Deadpool Annual #1

"Deadpool Annual" #1 is an enjoyable, well-executed issue with a fun premise. For readers who were really wondering where those white caption boxes went, it provides a satisfying answer. I don't know if I'd say it was worth the higher $4.99 price tag, but it probably depends on just how badly you wanted to know where those boxes disappeared to.

Acker and Blacker have rhyming last names, which in and of itself would be enough for me to assign them a Deadpool comic, but they've also got the character's style down-pat. This Annual features Thor and Luke Cage in a dance-off, refers to Daredevil as "ninja catnip," and discusses how so many superhero names could double for sex positions. It's all very entertaining. Even the chronology is traced in a tongue-in-cheek way. The first panel opens "five or six issues before Secret Invasion" and the story then jumps to "Just before Marvel NOW!" It's a step outside the book that feels self-referential and refreshing here, but could have been annoyingly glib in a different sort of title.

Some of the jokes admittedly fall flat, but (for me, at least) that's par for the course with a Deadpool book. I found Madcap and Deadpool's interactions were flattest for me, though not without some great moments, while the scenes with Thor and Luke Cage had me laughing the hardest. Part of the credit for those latter scenes has to go to Shaner, though. He has a keen eye for comic faces, and Luke Cage and Thor's facial expressions are awesomely over-the-top. Whether they were getting giddy over Quickstep or about to break Deadpool's bones, they were engagingly absurd -- and all the funnier for being on top of these two massive, powerful bodies.

Shaner also does great work with the more unusual elements of the book, particularly with his portrayal of (spoiler alert!) Madcap, who is revealed to be the voice in the white caption boxes. Once Madcap and Deadpool are merged, Shaner only portrays Madcap in black-and-white, sticking strictly to the color scheme of the caption boxes. There's a particularly wonderful sequence where Madcap begins to take control, and the square white caption box gradually expands into a gnarly-edged monster. This visual captures just how uncontainable he's become, not only expanding him in size but roughing up the edges until he's no longer recognizably box-shaped. Finally, there's an entirely white page that's just Madcap's smirking face and text. Images like these make use of all the possibilities of a captions-stage-a-coup storyline, and it's rewarding to watch the inventiveness.

As expected, the sound effects are a huge plus, including "turn-around!", "catch!" and "tuggawar." I'm a sucker for literalism and onomatopoeia, and the team delivers both in spades.

Overall, this was an enjoyable issue, but the jokes were still hit-or-miss. The hits were high enough that I actually went back and read some parts again, but the misses were in there often enough that this didn't make my must-read list. Still, it was a good time with zany execution - a very "Deadpool" comic, and fitting for the 2013 Annual.

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