On the other side of the playground, Mark wrote in his review of Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #28 that “we can never expect a true resolution from comics,” that serialized story-telling of this nature demands an open door. I agree with that, for the most part, but Spider-Man/Deadpool #18 shows us a different kind of resolution – one that opens doors rather than shuts them. Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness end their tale on a positive note, proving the hypothesis they set forth for readers back in the first issue: yes, Spider-Man and Deadpool can have a meaningful friendship.
Spider-Man/Deadpool #18 gives us the climactic final battle between Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Itsy-Bitsy, complete with a shadowy Mephisto watching in the distance. After teasing his hand for so long, Kelly’s introduction with Mephisto speaking directly to the reader comes abruptly. No dramatic reveal or flair to it, though it was appropriately chilling – an effect amplified by the direct address. Ultimately, Mephitso’s role in the story is tertiary. Those looking for a rebuking or direct reference to One More Day from Kelly might be disappointed that the main take away is that despite not being able to meddle directly, Mephisto takes a perverse joy in specifically twisting Peter Parker’s life. No nuggets for those clinging desperately to the distant pipe dream that one day the Pete and MJ will be reunited in the main continuity.
As for the epic struggle between the two title characters itself, it serves its purpose but perhaps not in the most satisfactory way. Because I had some issue following the events of the action, I’ll break them down here (also in the chance that I got them wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments below). Deadpool, cornering Spider-Man in a debate on morality, realizes that Spider-Man has considered all options of their encounter with Itsy-Bitsy and plans to not only kill her, but sacrifice himself in the process due to his inability to cope with the guilt of taking a life. Deadpool then stuns Spider-Man with a sucker punch, throws up a smokescreen, and disguises himself as Spider-Man before throwing Itsy-Bitsy into the death trap. The switch-a-roo is for Mephisto’s benefit, so Deadpool can get back at him for manipulating the two by pulling the rug out from under him in his moment of triumph. I’m not going to lie, it took me more than one pass to string all of that together and I didn’t really get the motivation for the switch until I laid it all down. This would be more permissible if this was any random issue, sometimes sequencing just falls flat, but since this is the final issue and this is supposed to be the big climactic moment, it’s more than a little disappointing. Perhaps adding to the confusion is the absolute lack of backgrounds for this sequence’ McGuinness goes for an empty panel that colorist Jason Keith fills in with a light gradient. It’s a commonly employed trick, but here it just adds to the mess.
And that brings me to what is ultimate the downfall of this individual issue: it just goes by so fast. Spider-Man strongly implies he’s going on a suicide attack, and before that concept is properly hammered into the reader, the fight is over and done with. Spider-Man’s slide into darker and edgier territory has been one that’s been a difficult pill to swallow in this title, but I keep revisiting the scant few panels we have devoted to this idea of Spider-Man dying along with Itsy-Bitsy and I can’t come up with any other reading. The fact that Kelly would go this dark is surprising, but the fact that he would go this dark and not really give adequate time to explore it is further surprising. If anything, it should have served as the climax of the story, and yet it seems to be buried beneath explosions and fake-outs. I suppose that if you did not have any issue with Spider-Man’s mood swing, this might not have bothered you as much as it did me, but I can’t help but wonder if Kelly went a little too far for the story. Spider-Man and Deadpool’s fight was already on solid ground, I’m not quite sure if there was wisdom in cranking up the stakes even more.
All of this is to service the closing pages, where Spider-Man and Deadpool reconcile and Spider-Man thanks Deadpool for the friend he has become. The series concludes by tying a bow on the story presented by the closing pages of the first issue: not only has Deadpool become a better person through Spider-Man, Spider-Man has realized that people can change. The issue offers a resolution that shifts the way the two characters interact (though, it’s on editorial to enforce that), and that’s the way to resolve stories in comic books. By constantly altering how the pieces of your puzzle interact, you’re able to create new and interesting stories where there previously were none. Don’t let my criticisms of this issue downplay how satisfying this conclusion is for the reader; while Spider-Man and Deadpool are never going to have the same friendship as Spidey and the Human Torch (or Wolverine, if you’re more into that), their friendship here seems more real and organic than perhaps his Rachel/Ross relationship with Mockingbird over in Amazing. And that’s what makes this issue, and in turn this entire series, a success.
This is not the end of Spider-Man/Deadpool however. We’re getting another two issue fill-in arc from fill-in regular Joshua Corin with Will Robson on art duty. After that, a new regular writer and artist will take the mantel and start the job of filling in the sizable shoes left behind by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness. So far, the team has not been named but we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s announced.