“A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That’s like…sixteen walls!”

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When it comes to the various eras of comics history, the nineties have an image problem.

Get it? Because Image comics were terrible.

And that’s not fair. Not fair at all. There were some fantastic comics released during the nineties. Jeff Smith’s seminal Bone came out in this decade. You had Neil Gaiman writing Sandman over at DC. And at DC, the Batman titles were doing memorable storylines like No Man’s Land and Long Halloween. Meanwhile, at DC, Mark Waid and Alex Ross were creating one of the most visually beautiful mainstream comics of all time with Kingdom Come

“Hey, Mouse, what about Marvel?”

“…”

“HELLBLAZER WAS ANOTHER VERY WELL RECEIVED DC TITLE DURING THIS PERIOD…”

And yet, despite some very good comics being produced during this era by almost half of the two great American comic publishers, “nineties” is basically short-hand for “crap” amongst comics fans. Here’s the problem. Say I want to sum up the Golden Age of comics with one panel, it’d probably be this one:

Kirby’s cover of Captain America 1. If had to choose a panel to represent the Silver Age? Probably something like this from Sheldon Moldoff (if for no other reason than it doesn’t seem fair to have Jack Kirby define two eras):

And if I want a single panel that sums up the Bronze Age? That’s easy, Rorschach entering the Comedian’s apartment by Dave Gibbons.

But if I want a single panel that represents the Dark Age? Probably something like this.

And that’s your problem right there. All these eras were incredibly diverse in terms of the comics that were actually created during them, but they’re all defined in the popular consciousness by a single aesthetic. And the aesthetic that defines the nineties, whether fairly or unfairly, is that of one man. Rob Liefeld.

And it’s pretty objectively terrible. Now, this review is not going to be me dunking on Rob Liefeld for five thousand words because obviously I’d need more words and I don’t like to half-ass things NO BAD MOUSE.

I’m not going to dunk on Liefeld because that’s just beating the fine horse powder that at some point in the distant past was (if the elders are to be believed) a dead horse. Hell, making fun of Rob Liefeld was pretty much the reason we built the internet in the first place (don’t believe the porn industry’s revisionist propaganda). Liefeld was one of a rising generation of new comic artists in the nineties, and that generation was markedly different from the ones that had come before. See, if you look at the really big names of the Silver Age, your Stan Lees, your Jack Kirbies, your Julie Schwartzes, you’ll notice that these were all dudes who had were already working in comics during the Golden Age. The Silver Age was not the New Guard taking over, it was the Old Guard refining and improving on their first draft. But by the nineties, the Old Guard was ageing out of the industry and rising to replace them was a generation that had actually grown up reading the classic comics of the Silver Age and actually had “comic book writer/artist” as their dream job rather than simply something to fall back on if that career in publishing/fine arts never panned out. These kids, unlike their forbears, had come to the comics as fans rather than just professional artists or writers who needed a steady gig. They had read all these comics when they were twelve year old boys and dreamed of creating their own.

Unfortunately, if you read the comics they were putting out, you would have been forgiven for thinking that they were still twelve year old boys. Liefeld wasn’t the only one of this generation, but he definitely epitomised them. Much as the Impressionists were identified by their use of open composition and an accurate depiction of light, the artists of the “Hot Comics” style were identifiable by blood, guts, gratuitous swearing and a…free-thinking…approach to accurate depictions of female anatomy. They also freaking idolised Jack Kirby which I find BAFFLING. Not because Jack Kirby doesn’t deserve to be idolised (and I got the shrines to prove it) but because Jack Kirby is legendary for:

  1. Technical excellence.
  2. Clarity of visual storytelling.
  3. A fearsomely original imagination.
  4. A work ethic that allowed him to smash deadlines like they’d been cracking wise about Mrs Kirby.

Basically, everything Liefeld and his ilk were not about. So you had a lot of talentless fanboys creating comics that only had merit to clueless, hormonally addled infants. So, of course, they were hugely, horrendously successful.

This thing sold five million copies and there’s bile in my mouth right now.

Liefeld is in this weird space of being simultaneously one of the most and least influential creators in the history of the medium. As I said, his style defined an entire era of comics history in a way very few other creators can be said to have done. Honestly, I think only Kirby rivals him in that regard. But whereas Kirby’s legacy on both the Marvel and DC universes will stand the test of time, very little of Liefeld’s influence remains in the modern Marvel universe. Certainly not his art-style, and precious few of his intellectual concepts proved to have any real staying power. Mostly because, well, his character concepts were possibly the only thing in the world that could have made you say “Jeez dude, just stick to art.”

“But Mouse” the strawman I have created for this very purpose cries out “didn’t he create Deadpool? Isn’t Deadpool a beloved character and permanent fixture in the Marvel universe?”

Well, the answer to both those question is indeed “Yes” but there’s a lot of history between the first “Yes” and the second. Liefeld did indeed co-create Deadpool with writer Fabien Nicieza but the character they created was impressive only in how much they managed to rip off in one sitting. So Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson is an “homage”…

…to DC’s Deathstroke aka Slade Wilson. See? It’s completely shameless. That makes it okay. They then added Spider-Man’s costume as imagined by a Taiwanese supermarket, threw in Wolverine’s healing factor because nineties, strapped a couple of guns on him and set him loose on the world. I’m not saying there weren’t the germs of a good character there, but they were just that, germs. Capable of only being seen with a microscope.

It was other writers that saw the potential in the character and added the elements that really made him click, most notably that he’s insane and that this insanity manifests in him actually being aware that he’s in a comic book. This is the version of the character that has won legions of fans the world over, including Canada.

One of said fans was actor Ryan Reynolds who is a huge Deadpool fan and was so gosh darned happy to be cast as the character in Wolverine Origin only to learn that this Deadpool would be a mute with his mouth sewn shut and THIS IS WHY WE DON’T MAKE WISHES ON CURSED MONKEY PAWS CHILDREN.

After Origins came out and did for Deadpool’s reputation what Superfriends did for Aquaman’s, Reynolds laboured with various collaborators to get his own vision of Deadpool to the big screen, with blackjack and hookers as God intended.

This movie almost died on the operating table multiple times. Consider:

  1. It’s about Deadpool, a character no one outside of comics fandom knew about unless they’d seen Origin in which case they hated him. Strike 1.
  2. Instead of being rebooted, he was still being played by the same actor. Strike 2.
  3. Said actor also made Green Lantern. Strike 3. Actually, let’s make that two strikes. Strike 4.
  4. This was going to be a Hard R rated movie full of tits and effin’ and jeffin’, likely to send dowagers across the land toppling in a epidemic of the vapours. Strike 5.

So, on paper at least, this movie was going to suck at baseball and Fox were considering scrapping the movie when somebody, some mischevious scamp, some mysterious rapscallion who shall remain forever nameless…

…leaked some test footage that saw the cry of “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” echo throughout the internet.

The movie begins in media res which is a pretty highbrow move for something with this amount of dick jokes. After a slow motion credits sequence where the writers get to mock literally everyone involved in the making of this movie from the Best Boy on up, Deadpool is taking a taxi where he gets chatting to the driver, Dopinder, and gives him some advice on how to win the girl he’s sweet on. This opening tells you everything you need to know about the movie. Firstly, Ryan Reynolds is such a natural fit for this role that I’m not entirely sure the comic character didn’t just become self-aware like he’s always been threatening to do and sneak into our reality through a magic wardrobe. Secondly, the costume in general and the CGI augmented mask in particular belong in the pantheon of perfectly realised comic-to-film translations. And lastly, that despite all its foul-mouthed, jaw-droppingly violent, snarky, too-cool-for-school affect, the movie is a big softy at heart. If the movie can be said to have a theme it is “True Love Conquers All” which is an unexpected message in a motion picture that includes a unicorn masturbation scene.

Or…is it?

Pool ambushes some common or garden mooks on a freeway and goes through them like a burrito made of glass and barbed wire. His massacre catches the attention of the X…man.

Colossus thinks that the homicidal and mentally unbalanced serial killer carrying a lifetime of psychological trauma would be the perfect fit for the school of vulnerable teenagers he works for.

Can’t imagine where he got that idea.

So he goes to recruit Wade along with Negasonic Teenage Warhead, we have officially run out of names. She has next to no similarity with her comics counterpart, the creators just really, really dug the name. We learn that Deadpool is after a dude called Francis. But Colossus shows up and distracts him long enough for Francis to escape so all that murder was just wasted. Deadpool flies into a rage and beats himself to a bloody pulp against Colossus and then escapes by sawing off his own arm and jumping into a garbage truck.

In flashback we learn the secret origin of Deadpool, who he is and how he came to be. Wade Wilson was just about the most adorably precious badass mercenary who spent his time defending teenage girls from stalkers and being respectful to women. Particularly Vanessa, a lady of negotiable affection who Wade meets in a bar where they hit it off performing a childhood abuse themed version of the Yorkshiremen sketch.

“Every night my old man used to come home and beat me to death with his willy!” “Oh! Luxury! Luxury!”

Vanessa and Wade fall in love and have a whirlwind year of romance and quickly aborted pegging that all comes crashing down when Wade is diagnosed with all the cancer in the world. Desperate not to die just when his life was starting to look up, Wade reluctantly accepts an offer from a shady looking motherfucker to undergo experiments to cure his cancer. Of course, when the experiments turn out to be taking place in a secret blacksite that should have been his first tip off that not everything was on the up and up. Scientists who are really trying to cure cancer don’t keep it a secret. They never shut up about it, they’re like vegans. Wade is introduced to the dude running this horror show, a guy called Ajax played by Ed Skrein, who I honestly can’t figure out if he’s giving a great performance or if I’m just in love.

He’s a bad boy. But I can change him!

Wade also meets Ajax’s enforcer, Angel…

No, not that one.

No, not her.

No, same guy as before born several decades earlier for some reason.

No!

Yes, thank you. Jesus.

Fox, you name one more character “Angel” and I will start throwing paws. So Ajax reveals the lab’s MO, subjecting people to torturous experimentation until they turn into mutants who are then sold as super soldiers. Y’know, because that’s so much cheaper and more efficient than just finding any of the bajillion mutants who live in this universe and just offering them a job.

Thank God he’s pretty. Fuck. Thank GOD he’s pretty.

Wade and Ajax begin a deeply unhealthy relationship where Wade mocks and belittles Francis who then straps him to a rack and shoots electricity through his knackers and they really should just bone already. Like right now. But when Wade reveals Ajax’s real name (Francis) to the other inmates, Francis decides to take the kink up a notch and locks Deadpool in a glass coffin with just enough oxygen to stop him from dying. This being a comic book movie, it activates his latent mutant gene, giving him crazy high healing factor and a face that makes him look like he was bitten by a radioactive scrotum who then punched him repeatedly in the face. Wade steals a matchstick from Angel which allows him to blow up his oxygen tank and set the lab on fire. I feel I should mention this is probably the single most homo-erotic superhero movie ever made.

Yeah, I know. I stand by my earlier statement.

Like, this scene where Francis is walking through the burning lab in a white T shirt, spraying everything with foam from a fire extinguisher while the camera lovingly caresses his crotch and then he Wade fight and it ends with…

Yeah. More subtext than the Red October’s user manual. Francis leaves Wade for dead and doesn’t even leave his number, the callous bastard. But Wade isn’t really dead and so he goes to look for Vanessa. But he can’t bring himself to approach her because of his appearance because, as someone who was a sex worker for many years, she’s only been with handsome men. Instead, Wade looks up his old friend Weasel who runs the mercenary bar he frequents and they plot Wade’s revenge. So begins the career of Captain Deadpool, later renamed Deadpool after he is dishonourably discharged for conduct unbecoming of an officer. Wade cuts his way through Francis’ entire organisation and we’re all caught up.

So, bruised, bloody and missing an arm, Wade goes back to the house he shares with Blind Al, an old lady who is blind to everything including Wade’s defects as a human being. She tries to convince him to go back to Vanessa and let her know he’s still alive but he refuses because he looks like a taint and won’t go to her until he’s made Francis change him back.

Meanwhile, Francis now knows that the guy he rode hard and put away dead is the same dude in a red gimp suit who’s been slicing up his men like salami so he pays Weasel a visit where he finds a picture of Wade and Vanessa together. This allows him to track down Vanessa to the strip club where she works…somehow and he kidnaps her and leaves a message for Deadpool to come and get her, but not before Wade visits the strip club in a scene that is entirely justified artistically.

Realising that he finally needs help, Deadpool asks Colossus and Negasonic to tag along as he rescues Vanessa.

Deadpool was made for just under $60 million (which, for a superhero film, is practically a microbudget), but it was smart with its money. And where the budget really shows, Deadpool gets over it by just mercilessly mocking it, like drawing attention to the fact that the studio wouldn’t even pony up for a third X-Man. Anyway, the three mutants get a ride with Dopinder over to the massive wrecked aircraft carrier where Francis is holding Vanessa but when the taxi drives off Deadpool realises he’s left his massive bag of guns in the car. This, incidentally, was another cost saving measure as the film-makers were told they could have a big shoot-out or an aircraft carrier but not both.

“It was like Sophie’s Choice!”

Deadpool cuts his way through Francis’ security detail, and then uses their corpses to spell out his name, leading Francis to drawl to Vanessa “does he leave you notes too?”

Seriously, why does this guy not get more love as a villain?

Wade and Francis have their final no holds barred fist based hate-sex substitute which ends with Francis a bloody mess in the ruins of the aircraft carrier. Wade demands that Francis fixes him and Francis taunts him by saying that his ugliness is beyond mere human science’s ability to cure. Deadpool loses it and is about to shoot him when Colossus tells him that he has a chance to prove he really is a hero after all…and Wade fucking shoots Francis in the head because he’s never going to be a nice, safe, squeaky clean superhero that you can market to kids.

“Ah…this one has spirit.”

And the movie ends with Vanessa and Wade tearfully reuniting and Vanessa telling him that she still loves him despite being so totally, utterly, inhumanly hideous.

Alternatively, he’s a man with an athlete’s body, killer jawline, the soulful eyes of a poet and a minor skin condition.

***

Deadpool shows why sometimes creative freedom is more important than a big budget. This is exactly the movie that it wants to be, and more power to it. It’s filthy, hilarious and actually weirdly sweet at the same time. In a world where all everyone seems to care about is being nice and wholesome, Deadpool showed that there was still an audience for good old fashioned violence, profanity and tits. Now that sounds like a fuckin’ franchise.

The Stinger

Deadpool rips off Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by telling the audience that they need to go home and that they didn’t have money for a stinger. This is almost certainly true, and that makes it even funnier.

And the audience went

Hey, was that Stan Lee?

That was Stan Lee, working as the DJ in the strip club which is a bit like watching Santa Claus using a sex swing.

Department of Duplication Department

After being played by Donald Mackinnion in X-Men and Daniel Cudmore in X2, The Last Stand and Days of Future Past Colossus is now played by a combination of CGI, motion capture and the voice of Stefan Kapičić.

How worried is Guinan right now?

Guinan’s not sweating it. This movie just takes place in it’s own little meta universe and holds the very idea of a consistent X-Men timeline in open contempt. And Guinan’s down with that.

Wait, Magneto is how old?

Not that it matters as he doesn’t appear or even get mentioned, but if the movie is set in 2016 that makes him 86.

Mutant Heaven has no pearly gates, only revolving doors.

No resurrections unless you count Deadpool surviving a run in with Francis’s massive phallic symbolism.

Today, mutants are…

Pushy studio executives who want you to be more kid-friendly and marketable.

This movie is…

INCRE-DEAD-ABLE!!!

Bleeding Deadly!

Dead Great

Dead Good

Deadly Dull

Dead Wrong

Dead on Arrival

NEXT UPDATE: 23 January 2020

NEXT TIME: Damn it Japan, that restraining order wasn’t me playing hard to get!

38 comments

  1. Not going to read the actual review ’til I actually get around to seeing the movie, but just the history lesson at the start is proof positive you haven’t lost your Funny Chops.

  2. Fun fact, I was working at a movie theater when this came out, and cleaning up after audiences (especially their kids) just suuuuccckkkkks.

    That why we were all so happy that Deadpool told folks to clean up after themselves at the end of the stinger. And that, plus the fact that this movie is hilarious, is why Deadpool holds a special place in my heart.
    Favorite Line:

    Deadpool: You big chrome cockgobbler! (throws a can at him)
    Colossus: (it bounces off him) That’s not nice.

  3. Love this flick. Such a breath of fresh air in the year that gave us BvS, Suicide Squad, X-Men Apocalypse, and Dr. Strange.

    Sure, we got Civil War too, which was great, but that movie felt carefully engineered to be a safe bet in exactly the way Deadpool wasn’t. Felt nice to see something both gutsy and sincere on the screen, as well as redeeming a character who was so horribly mismanaged in the first attempt.

    1. DEADPOOL is wicked good fun, but in all honesty I love DOCTOR STRANGE more (if only for having the Best Superhero theme of the twenty-teens that isn’t attached to WONDER WOMAN and for the outstanding synchronicity of casting a Wong who not only shares a surname with his character, but a first name with his Doctor Strange – also my longstanding admiration of Ms. Rachel McAdams and all those wonderfully happening visuals).

      On the other hand I actually liked SUICIDE SQUAD and will defend SUPERMAN V BATMAN to the extent that it gave us Wonder Woman as played by Ms. Gal Gadot (not to mention her outrageously rocking theme tune, which is gift worth the whole darned movie in its own right), so my Taste might well be automatically suspect.

  4. I think what I like the most about the movie is that it is essentially a romcom and was even marketed as such and all the guys just went in screaming “awesome!!!!!”. Now, if they would only start to admit that they actually enjoy a well-made romcom after all….

    Though I admit, the humour isn’t really my thing overall. But it has its moments.

  5. Loved Deadpool. Saw it back-to-back with Zootopia and that was just a blast of an evening at the movies.

    As for A Silent Voice… It’s really, really good, but it’s kind of a brutal, depressing sit, moreso the first half. Really curious how that goes over.

  6. Thanks for the review! Deadpool is one of those characters I never got into, mostly because he’s been described to me as “that unkillable ultraviolent guy who always breaks the fourth wall,” and that just doesn’t sell me on the concept. 🧐

      1. Well I’d say ‘Close, but no cigar’ since, as you mentioned Mouse, the film is X-Men adjacent but cannot possibly be counted a part of the Franchise proper – definitely the most entertaining spinoff though!

  7. I actually think that the late nineties (emphasize on LATE) were a mini-renaissance for Marvel, at least for selected titles. After the mess that was Heroes Reborn and much of the storylines before that, the non-mutant or Spider-Man characters were in a real creative and artistic drought. These characters got much-needed return to form in the late nineties, giving us the Mark Waid excellent run on Captain America, Kurt Busiek killing it as the writer of Iron Man, Avengers, and the Thunderbolts, and the flawed but highly enjoyable Heroes for Hire by John Ostrander. And I know this might be a controversial opinion, but I believe that the Spider-Man series publish between post-Clone Saga and the Final Chapter, are a very entertaining and worthy read (especially Amazing by Tom DeFalco and Spectacular by J.M. DeMatteis). I’m no expert on the X-Men but from what I have read they really suffered from lack of direction during this era.

    1. Kurt Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man was a real gem if you like the Lee-Ditko stuff.

      I think Garth Ennis’ Punisher came around 1998, right? I rather like that run, even though Ennis is an acquired taste.

    2. I cannot speak for those other titles, but Mr Kurt Busiek & Mr George Perez on AVENGERS is indeed a title well worth treasuring; I remember reading it at the time and then coming back to it later to realise (delightedly) that it really WAS Good.

      Nay, GOOD!

  8. Congratulations on starting the New Year in style Mouse! (I did not see DEADPOOL in cinemas, but have seen it since on my Home Television and rather enjoyed it).

    You certainly seem to have done this production Justice, though you might want to find a nice cool drink to help you cope with that thirst … (-;

    Keep Well and Best Wishes to Clan Mouse from the Mrs to the Miss to the Little Mister!

  9. It’s kind laughable that the make-up for Deadpool still had to abide by standard Hollywood standards of not making the lead too ugly.

    I don’t know much of superhero comics (I am here if you need advice regarding Disney Duck comics!) but it’s always great hear you explain about history of superhero comics, I kind of want to read one of the 90s comics now…

    1. Deadpool’s unmasked appearance in the comics has changed so often over the years, that I felt content with the movies making him look ugly at all (but still keeping his mouth open).

  10. I actually like the Strip Club scene, because the camera work genuinely doesn’t seem into it. The gaze really does just treat as “the place Vanessa works”.

  11. I…actually like some 90’s Marvel comics. It helps that this gas station that was nearby a hotel my family used to go to a lot when we were on vacation had a 3-pack of ’em for sale cheap. I still remember reading Ravage 2099, Thunder Strike, and the final part of some weird Avengers limited series that had them fight against Kang. (No, not the one with Kodos! Oh, and the Biker Mice From Mars had a comic adaptation, too. And I actually liked Maximum Carnage.That is all. :P)

      1. It’s not that bad! (Then again, I’m the moron who defends “Torment” a little, so what the fuck do I know?)

      2. Bad Spider-Man comics? How about One More Day/One Moment In Time? Or the one where Peter Parker’s radioactive sperm killed (or was it poisoned?) Mary Jane? Then, there’s the whole awful Clone Saga fiasco…

      1. As an Elseworld I do not consider a good representation of any DC age. But like the other big Graphic Novels of the time it is the birth of the Modern Age. Or what we were calling the Modern Age when I started reading Comics. As a Wrestling Fan I like to call it the Attitude Era of Comics.

      2. Yeah, 1986, directly post-Crisis—if there’s a transition line between ages it’s right there. If I were going to pick one image to symbolize the Bronze Age, it’d probably be the old black man from Green Lantern/Green Arrow 76 asking Hal Jordan why he’s done more for aliens than for black humans: “Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern!”

  12. I’m crawling out of the woodwork to inform you that I’m looking forward to your review of A Silent Voice, which I consider to be up there with the best of the Ghibli films, and which imo far surpasses Your Name in the quality of its storytelling and directorial choices. After you’ve seen A Silent Voice, I highly recommend director Naoko Yamada’s next film, Liz and the Blue Bird, a little gem of a film that can only be described with words like “delicate” and “elegant”.

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