Spider-Man/Deadpool #4

"Spider-Man/Deadpool" has been steady climb of insanity with a bottomed out ending, like one of those amusement park rides that raises you up 100 feet in the air and then drops you without warning. In issue #4, Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness give us the silliest installment of the series to date, which is saying something considering the series introduced its title characters when they were tied together in hell. This installment finds Peter and Wade on a ridiculous double date that sees masked Spidey using an image inducer to appear unmasked, while Deadpool tries to lure their dates -- Thor and one of Shiklah's succubus friends -- into a mud wrestling pit after baiting them into fighting. This whole issue is driven by decisions made by Deadpool, which leads to the two recreating one of the most iconic dance scenes in film history before its gut-punch of a conclusion.

Kelly loves to push a story to one extreme so that he can snap things back to the opposite end with a flick of the page, heightening the impact of whatever happens. In true Kelly fashion, then, Peter gets a knock at the door and Deadpool delivers the most cold-blooded fulfillment of a contract only two pages after the duo hit the prime of their bromance. There's no big quip, no exploding building or regenerated limbs -- just a guy in the hall putting two silenced shots into the dome of the Parker Industries CEO. Kelly balances the story so well that the twist made me go back and reread the entire series up to this point, and -- within the greater storyline -- this chapter delivers even harder. It feels like the end of the second act, because Peter isn't the only one who loses here. Right after the hit, Wade calls his new BFF to see if they can hang out again, just as Peter's phone lights up beside his motionless body.

Readers know Spider-Man's popularity won't allow the title's co-star to actually die, but this is an impactful character moment nonetheless. This has been the story of a man with a distorted worldview trying to live up to the standards of a hero he considers a mentor. Wade doesn't always try to make friends; he's often insulting and self-centered. Though these tendencies bleed through in this issue -- he tricks Thor into a "date" because she's on his sexual hall pass list -- the writer has showed us a 'Pool that is opening up his world to someone. Though Spidey has been loath to accept Deapool's outreach, the ice finally melts as the two come together under duress, letting loose in the silliest manner possible. It's been this relationship that has steeled Deadpool's resolve to fulfill his contract as well as his belief that Parker is indeed making the world a worse place. This may be a big action book, but the themes have depth.

McGuinness is a monster on this issue, as usual. The artist gets in on the gags more and more; the opening page is a splash of Deadpool in a firefight at a McGuinness' own comic convention booth. There aren't a whole lot of fisticuffs, but he choreographs the dance sequence with assurance, laying it out like a high-stakes fight. The pencils, inks and colors are rich and detailed without over-rendering or over-shading. The book makes me wish it was an animated series.

Now that Deadpool has pulled the trigger, I'm excited to see what happens next in "Spider-Man/Deadpool." There are a lot of storytelling possibilities here, including the revelation of Parker's identity as well as the mysterious benefactor's motivations. The series has been a great journey so far. The moment-to-moment happenings are so engrossing, I'm not even anxious about getting to the conclusion; I'm just concerned about the journey ending at all.

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