Of all the Deadpool titles Marvel has launched in addition to his regular solo title, “DeadpoolMAX” is the only one that made me go “That makes sense!” With his proclivity for extreme violence and offbeat banter, a ‘mature readers’ take on the Merc with a Mouth makes a lot of sense. David Lapham and Kyle Baker helming the book sold me completely and their first issue begins the series strongly, taking advantage of the lack of limitations on them. And, surprisingly, using Deadpool only sparingly, preferring to focus on the MAX version of Deadpool’s sometimes sidekick, Bob, Agent of HYDRA.
Relaying the results of a recent operation to his superior, Officer Bob is presented as the hapless whipping boy of the comic: forced to act as the sexual plaything of Hammerhead’s head of security, Bob endures weeks of punishment to assist Deadpool in breaking into the heavily guarded and secure skyscraper where Hammerhead had stayed since taking over the Maggia two years previously. From there, things get worse for Bob as he endures indignity upon indignity all so Deadpool can pull the hit off. Putting Bob at the center of the comic makes it easier to get into and play up the jokes since he’s so put upon.
Deadpool staying off panel most of the time makes the few instances where he’s seen more impactful. A little bit of Deadpool goes a long way and he’s used effectively here. First, built up as an unstoppable killing machine after he’d apparently been killed. Some of the stories are very funny, like where Yakuza member tattoo Deadpool on their bodies or Deadpool refusing to use a parachute “because it might ‘throw off his aim.’” Then, shown to be a bumbling moron that may have screwed up the entire mission by getting too drunk to kill Hammerhead on schedule. Deadpool’s crazed ranting about “the Twelve Headed Serpent” add a through line to the series and a focal point for his craziness.
Matching the messy, somewhat absurd nature of Lapham’s writing is Kyle Baker’s art. It’s crazy, the over-the-top, crude, and almost certainly not to everyone’s taste. There’s a washed out effect to his coloring that complements his cartoonish and ‘ugly’ pencils. His Hammerhead is a brutish monster with a misshapen, horrific head out of a “Dick Tracy” comic. His men are overly muscled and more often than not stripped down to (almost) nothing. There’s a strong light comedy to his storytelling with characters overreacting and overacting, playing into the cartoonish nature of a Deadpool comic. And, ultimately, the issue has the crowning artistic achievement of any Marvel comic: the third panel of the first preview page here on CBR.
Some may wonder if so many Deadpool comics are necessary, but, after one issue, “DeadpoolMAX” certainly proves that it offers a different sort of Deadpool comic. It plays up the absurd adult humor well and keeps the eponymous lead off panel for most of the comic to make his presence more impactful. It’s one of the strangest and most screwed up comics of the year and I’ll definitely be back next month!