Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular issue 1, written by Fabian Nicieza and Dan Slott, lettering by Dave Lanphear, editor Nicole Boose, cover by Paul Pelletier, Dave Meikis and Will Quintana, 39 pages of strip, Marvel Comics, September 2007, US$3.99
Features: Squirrel Girl, art by Kieron Dwyer, colour by Pete Pantazis
Deadpool and the Great Lakes Initiative “Drunk with Power”, art by Nelson, colour by Giulia Brisco
Big Bertha and Deadpool “A Date with Density", pencils by Paul Pelletier, inks by Dave Meikis, colour by Will Quintana
Flatman and Deadpool “Fight or Fold?”, art by Clio Chiang
It’s nice to see that that, although so many of its core super-hero titles are being bound ever tighter into cross-continuity big events, Marvel continues to publish titles that provide lighter-toned stand-alone stories: not just the Marvel Adventures line, but the likes of Spider-Man Family, Hulk and Power Pack, X-Men: First Class and the occasional special about the third-rate super-heroes from the Great Lakes, of which this is the latest.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag. A major problem is the presence of the repulsive psychopath Deadpool. It is possible to make casual, amoral slaughter funny, but it’s hard and requires a careful balance of tone. Deadpool’s repeated killing of Mr Immortal raises a laugh, because we know Mr Immortal will recover (the clue is in his name), and because repetition of an absurdity is an old comedy standby. But the gratuitous killing of a passing character called Grasshopper right at the end is just plain nasty and leaves the book with a bad aftertaste (but see the comments section for more on this - added 16 July).
“Drunk with Power” is the weakest thing here, laboured and stolid in plot, dialogue and artwork. “A Date with Density” is nimbler on all counts, but still rather pedestrian.
“Fight or Fold?” is lovely little throwaway piece, with light, dancing artwork from Chiang.
But the best thing here is the Squirrel Girl sequence. Nicieza and Slott skewer the dark, gloomy, adolescent tone of the Civil War period Marvel comics, but still provide a coherent story about a delightful, upbeat character that works for those of us who haven’t read the Civil War books. Dwyer’s compositions are clear and fluid, finished with a rough, energetic line. It’s a shame about the ending, but otherwise, these two stories easily justify reading this comic.
Oh, and a message to toy manufacturers: please tool up a model Squirrel-A-Gig right now. Well, when you've finished with those librarian figures, anyway.
Martha Washington Dies by Frank Miller (writer), Dave Gibbons (artist), Angus McKie (colourist), Diana Schutz (editor), 17 pages of strip, Dark Horse Comics, July 2007, US$3.50
In which Martha Washington dies, surprisingly enough; in a blaze of light, at the age of one hundred, after speechifying a bit. No man-eating badgers are involved.
Miller provides an uneventful coda to the Martha Washington series, with touches as unsubtle as the previous episodes (“And now the barbarians sing their chants and set off their bombs and pray for the Armageddon we’ll never let them have”), but without the jokes. Gibbons’ artwork is as meticulous as ever.
I have seen some online criticism of Dark Horse for publishing something so inconsequential. But this chapter will serve a purpose by providing a definitive end to the upcoming omnibus The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century. For those who already have the preceding stories in one form or another, this separate publication is surely a positive and helpful thing, staving off the Hobson’s choice of expensive duplication or incomplete story.