Cullen Bunn and Matteo Lolli’s “Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars” is technically a tie-in for the current “Secret Wars” event, but it would be more accurate to bill it as a humorous trip down memory lane. Bunn and Lolli retell and retcon the original 1984 “Secret Wars” event by shoehorning Deadpool in, even though he wasn’t created until 1991. It’s easily skipped since it doesn’t tie into the current “Secret Wars,” but it’s still accessible if the reader doesn’t have the original event for reference.
Lolli’s art is a big draw. He draws the ’80s-era costumes with flair, making them look classic. His linework is thin, clean and confident, and his approach and tone are a great balance of retro and contemporary. His redone lineup of the Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk, the Fantastic Four and Magneto generates both nostalgia and affection.
Lolli’s facial expressions are mostly strong. Wolverine’s face looks too stiff in the panel with the healing-factor jokes, but that’s an exception. Spider-Man’s worried expression at the bottom of fifth page is especially funny because of the enlarged eye-shapes. Lolli’s gestures are theatric and full of energy, and he uses motion lines to strong effect. When Deadpool fights Kang, there’s a succession of great panels. Kang’s outline floats midair, cut by Deadpool’s sword just seconds too late, followed by a well-composed “whumpf” kick panel, and the page is finished off with a long horizontal panel where Deadpool drags Kang’s body by one leg. Lolli handles both suspense and humor well and adjusts body language seamlessly.
Redmond’s upbeat, retro color palette is a great match, brightening up the action and making it even easier to follow. The way she colors Battleworld is especially skillful. The pink sky and ochre landscape gives the setting an alien feel without being loud enough to clutter the background or take away attention from the characters. Her approach is understated and restrained, and her skill keeps Lolli’s art looking bright and clean, even in multi-page fight scenes that could easily look jumbled.
The story is more of a mixed bag, and the reader’s reaction will really depend on how much they like Bunn’s approach to the character. In his first appearance in the pages of “The New Mutants” and “X-Force,” Deadpool made an immediate impression. His nonstop jabber and smart aleck jokes were a great contrast to the dour Cable and his band of angst-ridden teenagers. The character needs a foundation to work against. Bunn knows this, which is why he’s made a habit of putting Deadpool in very structured situations in the “Deadpool Killology” series.
The problem is balance. The rest of the cast in “Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars” #1 are demoted to cardboard cutouts that act as straight men to Deadpool’s funny man. The main character hogs center stage and has all the best lines, but this diminishes the power of the comic as a whole. Deadpool often works better when he has to share or has a stage to steal, instead of having the microphone handed to him.
The parody aspect is more successful. Bunn and Lolli follow the 1984 “Secret Wars” very closely, reproducing panels and events while making fun of nearly everyone. Magneto’s indignant exclamation of “You dare!” is a representative sample. It’s over the top enough to the funny, and it doubles a caricature. The send-ups of Professor X and Reed Richards are less successful, but in the same vein. The puns also contain hits and misses.
The last page cliffhanger contains a shock. Bunn’s scripting and Lolli’s panel progression both have a great sense of dramatic pacing and the questions it raises will leave reader wanting more.
The backup story, “Bonus Round,” is another retcon and parody, this time for the “Marvel Super-Hero Contest of Champions” miniseries in which the Grandmaster challenged Death to a contest. This event also brought together a bunch of superheroes in a staged arena. Camagni’s art serves the humor well and he does a great job of drawing the cast of C-list superheroes and perennial oddball characters, including Howard the Duck and Doop. The joke about “the love-child of Donny Osmand and the Dazzler” is worth seeing, but the rest is forgettable.
The readers who will get the most out of “Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars” #1 are Deadpool fans who are familiar with the 1984 event. Knowledge of the details will give the reader greater appreciation for the jokes. For readers outside of that subset, this is just a fun, light read.