Eight months ago, Marvel launched Secret Wars #1 and we’ve been getting new #1s seemingly every month since then. By now, I would think I would have grown tired of reading introductions to stories every month. And by some measures, I have. But if the few remaining #1s to be released are even a quarter as good as Spider-Man/Deadpool #1, I’m 100% on board.
When the book was first announced, I was apprehensive to say the least. “Another Deadpool book,” the cynic in me thought, “hasn’t this guy been a little played out by this point?“ This was, of course, before I learned that veteran Deadpool and Spider-Man writer Joe Kelly was behind the project. I went from dismissive to intrigued. Then when I saw the pencils were to be done by none other than Ed McGuinness, I was down-right excited. Not (only) because their previous work with Deadpool is considered one of the character’s finest hours, but because they are two extremely talented creators.
Do they still have the magic? Are they going to be able to pull it off like they did almost twenty years ago? If this issue is any indication of the quality to come, we have another classic on our hands. I do not say things like that lightly. But enough blowing smoke, let’s dive into the actual comic and dissect it.
The humor. Oh man, this book hits just the right notes you’d expect. The humor is vulgar, the humor is crass, the humor is gross, but in a way that is strangely earned—something atypical of toilet/frat humor. Crude humor is extremely easy to do, but nigh impossible to do in a way that does not seem insulting to the audience’s intelligence. And yet Spider-Man/Deadpool #1 gives us the set-up needed for these jokes to be pulled off with finesse. Well, as much finesse as you can give a series of bathroom puns. All of this is to say that these vulgar beats do not come off as forced or trying too hard, a la Adam Sandler, et al, but as natural observations given the situations these two characters find themselves in. Perhaps also assisting this is a self-awareness displayed by the characters; for example, Spider-Man comments that given his battle with Hydro-Man is taking place in a water treatment plant, toilet humor is “low hanging fruit.”
Deadpool and Spider-Man play off each other well. Before reading this title I figured that I knew more or less how Deadpool would be written, but I wasn’t sure what kind of Spider-Man we would see: a Dan Slott goofball partner-in-crime or more of a straight man? We ended up getting a mix of both; Spider-Man tenses up around Deadpool, lest Deadpool gets the idea Spider-Man likes him. While Spider-Man is clearly annoyed by Deadpool’s antics, there’s a bit more to their dynamic than just goofy-versus-straight, instigator-versus-target. By the end of the book, we see something that resembles a big brother/little brother relationship begin to form between the two.
Deadpool wants to walk a better path. He looks up to Spider-Man, not in an effort to emulate him, but because of what Spider-Man stands for: putting others before yourself, for taking responsibility, and for doing the right thing. He knows if he can get someone like Spider-Man to respect him, it’s because he has finally been able to display those traits consistantly. Conversely, Spider-Man treats Deadpool as an annoyance, but, after seeing— and perhaps even identifying with— Deadpool’s struggles with self-loathing, he opens up to him. Slightly. At the very least, he finds it difficult to continue to hate him “like [he’s] been doing for years.”
However, as a team-up book, Spider-Man/Deadpool #1 feels a little uneven. This reads more like a Deadpool issue wherein Spider-Man guest stars, which may have something to do with the years Kelly and McGuinness spent writing Deadpool. All the story beats happen because of Deadpool, the plot progresses because of Deadpool, and the pathos is supplied by Deadpool.
I will admit that I have not kept up with Deadpool much over the years, so there were a few pieces of dialog that left me puzzled. They were not essential pieces to the narrative, but they did act as road bumps as I tried to fit these new pieces of information into my understanding of the character (he’s married now, by the way!). Normally this sort of thing does not bother me, but with a character like Deadpool, you’re never quite sure when he’s joking. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would have liked an “As seen in issue ____ – Neighborly Nick Low!” just so I knew what was pertinent to my trivia knowledge.
The art. Can I just say “Ed McGuinness” and call it a day? His pencils are pretty much the gold standard I hold everyone else’s art up against. This book really has a great flow to it, action scenes are set up perfectly and clearly, the panels are filled with little details (it took me three reads before I noticed hell is a super market called “Soulmart”), and despite both characters wearing full masks, Deadpool and Spider-Man are brilliantly emotive and animated. Inker Mark Morales and colorist Jason Keith also knock this book out of the park. Deadpool and Spider-Man not only pop out of backgrounds dominated by reds and black, they leap from the page. I honestly flipped through this book an extra time just to look for something that I didn’t love visually and came up empty-handed. From the little bits (ew) swirling inside of Hydro-Man, to the imprint of Deadpool’s lips in his mask, to the questioning look given by Deadpool’s belt buckle as he holds two cadaver brains, this book is just neat, neat, neat to look at.
In short, I loved this. Is it a great Spider-Man story? We’ll see how the rest of the arc pans out. Is it a great story with Spider-Man in it? Surely. Side bonus, the physical copy includes Vision #1 which absolutely floored me when I picked it up as an impulse buy back in November. This isn’t a review for Vision, nor is this website Superior Vision-Talk (20/20 Vision Talk?) so I won’t gush on it here (feel free to ask for my opinion in the comment section!), but I will say you’re getting two of All-New All-Different Marvel’s best books for 4 bucks when you buy Spider-Man/Deadpool #1.
Irreverent, crass, bawdy, and with a hint of heart, Kelly and McGuinness bring back the Merc with a Mouth like they never left the character. Oh yeah, Spider-Man's there too! An amazing first issue that works as both as a launching point for a story line as well as a stand-alone team-up issue. Though it may lean on Deadpool a little more than Spider-Man, this is still a book worth picking up for fans of either character.