Marvel’s MAX line has been about as hip-hop as comics gets since its inception, with obvious riffs on the genre’s iconography in founding titles like Cage and Foolkiller and a general interest in taking the Marvel U to the streets of New York. With its surreally dark humor and slapstick elements, David Lapham and Kyle Baker’s Deadpool MAX may not be as obviously symbolic of the genre but make no mistake- Deadpool MAX is as swag as it gets.
Issue eight may be the best example yet of the hip-hop style Lapham and Baker are utilizing. Issue eight continues Lapham and Baker’s sampling of 616 elements, turning those samples into beats that are all funkified sex (Colleen Liu) or giddy appropriation (the Crescent Moon Knights). Returning Bob to the story, captured after impersonating Deadpool in order to keep the agency unaware of the Merc’s disappearance, this latest issue may just be set-up for what’s to come but as always Lapham and Baker keep things lively with their reinventions of the source material.
Bob’s own backstory is designed as a parallel for Deadpool’s, with similar father issues but a more stable home, even though Lapham hints at darkness that Bob may have emotionally covered up. Where Bob’s childhood is more Kanye than Biggie, with his devotion to his mother and intellectual challenges, it’s nonetheless the kind of origin Jay-Z could get behind. Bob worked his way up the ladder through sheer determination and force of will, refusing to dwell on the bullying that made up his adolescence and continued into his adulthood.
Up until this point, Bob has almost seemed meek, a fool getting dragged along by Deadpool’s eccentric ways. He’s always been crafty, sure, but Bob mostly seemed like a prop built for slapstick, the forever suffering straight man to Deadpool’s mugging lead. Now that his history is filled in, it’s easier to get inside his head and understand why he’d take on Deadpool as an agent in the first place.
And the name of that reason is Colleen Liu. Now I ain’t saying Colleen’s a gold digger, but she ain’t messin’ with no broke agents- Colleen is clearly aware of her effect on Bob and plays that to its maximum potential. That relationship shows that Bob and Deadpool aren’t so dissimilar after all, with a specific weakness to anyone who will pay them any attention that is remotely positive.
And like emcees who are too many to name, Bob’s got the bullet wounds to prove it.
As origins go, Bob’s may not be the most original but it’s fitting and Baker’s standardly excellent eye for details and visual set-up go a long way towards making an even more exciting read than it should be. Baker’s color work in particular in this issue is incredible, the juxtaposition of his often dark figures and bright, blurry city lights in certain panels a thing of true beauty. It’s all enough to suggest that Baker is the Eric B. to Lapham’s Rakim.
As much of a step down from the last issue as it may be in terms of creativity, issue eight continues Lapham and Baker’s unending chain of hits and with the puzzling question it finishes on, it seems clear that shit’s about to get real.