What great thing can I say about this title that I haven’t already said? Last month’s epilogue was a false-start, but “Itsy Bitsy” begins in Spider-Man/Deadpool#9 with all the fanfare I expected. While I’m not sure anything can top the phenomenal start of “Bromantic”, #9 delivers an extraordinarily strong opening for a title filed with extraordinarily strong issues.
While “Isn’t it Bromantic” was all about subterfuge, plot twists, and layers of manipulation, “Itsy Bitsy” is, if this issue is any indication, going to be more of a straight forward brawler. Also, while “Isn’t It Bromantic” felt like more of a Deadpool story featuring Spider-Man, part one of “Itsy Bitsy” featured some tropes that will be very familiar for long-time Spider-Man fans, such as the formation of variation of the Sinister Six as well as a stand-off with the police after they catch our heroes in a compromising situation. Classic Spider-Man stuff that hopefully we see a little bit more of. Not that the previous arc was bad by any stretch of the imagination, but at times it certainly felt like Deadpool Team-Up rather than the equal billing promised by the title’s backslash.
Spider-Man/Deadpool #9 opens with the “Hateful Hexad”, an ill-fated grouping of D-listers looking to make it big. Featuring forgotten favorites such as Squid, Gibbon, and Amazing Spider-Talk Flash Review cohost Swarm; the Hexad fills a similar role to the Sinister Six of Superior Foes of Spider-Man and that’s to not pose a serious threat but to… well, get the stuffing knocked out of them. Light on the tension but heavy on the pugilism, the extended butt-whoopin’ the Hexad receive through the issue serves mostly as background while Spider-Man and Deadpool really explore and establish the ground work of friendship they’ve both found in each other in order to set the stakes for the opening of the arc.
This is good writing because it’s essentially exposition, but it comes off as a natural conversation. It also serves as another layer of the Hexad joke, the Hexad, who take them selves very seriously, are disposed of while Spider-Man and Deadpool carry on a light conversation. They grade each other’s one liners, rib each other, and even express genuine concern for the other, masked behind a thin layer of smarm.
The two have moved closer to the middle point between each others personality; Spider-Man has become a little less “friendly-neighborhood” and Deadpool has gained a conscious, noting when Spider-Man crosses the line between witty banter and aggressive insults. This plays in thematically with the new villain Itsy Bitsy, who seems to be a cross between Deadpool and Spider-Man, going so far as to call them both “daddy”. Itsy-Bitsy’s costume is a bit “old school” when it comes to women’s costuming in comic books, but I’m not entirely sure what to think about it. The ripped camisole looks like it was straight out ‘99 and the seam-stretching curves say much the same, but as far as “cheesecake” designs are concerned, not to many of them also feature six arms and extra sets of eyes.
As we know from previous issues, Patient Zero (and thus, Mephisto) is behind Itsy Bitsy’s creation, but other than that we don’t know much about her aside from her murderous tendencies. Yes, most of the Hexad didn’t make it to the end of the issue, but since Ox (and possibly White Rabbit) was killed in a backup story in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #1, I don’t think anyone is really paying attention to how often he dies, but it still serves as a small disconnect for readers like me who keep tabs on who’s above ground and who’s currently six-under, which segues into a larger discussion.
As many of you know, there is an ongoing debate that has been going on for quite a few years (as far back as the Clone Saga in the 90s, according to our interview with Howard Mackie and Terry Kavanaugh) about the role of continuity in comics and its role in storytelling. Not to tip my hat, but my own personal feelings on the issue put a heavy weight on continuity, but I think ultimately killing off a D-list character that is already dead isn’t that big of a deal. Part of this has to do with Spider-Man/Deadpool mostly being a comedy book, and comedy plays by different rules, but this kind of minutia doesn’t really matter. Sure, Ox acts a little more “Lenny” like – as Deadpool pointed out – than previously depicted, but it works for this story and it’s at least one step away from how he’s typically portrayed: the big muscle who doesn’t have to think with anything but his fists. To use characters in multiple books with multiple tones, their personalities cannot be immutable. However, they do need to remain recognizable to the “Platonic ideal” of the character.
I’ve already touched on some of the art direction in regards to Itsy-Bitsy’s costume, but the protracted brawl that takes up all but three or four pages of Spider-Man/Deadpool #9 lets McGuinness let loose with his signature paneling, lack of gutters, asymmetric panel size, characters popping out of panel, and lots of tight, tight framing. Sometimes I think the framing is a little too tight, so particular actions (especially Deadpool getting impaled by White Rabbit) don’t get perhaps some of the visual emphasis they deserve, but it makes for a very in-your-face kind of read when the panels are mostly bright spandex without much room for background.
It’s a style that works very well for McGuinness because it plays so strongly into how he panels, or perhaps he panels the way he does because it plays strongly into how he likes to draw. There is a minor error at the end of the title, which features an “earlier that day” flashback in where Deadpool’s costume is ripped from the Hexad fight he will be having later that day, but that’s not the first time this comic has had minor issues with temporal continuity.
All in all, Spider-Man/Deadpool #9 is a return to form for the title. My thoughts on the previous issue might have been a little harsh, but that’s only because this book is held to such a high standard, and it’s issues like #9 that prove it’s a standard that they can meet. #9 isn’t flawless, but the errors it does have are small or somewhat pedantic. Spider-Man/Deadpool continues to be a blast to read.