Monday, July 16, 2012

Deadpool (The Video Game)

High Moon Studios just recently released a teaser trailer for an upcoming game based on my favorite comic book character, Deadpool.

My gut instinct is to be excited about this, but I can't help but be a bit reserved and skeptical. Let me explain why.

Believe it or not, there was a time when Deadpool was not really all that popular. It's a rather long and uninteresting story, but basically he had a number of comic series starting in 1997 and in 2004, he started sharing a title with another Liefeld character, Cable. "Cable & Deadpool" is still fondly remembered by many fans, primarily because Deadpool works best with a straight-man to play off of and Cable was a great straight-man. However, it became more and more obvious that Deadpool was a little too shut off from the rest of the Marvel Universe. Cable's story arcs were always the ones that actually had any weight regarding the rest of Earth-616 and Deadpool was basically just the character that bounced around and messed things up or had wacky adventures that were entirely divorced from Cable's plots. It was unsurprising that when Cable left due to X-Men time-travel shenanigans and whatnot, Deadpool didn't have much else to do.

Deadpool had always had a dedicated following, but he never went mainstream, primarily because he almost never got involved with the mainstream universe's goings-on.

Then in 2008, about half a year after "Cable & Deadpool" got canceled, Deadpool got his own solo title back, this time written by Daniel Way.

A lot of people have different feelings regarding this run, but personally, while I do think that Daniel Way isn't the FUNNIEST writer for Deadpool, he certainly GETS Deadpool in a way that no one really has since Joe Kelly.

You see, people who often write Deadpool understand only a few key elements of him. They know he's murderous, insane, hilarious, ugly, and that he breaks the fourth wall. So that's usually the extent of what they do with him.

What Joe Kelly did (and what Daniel Way does) is he understood WHY Deadpool behaved the way he did. He showed us that Deadpool was very conflicted and perhaps isn't as crazy as he lets on. He sometimes made us wonder if Deadpool was the only sane person in the entire universe. His fourth-wall breaking isn't just there to be silly, it's there either because of his tenuous grip on the nature of his reality or because it's the only way he can mentally digest the absurdity of his life.

My point is, I like Daniel Way's run because he gets Deadpool in a way that most writers don't.

The other thing about Daniel Way's run is that it ushered in a bit of a Deadpool craze.

You see, another thing that marked Daniel Way's run was that he started getting Deadpool more involved in the over-arching plots of the Marvel Universe. In fact, the first year or so of Deadpool's new comic was almost entirely centered around something he does during the "Secret Invasion" story line. It also tied him in with the Thunderbolts series during the "Dark Reign" story line. I personally think that this momentary spotlight gave Deadpool a sudden boost in visibility and new readers flocked to him. Deadpool became more popular than ever before.

As a long-time fan, I was happy to see the character finally getting the attention I believed he deserved.

However, as any Marvel fan knows, once Marvel has a popular character on their hands, they milk it for all that it's worth.

Since Daniel Way's run became popular, we've had "Deadpool: Suicide Kings", "Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth", "Deadpool Corps", "Deadpool Team-Up", "Deadpool MAX", "Deadpool Pulp", "Deadpool: Wade Wilson's War"... the list of spin-offs and miniseries goes on. And the worst part is that with rare exception, almost none of them actually understand the character.

Deadpool is often misused as a character designed to let comedic writers do whatever silly funny things they want without needing to be serious. Deadpool's crazy so he doesn't need a good reason to do any of the things he does, right? So let's just throw him into whatever plot we come up with and throw in a ton of jokes and action scenes and that'll do it.

This is why I can't tolerate most of these other series. It's not enough to be funny and violent. There's a certain amount of subtle intellectualism behind Deadpool that far too many people miss. They basically treat him like a funny Punisher.

And to be quite frank, when I look at this trailer, I definitely get the feeling that High Moon Studios only gets the funny and violent part.

Now, that can work to a certain extent. I mean, Deadpool's inclusion in team-up video games and "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" didn't need to reach past his surface-level antics because those games aren't about individual character development.

However, an entire game centered around him with a real narrative and everything absolutely MUST understand him.

I will say this, Nolan North has always done a good Deadpool. He first voiced the character in a short animated feature called "Hulk Vs. Wolverine", portraying a version of the character that was still with Weapon X and had clearly not yet grown a conscience. He was funny but still sounded a bit threatening and vindictive. Then he reprised the character in the aforementioned "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3", where he sounded more like he does in this trailer. A bit goofier, a bit more playful, and less vindictive and threatening. To me, this shows that North understands how layered the character is. I also gained a ton of respect for the actor's talent in his recent performances as Superboy in "Young Justice". I think he can pull this off if he's given a good script.

That's the part that worries me.

If the entire game is just about Deadpool bouncing around and having silly adventures and never ever gets serious, I will absolutely hate it, no matter how good Nolan North is.

It's hard to judge a game based on a trailer like this, but let's just say that given the volumes of bad Deadpool interpretations that have come out over the past few years, I won't be surprised if this game will just be a "Devil May Cry" game with lots of bad jokes and wasted opportunities.