Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of “Inherent Vice” right now, but it’s finally occurred to me that David Lapham is doing a Thomas Pynchon riff with “Deadpool MAX.” The shifts from absurd comedy to way-too-serious action back to lunacy? The popculture references in the text and Kyle Baker’s art? The general feeling that the text is mocking itself while also trying to be important and deep? They’re all hallmarks of Pynchon’s work. More than that, there’s something in the style, the way that a scene between Bob and his thought-to-be-dead ex-girlfriend and handler of Cable plays out, her storming into his room and him lying on the bed, two flutes of champagne in hand, Hydra-themed boxers on… It’s parodic and silly and completely sincere in its own way.
Bob and Deadpool are on an island off the coast of Peru to kill a child smuggler, Deadpool posing as Brad Pitt at a lavish party and Bob trudging through the sewer system. Things go bad when a former agent attacks Bob, and Deadpool is rescued from a group of guards by Cable, future love messiah and a man who wears a monocle. I love that monocle. From there, the issue becomes about the relationship of Bob and Colleen, Cable’s handler who Bob was told was killed by Cable, but is actually working with the former agent, believing that Cable is, in fact, from the future.
There’s a weird paranoia that runs through the comic as Bob struggles to reconcile his feelings for Colleen and his desire to stay out of prison by playing ball with the agency. He’s caught between his heart and his horribly selfish self-loathing, unable to overcome the latter for the former. While Bob has been the focus of previous issues, this is the first time he’s come off as something other than Deadpool’s punching bag. His relationship with Colleen is weird and complex, she loving and also mocking, he suave and completely neurotic.
By making Cable a former agent ala Deadpool, someone considered crazy and requiring a handler to keep them on track, that character suddenly makes sense in this issue. In costume, Cable looks as strange and out of place as Deadpool does. The panel where Cable rips off his tux looks outlandish, much like an earlier one where Deadpool removed his Brad Pitt disguise. Neither man looks like he actually belongs in the world. Baker’s style is so focused on creating a specific look that it’s brilliant to make these two ludicrous, inane characters pop out visually. They’re considered crazy and strange and they look like that.
It’s a world that draws heavily on realistic touches like Baker’s spot-on Brad Pitt or Bob having a somewhat real face before devolving into physical absurdities and cartooning more focused on effect and feeling than accuracy. It’s a world that looks sort of what Pynchon’s writing looks like in my mind.
Who knows, at this point, if “Deadpool MAX” will cohere into something grand and amazing, but, right now, it’s a funny, moving, stupid, insane, ridiculous, ludicrous, messed up, over-the-top, weird comic that has me wondering if the Pynchon connection is just me or if anyone else is seeing it. Not that that matters, because it’s a great comic and you should read it.