Each week, Big Issues focuses on a newly released comic-book issue of significance. This week, it’s Deadpool #1. Written by Brian Posehn (The Sarah Silverman Program, The Last Christmas) and Gerry Duggan (The Last Christmas, The Infinite Horizon) and drawn by Tony Moore (The Walking Dead, Venom), it’s the perfect post-election comic, pitting Deadpool against zombie versions of all the dead presidents.
For anyone exhausted by this past election season, Marvel Now!’s Deadpool is the kind of irreverent joyride that will reignite a passion for politics—or at least a passion for seeing political figures shot with machine guns and run over by subway trains. Scripted by comedian Brian Posehn and his The Last Christmas writing partner Gerry Duggan, with art by The Walking Dead co-creator Tony Moore, it’s a confident, hilarious start to the character’s relaunched series, giving the antihero a big push just in time for his upcoming videogame next year. The fact that Deadpool is one of the very first Marvel Now! titles goes to show just how much faith the publisher has in the creators and the character, and #1 is a promising start that keeps Wade Wilson firmly straddling the line between hero and scumbag.
It all starts with a gorgeous Geof Darrow cover, a meticulously rendered image of Deadpool unloading round after round of ammo on a giant lizard with a hunger for household pets that’s attacking New York City. It’s goofy, action-packed, and a strong representation of the issue’s interior contents. Using the Marvel AR app on the cover opens a video recap of Deadpool’s history, presented with the same wacky tone that defines the rest of the issue. Like most of the titles that utilize AR, the results are hit-or-miss: The creator interviews present interesting tidbits about the future of the run, but there’s an awkwardness to those segments that Marvel hasn’t quite figured out how to address. The issue’s best use of AR comes in the form of Easter eggs, like a hand puppet explaining Deadpool’s healing factor, or a breakdown of all the presidents in the packed two-page spread at the end of the issue. That second one is particularly helpful, providing a brief history lesson on the zombie presidents that Deadpool will be facing down over the course of this first arc.
Disappointed in his fractured nation and the endless suffering of his fellow Americans, a rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent takes it upon himself to fix the country by reviving all the dead presidents in order to get the United States back on track. Unfortunately, the zombie commanders-in-chief are all brought back with an urge to destroy rather than rebuild, beginning with Harry S. Truman, who faces off against Captain America in Independence, Missouri. There’s some great use of juxtaposition between text and visuals at the start of the issue, with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent cutting open a lamb and smearing its blood on Truman’s grave as he says, “Great men. Principled men that knew how to compromise, and lead. America needs its heroes.” Despite Posehn and Duggan’s limited experience writing comics (although Duggan received an Eisner nomination for The Infinite Horizon), they show a firm understanding of the medium with this issue, aided by artist extraordinaire Moore. Moore turns up the cartoon influence in his pencils for this book, resulting in a title that looks and reads like an Adult Swim version of Looney Tunes, with Deadpool stepping into a Bugs Bunny role as he unleashes his insanity on the dead presidents.
Because S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t risk the bad PR that comes with superheroes taking down former leaders of the U.S. (Daily Bugle headline for the Cap/Truman fight: “Cap Snaps In Scrap / Decapitain America Stars In Truman Show”), Deadpool is brought on to help clean up, but not before he makes a little mess of his own. A giant monster is rampaging through New York City, so Deadpool teams up with Thor to kill it by getting swallowed, then slicing through its stomach, unleashing a wave of blood and guts as he yells, “Here comes Deadpool!” It’s a wonderfully paced sequence and a fantastic introduction to the title character, establishing that he’s no ordinary superhero. And then zombie F.D.R. shows up, because of course the first dead president Deadpool encounters would be one stuck in a wheelchair.
With Posehn’s comedy background, it’s no surprise that this book is quite funny, but there are some groan-worthy puns. When F.D.R. throws a cab at Deadpool, Wade replies, “Who says you can’t catch a cab in New York?” And when F.D.R. charges into the subway with his wheelchair, Deadpool says, “Wow—you must wheelie hate me.” Yet while the jokes are obvious, they do lend themselves to the Looney Tunes feel. More successful are the pieces of dialogue that play with the presidents’ personalities: “Who dares veto the eternal sleep of Harry S. Truman?” “You have nothing to fear—except me!” “Here’s a New Deal—die!” The way that the writers take preconceptions of these presidents and translate them into comedy is one of the most delightful aspects of #1; the first issue ends with Deadpool getting shot in the back of the head by Abraham Lincoln, who cheers, “I’ve always wanted to do that!”
Posehn and Duggan write a strong script, but what really sells this first issue is Moore’s artwork. He’s remarkably adept at balancing realism with animation, creating detailed environments and characters but leaving enough looseness in his pencils to help land the humor. He does great work capturing the likenesses of the zombie presidents, particularly in the aforementioned two-page spread. (There’s also a cameo by Patton Oswalt, comic-book aficionado and longtime friend of Posehn.) There are still some elements of the written comedy that could use a little fine-tuning, but Moore’s flawless artwork suggests that no matter what, the Marvel Now! Deadpool will feature some breathtaking visuals.