Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness prove for a third time in a row that they are an absolute dream team, especially when behind two of Marvel’s biggest names. The third issue of Spider-Man/Deadpool treats us to some of the globe-trotting we’ve been seeing in Amazing Spider-Man but also gives us a slightly more realistic, less messianic take on the “ubermench visits the third world” type story we saw with Amazing Spider-Man #4 – but more on that later.
The book opens with a solid, quick recap like all good comics should. It reestablishes what’s important to this particular story (namely, the complicated relationship growing between Spider-Man and Deadpool) while also delivering a few laughs. Kelly also takes time to re-establish what we originally only saw in the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man vol. 4, that is, Hobie Brown acting as a “decoy” Spider-Man in order to take the heat off Peter while he continues to act as Spider-Man internationally. However, after Hobie is established to be in the red-and-blues, it’s never re-established that we’re seeing Peter on the subsequent pages, despite the emotional impact of the issue demanding that Peter be under the mask. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that Kelly did not mean to imply Hobie was in the Spider-Man costume any longer than the opening pages in the hospital, but it’s still a little sloppy not to firmly re-establish who’s-who.
Like last issue, there was a moment in this book that I had to stop and do a page count to make sure I hadn’t picked up an issue with a printing error (thanks, Spidey #2, for giving me that particular new neurosis). I have the appropriate number of pages, so it looks to be just a bad section of sequencing. Abrupt scene transitions are made into a gag for this comic and while they pretty much work, this one had me a little lost. Perhaps this has something to do with the cold I’m just now getting over (so if I’m alone here, just indulge me for a moment), but the transition between the scene introducing the “Truth Spider-Tracer” and Deadpool’s fell flat.
The way the page prior to the scene is laid out is structurally incorrect. There are two beats on the page, both of which are introducing the elements of the story: element A, that this issue is going to be a “day in the life of Deadpool” and element B, Spider-Man has developed a lie-detecting spider-tracer. Element A sets up for the reader that Deadpool and Spider-Man are going to be hanging out on Deadpool’s terms, and we can infer from their interactions in the past two issues that Deadpool will be trying his best to impress Spider-Man. Element B re-establishes Spider-man’s skepticism of Deadpool’s commitment to the high-roadand introduces a plot element.
However, for the “jarring transition and calamitous 18 minutes later” to hit with the comedic punch it needs (which excuses and explains the aptly described jarring nature of the transition), the sequencing of element A and element B needs to be reversed; the lie detector needs to be established, then the “Deadpool for a Day” line needs to be established, and then as soon as we read that, we need to turn the page and see a circus on fire. This way, we as readers have our expectations immediately reversed when we turn the page, rather than allowing an intermission via a second beat on the page. In television and film this kind of transition is known as a smash cut and is commonly used for visual gags like this. The effectiveness of the smash cut is entirely dependent on the abruptness and speed at which the contrasting scene is interjected, so by placing a beat between the set up and the punch line, it not only dilutes the comedic timing of the gag but also negates the smash cut’s ability to act as a proper scene transition.
Past this we get some pretty dense pages in where Spider-Man is introduced to Deadpool’s Mercs for Money, a play off of the more recognizable (I might be showing my age by saying that) Heroes for Hire. Each member vouches for Deadpool with increasingly little sincerity in a gag that feels a little played out by the time you get to the fifth member, even if the gag only lasts a page. The final member, who only speaks in Spanish, appears to deliver a more heartfelt endorsement. The gag is that, of course the one genuine thing said about Deadpool is in a language that Spider-Man can’t understand…. But it still bothers me that there isn’t some translation so that those of us who chose Russian as their foreign language credit (Извините, пожалуйста , где библиотека?). I guess there’s always Black Widow…
By the time the actual villains of the issue are introduced, everything seems to be ancillary to the growing relationship between Spider-Man and Deadpool. Now, perhaps I’m just not thinking back hard enough, but I have absolutely no memory of Styx and Stone (Editor’s note: Styx and Stone first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #309) and Kelly’s job of explaining their powers is a little lacking… but at the end of the day, the exact utility of their powers is not important, it’s the understanding that they complement each other’s strengths and work together as a unit. This is an obvious foil to Spider-Man and Deadpool’s own WIP teamwork skills. The two are starting to mesh together, even playing off of each other’s mid-fight banter. Regardless, the conclusion of the fight leads us out of the fantasy and into the messy reality of life.
As it turns out, the small Bolivian village that Peter and ‘Pool (can I call them PeterPool?) have been liberating is synthesizing and producing drugs for a cartel. In a strange twist that also showcases the different eras the characters get their morals from, it is Deadpool who explains the not-so-black and white nature of the situation to Spider-Man, who is ready to do what he normally does when he stumbles into a drug lab – bust heads. This insertion of grayness into the narrative contrasts what we saw in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #4: the white savior ready to save the native populace with the power of Western technology and charity.
Not to beat on Dan Slott, but it’s an “old way of thinking”, which is a Southern way of saying that thing used to be accepted as okay, but we know better now – or we should. We’ve covered this story in both a podcast and a review so I won’t go into too much detail, but one of the bigger issues – both by what it implies and from a purely narrative view– with these kind of stories is the ease at which the hero swoops in and solves the problems presented.
Kelly seems to understand this, hence a more morally ambiguous situation: protecting a drug cartel’s operations that is staffed by people with no other choice. As Deadpool puts it, “We’re not protecting Scarface here… 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”. This is further driven home when Peter suggests to Anna Maria to send money to the area for relief and she cautions him, “Some people… live a certain way for so long that I don’t know that they would know what do with a second chance if it was handed to them on a silver platter.”
And yet, despite of this, Peter still tries to do what he thinks is right, which is not only true to his character but also heart warming – the reaction I’m sure Slott was trying to achieve by having Peter offer a scholarship to the child in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #4. The difference here is that Peter is extending his charity in spite of the hardships rather than because of them; it’s not a knee-jerk reaction, but the decision of someone who has seen and been made to understand the under workings of the situation and still wants to help.
With the final page we also get the twist of the issue, Deadpool reveals himself to be much more manipulative than anticipated, using the action of this issue to gauge Spider-Man’s abilities for their inevitable show down when Deadpool attempts to assassinate Peter Parker. Not to lay into Slott again, but here we have something straight from his wheelhouse: the “doomed for failure” plot, something he’s employing over in ASM (vol. 4) currently and has used in the past in Superior Spider-Man.
The difference between Kelly’s use of the trope and Slott’s use of the trope in ASM (vol. 4) is Kelly’s care in making sure the reader is fully invested in the situation at hand. Each time you think Spider-Man and Deadpool are growing closer or maybe that things will work out for them you get a reminder that no, there are other forces in motion here. It hangs a cloud over what would be the inevitable conclusion of this title: Spider-Man and Deadpool become friends. Instead, we have this dangling question “How will they become friends in spite of this?” Kelly has made sure that we as readers have emotional investment in these characters’ relationship by slowing down and showing us scenes like the roof top confession in #1 or the scene with Deadpool’s daughter in this issue. These kind of scenes are key in not only investing emotion into a story, but also giving depth to your characters.
I feel like I would be doing the art a disservice if I don’t mention how stunning everything has been on this book. As I mentioned in my review for #1, Ed McGuinness is my gold standard for comic art and this book is only further solidifying this claim. I want to hang pretty much every page of this series up on my wall. McGuinness’s pencil are large, bold, and engaging. If you need any convincing, just look at the page with the Mercs for Money giving their testimonials. Eight tiny panels plus three big Spider-Man heads showing an increasing annoyance not just through Spider-Man’s eye lenses, but from the positioning and placement of the head.
Each panel on those pages is exploding with action and yet nothing is lost or confusing – each action makes sense logically. Inker Mark Morales and colorist Jason Keith propel McGuinness’s pencils even further with thick character outlines, bright bold colors, and just over all solid work that not only accentuates McGuinness’s strengths but also showcases their own abilities to highlight momentum. I will say that Keith’s coloring of the new Spider-Man costume is by far my favorite of the few artists we’ve seen tackle it. But that might be because he more or less colors it like cloth.
So, Spider-Man/Deadpool #3 continues the level of quality seen in the previous two installments and adds to the Jenga tower of Spider-Man and Deadpool’s relationship. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t make an audible exclamation when Deadpool revealed how he’s going to get past Spider-Man. Anytime a word in a title causes an involuntary action like that, you know you’ve got a great book in your hands.
Spider-Man/Deadpool #3 delivers its own flavor of the international adventures we've been seeing in Amazing Spider-Man, but with the laughs and heart we've grown to expect from this title. #3 maintains the high level of quality seen from its previous two issues and makes promises for an explosive conclusion in the future.