“My name is Aaron Stack and I am not amused.”

Deadpool Team-Up: #890
Writer: James Asmus
Art: Micah Gunnell
Inks: Rob Stull
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Jeff Eckleberry
Cover: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
Editor: Sebastian Girner
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I’ve been out of the comics reading pastime for a few years and have only recently gotten back into the shops. There’s always been a soft spot in my heart for Deadpool. The character has a lot to offer: a great costume, pulpy action, and (in the hands of a gifted writer) a propensity for laugh-out-loud moments that are too often absent in an overly mope-y comic book landscape. And don’t forget those stylish yellow word bubbles! Imagine my delight when I walked into the comic store and saw a plethora of Deadpool titles. Not only did he have his own solo title again, he had his own team book consisting entirely of alternate-universe versions of himself! My delight quickly turned to dread as I saw just how overexposed the Merc With A Mouth is. In 2010, Deadpool has already had or is scheduled to have four one-shots, four limited series and four ongoing series (five if you include the upcoming Uncanny X-Factor), along with a good number of guest spots. Since when is Wade Wilson a bigger star than Tony Stark?

I’ve picked up a few Deadpool books in recent months with trepidation, and found them to be largely devoid of value. The character that was once a quirky breath of fresh air in the world of overdone superheroics has become dangerously ubiquitous. Omnipresence isn’t as jarring when you’re dealing with an iconic character like Spider-Man or Wolverine. Their popularity may wax and wane, but they’re iconic for a reason. They can be plugged into team books or carry a few solo titles without much stretching. But Deadpool is a little too weird for this formula to work right – and unless you have someone truly talented writing him, such as Joe Kelly, Gail Simone, or Fabian Nicieza, Deadpool rapidly becomes more annoying than fun. And if readers start getting annoyed with the character, it kills the golden goose. So while Deadpool is one of my all-time favorite comic heroes, he comes with a few caveats.

When I saw that Machine Man was going to be guest-starring in Deadpool Team-Up #890, I couldn’t resist. I loved Warren Ellis’s reimagining of Aaron Stack as a drunken, surly robot supremacist in the pages of Nextwave, and his subsequent use in the Ms. Marvel series. Machine Man would be a perfectly bizarre foil for Deadpool’s antics. However, this issue felt more like a missed opportunity than anything else. Part of the fault is with the writing. I’d read an issue or two of Team-Up before but forgotten due to all the other Deadpool errata I’ve devoured recently, which meant I also forgot how annoying James Asmus’s use of dueling internal monologues is. Tics like that are what can separate an entertainingly surreal character from a wacky, crazy-for-crazy’s sake character.

The bulk of the story focuses on Machine Man filling the role of an insurance ‘agent,’ finally come to collect from damages from Deadpool for all the collateral damage he’s done over the years. As an aside, casting the now perpetually pissed-off Machine Man as an insurance agent actually makes perverse sense. After the obligatory fight, Machine Man offers to let ‘Pool exchange services for debt relief, namely rescuing some Bernie Madoff-types from some very disturbing comeuppance at the hands of an oddly androgynous Puppet Master. The story is slight and inconsequential, which is not a problem for a book that’s supposed to be fun. But it is a problem when too many of the jokes fall flat.

While Asmus’s writing and jokes are hit-or-miss, the art deserves a look. Micah Gunnell draws some very funny fight scenes, and especially exhibits a good sense of visual humor in how he depicts Machine Man’s powers. Aaron Stack’s arms and legs extend on coils that wrap through and around panels, acid shoots from his neck, strange prostheses morph from various body parts. Gunnell also manages to draw an expressive Deadpool without making his mask look weird, something other artists have attempted and failed. The overall panel layout is creatively used to enhance the action; it’s dynamic without being overly stylized or cluttered. The colors are brightly appropriate for the subject matter.

Kudos aside, this is just another middling entry in the growing Deadpool canon, which in turn is rapidly becoming inessential reading. The art elevates this from being a slog to at least passable entertainment, but ultimately, this is an optional book. The skyrocketing popularity (or at least marketability) of Deadpool makes me wonder who will be the next Marvel star to break out of obscurity. Will Moon Knight join every Avengers team and round out the Fantastic Four? Will Slapstick get his own weekly series? Does anyone remember Sleepwalker?

Deadpool Team-Up #890 contains four instances of the word ‘fleshy,’ one naked Bernie Madoff stand-in, and one attempted rabid hamster double-barreled pump-action shotgun. There are 6 blams, 2 thaps, 1 foooooom, 1 thud, 1 splosh and 1 shink-click-bzzzzz. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

The Author

George Chimples

George Chimples

George Chimples comes from the far future, where comics are outlawed and only outlaws read comics. In an effort to prevent that horrible dystopia from ever coming into being, he has bravely traveled to the past in an attempt to change the future by ensuring that comics are good. Please do not talk to him about grandfather paradoxes. He likes his comics to be witty, trashy fun with slightly less pulp than a freshly squeezed glass of OJ. George’s favorite comic writers are Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, while his preferred artists are Guy Davis and Chris Bachalo, He loves superheroes, but also enjoys horror, science fiction, and war comics. You can follow him @TheChimples on Twitter for his ramblings regarding comics, Cleveland sports, and nonsense.

Previous post

Archaia Sneak Peek: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #3

Next post

RETRO REVIEW: The Flash #167 (February 1967)

10 Comments

  1. John I.G.
    August 30, 2010 at 1:43 am — Reply

    “Machine Man as an insurance agent actually makes perverse sense”
    One might recall in the second volume of Nextwave, during the sort of alternate reality states, Machine Man answers phones for customer service, a similar perversion I’d say.

    • August 30, 2010 at 10:41 am — Reply

      “Machine Man as an insurance agent actually makes perverse sense”
      One might recall in the second volume of Nextwave, during the sort of alternate reality states, Machine Man answers phones for customer service, a similar perversion I’d say.

      Aaron’s job with the Delmar Insurance company actually dates back to his establishing a secret identity in his solo book back in ’78 or ’79. In fact, that sequence in NextWave was a reference to his dual life. :) It’s always fun when old continuity touches come back in interesting ways…

      • John I.G.
        August 30, 2010 at 11:49 am — Reply

        Hehe, yeah…I wasn’t alive when that one came out. Actually I hardly ever read Marvel anyways, NextWave was just my gateway drug into comics. Have you guys ever done a podcast on Nextwave?

      • August 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm — Reply

        That’s fantastic – my experience with Machine Man comes solely from Earth X and his post-Nextwave incarnation.

        I would totally read “Aaron Stack: Insurance Agent.”

        How are the old Machine Man solos? Worth checking out?

  2. AmFan15
    August 30, 2010 at 2:46 am — Reply

    I thought for sure that with both Deadpool and Machine Man in this book, that it would have SOMETHING to do with Marvel Zombies! Machine Man’s been fighting them since MZ3, and Deadpool teamed up with his own zombified head a while back…Kinda disappointed that it’s just an insurance scam.

  3. Wil
    August 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm — Reply

    Machine Man(2020) is my favorite Marvel limited series of all time. Would’ve made a great movie or anime. Too bad Marvel messed up the continuity and made him lame again. I wasn’t fan until BWS did the layouts for the mini and the whole cool direction they were taking him. They had something going when he was involved with the Seninels few years back but too bad it turned out to be garbage.

  4. Wil
    August 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm — Reply

    Machine Man(2020) is my favorite Marvel limited series of all time. Would’ve made a great movie or anime. Too bad Marvel messed up the continuity and made him not-so-cool again. I wasn’t fan until BWS did the layouts for the mini and the whole cool direction they were taking him. They had something going when he was involved with the Seninels few years back but too bad it turned out to be garbage.

  5. August 31, 2010 at 2:32 am — Reply

    Hey George! I appreciate you reviewing the book…Its my first work for Marvel so I’m scouring the internet for reviews and came across this one. Sorry you didn’t like the issue as a whole, however, I very much appreciate the kind words you had to say about my art! I definitely had a lot of fun working on Deadpool(and Machine Man), and I hope it shows! Thanks again :)

    • September 2, 2010 at 1:25 pm — Reply

      Hey! I never thought I’d get a comment from one of the comic’s creators!

      Your art really was fun, it seems like your style is really well-suited towards dynamic superheroics – both Machine Man and Deadpool were drawn quite imaginatively, and I liked what you did with the panels. It’s also a minor thing, but it really bugs me when people highlight Deadpool’s mouth under his mask, it just plain looks odd. You managed to make Deadpool’s facial expressions animated without that, and I dug it.

      Anyhow, I look forward to seeing more of your work! What will you be working on in the future?

  6. September 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm — Reply

    Thanks man…Yeah, I’m guessing the more established artists don’t do google searches for reviews of their books, but I do! :) I’m in total agreement with you on the the “showing the mouth through the mask” thing. It just looks weird. I also think its a fun challenge to show Deadpool’s emotions without showing his mouth. I think the eyes and physical posture are enough to convey this effectively if done right. As far as future work, I’ve been working for Aspen Comics(Soulfire: Dying of the Light, Shrugged, Dellec) for the past 6 years and I’ll be doing a 5 issue limited series for them sometime next spring, a bit of work for DC, and hopefully something more substantial with Marvel in the near future as well…Its tough to get steady work with The Big Two but that’s my goal for the coming year. Thanks again, and I’ll definitely check for your reviews in the future…You seem to do really good work!

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section