“Deadpool vs. Thanos” #1 by Tim Seeley and Elmo Bondoc is yet another miniseries for the Merc with a Mouth. When he was introduced in “The New Mutants,” Deadpool was a fresh-faced villain for Cable and the original X-Force team, created to defy the stereotype of the quiet, po-faced professional killer. Over the years, he’s become more heroic and sillier, but without acquiring much depth. Recently, he’s been breaking the fourth wall and travelling around in time and space so often that he seems to permanently reside in his own bubble where nothing serious can happen. He has no life outside of the never-ending, revolving cast of people and things to fight and kill. The stakes technically have gotten larger and larger, while actually, there are no stakes at all. Deadpool has “killed” most of the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, zombie American presidents and other versions of himself from different universes. The approach has allowed for the most jokes but the least consequences, and character has paid the price.
Seeley’s attempt to change this dynamic in the opening scene — Thanos is taking back Deadpool’s immortality! — falls flat because he still doesn’t convince anyone that Deadpool is in danger. It’s also not believable that a Titanian Eternal with an outsized arsenal of abilities needs to physically dirty his hands like a schoolyard rival. Instead of Thanos’ solemnity and stature giving the story more tension, he is brought down to Deadpool’s level. It is funny to see Thanos in such an overwrought, immature state, but that’s a one-trick pony that won’t generate enough suspense for a miniseries.
The best, wisest and most distinctive humor — whether it’s “Monty Python” or “The Colbert Report” or Louis CK’s standup — has bite to it. Deadpool’s shtick is in the junior league, not just because of its reliance on gore and toilet humor but because it lacks sharpness of observation, daring and gumption. No one believes in the love triangle, and no one believes that Thanos and Deadpool have to saddle up together. Furthermore, these juxtapositions don’t say anything about real love or rivalry. Death isn’t a convincing damsel in distress; she’s just there to extend the tired pun about “flirting” with Death. Just like true death is theoretical in Deadpool’s world, Death’s absence is also purely theoretical and without dramatic weight. Seeley’s new ideas allow some jokes, but nothing stirs up real concern. The plot lacks bone and muscle.
The opening page recap staged with action figures is necessary and well-executed. Thanos’ polite “Yes. Hello.” shows Seeley’s strengths with dialogue. Later, the flashback scene with Doom is the highlight of the issue, even though it’s only a throwaway scene used to unveil a plot device within the plot. Seeley writes a hilarious, one-sided conversation between Deadpool and one of Tony Stark’s receptionists. Bondoc’s page composition and panel breakdown for Doom’s entrance is beautiful and balanced, and it’s enhanced by colorist Ruth Redmond’s pairing of a deep velvety red with Doom’s traditional green garments. It’s just a setup for Deadpool’s inevitable barge-in, but it’s got more pathos than any other page. Here, Seeley’s strong diction in the phrase “beautiful, singular and resilient as you once were” hints at love, nostalgia, sorrow — all feelings in an emotional range foreign to Deadpool’s joke-verse. The art looks uncluttered and the details of armor and landscape carry meaning.
Unfortunately, the art isn’t as strong in the rest of “Deadpool vs. Thanos” #1. Redmond’s colors in Malevolina Port and Taino Island are dull and without light, flattening Bondoc’s background details. Bondoc’s page compositions are unnecessarily complicated, and the pop-out panels and overlap effects just muddy the transitions instead of making the action more exciting. The Starlin’s Bar scene looks sketchy and unfinished and Bondoc’s linework looks more formulaic and less thoughtful there.
As an artist, Bondoc has excellent range. He’s able to draw everything from boats to flowers well, but his linework isn’t consistent over the whole issue. Redmond’s color work in the Doom scene is exceptional and so is her attention to details like Thanos’ gems in the last scene. Like Bondoc, however, her talent isn’t evident on every page.
It’s still easy to see why the Merc with a Mouth became such a hit, but he’s overexposed and he’s become a thinner version of himself over the years. “Deadpool vs. Thanos” #1 gives the character a new creative team and new concept, but they don’t give the character new life, and he needs it.