet “Marvel Now!” gave Deadpool the chance to finally have an enjoyable solo series of his very own with the announcement that actor/comedian Brian Posehn was teaming-up with writer Gerry Duggan and artist Tony Moore to create a brand-new Deadpool series. A genuinely funny comedian writing one of the funniest characters, with art by the guy who drew the first six issues of The Walking Dead? You know, the comic of that TV show you love? Wow. On paper, the idea was sound, but we all know that ideas on paper are useless without brilliant execution (something Deadpool loves). The question is: with Marvel taking this risk, did it actually work?

Well, in these first six issues, we see Deadpool hired by S.H.I.E.L.D. (seriously, you should know what the acronym stands for by now) to covertly take down a group causing havoc and mayhem across the country with minimum fuss. This group? The resurrected and corrupted bodies of each and every past dead President of the United States, from George Washington through to Ronald Reagan, who plan to destroy every living thing in America due to what they perceive as a departure from their original goals. And it’s up to Deadpool and Benjamin Franklin to stop them all, with a little help from a few acquaintances.

The style is initially a bit different from what I’d consider to be “classic” Deadpool, as although there’s plenty of inappropriate humour, meta fourth wall-breaking and violence, there’s only the one text box. Although he may be speaking to himself, he’s not actually having conversations with himself, something that has been a staple of the character from the beginning. Although, in all fairness, we discover later on that this is intentional and is sorted out quite satisfactorily.

What is familiar is the puns, some outrageously (and hopefully intentionally) bad, whilst others do manage to be genuinely humorous, although there are no real rib-ticklers in the lot. The comedy does seem to come through the situations that Deadpool and his allies are put into, such as our introduction to the Merc with a Mouth where he and Thor “team-up” to take down a monster rampaging through Manhattan. Also, healing powers? Not necessarily worth it.

Posehn will be known by most people as a stand-up comedian or due to his multiple cameos in American sitcoms, and Duggan as a writer and producer who’s no stranger to comics. Their pairing appears to be a good choice as Posehn adds an original and fresh funny bone, whilst Duggan is able to give stability and experience. The partnership is so cohesive that it feels like its written by just one creative. Artist Moore was another inspired choice for the series, as his style of art seems to fall somewhere between detailed and cartoony, capturing both the gore and the action equally well. His expertise in horror comics certainly brings out the carnage, and this has probably the best representation of Wade Wilson’s scarred and ruined face I’ve ever seen.

All of this should add-up to one of the best comics of the Marvel Now! event, but somehow 2 + 2 has managed to equal 22. Dead Presidents almost feels too clinical. Its original, gory and thoroughly deserves the praise that’s been heaped on it, but it still feels too calculated. Yes, the art is great, yes the writers are funny and continue to be outstanding, but it does it all in a way that doesn’t grab me in the way it should. I wasn’t hooked the way I should be with a truly great comic. I’m intrigued enough to give the rest of the series a go, but it’ll probably end up on my “to read” list with items I’ve been meaning to pick up for five years. Despite my uncertainty, I feel the series is definitely worth a read and is probably too weird to appeal to casual “fans,” so die-hards can finally feel superior about liking a Deadpool comic again.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • Created by artist Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza, Deadpool made his first appearance in the pages of New Mutants #98 published in February 1991. Rob Liefeld, a fan of the Teen Titans comics, showed his new character to then writer Fabian Nicieza. Upon seeing the costume and noting his characteristics (killer with super agility), Nicieza contacted Liefeld, saying “this is Deathstroke from Teen Titans.” 
  • In 1997, Deadpool was given his own ongoing title, initially written by Joe Kelly, with then-newcomer Ed McGuinness as an artist. The series firmly established his supporting cast, including his prisoner/den mother Blind Aland his best friend WeaselDeadpool became an action comedy parody of the cosmic drama, antihero-heavy comics of the time. The ongoing series gained cult popularity for its unorthodox main character and its balance of angst and pop culture slapstick and the character became less of a villain, though the element of his moral ambiguity remained. The wrKelly noted, “With Deadpool, we could do anything we wanted because everybody just expected the book to be cancelled every five seconds, so nobody was paying attention. And we could get away with it.”

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