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Committed: Deadpool MAX – Doing It Wrong

With a Lapham/Baker Deadpool MAX, my expectations were high, but it is possible that someone mixed up the contracts. Hiring Kyle Baker to write Deadpool MAX with David Lapham to draw it would make so much sense. Instead Lapham shows that he is more than capable of writing some seriously nasty stuff, but his humor is distinctly mean-spirited and Baker’s art only compounds the misery.

There was a time when I was a ridiculous Kyle Baker fan, I mean a total fangirl kid, doing things like standing in line at a convention to ask him to draw Twitch from The Shadow (he did.) I loved his artwork on The Shadow, his incredible sense of humor and love for the characters just shining through on every panel. Following on from my absolute favorite artist Bill Sienkiewicz, Baker did an excellent job of perpetuating a similarly expressive, vibrant body language with the addition of some truly hysterical facial expressions. At the time Baker had a warmth and familiarity with his characters and it definitely pulled me into the story further.

Then I discovered his writing in tandem with his artwork on the well-observed Why I Hate Saturn, where Baker did a marvelous job of creating an action-packed romantic comedy in the form of the adventures of two sisters and their rather observant (but short-sighted) guy friend. Years since I last read it, I can still remember the opening as the main character complained about the nonsensical circumstances of buying a slice of pizza. I loved that grumpy woman.

Soon after I found his bitterly sarcastic book The Cowboy Wally Show. What a fantastically hysterical, surreal, silly book. A device that is hard to carry off in comic books, Baker produced a rough-cut, behind-the-scenes documentary-style retrospective of a fictitious character. It sounds more complicated than it felt… It felt natural, like Cowboy Wally simply sprung out of Baker’s head and onto the page, a fully-grown, perfectly formed, angry, loud, alcoholic, middle-aged baby. He was crustier than Krusty the Clown. He was the self-aggrandizing boss in The Office before that boss was a glint in anyone’s eye. He was making his vain, reality show comeback before anyone on TV ever thought of making reality shows or comebacks. The book is gold.

Then he did some other work, things people really liked. I bought some of them and liked them alright; You Are Here, I Die At Midnight, Plastic Man… But somewhere in the intervening time his style had evolved. I know from random interviews I read at the time that it was somewhat influenced by his experience working on animation and that (more importantly I think) it was a style that he liked better; Somewhat more cartooney, having a feel of early Disney perhaps, with a lot of color and a very cute look to characters. While it wasn’t for me, I could definitely see the quality of it and enjoy his sense of humor. His interest in classic cartooning and emulating that style is something I can understand and so even if I personally preferred his older stuff, I still keep an eye on what he’s doing.

Recently I began to hear buzz about his Deadpool MAX, enough talk from friends that I thought it was probably worth a look. I picked up the first three issues to see what I’d been missing. The fact is that although I’m not a regular Deadpool reader, a lot of people talk with great fondness about working on the books. Gail Simone has credited her time on the book with allowing her to play and Philip Bond has posted some of his excellent drawings from the book – all in all, the issues I’ve read have borne out the idea that Deadpool is generally a character which comic book creators can have a bit of fun with. This made the idea of a Kyle Baker Deadpool pretty appealing. Writing by David Lapham was of some interest to me too, even though I am probably one of the few people I know who hasn’t read Stray Bullets. (It is enough of a behemoth to be more than a little intimidating.) That omission notwithstanding, I have enough to know I can enjoy what he does. He’s got storytelling talent and his art has an attractively strong line to it so that even when his book Young Liars went off the rails, I could still appreciate the art.

With all of that background, obviously over the years I’ve learned caution in picking up Baker titles. While I know that I’ll like his stuff more than most, I realize that I won’t love it like I did The Cowboy Wally Show, but I was surprised at the bad taste that Deadpool MAX left in my mouth.

Brutal, sadistic, scenarios, involving violent rape, toilet humor and genocide aren’t funny. They can be interesting story devices, but they aren’t that funny. Maybe it was the use of Baker’s Bambi-like art, but the whole thing just felt really dismal and pathetic, some kind of schoolboy attempt to shock on the Lapham’s part, compounded by Baker’s cute little drawings.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not averse to reading comic books about sadism, rape or feces, (enjoyed both Hellblazer and Neonomicon recently, both of which were vaguely rapey and scatological at times.) Naturally I don’t seek out these revolting subject-matters (what do you think I am?) but I can enjoy a book about nearly anything. Unfortunately something about Deadpool MAX‘s really abysmal mismatching of talent made the stories seem desperate and sad, instead of amusing and outrageous (which is what I think they were going for.)

It would be fantastic to see Baker’s lively, sassy sense of humor writing a book like Deadpool Max. He could take those ridiculous scenarios that Deadpool gets into and imbue them with substance and intelligence (or at least playfulness) that could round out the silliness. Combining that with Lapham’s messy, powerful, pop-art influenced drawings could really give the story some punch.

It makes no sense to me is to take a man who draws in an early Disney style and ask him to create art which works with these depressing stories. It is just a criminal waste of talent. This does not work. These are simplistic, heavy-handed, spiteful stories, combined with pointlessly cute drawings. It’s really disappointing to see two great comic book creators used so inappropriately and it makes no sense to me.

34 Comments

Yeah, I normally love Lapham and was jumping at this collaboration, but the homophobic rape/sodomy jokes in the first issue were pretty nauseating. I mean, Deadpool is already a tough sell but to compound that with a viscerally hateful attitude was too much and pretty much confirmed to me the target audience for Deadpool.

Ditto. These are creators I really enjoy, but the first issue was somehow… boring. Boring enough that I didn’t buy the second.

Re: Neonomicon — “vaguely rapey?” I wouldn’t call a series in which a woman is assaulted for the lion’s share of two full issues “vague.” It’s an interesting read, but that is one that made me sick at times.

Deadpool is a character that is great when done right, and horrible when done wrong. As you point out, this is Deadpool done very, very wrong. I’ve picked up a few issues, but I think Comixology is doing me a favor by messing up my subscription at the local shop. It’s like it’s trying to protect me from actually reading this.

zorba_of_the_morningstar

January 26, 2011 at 11:55 am

That’s why it says MAX

I haven’t read much by Kyle Baker and I’m so-so David Lapham but the third issue of Deadpool MAX made me a fan. Its one of the only Marvel books I read.

I almost pre-ordered this book just b/c it was MAX, and I like supporting that imprint… but I’m not a Deadpool fan, and the preview didn’t really help change my mind, so I skipped it. This was a really interesting tho; thanks!

zorba_of_the_morningstar – huh?

I dropped it after two issues. I don’t have a problem with the art, and Lapham is certainly writing Deadpool the “max” extension of Deadpool. I don’t know if the character works better with some restraints, or if Lapham just loosed the wrong restraints. I think Lapham is writing the crazy mean-spirited Deadpool and sacrificing some of the wacky madcap fun Deadpool comics can be.

I think part of the problem may just be oversaturation of the character insofar as you can only write him so many ways before he becomes boring (looking at you, Merc with a Mouth) or tasteless, as in this title.

That’s unfortunate. I love love love Kyle Baker and had a very similar experience in the journey from The Shadow to Why I Hate Saturn & Cowboy Wally to his more recent stuff. I also loved Lapham’s Stray Bullets and was pretty disappointed the one time I got confused and accidentally picked up Azzarello’s 100 Bullets instead. But yeah, this doesn’t sound like something I’d like at all.

Deadpool MAX is one of the best books coming out right now, and Seneca explains why better than anybody.

http://deathtotheuniverse.blogspot.com/2010/11/liveblogging-deadpool-max-2-in-altered.html

I’m loving Deadpool MAX, but I can totally understand if someone hated it. All I can say is give it a try.

“Brutal, sadistic, scenarios, involving violent rape, toilet humor and genocide aren’t funny.”

And yet I laugh anyway…

Anything and everything can be funny. Nothing is off limits if done right.

I’ve been a Deadpool fan for many years now and I’ve got to admit it’s been a little difficult. Overall Deadpool comics generally have more lows than highs but this is probably the best version of the character to come around ever. There is something not right about Deadpool and no creative team has been able to capture just how off putting this guy can be than Lapham and Baker. The best part though, they demonstrate the insanity that is Wade Wilson with the type of humor that is best suited for abnormal individuals like Deadpool. I love the fact that these guys can both make me laugh and cringe with a single panel of thise wonderful wonderful comic.
It makes me a little sad that it’s not as appealing as I think it is.

Women and gays – cheap death fodder for the rest of you since the beginning of time…

I disagree completely. Deadpool MAX is the first time I’ve enjoyed a Deadpool comic. A lot comes from the art– Kyle Baker is astonishing, drawing comics differently from anybody else out there, drawing the world’s only post-Dark-Knight-Strikes-Again comic (this is a good thing).

It’s mean-spirited, yes, but not in the way you seem to be taking it– I love it because it’s a deeply sarcastic satire, a pitch-black evisceration of current superhero comics. It’s mean-spirited in the way that Baker’s Special Forces was, indulging in the very things it has scorn for, to show us the horror and vapidity of our societal excesses, be it the Iraq War or stupid, violent comics.

I can’t believe anything like it would be published by a big entertainment-conglomerate comics company like Marvel, but it is and it’s beautiful.

I have never read a Lapham book that I’ve enjoyed. Overrated in my opinion. I like Baker & I like the MAX imprint but I wouldn’t touch this if it was free.

I’m only familiar with Lapham through Young Liars (which I found to be delightfully insane in all the right ways) and am a big fan of Baker’s, but I also gave up after the first few issues.

This book just feels dull, which is odd considering the subject matter.

Yes, the only reason to like this thing is for the art. That the art glorifies rape as a cheap punch line isn’t the real problem. Honest! The problem is the writing; that over the top sit-com enjoyment of sado-masochistic comedy. It’s bizarre. I loved Stray Bullets and the nostalgia for the late 70s, early 80s, but reading it I never saw any sign that Lapham felt nostalgic for Archie Bunker and his bad comedy.

“These are simplistic, heavy-handed, spiteful stories, combined with pointlessly cute drawings”

Yep, that’s Deadpool, alright.

Whereas a book like, I dunno, Neonomicon, or any of the big event books from Marvel and DC, even, views rape, violence, and mayhem as serious, realistic, relevant, even literary elements, Deadpool MAX sees these things for what they are– immature trifles, cheap stabs (pun!) at legitimacy, and empty thrills for shock value.

I dunno how actively funny I find the rape and murder stuff but it works as plot filler, you know like The Things That Happen In The Comic, and in a genre where a runaway-popular group of characters use their powers by vomiting I’m so desensitized that it’s whateva. Gotta SUPER disagree with you on this though:

“It makes no sense to me is to take a man who draws in an early Disney style and ask him to create art which works with these depressing stories.”

Seen Fritz the Cat? (Crumb’s version OR Bakshi’s?) Anything Ralph Bakshi, actually? Tezuka’s Ode To Kirihito? Chris Ware’s comics? Or the stone killa of my year so far, Massimo Mattioli’s Superwest? Stylistic tension between writing and art is one of the greatest potential sources of interest and complexity available to comics, and I think it’s really cool to see it hit something as mainstream as Deadpool in so outre a fashion. “Makes no sense”? Comics that make sense SUCK!

(If I just typed that In An Altered State Of Consiousness, why, it must be cause I got the new Deadpool Max today…)

Yeah, whether you like the comic or not, using incongruous delivery methods for comedic effect is a longstanding artistic tradition (like a cute little kid having a foul mouth or having a keenly observant “fool”). It’s the same concept here. And Baker’s been doing this sort of thing for years now.

I’ve never read this, but judging from the pictures shown here, I don’t ever want to. And your words only add to that visceral reaction. That sword-through-the-head picture looks like the kind of sadistic humor that appeals to people who like Robocop.

I admit I’m not much of a Deadpool fan. I have read a few issues of the regular series, and they were all right. Not good enough to buy regularly, but I’d have no objection to getting a few issues at a discount.
I saw an ad recently in which Marvel was asking people to vote for which Deadpool series to cancell. If that vote is still underway, I would definitely want to vote for this MAX series, despite having not read it.
(I probably won’t vote, though. It doesn’t feel right if I haven’t read all of them.)

“That sword-through-the-head picture looks like the kind of sadistic humor that appeals to people who like Robocop.”

I honestly only wish horrible things on anyone that looks down on Robocop.

My main complaint?
Look at the early books. I always thought that if Joe Kelly’s Deadpool could get a MAX title, it could be the greatest thing ever! All the fun and humor of Deadpool, without the restrictions of being a mainstream comic!

Then, we get this. It’s not bad, really, so much as it’s a major goddamned letdown. I don’t like Deadpool MAX because I know that with the right team, it could be one of the best books of the decade.

I honestly only wish horrible things on anyone that looks down on Robocop.

Robocop is a modern classic. What are your thoughts on 2 and 3? I secretly love the third one.

I don’t like Deadpool MAX because I know that with the right team, it could be one of the best books of the decade.

I would put it among the best of the decade, but we’re not even a month in, so competition is slim.

What Shaun M. Said.

My problem is not with the violence or the gross-outs. The book was just…boring. Like the writer kept throwing depravity after depravity at me, while shouting: “Laugh at this!” It wasn’t funny violence, it was just violence. Ennis does this type of humor a lot better.

No complaints about the art though.

What Adam K said: who the fuck Doesn’t like Robocop?

I haven’t truly loved a Deadpool book since Gail Simone left, so we’ll see how this one works for me. I’m not averse to retarded humour (Chad’s ideas for a Deadpool MAX book from a while back, it was Chad, right? were pretty funny).

Sometimes I really hate opinion culture. I didn’t really want to take a stance on this book because it inevitably leads to these silly situations where we compare our opinions on Robocop as if it means anything whether you love or hate it. In this case, I disagree with Matt Seneca that the homophobia is mere content and that we should be more attached to the form of the book. Tanzim is right: shock is the form. I think we can all agree that “pictures are pretty” and that we all “love the use of negative space,” etc.

lol @ the ridiculous classification of cheap shock schlock as “outre”. Not buying it.

And who doesn’t like Robocop? Anyone who sat thru Robocop 3.

I mostly enjoyed the first two issues despite the fact that many elements seemed to be there simply because they could do it. Gave me the same feeling I get watching a 3D movie where there doing something for the sole purpose of having it come out at the audience, and wouldn’t have considered doing if straight 2D.

But the third issue was a poorly constructed mess of build-up without payoff. Most of the issue is spent building up the villain and wasn’t even remotely amusing, and then he was quickly dispatched. Now, if the build up had been funny I could see a point being made about just how badass DP is and yadda-yadda-yadda. But since it wasn’t amusing, there was no payoff.

For a more clear example, we’ve got the “hot Nazi chick” prominently displayed on the cover who suddenly pops into existance in a crowd seen towards the end, and then is immediately killed. I get the feeling the book was mostly completed and someone exclaimed “Wait, we need a hot Nazi chick to show how edgy we are. It’ll be fun, and we can use it get in the fetish crowd by throwing her on the cover.”

I like Deadpool, and I’m fine when the books use cliched marketing tropes to make fun of those tropes… but this is starting to feel like it’s using them because they don’t know what else to do.

I want to like it, and the elements of showing just how batshit crazy DP is are my favorite, but it needs more substance to the stories themselves.

I too completely disagree with your assessment Sonia, however well thought out it may be.

The art is absolutely beautiful, especially for a MARVEL book. It’s abstract, sometimes washed out, sometimes bold and crisp, and always gorgeous. He’s doing things here I would expect to see in an art-centric indie title, not a DEADPOOL comic.

I’ll agree the writing is often banal, scatalogical, and heavy handed, but it seems to be that THAT is the point of it. The comic hits all the notes that it’s not supposed to hit, and it’s the juxtaposition between the beautiful art and clever writing AGAINST the banal and “shocking” moments… the GROANERS… that makes it unique. I feel like every time I have the snobbish “groaner” reaction to a moment that it was intentionally orchestrated by baker and/or lapham.

In a nutshell, the beautiful and quiry art and brilliant writing set against the banality of poop jokes and rape scenes feels like an intentional push to make the reader both drawn in and repulsed simultaneously… exactly how you SHOULD feel when deadpool is involved.

I picked up issue 2 and 3 and wasn’t all that impressed. Issue 2 was alright but I agree with Jeremy Wiggins cos I found issue 3 pretty boring. All set-up and a rushed underwhelming ending with a token nazi fetish chick thrown in for no reason.

The humour doesn’t offend me (although I haven’t read issue 1 so I don’t know what the rape stuff was about) but it just didn’t really seem all that entertaining to me. I’ll probably give the next issue a go but that’s it’s last chance with me.

Lol Kyle Baker couldn’t draw, colour or ink if his life depended upon it. The part of Deadpool Max-x-mas drawn by him nearly made me physically ill, that’s how total shit it looked.

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