The fourth issue of Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness’s Spider-Man/Deadpool certainly delivers on the bromance promised by the name of its first arc. Though it’s a little light on the action, knockdown slobber knockers aren’t really something that I demand from all of my comics, so it’s nice to slow down for a moment and see the stakes of the Spider-Man and Deadpool relationship, see it grow and ultimately see why it won’t work – or what it will work in spite of.
Like the second issue, Spider-Man/Deadpool #4 opens with both characters in a domestic scene talking to a third party about their growing relationship. It isn’t exactly a repeat of what we saw in #2, but it is a reminder that these two guys are getting along not through chemistry but because both of them are too stubborn to realize that maybe this isn’t such a good idea. It’s a point worthy of a revisit, especially since they seem to have finally clicked by the end of the issue, but I hope this doesn’t become a trope of the series because I can easily see this becoming a tired way to set up an issue.
It’s a little difficult for me to put my finger solidly on where my opinion landed on this book. It’s a great issue filled with quality laughs, but at the end of the issue – and I’ll get to that ending in a bit – the narrative seems to be spinning its wheels just a little bit. Maybe I’m being a little hard on it, but Spider-Man/Deadpool #4 seems to be doing a little less than the previous four, instead taking us on a detour to showcase a cameo by Thor and deliver a really solid sitcom-esque setup.
But it’s that sitcom setup that didn’t really sit well with me, no matter its excellent execution or Ed McGuinness’s hilarious “Dirty Dancing” visual tribute. This comic has proven that it can be a little bit more than just goofy laughs, but that’s all we were given in this issue. But at the same time, this issue was necessary to show that Spider-Man and Deadpool’s relationship is starting to extend past professional courtesy and move toward personal friends in order to make their seemingly inevitable breakup matter. They’ve ended working relationships before; as Anna Maria pointed out to Peter, he quit the Avengers because of Deadpool. And yet without this issue, or at least an issue like it, the dramatic irony regarding Deadpool’s assassination mission wouldn’t be nearly as bitter.
But what ultimately makes the book feel incomplete is the tired cliffhanger that this book ends on. We see Deadpool seemingly assassinate Peter Parker, and yet because we all know Marvel isn’t going to kill off Peter Parker in a B-title with absolutely no fanfare, we know that we are being deliberately misdirected. So instead of increasing the tension as the previous cliffhangers have done, this does nothing but elicit an eye roll from me for purposefully and transparently pulling my strings. I get it though, it’s a pacing thing and Kelly wants to give himself enough time in the last issue of the arc to properly deal with the fallout that will occur when Peter Parker realized that Anna Maria was right, and not everyone is worth being called human.
But why, in a book that has been pretty respectful of its audience’s intelligence despite numerous scatological jokes, did it have to have ended in such a way that flies in the face of that respect? Unfortunately this isn’t really something I can answer until I have all of the piece of the narrative puzzle, but Marvel is being pretty mum about what happens in the final issue. If their intention is to kill Peter and then bring him back through either Deadpool’s connections with the afterlife or super science, why not confirm him as dead in this issue? Again, this is conjecture until the final issue of the arc hits the stands next month, but as it stands now this is by far the weakest ending of the series, even if its events are supposed to be the biggest.
Don’t get me wrong through, I might have called this issue sitcom-esque and ragged on the ending, but this is still a really well crafted piece of a fiction. Kelly’s Deadpool is always going to be to definitive characterization, at least to me, and his Peter Parker is just the right level of naive but well meaning that it fits with his current characterization under Slott but skirts around the childishness that Slott can sometimes infuse into Peter. His dopey fawning over his date does come across as a little heavy-handed, but since his date ended up being a succubus I believe that’s something I can hand wave both by the nature of a succubus and because that it made for a good chuckle. It’s also nice to see Spidey cut loose and have some fun in a convincing way like in the dancing segment – the energy from McGuinness’s pencils and Mark Morales’s inks really sell not only the kinetics of the scene, but also the fun that the two are having.
The different segments move naturally and with purpose and brisk pace in a way that makes this feel, like I have said about previous issues, like a chapter of a tale rather than a story broken up into segments because the medium demands it so. But by the end of the book, I’m still left wanting that extra layer something like the twists that we saw at the end of the first and third issue.
A cliched ending does not detract from the goofy fun of Spider-Man/Deadpool #4 but is an indication that the series may be losing steam. Proving that no one puts Ed McGuinness in a corner, this issue really showcases his talents as a visual artist.