Ten issues ago, we were given a Spider-Man and Deadpool team up book that promised, among other things, to give us a Deadpool that tried to act a bit more like Spidey and a Spidey that tried to be a little more understanding of Deadpool. In many ways, the arc completes with Spider-Man/Deadpool #10 in a satisfying way, showing the full realization of this thesis presented to us last January. But like all great serial fiction, this installment answers and posits questions in alternative shifts to sate our curiosity while also baiting us further along.
The issue opens with an unusually flippant Spider-Man, given the stakes laid out by the end of Spider-Man/Deadpool #9. This is accounted for shortly, but it honestly took me a while to flip the page because I was too engrossed with the art. I know I’ve raved about Ed McGuinness for virtually every issue he’s been on this title, but this two-page spread of Deadpool’s club house is one of the most fun images he’s put together for the series thus far. Maybe it’s the gamer-talk Spider-Man is throwing (now I’m always going to wonder if I’ve ever run into writer Joe Kelly in my handful of hours playing “Overwatch”) coupled with the back and forth between the two, but Deadpool’s Clubhouse feels like it’s been ripped straight from the opening scenes of a college roadtrip movie.
There are tons of little details to take in from the bag of “Pool Chips” on the table to the spider-web suspended soda cans dangling from the ceiling to the Deadbuggy hanging from the exposed rafters of the New York apartment. Colorist Jason Keith really sells the “cave” aspect of the bachelor pad by bathing both Spider-Man and Deadpool in a soft blue monitor light. The image screams friendship in that teenage-boy kind of way, something I find nostalgic as a former teenage-boy.
As I’ve said in past reviews, Spider-Man has found that some of Deadpool’s mannerisms have been rubbing off on him, even if this friendship was mainly formed so that Deadpool could better emulate Spider-Man. After he finishes “crushing ‘Overwatch,’” Spider-Man goes on to explain that his laissez-faire attitude is thanks in large part to Deadpool. This explanation comes perfectly timed, as Spidey’s new-found glibness in the face of murder is a few steps far past his characterization over in Amazing Spider-Man. In an example of what makes Spider-Man/Deadpool such a great book, Kelly gives explicit reason as to why Spider-Man’s particular characterizations has manifested in the way it has while also allowing it to slowly build over the past ten months. So when we see Spider-Man say that he’s “choosing the path of the Wade. Don’t sweat the small stuff,” we not only believe it, but it also acts as a payoff for the reader’s investment in the series. We as human beings adapt to the people we spend time with, whether we like it or not. That is true to life and that is exactly the idea this comic is based on and why this scene works for me.
However, this “way of the Wade” doesn’t quite explain why Spider-Man suddenly wants to parley with Patient Zero. After all, it was not but two issues ago that Spidey donned a new black suit to show how committed he was to inflicting a bit of the ol’ hyper-violence upon Patient Zero in retaliation for the hit he put out on Spider-Man. In what is an unfortunately rushed segment, Kelly teases us with the exposition we have been craving: the requisite villain monologue that puts the actions of his plans into perspective. While his narration was cut short (pun intended, Kelly’s not the only one who can tell jokes!), we did get a few key details revealed.
First, we see that Mephisto’s involvement in the grand scheme seems to be tied to Patient Zero’s plot for revenge. Right before he is seemingly killed, he claims that he made a “literal deal with the devil” in order to get revenge on Peter Parker and Deadpool. As expected, ties to “One More Day” were of course, a red herring, but I still think there might be a little more to the story than Kelly wanting to take the “deal with the devil” verbal cliché to a literal level. In regards to Patient Zero’s identity, unfortunately the best I can come up with is Weasel (who interacted to his massive detriment with Deadpool disguised as Peter Parker in Deadpool vol 1. #11), but that would be a Mason Banks level of misdirection.
The pugilism starts shortly after Itsy-Bitsy arrives (who, unlike Patient Zero and Deadpool, loves the name Spider-Man gave her). Much like Spider-Man/Deadpool #9, most of #10’s page count is devoted to verbal and physical sparring. The fight is surprisingly filled with snippets and teases of information regarding Itsy Bitsy’s background, including her name – Susan Mary – and her goal – to join forces with Spider-Man and Deadpool to raze New York city. Past that, her motivations are still a little murky, but in an interesting twist she not only has a mix of the two power sets, but also a bit of the personality of the two as well. So, Itsy Bitsy serves as a foil for the personality shifts of both characters as well as a tough physical adversary for the two to rally against.
The midfight banter for this sequence is perhaps the best the series has ever had, with all three parties contributing equally with great effect. This is exactly what I as a reader was hoping for when Spider-Man/Deadpool was first announced; a book filled with action, bad puns, and wacky antics. In that regard, this is the best issue of the series. But it also lacks the emotional depth that some might find predictable at this point, but I find gives a refreshing depth to the visceral humor and action. This issue doubles-down on last issue’s non-stop action; so, while Patient Zero was more of the master planner, it seems Itsy Bitsy takes the fight up close and personal, which means I think we’re going to be getting a little less time for introspection and a little bit more focus on the fisticuffs. I’m sure Kelly will always take time to work on the pathos of the series as well, so I’m not particularly worried about the direction of the series in that regard.
However, this issue ends on a cliffhanger that will stand until January, as the dream-team is taking another two months off while we have fill-in issues serve as place holders to keep our interest. And that is where I am a little worried about the direction. It’s a risky move to do again, especially when the story arc is at a critical place, but as we know Joe Kelly is a busy man working on comics as well as his animation team, Man of Action, and Ed McGuinness is known for not having the fastest pencil in the world. It’s a risk worth taking though, because when these two are on fire, they really burn brightly. I just hope reader interest, and my own, doesn’t wane after yet another roadblock to completing this arc.