Graphic Novel Review: Deadpool round-up

Deadpool and the Mercs for Money: Mo' Mercs, Mo' Monkeys

Deadpool and the Mercs for Money: Mo' Mercs, Mo' Monkeys - Credit: Archant

Deadpool: Back in Black Deadpool and the Mercs for Money: Mo’ Mercs, Mo’ Monkeys Deadpool: Too Soon?

Deadpool: Back in Black

Deadpool: Back in Black - Credit: Archant

(Panini Books)

With the post-movie Deadpool bubble having burst, we are now looking at the franchise’s last expanded burst of titles before it retrenches to just the main Wade Wilson book.

The writing is already on the wall for the Mercs for Money, with the title cancelled a few issues after those collected here (the next volume will be the last). Meanwhile, limited series Back in Black and Too Soon? are obvious examples of bleeding the last drops of cash out of the character while he’s still financially viable.

Creatively it’s a shame, as all three of these spin-offs are remarkably entertaining, but when you saturate an already-struggling marketplace with more additions to a bloated franchise, those are always going to be the books which readers drop when they are looking to tighten their pockets.

Deadpool: Too Soon?

Deadpool: Too Soon? - Credit: Archant

The Mercs series continues the recent themes of dissension within the team’s ranks, which results in a new line-up of recruits after Deadpool’s previous employees hand in their notice, including the likes of Domino, Gorilla-Man and Machine Man. The break comes after one too many jobs where morality and common sense are ignored in favour of big pay checks, this latest occasion resulting in hero Negasonic Teenage Warhead being imprisoned and used for scientific experimentation…

With a strong emphasis on characterisation as well as the usual Deadpool insanity, writer Cullen Bunn has the balance just right in this series, which treats Wilson as more than a one-dimensional protagonist and develops his motivations in much greater detail than is often seen. The supporting cast are also given equal weight, to the extent that it’s something of a wrench when the original Mercs line-up calls it a day.

Bunn is also delivering on all counts in Back in Black, a sequel to Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars, which purports to reveal what happened to Spider-Man’s alien costume after he rejected its influence and before it bonded with Eddie Brock to become Venom. Deliberately set in the late eighties, when those original Spider-Man books were first published, it’s full of period detail and amusing asides to the Marvel Comics of that era, albeit with anachronistic footnote teasers for other titles in the publisher’s staple which were actually dropped from use back in the 1970s.

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Drawing on inspiration from classic storylines of the time – including the legendary Kraven’s Last Hunt - and featuring guest slots from Power Pack, Obnoxio the Clown and the Black Cat, it’s one of those titles which will really only appeal to comics readers in their forties who were collecting in the mid-eighties, which is probably most of us to be honest.

That said, it’s so well pitched, and with a strong reverence for the time period, that anyone who grew up reading Marvel books at the time cannot help but relate. What could have been a fumbled exercise in faux nostalgia is instead so much more, and manages to fill in some continuity holes in the process. Excellent stuff.

Finally, we wrap up this week’s Deadpool delivery with Too Soon? a riff on the old murder-mystery trope which sees an unknown assassin targeting Marvel’s more humorous characters, including Rocket Raccoon and Groot, Squirrel Girl, Spider-Ham, Ant-Man, Forbush Man, and, er, the Punisher?

It’s a very funny book, packed with one-liners and pop culture in-jokes, and despite its original format as a digital release, reads just as well on the printed page. The supporting cast are also handled perfectly, with a strong attention to character and continuity alike, and the fact that the Punisher finds himself among the ranks of such a diverse bunch of comedy reliefs is hilarious in itself.

As the current onslaught of Deadpool books comes to a close, and the second movie still a year away, the Merc with a Mouth will probably be less prolific for the next few months, giving the franchise a chance to reassess and revitalise itself ahead of the sequel’s release. Although books like those featured here will be missed during their absence, there’s nothing wrong with having less of a good thing, at least in the short term.