Throughout their Deadpool MAX run, David Lapham and Kyle Baker have maintained a near-perfect balance of kinetic sadism and darkly funny comic introspection. On first read, issue seven looks as though it’s going to wind up a trainwreck that breaks that balance permanently. Leaning on elements of the Merc with a Mouth they’ve mostly avoided, it almost seems like Lapham and Baker are heading straight for the difficult to navigate waters of cliché.
But, this being Lapham and Baker, you just wind up feeling like an asshole for ever doubting them.
What at first appear to be faults in issue seven shouldn’t really be described as such; instead they can be more accurately painted as attempts by Lapham to test the breaking points of the Deadpool character. Following the events of last issue, we’re treated to Deadpool as loving father, Baker offering giddy glimpses into Deadpool’s fantasy of raising a more well-adjusted version of himself. The scenes are funny but they’re also tragic — Baker paints the moments in the hazy hues of nostalgia, juggling the responsibilities of sight gag and emotional climax admirably.
Back in reality, the artist does the same with Domino. As Deadpool is lost in his own paternal insanity, Domino finally appears to recognize what she’s gotten herself into. As she rejects the life Deadpool has so warmly embraced, Baker displays the cracks in her visage as well as her more mental fractures. The ugliness simmering beneath her skull leaks its way through her pores and limbs, turning her into a vulture in posture and intention.
A status quo of sorts is reached by the end. The final parts of last issue and the first half of this offering hinted at the kind of domesticity that arguably robbed the last season of Dexter of the anything-goes nature previous seasons had but Lapham and Baker prove they’ve got a better handle on the world of their particular psychopath. Just as the twist of the real nature of Deadpool’s progeny reminds readers that Lapham and Baker are well-aware of where the comedy of Deadpool comes from, the issue’s ending makes it absolutely clear that they’re still focused on exploring the logic of his personality.
That Lapham and Baker can stretch the goofy extremes of Deadpool so far and still end on a surprisingly poignant note is a testament to how perfectly suited to this book they are. Given that this book has everything Deadpool fans of all aspects could ever want, I’m completely baffled by the fact that it isn’t one of this year’s most massive hits. Lapham and Baker are truly breaking new ground with this character and they aren’t sacrificing fun or humor to do that. This is pop comics at its finest and you’re only hurting yourself by missing it.