It’s been a while since the last Spider-Man/Deadpool. Marvel gave us an additional three weeks to serve as a palate cleanser from last month’s disappointing issue, and honestly, that might have not been enough time. But here we are, a few days after Christmas with one last Christmas themed issue until next year. Or should I say Saturnalia?
This is the fourth guest issue we’ve had for Spider-Man/Deadpool, and the last one of this batch until March’s crossover with Deadpool. This month we have Nick Giovannetti and Paul Scheer sharing a writing credit, while Todd Nauck serves as artist and Rachelle Rosenberg adds her colors. Giovannetti and particularly Scheer are perhaps best known for their work in television and related media. However the two are not complete newcomers to comic books, having tackling both Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy B-books previously. Nauck is a seasoned Spider-Man artist who’s been drawing the character on-and-off since the ‘90s, with the Barack Obama backup for Amazing Spider-Man #583 being the most notable.
Giovannetti and Scheer’s writing for Spider-Man/Deadpool #12 comes out ahead when compared to Auckerman (#6) and Jillette’s (#11) scripts. Perhaps it’s because they are a team that has collaborated on titles before, but #12 reads evenly and more-or-less works in-continuity. While their Spider-Man lacks a voice or presence that can trump Deadpool, Giovannetti and Scheer came together to write a perfectly acceptable Deadpool Christmas special, featuring his good friend Spider-Man.
Spider-Man struggling to maintain his position of co-lead, unfortunately, has been an ongoing theme with the book and perhaps where the high-concept for the title sags a little – no matter what any writer has done, Spider-Man never really shines as much as Deadpool in Spider-Man/Deadpool. The guest writers in particular seem to struggle with balanacing the co-stars and often end up treating the title like Deadpool Team-Up. Thumbing through this issue, it’s clear to see that Deadpool takes the lime light, and reading it carefully gives us the same conclusions. The story beats follow Deadpool and his actions, while Spider-Man acts as the occasional foil.
#12 opens with a gruesome murder perpetrated by a ‘roided out Santa, someone that turns out to actually be the Roman god Saturn. Saturn is bemoaning the fact that his holiday, Saturnalia has been superseded by Christmas and has decided to take back the holiday by force. The violence and carnage is portrayed in a bright cheery way (thanks in large part to Rosenberg’s fantastic colors), which makes for humor a little darker than you would expect out of a Spider-Man title. Eventually, Deadpool (with Spider-Man in tow) teaches Saturn that Christmas is about being festive and celebrating the connections you share with people – something that Saturn finds appealing and reminiscent of Saturnalia.
The gags in the issue take a moment to grow on you, thanks to the darkness of some of the humor which leads to occasional misses such as Spider-Man mocking an innocent who was burned alive and a dead-horse potshot at Zack Synder. But when the humor rings true to the characters, it hits hard. Giovannetti and Scheer’s Deadpool is just the right amount of genre aware, and the background gag of Captain America gifting Miles Morales a vacuum is great. The Superior Foes even get a few panels of love and for that alone I’m tempted to give my final score for this book a bonus point or two. The visuals for this issue are fantastic, with Nauck running a gambit of scenes, locals, and compositions ranging from two page spreads to tight interior shots to some crazy aerial panels of Spider-Man swinging.
As fun as the issue is, it does end up being just that: fun. As is the burden of all guest issues, nothing of true importance or impact happens and nothing truly ambitious is tried in fear of outshining the regular creative team (a task not easily done, with no offense to #12’s team). So ultimately, when you recommend someone read Spider-Man/Deadpool, you are forced to split the issues up between the A-story and the backups. This is certainly one of the better backups for Spider-Man/Deadpool that we’ve been given – I would call it the best – but by its very nature it is a substitute for the real thing. That doesn’t take away any enjoyment for the reader now, but it does rob #12 of any urgent need to read the issue. If you liked this story, you won’t find any more like it unless this team later picks up the title in full or runs another guest issue.
All of this is to say that as much as I liked this issue, I’m growing tired of reading guest comics in Spider-Man/Deadpool, partially because none of them seem to follow the thesis laid out by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness in #1, namely a shared title about two people who become unlikely friends. Because of this, every few issues of Spider-Man/Deadpool has two or so issues of Deadpool Team-Up ft. Spider-Man injected in the middle to break up the narrative flow. It’s a complaint that I’ve voiced before, but this time I’m affecting my enjoyment of the guest issues, rather than the other way around. I want issues like #12 and #7 to have enough room around them to breath and be memorable, and unfortunately, I do not think that is the case here because despite the highs, they’re always going to feel like an appetizer while I wait for Kelly and McGuiness’s main course.
A bit more unique than your standard holiday themed issue, Spider-Man/Deadpool #12 delivers a one-shot that highlights both the positive and the negative aspects of this title's unique structure.