Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: UDON with Arnold Tsang, Andrew Hou, Eric Vedder, Omar Dogan & TheRealT!
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Deadpool & the Taskmaster at a battered Sandi's bedside, and the two men learn that her attacker was her ex-husband. As Sandi makes Deadpool promise not to kill her ex-husband for what he did to her, we see Deadpool does pay the man a visit & deliver a severe beating. We then see the Taskmaster arrives to finish the job, and he made no such promise to Sandi about not killing the man. We then follow Deadpool as he sets out with his sidekick Ratbag to pay a visit to the castle of the Black Swan, as Deadpool is looking to pay the man back for the debilitating virus that is attacking his mind, and will soon leave him a half-wit unable to perform even the most simple of tasks. As Deadpool smashes his way into the Black Swan's home, and proceeds to turn the man's sanctuary into a hellish environment, we see an incensed Black Swan confronts Deadpool. However the Black Swan soon discovers that Deadpool brought enough explosives to bring the entire castle crashing down, and after Deadpool forces him to cure the mental condition that Ragbag suffers from, the two enemies are caught inside the castle when it's blown to kingdom come.
Now that Deadpool has seemingly met his end I must confess the only reason the first issue of this series found its way into my hands was thanks to the guest-appearance by Alpha Flight's Sasquatch, and with the Taskmaster showing up in issue number two, Joe Kelly managed to hook me in for the second issue. By that point I had begun to realize that this was a pretty fun title, and in the right hands Deadpool was a pretty entertaining lead, with a fairly unique place in the Marvel Universe, as the happy-go-lucky hitman. Now this book has suffered through some rough patches since Joe Kelly left, as Christopher Priest's run on the book was quite funny, but largely aimless, while the preceding runs managed to deliver some of the most unfunny material it has ever been my displeasure to read. Then the book gained itself a new writer, who not only brought with her a fairly solid sense of humor, but also an understanding of the idea that even a humor-based title needs to have an engaging plot to support the jokes. Can this book survive without Deadpool? As long as the humor remains in the book, I don't see why not.
The situation with the Black Swan reaches its conclusion in this issue in a fairly explosive manner, as Gail Simone uses this issue to effectively clean the slate, so that she can start off in her new direction without the burden of past continuity. Now the suggestion that the Black Swan's virus was erasing Deadpool's memories, does suggest to me that the amnesiac lead of the upcoming Agent X series could very easily be Deadpool. However, Gail Simone has neatly set up a situation where she can keep the reader guessing if this is the true identity of Agent X, or if the character is an entirely new creation. This issue also manages to offer up a fairly entertaining struggle between Deadpool & the Black Swan, and we learn the truth about why the Black Swan was gunning for Deadpool. The battle itself is also a fairly intense encounter, though Deadpool's banter was still quite amusing. The issue also explains why Deadpool latched on to the seemingly useless sidekick of Ragbag, and I do find myself hoping that this isn't the last we'll see of this character, or for that matter, Deadpool's business manager, Sandi.
First off, I have to give UDON Studios credit for experimenting with the sideways format, and they certainly use it to better effect than the recent Marvel-scope X-Men annuals, with the final shot of the exploding castle being a particularly good use of the idea. As for the rest of the art, UDON is quickly convincing me that they are the ideal Deadpool art team, as the work seems to be growing more & more detailed by the issue, and their coloring work is quickly convincing me that James Sinclair may finally have some competition when it comes to his muted coloring work. The art is especially impressive during the action scenes, as the sequence where Deadpool lays into Sandi's abusive husband is a nicely disturbing series of panels, and the Taskmaster fan absolutely loved the closing panels of this scene, as the Taskmaster has never looked more dangerous. Deadpool's fight with the Black Swan was is also well handled, as the ticking time-bomb added a nice sense of urgency to the battle, and the injuries that Deadpool suffers are suitably grotesque. I also have to mention the final page gag reel, which was a cute closing note to end the issue on.
Is this issue Deadpool's last appearance? Is the character truly killed off in the fiery explosion that acts as this issue's final moment? Join us again in two weeks for the answers to these questions, as well as a bold new direction involving an amnesiac assassin on the run from forces unknown. This issue is basically used by Gail Simone to wipe the decks clear of any clutter, and presumably she'll use the opening issues of Agent X to tease the reader about whether the star of that series is Deadpool. This final issue offers up a fairly entertaining battle between Deadpool & the Black Swan, as we see both men are locked in a battle that is likely to kill them both. We also get a couple of "happy" endings, as we see Sandi abusive ex-husband learns it's not smart to beat on a woman who is friends with professional killers, and we see Ragbag the incoherent bum that Deadpool took under his wing has his head rewired as a parting gift from his pal Deadpool.
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