Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Pull List - Comic Reviews for 8/22/2012

- Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #4
- Justice League Dark #12
- Teen Titans #12

SPOILERS beyond this point. Also, a new addition I call Panel of the Week.

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #4

The previous three issues of this miniseries had left me wondering if I had misjudged it initially in my post The Marvel Universe Kills Deadpool. I admit, this series has delved deeper into Deadpool's psyche than I expected it to. While Deadpool's killing spree was rather poorly written, the fact that Cullen Bunn was making Deadpool's self-awareness a central theme in his motivation was probably the most important thing they could have gotten right.

Too bad Bunn didn't really have anything to say beyond that.

In the first three issues we establish that Deadpool's primary motivation is self-destruction, which is not uncommon for Deadpool. In fact, he just recently went through a similar self-destructive arc in his monthly series. The difference here is that due to Psycho Man's vague mind-shenanigans, he has become consciously self-aware and has decided that, rather than kill himself, he'd rather that he never even existed in the first place. Destroy all worlds so that he has nowhere to exist.

Those are some pretty high stakes, and I was really fascinated to see how Bunn would resolve them.

Well... he doesn't.

The story ends with Deadpool successfully leaving his world in ruin and escaping into our world to kill Bunn and his team as they are writing the ending to the comic. It's basically the same as the ending to the short film The Gamers.

In other words, nothing is resolved. Deadpool will presumably keep killing in "the real world" as a never-ending force of imaginary destruction. He never has to come to terms with the futility of his goal, he never learns to accept his place in the Marvel Universe, nothing is lost, gained, or understood.

All that this miniseries amounts to is, "If Deadpool snapped, he would do everything he could to tear the fabric of all comic reality to pieces." Umm... thanks Bunn, but I already knew that. I mean, granted, maybe not a lot of casual Deadpool fans understand that part of his character, but it's still nothing new. Other writers have explored that aspect of his character with much more subtlety than you and they didn't have to shoehorn boring action scenes in to do it.

Look, I don't want to be too mean. Cullen Bunn demonstrated that he understands Deadpool more than I initially gave him credit for. He deserves kudos for that at least. But he doesn't have anything NEW to say beyond that. It's an incomplete character arc. And since he doesn't really have the interest to actually develop Deadpool's character, the only thing this comic is good for is some poorly-conceived battle scenes that I don't think anyone really demanded, despite what the comic intro page would suggest.

This comic COULD have worked. Even if they didn't want to end it with Deadpool ultimately failing in his goal, either because he realized its futility or because he came to terms with his place in fiction, they still could have found some other way of making it matter. The idea that there's a murderous Deadpool running loose in the Marvel Multiverse, hopping through and slaughtering universe after universe is a great plot device that anyone could use in future books, even canonical ones. But the fact that he decided to go straight for OUR universe suggests that they have no intention to go any further with this version of Deadpool in any other Marvel Continuity, which is a real shame. I would love to see this Deadpool and the Deadpool of Earth-616 (the main Marvel Comic Continuity) face off.

All in all, the Deadpool in this series is not by any means the worst version of Deadpool ever conceived by a writer. He's actually probably the best else-worlds Deadpool that I've seen. Certainly miles better than the version in "Deadpool Pulp". My biggest issue with this mini-series at the end of the day is that it had no idea what it wanted to actually accomplish. It started out with a premise and didn't care enough to find a satisfying conclusion for it. Cullen Bunn wanted to have fun with a fully-self-aware and murderous Deadpool, but didn't bother to think of a decent reason for why it would happen or what it would ultimately lead to.

It's disappointing, but not god-awful.

Justice League Dark #12

Jeff Lemire continues to entertain. He's also rather good at juggling plot points.

Whenever a writer has two characters talk about something in their past that doesn't immediately result in any major changes, you can bet that it's some kind of foreshadowing. Lemire is very much guilty of this, particularly in this issue. But what he does well is that he does this often enough that while you know something is going to be important later, there are enough dangling loose threads to obfuscate his ultimate purpose.

For example, there's a moment in this issue where Constantine and Orchid are chatting about his past relationship with Zatanna. We spend about a page or so expositing about how because of him, her father, Zatara, his dead. It seems fairly obvious that this will become important since this revelation doesn't immediately affect anything, but it's somewhat unclear HOW it will be important. At first you think that the identity of the shadowy mystery man that is in charge of Faust is actually Zatara, but then in a later scene it is confirmed that it is NOT in fact Zatara. So then you're left wondering, "So why did we have that talk about Zatara before?" And we don't get an answer. And then, by the time the next issue comes out, we'll either have forgotten about it or Lemire will bring up some other plot point to distract us from it, causing us to let our guard down and leading up to some sort of surprise down the road.

Lemire's run on the series so far is a great example of how you can write conventionally but still make it compelling and well-crafted. I still very much recommend this if you like more magic in your comic books.

Teen Titans #12

I wrote last month about how I was considering dropping Teen Titans. I'm still on the fence a bit, admittedly. The series is still horrendously paced and constantly leaves me feeling like I missed something. As Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw once said in regards to something completely unrelated, "...It's like coming home from school to find a walrus sitting at the family dinner table and you're the only one who seems to notice."

As an example, this issue starts off rather well. Wonder Girl's armor has gone apeshit and Red Robin and Superboy are trying to get her out of it. It's a good battle scene, well-thought-out, and has a satisfying conclusion. Then some random guy named Diesel that was momentarily introduced previously shows up, reveals that he's Wonder Girl's ex-boyfriend or something, takes the armor, and runs off with it. At no point during this entire exchange do Red Robin or Superboy bother to ask who he is, what he's doing, and if he would kindly stop before Superboy pummels him into the ground. Seriously, they seemed pretty on top of things before this dude randomly showed up conveniently out of thin air. Then they sort of forgot they existed.

It's the everlasting struggle with this series. I like the characters and I think the team is actually well-constructed and balanced, but it's plotted worse than a Wile E. Coyote plan. It always just feels way too rushed and doesn't take the time to properly set up things. It feels like the series is perpetually in medias res. We're always in the middle of something and whenever we finally conclude something, something else quickly pops up to take its place, whether or not it actually makes any sense. It's really, really jarring and confusing.

Panel of the Week

I kind of got tired of always ending these review posts on a whimper, so I'm doing a new thing where I pick my favorite panel or panels from that week's pull list to share with you all out-of-context. Enjoy and see you next week!