"Return of the Living Deadpool" #1 provides a slowly structured follow-up to "Night of the Living Deadpool." The world has been taken over not just by zombies but by ever-multiplying Deadpools, and the Merc with a Mouth has to find a way to stop them. Though it picks up some time after "Night" left off, new readers will have no trouble diving into this easy, inviting story. Writer Cullen Bunn and artist Nik Virella haven't crafted the "Deadpooliest" (you know what I mean) of Deadpool issues, but they tell the story effectively and enjoyably. If the first issue is any indication, this series should be just as successful as its predecessor.
Artist Nik Virella deserves quite the kudos for her stylish, inviting work in this issue. Her clean, neat figure work is supplemented with breezy, scratchy details, creating an atmosphere that feels surprisingly easy and indie for the apocalypse. It's exactly the sort of wasteland where one might expect to find Deadpool and girls wielding wheelsaw-baseball-bats.
Virella also acts as something of a stylistic chameleon. When zombies spring out of a trailer to attack, she draws the scene with thicker, jagged lines and scrawled, dashed-off details. Where Liz and Deadpool have clearly composed features, the zombies' faces are all drawn in marker-sized slashes. They almost look like they've come from a different book. It's a bit jarring when it first appears, almost looking like an error, but I came to like it.
Still, Virella's greyscale color scheme is easily my favorite effect. It's not as if it hasn't been done before, but it just works so well here. Everyone and everything but the Deadpools appears in greyscale, so that it not only feels like an old movie but clearly establishes both the freakishness and liveliness of the Deadpools. It also calls to mind comics' best-selling, most famous zombie series.
All told, Bunn and Virella go less gimmicky than expected for an issue based around Deadpool zombies -- an approach which is both an asset and a disappointment for the issue. With such a clear hook, I was looking forward to some zany zombie action, but this issue is much more of an introduction. The one fight scene is pretty standard zombie smash-and-slash, and most of the issue is dedicated to exposition through conversation. Bunn is very much catching the audience up on the status quo and, while Virella makes full use of the Deadpool costume roster at the end, the Deadpool zombies don't do much but threaten and give chase. Even Deadpool himself is laidback, only making a few jokes and mostly wandering asking questions.
Though the tone is quieter, Bunn undeniably sets up the premise and the world with clarity and quick dialogue. He only has four issues to get this series done, so I'll admit I'm curious about the slower start. It might have set up the next few issues for failure, forcing them to rush too much, or it might have laid the groundwork for faster, more explosive issues to come. My curiosity is piqued.
Whatever happens in the next three issues, "Return of the Living Deadpool" #1 is a fine start to the Merc's latest adventure with the undead.