Last month I shut Spider-Man/Deadpool #1 and thought “what more could I ask for in a book?” The obvious answer should have been Spider-Man/Deadpool #2, but hey, I didn’t know Kelly and McGuinness were going to spoil us rotten by giving us two amazing books back to back. Going into the title in January I wasn’t exactly sold on the premise, and going into this issue I still wasn’t entirely sure if I would enjoy seeing the same character-relationship play out. How many stories could be sustained by one of the stars detesting the other?
The end of the first issue lead us into an obvious hook for a second issue, but there’s always an apprehension (at least there is for a big ol’ cynic like myself) that lightning isn’t going to strike twice. I’ve seen it happen before in high-concept titles like this; a stellar first issue falls apart as the story gets wrapped up in itself and ultimate ends with a slight thud as it plods along to its contrived and forced conclusion. I do not believe that this is the case with Spider-Man/Deadpool #2, and while there are a few slight problems, I don’t believe they are indicative of a larger drop in quality.
The issue opens up not quite as strongly as the previous issue, but with something that jives a little more strongly with the tone and structure of this comic. We see Peter Parker in his office trying to overcome a wardrobe disaster (smart drinks? Wasn’t that an ’80s thing?) while Deadpool delivers narration that happens to correlate to the action on panel in a humorous way. It’s a slightly old-hat trick, but its done slightly more subtly than the trope normally plays out, so it works as an opening bit.
By examining the structure of the scene we also get a better feel on the structure of the title at large; last issue I raised concerns regarding the balance between Spider-Man and Deadpool as co-stars. This opening shows us that, for at least this story arc, we will receive Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) filtered through Deadpool. By this I mean that, while Spider-Man gets to share the headline and staring role, it is Deadpool who dictates the direction of the narrative and Spider-Man’s inclusion serves more as a context to frame the narrative around. By removing the narration blocks over these first two pages, we get a Dan Slott reminiscent skit in where goofy Peter comes up with an outlandish solution to a problem caused by his own incompetence. However, adding Deadpool’s narration on top of this scene changes it into something different; it gives dramatic irony to Deadpool’s monologue delivered on the following two pages that establishes the plot for the issue. It’s a slick technique that allows Kelly to slip in an exposition dump with little fuss — the spoon full of sugar needed for such a thing.
The following two pages also establish Deadpool’s current status quo much in the same way the previous two establish Peter’s. Kelly and McGuinness cram in quite a bit about Deadpool and his married life within these two pages, and as a person who has not really been keeping up with Deadpool I feel like I am now sufficiently up to speed to enjoy this book without any further questions. This might have been better served in the first book rather than the second, but the first issue was such dynamite and this scene feels so natural I don’t fault Kelly for waiting. Deadpool’s alliterative monologue felt very reminiscent of V for Vendetta‘s, and I’m surprised such a referential heavy character missed such an easy set up. Perhaps it was too easy.
Perhaps the biggest surprise this issue comes from a special appearance by none other than Miles Morales! Last review I commented that Deadpool and Spider-Man had a younger brother-older brother relationship established by the conclusion of the issue. While it’s a little early on in Miles’s 616 outing to comment on his relationship to Peter (Unless we count Bendis’s Spider-Men), Deadpool clearly holds animosity toward Miles due to his relationship with Spider-Man. He refers to Miles as “Spider-Adjacent” and “Spider-Clone Jr”, showing an unease at the idea that perhaps there is a hero who already fills the buddy-buddy role in Spider-Man’s life that Deadpool so desperately wishes to achieve. Sprinkled in this scene is another sequence of references to Deadpool’s testicles. A strange running gag, for sure and one that I think aims a little too low (pun intended).
But this Deadpool/Miles sequence also contains perhaps the biggest flaw of the issue, and really my only major complaint with Spider-Man/Deadpool #2. While Deadpool is trying to asertain if Peter Parker is “an evil genius or just plain evil villain,” turning the page greets the reader with a huge splash panel featuring a Goblin army attacking both Spider-Men. I actually flipped back to the previous page to make sure I didn’t have two pages stuck together. I felt like I was missing something and wonder if several pages never made print. On the bottom of the splash, Deadpool comments that there is a “mass hallucination” and that it appears to be affecting all but the destitute in the area. But this last part isn’t established visually, instead we get a visual cameo from the Three Stooges. I treaded over this page a few times, scouring for the thing I was sure I was missing but eventually realized it just wasn’t there. I suppose the internal narration blocks from both Peter and Deadpool were supposed to clue me in as to what was happening, but it was such a disconnect from the smooth visual storytelling that I wasn’t really prepared for the narration to carry the action rather than the art.
After this segment we get the second big treat of the issue, confirmation that Mysterio somehow made it out of the Ultimate universe! Beck is back and…. subsequently flattened by the Spider-Mobile— my bad, the Dead-Mobile. The inclusion of Mysterio is more than just fan service for those with refined and distinguished taste (Superior Fact: Mysterio is the greatest Spider-Man foe), but also gives us a little bit of what might be foreshadowing, saying ominously, “How we fool ourselves into believing our own illusions.” Since one of the themes of Spider-Man/Deadpool is Deadpool’s redemption and self-improvement, this line seems to speak of a future conflict. Perhaps down the road we’ll see Deadpool struggle with this newfound morality.
The pathos of the issue of comes at the further development of Spider-Man and Deadpool’s relationship, making good on the title “Isn’t It Bromantic?”. Thanks to Mysterio’s meddling, Spider-Man jumps to the conclusion that Deadpool is up to no good. In typical Peter Parker fashion, Spider-Man berates himself for ever trusting Deadpool or even believing that someone like Deadpool was capable of change. He ends up having to eat his words when he discovers Deadpool administering CPR to an unconscious Mysterio, further compounded by the later news from an EMT that it was Deadpool’s actions that saved Mysterio’s life. In a moment that has become somewhat rare in modern Spider-Man, Spider-Man admits he is wrong and acknowledges that yes, Deadpool can change. Spider-Man gives Deadpool his phone number, which strangely does not bring much response from Deadpool. Perhaps he is beginning to see that he’s fooling himself with his own illusion, as Mysterio put it – that Spider-Man is not the role model he thought he was. Regardless, by allowing Deadpool direct access to himself, Spider-Man is elevating their relationship to a mutual ground. A mutual ground that will be tested by…
Patient Zero, Deadpool’s mysterious employer. Human experiments? Parker Industries? Is it a trick from Mysterio? Orders from Doc Ock/The Living Brain? And who is this Patient Zero? Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t wan to read my speculation. This would be quite the deep cut reference, but in Marvel Universe vs the Punisher (that is, I think the second or third time there was a “Punisher kills everyone in the Marvel U” story), the Spider-Man of that universe was transformed into the cannibalistic Patient Zero. Patient Zero later formed a tribe of similarly transformed super heroes with none other than Deadpool as one of his right-hand men. Though this story ended with Patient Zero getting shot in the head, the inclusion of Quentin Beck Mysterio in Spider-Man/Deadpool #2 proves that getting half of your head blown off doesn’t necessarily mean you are down and out. This is of course purely speculation, but it would be something to see how a relationship between an evil Spider-Man and Deadpool would affect the budding friendship between the two “good” ones.
Spider-Man/Deadpool #2 was a really solid book and has already earned its place on my top 10 of the year (unless 2016 is really going to knock my socks off). Kelly and McGuinness show an understanding of serialized fiction that I feel a lot of modern “for the trade” writers neglect. This issue not only contains its own narrative arc, but in the background boils an overarching arc that ties the issues together into something cohesive. All too often you’ll have comics that jerk forward and halt suddenly when read month-to-month, only to be smoothed out later when collected as a trade paperback. Because of this, both issues if Spider-Man/Deadpool have been extremely satisfying and have a more “complete” feel to them. Set ups and pay-offs are more immediate, and while I’m sure that elements from #2 are going to pay off in #4, the setup is not at the forefront of the story. It feels more natural and ultimately makes for better reading.