Deadpool takes away off from murdering people to work through an existential crisis while being continuously interrupted by an annoying clown.
After five funny but largely forgettable issues, Skottie Young’s run of Deadpool has finally found its stride. This issue trades manic dialogue and cartoonish violence for morbid, circumstantial humour and it works entirely because there’s a sense of emotional solidity to the story which has been totally absent from other issues.
In this book, Deadpool is trudging his way through a very real existential crisis. He wakes up (upside-down and fully dressed, on his bare, bloodspattered mattress) and cannot even muster the snark to insult Negasonic Teenage Warhead for texting him awake. After taking the day off, he’s summoned to the window by the sound of a bullet breaking glass. Across the street, a man in a Joker-like take on his own costume informs him that his bullets disable mutant abilities and will therefore kill him.
Wade stands there, in the window with the red dot glowing on his forehead; waiting for it to come.
Deadpool has no jokes; so he has no reason to live.
Luckily, for us, the would-be assassin is thwarted when a giant space-monster (battling the Fantastic Four) slams into the side of the building and knocks him to the ground — saving Wade’s life.
From that point on, the issue is spent following Deadpool as he lurches through his day, completely numb to everything (he can’t even gather the energy to mock a neckbearded fedora-wearer who is buisilly -and poorly- mansplaining Deadpool II to a woman in the laundromat) while this grinning Joker-knockoff repeatedly tries and fails to kill him. It’s funny precisely because it’s a horrible, depressing, stupid situation. This is Deadpool’s take on the old Pagliacci joke. You know the one I mean. It was in Watchmen:
‘Man goes to doctor. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lays ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man busts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.”
Luckily for us, Deadpool cannot dwell in the emotional doldrums for very long. After another Doctor (Strange, this time) offers his services as therapist (and free use of a bad penis-joke) our boy Wade is cured by the man who has spent the previous 28-pages trying to murder him.
I wont give away the punchline here, but let’s just say it’s a doozy.
One more note before I go. This issue worked so well because it was tonally complex. It played with layers of humour: stupid visual gags were superimposed over emotional irony; penis jokes played next to clever literary and pop-culture references. It wasn’t a song composed using the same three chords over and over and over again. I’m not saying that ‘suicidally depressed Wade’ should be the new character default (that would get boring, fast; and it would be too easy to slip into harmful stereotypes) but there’s room in this series for more than one flavour of narrative. I hope that this level of storytelling experimentation is the beginning of a new direction for the book.
Stories about depression are rarely this much fun. There was an emotional honesty to this issue which shocked me, without reducing the quality of the humour.
Deadpool #6 Pagliacci
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 8/108/10
- Color - 7.5/107.5/10
- Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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