Welcome to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly column that answers the question: "What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?" This week there are
six five X-Books on the stands, which will cost you a total of $25 $21 to buy and, thanks to modern decompression techniques, take roughly ten minutes to read (if you read slowly). If that seems like a waste of time and money, you can keep your money by reading our recaps for free. We make no promises about the use of your time, however.
X-Books on sale this week include Rogue and Gambit #2, Spider-Man vs. Deadpool #27 (why is there a Spider-Man/Deadpool comic?), Iceman #10, X-Men Gold #21, and X-Men Red #1.
Additionally, Venom #161 crosses over with X-Men Blue for the Poison X event, so we'll be covering that as well.
Because we might as well get it over with, let's see what's happening in Spider-Man vs. Deadpool…
Spider-Man vs. Deadpool #27
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Pencilers: Chris Bachalo, Scott Hepburn, Marcus To
Inkers: Livesay, Al Vey, Wayne Faucher, Victor Olazaba, Scott Hepburn, Chris Bachalo, Marcus To
Colorists: Chris O'Halloran, Ian Herring
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Cover: Scott Hepburn, Ian Herring
Title Page Designer: Mandy Medero
It's relatively easy to ignore how overexposed both Deadpool and Spider-Man are when you're not reading any of their combined seventeen comics in any given month. When you're forced to read multiple Deadpool comics each month because you're writing a very demanding recap column that all started because you wanted to make one lame pun, it can quickly start to get to you. Not instilling us with a high level of confidence in what we're about to read, this single issue comic features three pencilers, four additional inkers in addition to the pencilers also getting inking credits, two colorists, one letterer, a title page designer, and a writer. But we're going to try to keep an open mind and see what this is all about.
We're sure as hell not reading 26 back issues of this one, so let's hope the recap page can get us up to speed:
So this comic starts out with Deadpool and Clay (Quartermain?) undercover in a suburban neighborhood. We flashback to Deadpool's helicarrier, which is a thing Deadpool has since Secret Empire, and which context clues tell us has a crew of people/aliens/monsters/sharks that work for Deadpool or something. We don't know who these people are, and we shouldn't be expected to. This column is called X-Men: Bland Design, after all, not Convoluted SHIELD Mythology Weekly. It would be helpful if the comic provided some character introductions for readers new to the series (or to comics), especially as it's the first issue in a new story arc, on either the recap page or in captions as they appear, but they must assume none of those are ever going to pick this comic up because there's none of that here. Jim Shooter would never have allowed this.
Anyway, Deadpool's murder sharks, apparently named Bruce and Debra, are evolving, says a character we learn is called Manphibian. The sharks are plotting to kill Deadpool after they binge-watch Stranger Things. Okay. Deadpool and Manphibian meet up on the helicarrier with an anthropomorphic cow, a woman with pink hair whose name is not mentioned, another woman with black hair whose name is not mentioned until later in the book, and Clay, who has some kind of alien life form merged with the right side of his body that looks like maybe it's Man-Thing. Clay-Thing has found a new job for Team Deadpool, but woman with black hair whose name we will learn later in the book thinks it's probably a death trap. X-pository dialogue reveals that Clay-Thing has access to the memories of the "real" Clay Quartermain, and he's tracking down remaining ex-SHIELD locations to locate weapons for Team Deadpool to steal and sell. That area is the snowy suburban neighborhood we saw on the first page, which is apparently known as Area 14.
Back in Area 14 in the present, Deadpool and Clay-Thing are being followed by residents who say, "You can't hurt us anymore. You won't hurt us anymore." This leads Clay-Thing to agree with the assessment of "Kate" — who context clues tell us must be the woman with black hair. This is a death trap. They knock on the door to a house and are greeted by a friendly couple.
We cut back to the helicarrier, where Team Deadpool is discussing Area 14 in relation to Area 13. At this point, even Deadpool can't figure out what's going on in this comic, so he asks…
When even the characters in your comic can't tell what's going on, it's impenetrable to potential new readers. Just saying.
Anyway, apparently Area 14 is dangerous and radioactive and nobody who's ever gone there has ever returned. So Deadpool went, naturally. Back in Area 14 in the present, the happy couple that greeted Deadpool and Clay-Thing what felt like hours ago (but we are only on page 6 of this thing), start freaking out and speaking binary code. They're life model decoys. Meanwhile, the residents outside have revealed their true form, though we don't get to see it. Apparently, they have tentacles though. Clay-Thing agrees to hold them off while Deadpool tries to get into the vault to steal weapons.
Back at the helicarrier in the past, the team is going over the plan to infiltrate the base. Deadpool has a Mary Poppins bag full of weapons. Kate says that Husk, former X-Men and SHIELD member and now some kind of government agent, is trying to track down SHIELD weapons caches too, but she's not onto this one yet. Pink-haired woman (whose name still has not been mentioned, and won't be throughout the comic as far as we can tell) says Deadpool doesn't have to worry about Spider-Man either. We almost forgot Spider-Man was in this book too. Once Deadpool makes it down the elevator shaft to the vault, she says, he's home free.
So, of course, back in Area 14 in the present, at the bottom of the elevator shaft, Deadpool finds Spider-Man. Spider-Man says he's taking Deadpool to jail. Spider-Man is pissed because Deadpool ditched him a previous issue and stole a bunch of weapons. He does know who Deadpool is, right? Deadpool wants to know how Spider-Man found him. Spider-Man points out that Deadpool travels by helicarrier, which is admittedly conspicuous. Spider-Man also makes use of X-pository dialogue to tell us that the suburbanites outside are actually creatures enslaved by SHIELD and forced to guard Area 14. Spider-Man begins opening a vault labeled "22."
Back on the helicarrier in the past, Clay-Thing explains that there are 42 vaults underneath Area 14, each containing weapons and/or extradimensional beings that SHIELD has weaponized. Deadpool wants to steal them all. Kate tells him to avoid vault 7 because it contains a weaponized STD. Cowface, whose name still has yet to be mentioned along with Pink-hair, tells Deadpool to definitely avoid vault 22.
Back at Area 14 in the present, Spider-Man opens vault 22 and a bunch of tentacles doing Beetlejuice cosplay pop out and start attacking them. Witty banter occurs as the battle goes on, and Deadpool is starting to realize that SHIELD is kind of messed up, enslaving aliens, using them as weapons, and whatnot. Deadpool says it's cool that he's stealing stuff from them since they're evil. Spider-Man lectures him, and Deadpool starts to feel bad. He says he lets everyone down, even himself, and he doesn't care, but he's sorry he let down Spider-Man. Spider-Man tells him to turn himself in. Will Deadpool have a change of heart?
We'll find out after another trip back to the helicarrier in the past, where Clay-Thing is showing Deadpool how to use a teleportation device that will automatically suck up all the weapons and teleport them and Deadpool back to the helicarrier. Back in the present, Deadpool uses the teleporter, letting Spider-Man down, but pleasing his team because of all the weapons he stole that they can now sell. But Deadpool is sad because he let Spider-Man down.
Except… that wasn't Spider-Man! Back at Area 14, we see Spider-Man opening the vault INSIDE vault 22, where he locates a green thingamajig.
And outside, he takes off his mask to reveal he's actually The Chameleon! Dun dun DUNNNN! He gives the mask to one of the extra-dimensional-guard-slaves as payment for letting him into Area 14. Meanwhile, the real Spider-Man is talking to Husk, who explains that Chameleon stole data in a previous comic that led him to a robot army created by something called Project Doppelganger, and as they're investigating the facility where the robot army was kept, they learn it's gone. Thankfully, Chameleon can't do anything with them… unless he gets his hands on a certain green thingamajig… uh oh!
The comic ends there, thirteen hours later.
The gimmick this comic uses, which is to switch rapidly back and forth between an action scene in the present and a flashback that slowly reveals details about the story, is a clever enough way to feed important information to the reader (if a bit exhausting). What's not clever, however, is the lack of basic information, most of which is never given to the reader in any form. Some of this stuff, we're able to figure out due to heavy immersion in comics in general, but how is this supposed to appeal to a casual reader or a new reader who might check it out because it has a "Part 1" attached to the storyline on the cover and features two popular characters with movie franchises in the title?
The only characters that someone who isn't a die-hard Marvel or Deadpool fan is likely to recognize are Spider-Man, Deadpool, and maybe The Chameleon and Husk if we're being really generous. The others, aside from Clay-Thing, have no distinct personality, and none of them have any kind of backstory. The comic chooses weird things to explain in great detail, like Area 13/Area 14, but leaves other details, like the names of half of the supporting characters or what their basic premise is, up to the reader's googling skills. We get it — this story isn't necessarily about the supporting characters and maybe they don't need to have their own development in every issue, but if that's the case, then put their freaking names and a one-sentence bio on the recap page or caption box next to them when they first appear. Put a QR code on there with a wiki link. Anything! Why do we know the names of the sharks used in a two-panel Netflix gag but not the names of two characters present on every other page of the issue? Marvel used to be so good at this. What happened?
This is a Spider-Man/Deadpool comic (one that has inexplicably lasted 27 issues), so nobody is expecting the next Watchmen here. For a Spider-Man/Deadpool comic, the main story is fine, but the lack of attention to the fundamentals spoils what could have been a perfectly average comic book. That's inexcusable when there were 12 creators involved with this book and 3 editors.
Next up, we cleanse our palette with some delicious Iceman!