Not the hero we want, the scumbag we need
Deadpool (2012) #1-4
Written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn
Illustrated by Tony Moore
Colored by Val Staples
Lettered by Joe Sabino
A rogue SHIELD agent has decided that America needs to be saved from itself. And who better to steer America back to the golden days of yesteryear than the men who helmed the country in those days? Alas, magic is unpredictable, and the Necromancer's army of Zombie Presidents are reborn as twisted, soulless mockeries of their former selves. And they've decided that the problem with America is... Americans. Time to kill them all. Sounds like a job for Captain America!
Except, of course, that Captain America can't exactly be seen going around decapitating Zombie Truman with his shield. It looks terrible and it sends mixed messages. What SHIELD needs is someone the general public hates, who can get the job done anyway.
Enter — Deadpool!
I was going to say my main problem with Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn's Deadpool was that it isn't very funny, but that's not right. It's actually quite funny. The problem is that it doesn't feel like it was written for a comic book. The odd pacing, the jokes that fall flat on the page (but seem funny when you read them out loud in a silly voice), the low joke density — this feels like an episode of an Archer-style cartoon that never made it past the storyboard stage. And if this were a cartoon I'd probably be laughing my ass off. But as a comic it all feels a bit flat.
Tony Moore's art does not help, either. He's an excellent draftsman, a competent storyteller, and he certainly seems like your first choice to illustrate a story about zombie ex-Presidents. But he doesn't seem capable of creating the sort of madcap energy a story like this needs.
This is a sequence where Deadpool loudly sneaks up on Zombie Teddy Roosevelt and blows his brains out at point blank range. It's practically screaming for some crazy, Looney-Tunes-meets-Grand-Guignol imagery. So why does it look like all Deadpool is doing is shooting Teddy's hat off?
And everything is like this. Everything from Washington raising an army of Civil War soldiers to Gerald Ford tripping and falling into a helicopter's blade is delineated in such a prosaic way that it loses any comedic impact it might have had.
And don't get me started on the Presidents.
It doesn't have to be said that the average American knows virtually nothing about American history. As far as we're concerned any 19th century president who isn't named "Lincoln" or "Grant" is basically a cipher, and most of the 20th century ones are equally forgettable. Maybe if you pressed us we'd be able to tell you that Ford was clumsy and Taft was really fat and Madison's wife was stacked and made cupcakes.
Where's Zombie Franklin Pierce, carrying around decapitated zombie head of his son Benjamin? Where's Zombie Grover Cleveland, breaking into the Mutter Museum to retrieve his long-lost tumor? Where's Zombie Chester A. Arthur begging Deadpool to spare his life because he's a secret Canadian?
I mean, geez, Andrew Jackson nearly beat a would-be assassin to death with his walking stick. The man at least deserves his own death panel and not share one with Martin Van Buren.
There are a zillion jokes you could make about American presidents, so why bring them all back if you're just going to focus on the big names? It just seems like a wasted opportunity. But then, so does the rest of Deadpool.