Deadpool is a difficult character to get right. He’s got to be a charming level of annoying, but not so obnoxious that the reader can’t stand him; there has to be a hint of sincerity behind the barrage of double entendres, pop culture references, and snarky self-deprecation. Otherwise, he’s not a character – just a thing that dispenses jokes with reckless abandon. It’s part of why the Ryan Reynolds version of Deadpool works best when he’s using humor to sort through his feelings, and falls flat when he sounds like the writers (not the character himself) trying too hard to be funny. Writing the Merc with a Mouth is an exact science, and thankfully Alyssa Wong seems to have it down.
Seriously, this is probably some of the best writing I’ve seen on this character. Deadpool’s still fun and raunchy, but he also comes across as painfully aware of how desperate he is for approval. This issue follows up Wong’s Deadpool story in New Mutants #30, in which he accepts an invitation to audition to join the Atelier, a clandestine group of assassins from across the Marvel universe. Admittedly, the only face I recognized was Lord Deathstrike, but it looks like most of the members of this crew of killers are original, never-before-seen characters.
Deadpool is eager to impress them all, but he particularly wants to woo Valentine Vuong, a beautiful nonbinary mercenary with needle-tipped fingers. It’s actually really cute to watch Deadpool wrestle with his schoolboy crush on Valentine, as he stumbles over introducing himself to them and frantically scribbles weak potential pickup lines all over a datapage. There’s a relatable vulnerability on display here, which is critical in getting readers to connect with a nigh-invincible contract killer. You can’t help but feel for Wade as he falls hard and fast for this them-fatale that he just met.
The Atelier gives Deadpool forty-eight hours to assassinate Doctor Octopus. You would have to be crazy to believe that editorial would allow such a high-profile character to be killed in a book that’s not even a Spider-Man story, but no one ever accused Deadpool of being sane. Naturally, complications arise when the Harrower (a character from last year’s Curse of the Man-Thing one-shots) decides to put Marvel’s second-favorite red and black stabby guy inside of its favorite red and black stabby guy. That’s right, Deadpool has been bonded with the Carnage symbiote, giving him an extra dose of 90’s X-cess. Of course, his abduction has cost him almost all of the time he was given to take out Doc Ock, meaning he must race against the clock while fighting against the monster inside.
The stuff with the Harrower really gives artist Martin Coccolo and colorist Neeraj Menon space to shine, as she conjures up all kinds of mutated vegetation and bizarre plant-animal hybrids that demand a lot of attention to detail. I particularly love the art nouveau-inspired splash page depicting the Harrower’s failed attempts to merge Carnage with various animals. It’s always fun when artists get the chance to use unconventional art styles to tell a story. Also, the new character designs for the Atelier members feel really striking and imaginative. My personal favorite is probably the leader, the Horned Emperor, whose head is a ball of smoke with antlers protruding from it.
This is a really great start to what promises to be a really good run. I hadn’t read a lot of Wong’s previous work, but I loved the Alligator Loki Infinity Comic that they did with Bob Quinn. It feels like Deadpool is going to be just as fun, albeit in a character-focused way rather than a silly, silent cartoon way. Anyways, this is a good one. Give this book a shot.