Last month’s Spider-Man/Deadpool was a pretty big disappointment. While it wasn’t quite the lowest point of the series (it will be hard to surpass Penn Jillette’s Spider-Man/Deadpool #11 in that regard), it was certainly not something that I would recommend to others. While this month’s #20 is a step better than #19, it highlights the existential problem this title now faces. With the main creative team behind the series gone, what kind of stories are going to be told in Spider-Man/Deadpool?
This issue features a bit more action than the previous, with plenty of whacks, thuds, and even the occasional shunk. All of it is done in a competent fashion delivered by the art team of Will Robson, Scott Hanna, and Jordan Boyd, artist, inker, and colorist respectively. The comic, like last issue, is drawn with an appropriately vibrant and cartoonish color pallet. Outlines are given even, extra heavy lineweight and the shapes are large and simple which adds to the whole “cartoon” feel. That being said, Robson’s strength in this issue lies mostly in how expressive he can draw a face. Bad guys grimacing, smarmy grins, painful grunts, they’re all drawn in a pleasing and emotive way which is of course lost on the two title characters.
This issue is light on plot, which is a service since the plot to this two-parter is by-and-far the weakest element of the story. Spider-Man and Deadpool bumble from trap to trap until the story delivers them to their destination, El Tenor’s mansion. Thankfully, the “no more jokes” gag is dropped pretty quickly into the issue, about the same time Slapstick also takes his leave from the plot. So with some of the more offending elements of last issue removed from this one, we’re left with a pretty stock superhero caper. There is nothing inherently Spider-Man or Deadpool about their predicaments, and nothing that really demands the unique flavor of either character aside from the pedestrian nature of the players involved. Not that this is a bad thing, superheroics isn’t always about fighting genetic abominations injected with a superpower cocktail, but without a true Spider-Man/Deadpool support cast, it’s hard to prop up these two parters and one-and-dones as something inherently Spider-Man and Deadpool.
Which leads straight into my next point, and it’s something I touched on last month. What’s the point of this title now? Kelly and McGuinness have told their story, but the comic, as of #18, still pulls in a respectable 33,000 orders (per Comichron), so it would be nuts for Marvel to cancel the title. But without a solid direction (or a permanent team), I cannot see the title maintaining these numbers solely on the backs of its two lead characters for very long. Pulling back to Spider-Man/Deadpool #20, this is just a bad story. There’s no other way to cut it. The premise is poorly executed, the inclusion of Slapstick adds nothing but padding to the story, and the ending that feels contrived and coincidental. Slapstick gets out of his predicament off panel, Spider-Man just happens to guess (correctly) that El Tenor is Ms. Colon’s husband, and none of the questions around Ms. Colon’s request from the first part are answered. This is not how you tell a story.
Every title is going to have its flops. For every “Happy Birthday” there’s going to be a “Sins Past,” but when you have a series like Spider-Man/Deadpool which needs to find a new identity to remain relevant, these bad stories hurt a lot more because there’s no hook or pull for the next issue. A bad issue serves as a jumping off point, doubly so when you realize that these stories are going to be of no consequence to the greater narrative. Will there ever be a reference to the Colons again? Or El Tenor? Most likely not.
On that note, here’s hoping that the next arc, a Murderworld story written by Elliot Kalan (Spider-Man and the X-Men, not to be confused with Christos Gage’s X-Men and Spider-Man or X-Man/Spider-Man as it is sometimes written) with art by Todd Nauck. After that two-parter, Spidey and Silk writer Robbie Thompson and the fantastic artist Chris Bachalo (recently, Doctor Strange, most notably to Spider-Man, ASM #630-631 “Shed”) will be coming on as the main creative team as the book gets renamed to Spider-Man vs. Deadpool. Hopefully that’s some light at the end of the tunnel for this series.
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Expressive facial art that feels misassigned, a no-stakes plot, and a deus ex machina ending makes Spider-Man/Deadpool #20 and its preceding issue one of the weakest entries in the Spider-Man/Deadpool guest issues.