Written by Skottie Young
Art by Nic Klein, Scott Hepburn and Ian Herring
Lettering by Jeff Eckleberry
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Blessed with an indomitable healing factor and a clear lack of self-preservation, there’s not much that can keep Deadpool down - except trying to channel his silver screen successes back into the silent, sanitized world of sequential art. Armed with some striking artwork from Nic Klein, writer Skottie Young tries valiantly to channel Wade Wilson’s rapid-fire snark into the pages of the Merc With a Mouth, but something is lost in translation without Ryan Reynolds’ sly delivery, making Deadpool #1 feel like an ill-defined debut.
It’s not to say that Young isn’t a funny guy - his I Hate Fairyland, particularly its Image-skewering Free Comic Book Day offering, is fantastic - but usually his sense of humor is sold by his cartoony artwork, which can play up the absurdity and over-the-top violence. But Young winds up hitting the limits of his medium with Deadpool #1, as we see Wade battle a biker gang leader while grappling with his new status quo after his self-induced mindwipe at the end of his last series and bantering with former Grant Morrison side character and modern-day movie transplant Teenage Negasonic Warhead. You can tell from certain lines that Young has Ryan Reynolds’ voice down pat (“Avert your eyes,” Deadpool tells one bystander. “I don’t want you falling in love with me after you see all my business.”), but reading these lines feels like a very different affair from an actor delivering them - additionally, because Marvel understandably wants to sell this book, Wade also gets censored repeatedly, and the effect becomes quickly noticeable, even distracting at times.
But beyond that Reynolds charm being lost in translation back to Deadpool’s home medium, Young’s plotting feels underdeveloped. He’s smart to start the issue off with some conflict, but it still takes four pages for Deadpool to really get into action - but a quick fight-reversal-fight against forgettable biker types doesn’t make for a particularly memorable opening, while seven pages featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers might leave you wondering if Young is already running out of things to say about his titular Merc With a Mouth. I do give Young some credit for actually bringing up Wade’s mindwipe, however, even if I think addressing it kind of trips up the elegant series finale that Gerry Duggan left for him - if Young has an actual storytelling plan regarding the mindwipe, it could lead to some interesting places, but it could also just be unnecessary exposition that further bogs down this issue.
But Nic Klein? Oh man, consider this Nic Klein’s audition tape for an Avengers book someday - doing his own pencils, inks and colors, Klein is channeling some serious Jerome Opena and Dean White vibes here, and it makes Deadpool #1 hit like a freight train. (Particularly with one page where Deadpool literally gets knocked through a window, or a later sequence where Wade gets curb-stomped into a bloody, broken mess by a metahuman biker.) I do think there’s some room to grow with Klein’s back-and-forth with Young — even though Klein does sell Young’s one-liners while Wade cackles inside a crowded theater, I’d argue he’s not quite given enough to do to sell his action chops. But Klein’s sense of character design, rendering and most especially color looks incredible, to the point where Scott Hepburn and Ian Herring wind up feeling a bit outclassed in Young’s backup story, an overly busy affair that tries to sanitize Wade’s secret origin in the vein of other superheroes - it’s a story that is trying to emulate the Deadpool movies’ meta streak, but feels too insular to really sell the joke.
It can’t be easy, launching a character with as much pressure and expectations as Deadpool - both because of the character’s box office legs, as well as Gerry Duggan’s record-setting five-year-run with the Regenerating Degenerate. So with that in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that Young and Klein are going to take some time finding their feet, let alone filling these massive shoes. On the plus side, Deadpool possesses some fearsome artistic chops that should be seen to be believed, but on the other hand, Young still has his work cut out for him if he’s going to add any sparks or any depth to one of Marvel’s most cartoonish characters.