“Deadpool Vs. X-Force” #1 by Duane Swierczynski and Pepe Larraz is retcons a new first encounter between the Merc with a Mouth and the New Mutants who would become X-Force.
It’s much lighter in tone than the now-second meeting of the Merc with a Mouth and X-Force in Deadpool’s first appearance in Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s “New Mutants” #98, which was all groundwork for the launch of the original “X-Force” #1. Liefeld and Nicieza turned “New Mutants,” which used to be more like “Teen Titans” in a slightly darker, grittier direction. Their leader, Cable, was analogized as the closed fist to Xavier’s open hand, engaging in shadier missions and more shooting before asking, but without veering into straight-up villainy. “X-Force” was a direct line into Liefeld becoming one of the founders of Image Comics. Although early “X-Force” has it flaws, it was right in line with angst, brashness and discontent of the grungy ’90s decade, and it captured the engaging and addictive adrenaline and arrogance of being young. In other words, it meant something, even if it was more attitude than thought.
“Deadpool Vs. X-Force” doesn’t measure up and it’s a poor substitute as a historic face-to-face meetup. It’s best summed up as fluff that closer in tone and approach to the recent Deadpool “Killogy” series than to the beginning of “X-Force.” Like “Killogy,” there’s a backdrop switching of the historical era, the plot is inconsequential and the body count is played for laughs as Deadpool collects kills like a homicidal boy scout obsessed with accumulating merit badges. The success of the story is thus tied to the strength of the humor, which is weak tea. Deadpool is a fan favorite for a reason, and he has been successfully written in a range from goofy clownishness to sarcasm and black humor. When he’s written well, he steals scenes. Swierczynski’s take clocks in on the clowny side of the spectrum, but without any lines that are snicker-worthy. Wade’s quips lack any teeth or wit. The jokes don’t fall flat; they’re merely mediocre.
As for the X-Force team, here they collectively have the personality of mutant-powered wallpaper. They could be almost any do-gooder team in the Marvel Universe. Swierczynski and Larraz reintroduce Warpath, Boom Boom, Domino and Cannonball and their powers on a double page spread, but that’s pretty much of the end of characterization for them.
Dr. Francis Talbot, the character which is little better than a plot device to enable time travel shenanigans, gets better shrift than the teenaged heroes. It might have been better if X-Force had just been left out of this story entirely if they were going to be used so superficially. “Deadpool Vs. X-Force” #1 is really a Deadpool vehicle, but it’s a clunky one. The difference is that since his opponents are X-Force, readers already know that no one important will die. The time travel and the Revolutionary War setting should be played up more to earn their keep as more plot devices, but they don’t. The interactions and structure of the story don’t rise above the mechanical.
Larraz’s art has a pleasingly clean, strong line. His anatomy is noticeably above average, if not perfect, and he challenges himself with camera angle switch-ups and lots of foreshortening in the action scenes. His panel compositions and the overall footprint of his art are upbeat and enjoyable. It’s fun to see what he does with Deadpool’s appearance, putting the Merc’s usual costume under a Revolutionary War uniform, complete with two cutlass-style swords and high boots. It’s also a nice touch that Sabino uses use the red outlines for Deadpool’s speech bubbles. But good art, lettering and continuity can’t save the whole comic.
“Deadpool Vs. X-Force” #1 feels like the beginning of a forgettable miniseries that will add nothing to the characterization or history of X-Force or Deadpool. Fans of late “New Mutants” and ’90s-era “X-force” fans can and probably should skip this tangential filler, and that’s a problem, because this miniseries is banking on precisely those fans and that nostalgia. Deadpool fans and new readers should graze elsewhere as well.