‘Deadpool’: WHAM! Maximum Effort!

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Deadpool is the ultimate anti-hero for the South Park-loving, I-never-grew-out-of-fart-jokes teenager in all of us. He isn’t concerned with saving the world, preventing galactic annihilation, or wearing an X in a circle on his reds. His problem, at its core, is simple – some douche-nozzle tortures him at work, and then gets all huffy and girlfriend-kidnappy when Wade takes offense.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) proves to be a watered-down version of Deadpool’s mouth long before his skin avocadoes, and when he meets the full-grown woman who shares his sense of humor, he is in absolute lusty-love. Nearly everything in the movie comes in montages, so right after the sex-for-all-holidays tribute, comes the devastating news that Wade has seriously bad terminal cancer. Of course, the stripper girlfriend with the heart of gold and the mouth of a sailor, Vanessa, wants to fight cancer with all means available to them. Which essentially means the death-by-inches agony of long treatments and Wade just doesn’t have the patience nor stamina for that kind of dumbassery. Instead, he opts for the Agent Smith recruiting option at his local post-Special-Ops-Agent hangout, and next thing you know it’s off to the mutant factory!

You can expect anyone who’s been hopped up with mutant juice and subjected to many creative tortures, to be a bit cranky with his jailers. Ajax – excuse me, Francis – doesn’t stand a chance in hell of holding the charming-sleazy Brit bad guy of the film role, not in the face of Deadpool’s eternal give-zero-fucks snark. One conflagration later, Wade is determined to rise from the ashes like the most epic anime phoenix ever, slicing and shooting his way through the bad guys to get to the one who turned him into Mr. Potato Head! Francis (Ed Skrein) and his roadblock of a female sidekick, Angel Dust (Gina Carano), prove to be formidable foes, even when met with Wade’s blistering break-the-fourth-wall commentary!

Wade’s early attempts at costumery are terrible and hilarious and exactly what we would find ourselves doing in his boots. Here, we meet his roommate Al, who is about as far from the likes of Daredevil’s Stick as you can get, yet Wade still enjoys bantering with her in his juvenile well-meaning fashion. His bartender friend with the deadpool on when Wade’s gonna kick it does his best to help too – his efforts end up with Weasel (T.J. Miller) as a Shaggy-like sidekick, one of the few who knows both Wade and Deadpool.

The introduction of a CGI-ed to hell and gone Colossus (Stefan Kapicic does his voice) and his little sidekick — this is a mouthful — Negasonic Teenage Warhead, was an interesting choice for the X-Men cameos you just knew we had to have. Tagging Colossus for the unappreciated role of the eternal recruiter of Deadpool to the X-Men seems completely appropriate, considering the lengths Colossus has gone to in other storylines, but the translation of the mega-metal-Russian from the comic books to the big screen wasn’t what I had pictured. Negasonic (Brianna Hildebrand), on the other hand, is clearly the epitome of the New X-Men latter-day class, with her sullen teenage silences, biting commentary and ability to turn herself into a fireball bomb! And, of course, Wade’s wild and wonderful woman, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, gets many shout-outs for her completely believable portrayal of the woman to die, repeatedly, for!

That’s another thing too many people seem to be overlooking, Wade says it himself – Deadpool is actually a love story, yes, with some horror elements and other stuff thrown in, but still. Wade voluntarily had this done to him so he could live with the love of his life, the woman who shares his corrupted sense of humor and eternally perverse sexual tastes, more or less regardless of what he looks like. Far too many of my fellow geeks and freaks out there would give their entire music collection (I’m betting there won’t be a single Wham! album among them) and then some for a love like that!

There are already tons of reviews out there, all about how Deadpool breathed life back into a stale superhero genre and gave them the encouragement they needed to finally put on their big-boy pants and make an ultra-violent R-rated Marvel superhero movie! But you can’t sit there and enjoy Wade crack wise and twirl your cosplay Thor hammer to impart, “Mmmyes, Deadpool’s sleazy charm is just the thing we modern film enthusiasts need.” Deadpool is hardly the first awesomesauce R-rated superhero movie to come out, (see Watchmen for example) it’s coming out at the most serendipitous time, when we’re all so bored with the eternally bright superhero taking on the whole world of evil, we just want to see a foul-mouthed badass do a bit of the old ultra-violence. To win back the girl who’s just as foul-mouthed and awesome as he is, the only one in the entire world for whom Wade would actually be a superhero!

Do yourself a favor, fan-atics of the world – see Deadpool in the theater now! And for fuck’s sake, leave the kids at home! This movie is not suitable for children at all. You’ve been warned. Don’t forget to stay for the Ferris Bueller-style Easter egg at the end, and cast your own vote for who should be Cable in the sequel! And bonus points if you catch the Stan Lee cameo!

And yes, of course, the trailer is all kinds of NSFW, the entire movie is that way and you know you love it!

Agent Captain Logan’s Comic Directive #12: ‘X-Men ’92’

by Agent Captain Logan (a.k.a. Agent Captain Logan)

X-Men ’92 #1

Writers: Chris Sims and Chad Bowers

Artist: Scott Koblish

Publisher: Marvel Comics

X-Men owes a lot of the uncanny success it’s enjoyed over the last couple decades to the 1990s Fox cartoon. It’s the version that introduced me and a lot of my generation to the property, and while it was full of racial stereotypes, goofy dialogue, and hilariously bad fake accents all across the board, it had an undeniable moody atmosphere and edginess to it. The tone was ultra-serious and it felt like an adult drama, even if, when I’ve looked back at it years later, it’s a lot sillier than I ever realized. It was unlike anything else on television and the allegories for racism and intolerance, not to mention the sheer coolness of that version of Wolverine, hold up today. It was so faithful to the spirit and even a lot of specific stories of the comics, adapting a lot of Chris Claremont’s most famous work, that you could watch that show religiously, never pick up a comic, and confidentially call yourself an X-Men fan. I was astonished to hear Marvel was bringing back this incarnation in comic book form, and after appreciating what DC has done both with Batman ’66 and the Wonder Woman ’77 one-shot, I had high hopes for this, and oh, my stars and garters, I was not disappointed.

The Secret Wars tie-ins have mostly been about capitalizing on readers’ nostalgia for their favorite Marvel crossover events and eras, while putting fresh spins on them. Initially, I was a little concerned that a lot of these would just be quick cash-ins, re-hashing the same stories in a shorter form, but I’ve been following a number of these, and they’ve all been about making the old new again, in the spirit of Marvel’s classic What-If line. They’re all “what if this particular event was happening in this new surreality Doctor Doom created after the multiverse imploded,” and when put all together, it’s this fascinating, fully-realized bizzaro-world, held together by the few characters who can see beyond the barriers God-Doom has placed on each of the separate domains. Sure, it’s pretty contrived that every single major Marvel event is represented — and even a bunch of other status quos that weren’t crossovers, but just things people are nostalgic for — but as conceits go, it’s been handled remarkably well.

While I’m hoping to get more material in the X-Men cartoon style that’s not associated with Secret Wars, this series is rooted in an interesting status quo that lends itself well to this material; the mutants are dangerously close to their goal of peaceful cohabitation with humans as Baron Kelly (an acolyte of God-Doom) is ruling his land with a firm rhetoric of tolerance and understanding. There’s just not much for the X-Men to do right now (they spend the first few pages playing laser tag at a mall) so naturally, all hell is about to break loose, a classic calm-before-the-storm scenario so often seen in X-Men stories. There’s a mysterious island where evil mutants are being rehabilitated, another TV series trope, and naturally, there’s a creepy, shifty-eyed leader who’s not what she seems and something a lot more sinister going on beneath the surface.

X-Men ’92 is an oversized, five dollar comic that’s worth every penny. It’s a dense issue with plenty going on and it took me a good 25-30 minutes to finish. A lot of that is because it’s such an authentically ’90s Marvel comic; it’s really wordy, there are a lot of melodramatic speeches, there are a ton of characters, and everybody has to keep reminding us of whatever their trademark character trait is. A lot of the charm is all that silly stuff we’ve mostly moved beyond in comics today, which are typically a lot more streamlined, give the reader a little more credit, rely more on the action to tell the story than narration and expository dialogue, and give characters more natural-sounding things to say than the theatrical, often-stilted dialogue we see here.

That’s not to say this is a badly written comic — a lot of the exchanges are clever and hysterical — but these guys are fully embracing some of the out-moded conventions of both early ’90s comics and the TV show. This is the supernatural, action-packed soap opera I remember, and it’s not even a little exaggerated. Wolverine and Cyclops are at each others’ throats, Gambit is constantly hitting on Rogue and she’s constantly deflecting his advances, and Jubillee is incessantly wining that she’s not treated like an adult while clearly naive and immature. These traits define these characters and they never move beyond the same conflicts and arguments, like there’s a series bible that forces them not to change or grow too much, just as it was in the show. It’s irritating in all the right ways and reads so much as the genuine article, that’s all part of the fun. I have all of the original voices in my head as I’m reading, and I can’t stop humming the theme song.

But there’s also a thought-provoking situation at the heart of the story that is already taking some of these characters into uncharted territory and potentially move them beyond the typical. Having helped bring the world so close to Xavier’s goal, Cyclops is ready to move on and start a normal life, but Professor X is suspicious of this island of misfit mutants and, in Scott’s eyes, is using that as an excuse to continue on like it’s business as usual for the X-Men. He asks Cyclops to take his team and investigate, and Cyclops agrees, but he’s angry with Xavier for his continual fight-the-good-fight attitude. Xavier might be holding on to his glory days, not ready to see his dream realized; perhaps, deep down, it was always more about the journey for him and less about the destination. Oh, he believed in his dream and was ever the eternal optimist, but it seems he might have been so used to fighting that he doesn’t know how to do anything else. Cyclops, on the other hand, might be too ready to accept victory, ignoring, at first, clear signs that their work is not yet done. I like how each man’s deepest desires influence his judgement and how both of them have a point, but their positions are each inherently flawed.

Visually, the book is as faithful to that early ’90s style as the writing is; the action is dynamic, the colors are vibrant, and we’re sometimes treated to absolutely stunning poses, like Rogue taking out a Sentinel mid-air with a single punch to the nose. It’s also sometimes wildly inconsistent, with weird, totally unnecessarily silly facial expressions every so often, oddly haphazard panel layouts, and lazy, solid-color backgrounds. Again, we’ve mostly moved past a lot of this corner-cutting and dated art but it’s fun to see this story realized not only with the same character models from the show but in the same comic style from that period. It also creates some misdirection; when the story takes a surprising turn in the end regarding Xavier and Cassandra Nova, I don’t expect it because I’m so comfortable with this throw-back presentation I think I know exactly what to expect, and those expectations are subverted.

There is one aspect of the comic where I think the retro approach steps over a line, and that’s in the editor’s notes the writers have intentionally added to create a mock sense of censorship. It’s a bizarre and intrusive move that takes me out of the story and makes me scratch my head because I’m a little unclear on what the joke is supposed to be. I appreciate the idea of being so authentically “1992” that even the editorial choices are what they might have been at the time. I sometimes see this in throwback Silver Age comics that include humorous editor’s notes all over the place or interrupt the story with an intrusive narrator to manufacture an added sense of suspense. But in just a couple places, this issue has a line crossed out and a note in red that says it’s inappropriate and needs to be changed, followed by the correction. That’s not a thing I can recall ever seeing in comics of this period, a hand-written correction intentionally left in the comic, so you can see what was considered too risque or offensive and what it was replaced with. Did that sometimes happen and I just never ran into it? Or is that a commentary on the censorship of the Fox cartoon? Famously, both this show and the Spider-Man animated series made a lot of strange choices based on strict censorship that were often blatant and hilarious. But the lines crossed out here, like “when has not being invited ever stopped a strapping beast like yourself from going where he wants,” don’t really strike me as any more controversial than a lot of what made it into that show. It’s not clear enough why those are here for me to appreciate the joke.

X-Men ’92 in this Battleworld scenario might allow some of those rules to be broken; this is, after all, a mini-series set in a world that can’t last forever. Might there be some eventual wish fulfillment here, the grand finale the X-Men animated series never had? Perhaps Gambit and Rogue will get together in the end? Maybe Jubilee will become a full-fledged X-Man. It’s a story that can go anywhere and do anything it wants to, which is a lot of the fun of these limited, practically out-of-continuity stories. As I said, I hope this series does well because I’d love to read a bona-fide X-Men ’92 ongoing set squarely in the universe this is based on. But what’s here is a thoroughly entertaining blast from the past with plenty of surprises to keep me engaged past the nostalgic novelty.

XXX

If you can’t get enough of Agent Captain Logan’s comic book analysis, here’s a bonus! Check out the latest episode of The Comic Book Vault: Rapid Fire Comic Reviews! This episode includes:

  • Batman #41 & Detective Comics #41 ( time stamp 01:21)
  • Batman Beyond #1 (11:56)
  • Gotham By Midnight #6 (16:58)
  • We Are Robin #1 (18:51)
  • Batman ’66 #24 (23:29)
  • Superman #41 (25:20)
  • Midnighter #1 (31:27)
  • Doomed #1 (36:24)
  • Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 (39:19)
  • Casey and April #1 (42:44)
  • X-Men ’92 #1 (47:17)
  • Infinity Gauntlet #2 (53:10)
  • Daredevil #16 (54:36)
  • MODOK #1 & #2 (57:09)
  • Book & Cover of the Week (1:00:42)