Three issues in, "Spider-Man/Deadpool" #3 has hit its stride. In the first two chapters, Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness patiently built up the series' inevitable showdown between the title characters. This third issue sends the duo on a day-in-the-life-of-the-Merc-with-a-Mouth adventure and heightens the bonding, while McGuinness provides more fun and energetic pages.
The buildup finally starts to pay off when Peter finally lets Wade Wilson in and breaks down the walls he put up against Deadpool, so that the hero now sees 'Pool as a human and not just a box of insanity in a mask. The main drive of the issue -- a trip to stop a gang raid on a drug den in Bolivia -- puts both creators' best work on display. Kelly creates a realistic moral dilemma that forces Spidey to check his privilege and consider how people get by in other economic classes and countries. Much like his co-creator Steve Ditko, Peter sees a lot of black and white in the world. Wade lives in the grey area between these simple divides. As he leans more chaotic good, he forces Peter to look at the scene from a higher view: they are defending drug manufacturers, but they're stopping a more vicious cartel from murdering innocent people. Parker's life was sheltered enough that he'd never had to make such a difficult choice about survival. Deadpool's reasoning speaks to Spider-Man's "No One Dies" mantra and helps him see the Canadian in a new light. I was also pleasantly surprised to see old Spidey villains Styx and Stone pop up again here with a worldview and design overhaul.
From a story standpoint, the money scene of the issue is Wade introducing Spider-Man to his daughter. It's a touching scene that feels authentic and drives home just how much Spider-Man's approval really means to
However, just as everything looks like it's turning up roses, Kelly turns the screws on us. He built the story until Peter was finally willing to open up and learn more about who is Wade Wilson is as a person, only for Wilson to reveal that he's now manipulating the relationship as a way to get to his next target: Parker Industries CEO Peter Parker. It's clear Wilson doesn't want to do this, but he's a professional and agreed to a job. He is finally getting something he thought he'd never have -- the approval of the world's greatest superhero -- only to realize he is growing his own poison apple. As per usual, Joe Kelly creates complex layers of storytelling and characterization as well as personal conflicts that challenge Spider-Man and Deadpool, while still telling a story full of wild action and dumb fun. Who else could start a story with Deadpool in a Clownpool mask and end it with the same character contemplating the destruction of his hero at the foot of his daughter's bed and have it make total sense?
McGuinness seems to have hit his groove for the whole cast in this issue; there are a ton of characters with wildly different designs, and the artist nails them all. His layouts continue to pay homage to the storytelling style of Man of Action's best animated productions. I loved the little asides, like the character breakdown at the end of the opening scene. His action is great; the majority of this issue is a fight scene and it's very well produced -- just look at the way his Spidey bounces around the page. McGuinness has a knack for pulling the reader's eye to just the right spots of action in a panel, like the double-page spread that opens the Bolivia scene. The artist also nails the quieter moments, using body language to tell most of the story while Ellie, Wade and Peter all meet in the backyard.
This is currently the best book on the stands that features these characters. It has action, comedy, depth and drama, making it the Marvel Universe-equivalent of "Lethal Weapon." Kelly has sold me on the friendship between Spidey and Deadpool enough that I am both dreading and anticipating their showdown. "Spider-Man/Deadpool" #3 is another fun-as-hell installment of a great series.