Deadpool #1:

Escapism for Absurdists

On November 7th, the latest volume in the continuing saga of Marvel’s Merc with the Mouth hit the shelves with “Marvel Now!” Deadpool #1, and the issue is wonderful.

What can one say about Deadpool that has not already been said? He is zany. He breaks the fourth wall and kills people with reckless abandon. It is a status that the character has attained through a perpetual character evolution from his inception as a Liefeldian copy of Deathstroke from the New Teen Titans. The fact that the character could become something so drastically different from his creation demonstrates the life of our fictional characters. It is why he has maintained such a cult like fan following over the years. The simple fact that he has a game coming out in 2013 shows the faith and favor Marvel has in the character and his comedic nature.

It is also because of the fan following Deadpool has that Marvel chose to make his latest book one of he first wave of their new “Marvel Now!” books. However, despite all the praise the character has received by fans I have not really seen anyone call him what he truly is: absurdist escapism.

Deadpool as a character exists within a medium and genre that was created with the proponents of escapism in mind. He is a release valve for the audience to vent their own frustrations of the world upon by placing themselves in his position.  Part of the reason he has such a loyal fanbase is because when the character accepts his reality as an escapist fantasy and then goes to the furthest extremes with that concept. By going to such extremes as fighting gun-toting alien raccoons or turning a super-villain into a key chain, Deadpool becomes a symbol of the fun and sometimes illogical side of comic books. His stories, rather than attempt to find logic in the illogic of his fictional universe, often attempt to have fun and explore the absurdities of reality.

It is in this absurdist escapism that Deadpool represents that allows Deadpool #1 to work as a comic.

The issue begins with a narration caption detailing an unseen character’s sense of sickness towards the current state of America. It is a scene often used to introduce a villain in an ominous and threatening light. The comical and absurd air of Deadpool continuity immediately undercuts the build up for the threat of the villain when the narrator is revealed to be a chubby necromancer in a SHIELD uniform, face paint, and a kilt. As if to make the absurdities of the Marvel Universe take form the necromancer resurrects former president Harry S. Truman as a magically empowered zombie. It is almost an escapist parody of the political frustrations many Americans seem to feel as we see Captain America behead the dead president and set up the premise of this first arc.

The premise being that the public, representing the logical side of the Marvel Universe that rejects the absurdities of their own reality, can’t accept that Captain America, one of their chosen heroes, would slay resurrected presidents. The absurd idea forces SHIELD into outsourcing the problem to someone else, namely Deadpool. Our resident Merc with the Mouth is, meanwhile, busy cutting himself out of a giant monster that had apparently swallowed him and Thor. Deadpool jovially laughs about his “team-up” and in another demonstration of the separation of the Marvel Universe’s logic with the absurd illogic that Deadpool represents Thor flies off in disgust and embarrassment of Deadpool.

It is at this point the meat of the issue is shown as panic ensues in the streets of New York with Deadpool nearby. The cause of the panic is the mystical zombie of FDR.  It is the choice of using of using America’s only wheelchair bound president that just shows how ridiculous and fun the Deadpool world can be. He is the perfect villain choice for this comic’s first issue to really channel the absurdist escapism. We, the readers, put ourselves into the place of Deadpool for the same reason we play Grand Theft Auto or the Naked Gun movies; to feel a catharsis of absurdity.

For the majority of the issue, we see a brawl wrought with one-liners, puns, and superhuman vs. wheelchair bound zombie action. Every bit of it has the excitement of a super-hero story, but the real magic of this scene comes from the fact that it feels normal. The context of Deadpool’s world and frame of thought makes this moment feel right and isn’t jarring to the reader, helping draw them into the escapist mentality that the comic is trying to draw out. You hear the jokes that you know you would love to make. You see the action that gets your heart racing. It delivers on all the elements you want to see in a superhero comic and on a comedy book, and the melding is done in such a way that neither overwhelms the other.

As the issue draws to a close, Deadpool comes across a meeting of dead presidents (and a terrified Jimmy Carter protesting his inclusion in this meeting) as they declare war on America so as to rebuild it in their original image of the country. The presidents are portrayed in an almost cartoonish parody of themselves that each delivers a chuckle. Taft is shown to be morbidly obese man in a hot tub. Kennedy is covered in lipstick kisses with the back of his head missing. Beer is scattered amid the room as if the presidents held a kegger party. A scene that, in one splash page, shows the silliness and absurdity of Deadpool’s world, because the threat is portrayed with as much menace as they are hilarity. A match for Deadpool’s own sensibilities punctuated with a gunshot to the back of Wade’s head courtesy of a jubilant Abe Lincoln proclaiming that he “always wanted to do that.”

Throughout the issue I was enamored with the ridiculous illogic that felt so natural with the aesthetic of the book. I couldn’t conceive of a better way to start a series so entrenched in absurdism than this. It is one of the great joys of comic books and I will definitely be coming back for issue #2.

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Chance Thulin is a Missouri State University graduate of English marching on the forefronts of pop culture. He writes in hopes to spread the meanings and interpretations of comic books, graphic novels, and film to the masses. He is a dedicated fan of good fiction, and subscribes to both unconventional and profound writers such as Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison. For several years, Chance Thulin has trained his analytical eye towards the mountains of material published by the market powerhouses, Marvel and DC, soldiering through while appreciating diamonds in the rough as well as the more prominent names in the industry. And he really really really likes Superman.

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