Best Shots Advance Reviews: SPIDER-MAN/DEADPOOL #1, X-MEN: WORST X-MAN EVER #1

"X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever" cover
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Spider-Man/Deadpool #1
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales and Jason Keith
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Every generation has their power couple. Abbott and Costello. Harry and Sally. Sid and Nancy.

And in the case of Marvel, it's Spider-Man and Deadpool. Well, at least some will think so. Pitting your Friendly Neighborhood Webslinger against the Merc with a Mouth is a pairing that might seem like a no-brainer... or a recipe for disaster. Writer Joe Kelly's wit is buoyed by Ed McGuinness' striking artwork in Spider-Man/Deadpool #1, but buyer beware - if you're not a fan of Wade Wilson, you're going to find this series as one more example of peak Deadpool saturation.

As a longtime Spider-Fan, the most jarring part about Spider-Man/Deadpool is the dynamic that Joe Kelly has given his titular heroes. We're used to Peter Parker firing dad jokes while he battles Doc Ock, but having him be the harried straight man to Deadpool's free association gags? It can be an acquired taste, even as Peter tells Wade to take all the "'words' swirling inside the toxic waste vat you call your brain and suffocate them," this series puts Spider-Man firmly in the reactive role. (Particularly as Deadpool talks about giving M.O.D.O.K. a sponge bath, or warns Spidey that since they've been tied up together by the dread Dormammu, he may have an erection.)

Blue humor aside, Kelly has some funny twists in this issue, such as Deadpool taking the "mindless" out of the Mindless Ones, or Spidey pulling the pins out of Deadpool's grenades using some precision webbing. There are some bits, however, that don't translate quite as well, such as Deadpool's D&D alignment app, which brings him from Chaotic Neutral to Heroic Good, but doesn't always stick the landing in terms of explaining how Wade might rationalize these statuses. One thing that may help or hurt this book, depending on the reader involved, is that Kelly also has this less-than-dynamic duo set in their ways - Wade is the wacky jokester, while Spidey is perpetually put-upon and self-deprecating. While some readers will be more than happy with that, to me it occasionally felt unbalanced.

But having Ed McGuinness on this book will make it an instant buy for many, and they wouldn't be wrong. Even with Kelly's talky, panel-dense scripting, McGuinness makes his action pages look sleek, really differentiating between Spider-Man's more balletic style of combat versus the bulkier Deadpool's in-your-face gunwork. With Mark Morales' smooth inkwork, there's a lot of comparisons that could be made with Frank Cho or Nick Bradshaw. That said, if there was one thing that was a detractor for the art, it's that the script doesn't often give McGuinness a lot of room to really show off his action chops - McGuinness does his best to keep this book from looking like just talking heads, but after awhile, he definitely gets overshadowed by the dense dialogue.

Ultimately, Spider-Man/Deadpool is a strong showing from two talented creators, and there will likely be a ton of self-selection just as this book is released. People who find Wade Wilson annoying or one-note will not be converted here, while readers who can't get enough of the Merc with a Mouth will have one more title to enjoy his presence. Seeing Ed McGuinness artwork is enough of a treat for this reviewer to give this book a chance - here's hoping that Joe Kelly will dig even deeper into this not-so-odd couple in future installments.

Worst X-Man Ever #1
Worst X-Man Ever #1
Credit: Marvel

X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever #1
Written by Max Bemis
Art by Michael Walsh and Ruth Redmond
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Stop me if you've heard this one before - an ordinary schlub discovers he has great powers and joins up with a group of superheroes to not just save the day, but to redeem himself as a human being.

Now imagine if that schlub never grew up.

That's basically the premise of X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever, a semi-comic comic book that doesn't quite have enough narrative meat to justify this limited series. Say Anything frontman Max Bemis has written some fun comics with his work on Polarity and Evil Empire, but only die-hards will want to spend their comic book budget on this non-starter.

There's a saying out there about carrying yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man, and that's absolutely Bailey Hoskins, the protagonist of this series. Bemis opens up this series with Bailey checking out girls to hook up with his on cell phone, but he's neither dark nor cool nor edgy enough to be anywhere in their league. (He scoffs at the one girl his best friend suggests to him, complaining she "has not one noteworthy quality to her.") But this opening scene doesn't do Bemis any favors by making his lead seem compelling - instead, it's very, very clear from the first page that he's kind of a clueless loser, one who would rather spend all day playing Halo rather than, well, trying to pursue any of the avenues that might make him seem as special as he so desperately wants to be. He is the worst.

After a handful of establishing pages, Bemis finally cuts to the chase - namely, that Bailey is a second-generation mutant, and that he needs a consultation at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. Unfortunately, you already know the punchline to Bemis' joke just from the cover of the book - Bailey's power is a one-time use kind of deal that is totally useless to him. It feels about as meaty as a Saturday Night Live sketch, so the idea of stretching this out over five issues goes beyond beating a dead horse - by next issue, we're going to be shipping this book's carcass to the glue factory. Things could be salvaged with the strong characterization built up over the years with the rest of the X-Men, but at this point, Bemis has barely scratched the surface of typically personable characters such as Beast, Jubilee and Forge.

The one highlight of this book has to be artist Michael Walsh, who is being criminally misused to be tasked with a comic book like this. His sketchy inkwork lends a ton of atmosphere to even the least dramatic pages (and there are plenty of them), and his expression work goes a long way towards salvaging this book. (His take on Wolverine, who just pops his claws and shouts out a ton of random curse words, is easily the highlight of the book, and definitely Bemis' funniest gag.)

The X-Men had established their own version of Hogwarts decades before Harry Potter ever hit the scene, and there's plenty of potential for a story about an average kid in a school filled with extraordinary people. Unfortunately, this story doesn't reach that potential. With predictable plotting and an annoying lead character, not even Michael Walsh's artwork is enough to justify buying this book. Worst X-Men Ever, indeed.

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