Saturday, August 7, 2010

Asterix and the Falling Sky

"Asterix and the falling sky", published in 2005, is the thirty third volume of the most successful European comic book series created by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. It is also only the eight one since the latter started both writing and drawing the book, which is significant considering that Goscinny died in 1977. To date, it appears that "the Falling sky" will likely remain the last full length Asterix adventure, discounting the two special albums that have been published around it, spotlighting short stories, and acting as the anniversary special, respectively.

Taken on it's own, this album is also quite likely the strangest Asterix story, and certainly the one that most deviated from the classic feel of the series. The cover homages the original "Asterix the Gaul" album and both invites the comparison, and yet reveals very little of the actual details of the plot. The story proper starts as a typical Goscinny/Uderzo adventure, featuring the pair of Gaulish heroes hunting for wild boars, but wastes no time to set up it's controversial plot. Just as the reader is eased into returning to the familiar characters and their typical ways, Uderzo breaks form and adds a completely alien to what might have been a start of just another Asterix and Obelix yarn.

Just seeing a 3d rendering of a simple model hovering above the Gaulish village, and spelling doom for it's defiant residents gives away the creator's intent. There is no subtlety to Uderzo's ideas at work in "the Falling sky", and just how the reader reacts to this will determine their enjoyment of the proceedings. By taking an oft repeated phrase of his characters fearing only the sky falling on their heads, and using it as a springboard to introduce a biting satire on the entire comic book industry certainly seemed as an ambitious undertaking. It's further polarizing how Uderzo gets to depicting it, tackling such a metafictional story at 78 years of age.

As for the context going in what was to be Asterix's most polarazing adventure, "les Editions Albert Rene/Goscinny Uderzo" prefaces the volume with a photograph that briefly describes the artist's start in the industry. Coupled with an endearing tribute to Walt Disney that closes of the volume, Uderzo makes sure the reader understands the impulses that led to introducing such strange and off-putting science fictional elements in what was always a premiere historical comedy, exemplifying the best in European comics targeted at a younger reader.

As many of his generation, young Uderzo was an artist influenced by Walt Disney and others early cartoon pioneers to contribute to the form of the newly established comic book. Thus, while him and Goscinny certainly felt inspired by the American comics Golden age, most notably by producing the western themed "Oumpah-pah the redskin", they have certainly since come into their own as quintessential European comic book authors. With "Asterix the Gaul" they had created something that was at once stylistically their own, as well as working as a period piece set 2000 years in the past of their own country. Despite the date never really advancing in the thirty odd Asterix stories since, a lot of the book's visual language and distinctive humor has since progressed to the point where it was when Goscinny died, and where it has, more or less, remained since, due to his artistic partner continuing the series.

Yet, despite some of Uderzo's ideas seeming somewhat more political and controversial, never has his work been as polarizing as with "the Falling sky". Considering that it was published so late in the author's life, when his output has dwindled to producing a single album every several years, the expectations have likewise significantly lowered. "Asterix" seemed to be defined by his decades old work, much more than the obligatory new volume, that seemed an impulse purchase from his many fans, who have literally grown up reading these charming tales. As such, the impact of "the Falling sky" was even stronger, considering such risk taking was nowhere near what was expected of the venerable, and widely beloved creator.

Yet, he was interested primarily in pointing out the special place Asterix and Obelix, and even broader, the Franco-Belgian comics, had on the comic book landscape, as defined by it's two largest industries, America and Japan. In order to make his points clear, he decided to borrow the narrative vocabulary of these distinctly different school of comic work, and proceeded to incorporate it wholesale in his existing, well-defined Asterix mythos. The result was bluntly putting into play two interstellar races coming to Earth in search of Getafix's magic potion, and stopping at nothing to hide their presence. Such a dramatic departure was potentially meant to be lessened by introducing a Mickey Mouse analogue in "Toon", the ambassador of Tadsilweny (a Walt Disney anagram) empire, as well as showing the reaction of his regular protagonists first and foremost.

And while the reader was to be entertained by just such a diversion, the in-jokes still feel odd and overpowering. And while Uderzo never proceeds to introduce more of emperor Hubs' (anagram of former president George W. Bush) forces beyond the Superman clones, what little there is of the political commentary thankfully quickly gets subdued. Unlike his superhero parody, further cementing the idea that the aliens' search for the magical potion doubles as the commentary on America's campaign for finding the weapons of mass destruction in Middle East would have surely driven the book into a territory simply unsuited to be dealt with using these children's characters.

This is likely for the best, considering that the addition of Nagmas, the Japanese-styled race with a corresponding set of anagrams, further complicates Uderzo's specific viewpoint. As opposed to the Tadsilweny invaders that Asterix and Obelix can somehow deal with, these other aliens are much more hostile, and depicting as possessing none of the whimsy of their interstellar rivals. And while Uderzo certainly plays his homages to Disney and Superman prototypes as both whimsy and dim-witted, not a lot of that spirit remains for their Asian counterparts.

In fact, the mangas are presented as single-minded and malevolent, hostile to both the Gauls and their newfound allies. This hilariously one-sided argument serves to demonstrate manga's rapid expansion of the last couple of decades, but it still seemingly betrays the creator's bias. Simply by paying attention to the somewhat tenious connection between Asterix's magical potion and that of the superclones' powers of strength, Uderzo seems to group them together and against the Asian invasion. The cockroach like armor and a martial arts substitute seem like a poor match for the united Gauls and Tadsilweny, making for an early climax that circumvents the role the Roman invaders have played in the plot so far, to make for the second ending only pages away, that ends the book.

Thus, the manga homages end up playing the role during the book's central act, only to be literally off the face of the Earth during it's final part. Concentrating on making his Disney homage be even more transparent, Uderzo sacrifices some of the book's drama, in order to bring back his own characters in the fray once more. The resulting clash with the Romans is once more a delight to read, if perhaps too brief. Solving the aliens' last minute dilemma, Asterix and Obelix make way for a twist ending, that once again approaches the territory of universally reviled tropes in fiction. In a very polarizing move, the creator solves the problem of having such an unwholesome element in the series' canon, one that truthfully always lept of the page as extraneous.

Thus, making good on the false climax a ten odd pages before, Uderzo finishes with a couple of typical Asterix jokes to round out the volume, and say goodbye to his characters under the computer generated background of the evening sky. Not surprisingly, Obelix the menhir maker ends up stealing every scene he's in, as the richest and organic part of the landscape, with some of his fellow villagers playing their typical roles to entice a pleasant nostalgia in the long time reader.

Uderzo was severely criticized for almost every aspect of "Asterix and the Falling sky", from the obvious clashing tone to the simplicity of the art style that he and his assistants have given the work, but the artist is still to be commanded for the exhibited ambition. The whole volume was certainly an experiment on his part, meaning that it was always going to be polarizing to the conservative readership, but it also seems to speak from the heart of a veteran comics professional, about the phenomena that he finds personally interesting. And while it's always the finished product that bears examination, not the original idea that inspired it, Uderzo's execution still feels typically tongue in cheek and charming as all of the classic Asterix stories. It is perhaps unfortunate that his final larger story was to be such a controversial offering, but despite the oft-putting introductions and a generally disconnected final product, this book proves why it closes the series.

"Asterix" has been good to Uderzo in a ways that even the most optimistic couldn't have expected, and in the end all that was left for the creator was to subvert the dynamic and try to entertain himself in ways that distance him from the fifty years of colorful stories. His subsequent decision to sell his share of the rights for the property, to make way for further stories by his assistants and eventually different creators, ensures that the series continues beyond his involvement, no doubt trying to evoke much more of the familiar Asterix elements beyond the ones featured in "the Falling sky".

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ultimate comics Avengers 2 #1-6 "Crime and punishment"

As part of their continued effort in re-energizing their Ultimate line of titles, Marvel has just concluded the second storyline of the imprint's co-architect Mark ("Civil war", "Wanted") Millar on "Ultimate comics Avengers". His collaboration with Leinil ("Secret invasion", "Wolverine") Francis Yu has also served to mark the halfway point of the writer's scheduled engagement, packaged as four connected limited series.

That the publisher is serious in rethinking their once premier brand, is apparent from every facet of the bi-weekly presentation. The result is nothing less than a very solid action comic, and a surprisingly accessible one. Overall, the "Ultimatum" crossover that preceded the line-wide rethinking of the Ultimate brand seemed to have been conceived with the idea that the company should cancel the most problematic titles and start over with a tighter focus. While in practice this meant limiting the number of writers to a small cadre of proven commodities, and pairing them with some of the most popular superhero artists, with "Ultimate comics Avengers" another very important facet is notable from the start.

By inviting back Millar, the writer of the company's smash hit "Ultimates", Marvel primarily seemed to have been interested in his qualities as an ideas man. And while some of his trademark fan-baiting ideas still come through, the whole of "Ultimate comics Avengers" project feels much less political and ambitious than it's famous precursor. The company seems certainly open to his innovations, with the commitment showing in making these spin-off stories be as startlingly visual as they can be, following Carlos Pacheco's work with the art team of Yu (inked by fellow Filipino Gerry Alanguilan) and celebrated colorist Laura ("Planetary", "Astonishing X-Men") Martin.

The creators open their story in a very intriguing way, by basically having the whole of first issue be a prelude, meant to reintroduce the Ultimate universe version of the Punisher. As such, it reads like a perfectly serviceable "the Punisher" comic, albeit penciled by Yu. And just as the reader familiar with the character starts resenting the set-up as a yet another generic retread of the ground so often covered much the same way in the regular Marvel universe, Millar comes up with a fast and effective way of reminding the reader of the team concept implied by the title. There is not much more to the opener, except for a callback to Matt Fraction's run on the "Punisher war journal" title, demonstrated by Ariel Olivetti-inspired costume the character ends up sporting in "Ultimate comics Avengers".

Similarly, the second issue is devoted to reestablishing the role of the Hulk in the Ultimate Marvel universe, a concept that the writer introduced in his first arc. By having two new characters substituting for the role of the team's uncontrollable strongman, Millar seems to be determined on setting up some kind of reconciliation regarding the issue. The matter is left to be resolved in another mini-series, presumably featuring the original Hulk, who is still supposed to be alive in the Ultimate universe. As for the matter at hand, Tyrone Cash is introduced as a simple idea, that of the Banner's mentor and first historical Hulk posing as a criminal warlord. The inclusion of another identity and the tragic past is there to help give the character a typical Marvel feel (as well as tying in with the mini-series' thematic core). Despite the enormous bulk and the facial tattoos, the character somewhat resembles Luke Cage and is certainly stereotypical, albeit on purpose. Millar and Yu use him in an engaging way, and it is likely that his hinted depth will resurface at a later date.

It is only with the third issue that the writer finally provides exposition on the nature of the threat that Nick Fury has assembled this particular black ops team to deal with. As is his mandate, this ends up being a revitalized version of another longtime Marvel mainstay, the Ghost rider. Despite considerable effort by Millar to establish the supernatural anti-hero as a compelling force in his own right, he faces a very particular problem. Despite his decades old status, coupled with a surge of popularity in the 1990s and a 2007 feature film, the Ghost rider has always been a cult favorite character. Certainly the most popular of Marvel horror titles, his comic has still faced cancellation time and again, making it a particularly challenging to update the concept for modern audiences in the alternate continuity of the Ultimate line.

On his end, Yu responds with a relatively tame version of Johny Blaze's costume, more or less reimagined into a typical biker's outfit. This lets the artist concentrate on Ghost rider's motorcycle and his main opponent, introduced in the last act. And while his designs are fluid and in keeping with the mythos' jagged edge, they seem to concentrate too much on the spikes and chains to be particularly iconic in their own right. This might seem an ironic thing to say when talking about a character that is all but defined by these things, but it's the lack of a strong central designing motif that makes Laura Martin's coloring the chief help in separating the two related hell-powered creatures.

Bearing in mind that it was Millar who famously broke away with the relative restraint of the Ultimate universe's science foundations, to introduce genuine pagan mythology, the addition of an unambiguous take on origins of the Ghost rider does seem slightly overstated and out of place. Certainly, faith plays a large role on the motivations of several of the featured players, but it feels like a fine line has been crossed from having Johny's infernal mentor not be Daimon Hellstrom from the same well of Marvel's supernatural properties, but Mephisto himself.

Getting back to the rest of the cast, the aforementioned the first Hulk and the Punisher naturally benefit the most from an arc that deals with some of the darker concepts touching at the heart of their motivations. Hawkeye the Ultimates mainstay likewise enjoys some convincing character moments by integrating with the Punisher. In this way Millar makes a commendable effort on continuing on with the character after putting him through a very rigorous ordeal in the set-up of the "Ultimates 2"'s final storyline. Unfortunately, just like Pacheco preceding him, Yu is forced to work with Joe ("Battle chasers", "Ultimates 3") Madureira's redesign, that works as a typical superhero costume but creates a disturbing effect when juxtaposed with Hawkeye's emotional disposition. Yu wisely tones down some of Mad's touches, and goes for a style that seems much more suited to a military uniform, albeit still far away from Bryan Hitch's original concept.

The two least developed characters that still inhabit a lot of panel space are the new Black widow and War machine, who once again fades into the background role. But at least the Iron Man mainstay's presence gets felt when it comes to the fighting, which cannot really be said for Monika Chang, who is for the length of another whole mini-series still actively defined by her former marriage to Nick Fury. As is always the case with Millar, both the set-up issues, and the climax of the "Crime and punishment" arc are action-filled, striving to be entertaining first and foremost, and this stays true throughout, despite the problems of exposing Ghost rider's revised origin, such as it is, and some minor art details, such as War machine's armor being too bulky to fit comfortably on the page.

Yet, for a couple of veteran comic professionals (despite Leinil being a mere 33 years old), some very strange mistakes happen during the course of the story. The fourth issue seems particularly problematic, opening as it does with a splash page, that is instantly reproduced as the first panel of the next page, stopping the pacing just a few seconds, but enough to take the reader out of the story. Similarly, a one-panel appearance by a small child, frightened by Mephisto, ends up being possibly more disturbing than the harrowing vengeance perpetrated by the Ghost rider. The reason for this is simply the rush in which the penciller turned out the page, causing him to imbue a pre-school boy with a head far too large and mature for his own age. Similarly, the cameo appearance by Tony Stark feels strangely disconnected and not at all because of the effect of the surprise the character has on the gathered SHIELD agents. The storytelling simply fails at setting up a proper pace and choreography for his intended role, while ironically proceeding with a very effective sequence featuring the mysterious Spider acting as the team's oracle.

As for the somewhat controversial aspect regarding the political background of Ghost rider's direct opponent, it feels tacked on, being foreshadowed by a few lines that fail to properly accentuate their importance. Millar's try for provocation seems similarly half-hearted and is bound to irritate only the most controversial of the readers. Despite his importance to the plot and Johny Blaze's revenge, the villain's impact still seems less direct than the previous storyline's controversial reinvention of Red Skull. Perhaps it's the lack of the connection to the team members themselves, but Ghost rider's opposite number feels very much a character too closely related to his own mythos, and shoehorned into fighting battle-ready Avengers at the last moment.

Regarding the character arcs that build the narrative tissue together, Millar is very careful in pairing up the conversing team members, thus providing both interesting subplots and opportunities for a dialogue that feels somewhat naturalistic, given the circumstances. There is a certain lack of a noticeable female presence in the story, but it can be somewhat understood, as it's dealing primarily with themes of extreme physical aggression. Still, the lack of resolution of Nick Fury shutting off his SHIELD superior Carol Danvers feels unfortunate, if not bordering on parodic, almost as if Millar was drawing a line excluding the presence of pretty girls in serious, otherworldly matters.

As for that wider thematic connection, it deals with justifying zealotry, as exemplified by Punisher, the first Hulk, Hawkeye, and finally Ghost rider. All of these characters have a fair bit of fanaticism to themselves, motivated by personal loss. Yet, Millar decided to go one step further and openly invite religion in a superhero story, intent on making a more precise point than the usual use of the holy symbol against the supernatural threats. To achieve this, he has the Punisher presented with a spiritual epiphany, that of a message from the afterlife. And while this too becomes a plot point by the end, once again highlighting the similarity between the vigilante and Ghost rider. A climatic final showdown even takes place in the church, with Millar intent on making it bear deeper symbolism than the typical use of the fighting on the holy ground being forbidden, as seen in movies like "the Highlander".

And while seeing superheroes discuss religion in such open terms is always somewhat disconcerting, Millar makes the most of introducing the ideas of Hell in his story, by largely forthcoming with his intent. In the end, "Crime and punishment" makes good on it's promise of an action story, in large part thanks to Leinil Francis Yu's contribution. While not concentrating himself on the acting of his talkative characters, giving them serious faces when not smirking or gritting their teeth, the Filipino artist still manages to handle even the most complicated of the set pieces with clarity and an approach all his own. His sketchy style given concrete definition by Gerry Alanguilan (sharing credit with no less than three assistant inkers the final issue), Yu conveys a lot of energy and movement in a way that seems typical of 1990s heyday of over muscular forms and gory details.

His attention to detail varying with the impact of the panel (and one would guess, the constrains of rigorous deadlines), it starts being colored by Laura Martin with shades of grey being broken by touches of blue and flashes of green and red, the palette seems to change for darker with the arrival of her replacement, Dave McCaig for the final four issues of the series. The difference is subtle and mostly noticeable due to addition of bright yellow to signify movement and danger. Even with the addition of Frank Martin coloring some of the pages of the apparently hastily put together final issue, the effect is that of unified coloring scheme, employed to highlight Yu's drawings in a very effective way.

For all their work, it is doubtful that the sum total of Millar and Yu's work on this particular mini-series will interest the potential new readers to the validity of the company's supernatural storytelling possibilities, particularly regarding a follow-up Ghost rider appearance. The character is competently presented, but once he follows through on the logical progression of his origin, there seems little of any inherent value in continuing his story in the Ultimate universe. Thus, it makes sense that the focus continues on Nick Fury's Ultimates black ops team, even as they confront Blade in next arc's yet another superheroes fighting vampires scenario that the writer has teased with such enthusiasm. Still, getting to the readers' good side will no doubt prove easier with the fan-favorite Steve ("Preacher", "the Punisher") Dillon on art, while Millar's creator owned "Superior" project with Leinil Francis Yu gets published alongside.

What is certain is that Marvel seems poised on letting all of Mark Millar's vision for these characters see light in a high quality presentation. The latter two mini-series will no doubt still function as stories that can be read on their own, with the added benefit of subplots working in the background for the reader who choses to read through all of these stories in sequence. This was always the plan for the Ultimate imprint, and it's refreshing to see Marvel stick to it even when publishing derivative work from one of it's strongest voices.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Deadpool: Merc with a mouth #7-13 "Marvel zombies"

"Deadpool - Merc with a mouth" is the title of Deadpool's second current ongoing series that was just discontinued in a unique manner, by having the publication of it's final issues run concurrent to the new title that's spinning off it, "Deadpool corps". Although the team title chronologically takes place after #7-13, Marvel still published the second storyline of "the Merc with a mouth" as regular arc, benefiting future readers who sample Gischler's story in it's intended sequence.

The labyrinthine way in which all of these comics are published ("Deadpool corps" was preceded by a 5 issue weekly prelude, and almost managed to complete it's first ongoing storyline before the parent title had ended it's run), actually has a story precedent in this very book, bearing larger plot ramifications. In fact, "Merc with a mouth" debuted as a second Deadpool monthly geared towards humorous stories that had less to do with the contemporary make up of the Marvel universe, as defined by the company's most popular titles. The distinction was that Victor Gischler and Bong Dazo's work featured a completely original supporting cast, augmented by no less than the animated head of "Marvel zombies"' Deadpool, serving as the series' McGuffin.

This bizarre choice served to introduce a continuity spiral using the backdoor of the opening Savage Land story line, setting the stage for what eventually turned out to be it's second and last tale in this configuration. The introduction of the Marvel zombies universe was an idea that opened Mark ("Wanted", "Ultimates") Millar and Greg ("Sojourn", "Uncanny X-Men") Land's run as the creative team of "Ultimate Fantastic Four". It gained further notoriety as a spin off under the direction of Robert ("Walking dead", "Invincible") Kirkman and Sean ("Criminal", "Sleeper") Phillips, the creative team of the first couple of mini-series. Consequentially, "Merc with a mouth" follows the continuity of Fred ("Action philosophers", "Incredible Hercules") Van Lente and Kev ("2000AD magazine") Walker "Marvel zombies" minis.

All of this background going in to set up Deadpool's comedic sidekick pays off in the second storyarc by the regular creative team of Gischler and Dazo. Interestingly, the creators had the idea of having this arc, that was so obtrusively set up and followed upon, stand on it's own, structuring it as a time traveling loop ending right where the story begun. In a typical superhero comic book fashion, this kind of play with popular sci-fi concepts doesn't end there, as the main plot concerns crossing over to the Marvel zombies universe, thereby marrying the company's two premiere black comedy franchises. The expensive seven issue story, sporting Arthur Suydam covers, is bookended by two 32 page chapters, largely dealing with time travel dynamics.

The first of these features Deadpool's creator Rob ("X-Force", "Youngblood") Liefeld, Kyle ("Nat Turner", "Plastic man") Baker and Das ("Kafre", "los Heresiarcas") Pastoras, illustrating alternate dimension sequences, which in turn set up "Deadpool corps". Meanwhile, after drawing the framing sequence featuring the regular cast, the book's regular penciller Dazo continues to illustrate the bulk of the actual story pages. Nominally, the plot mechanics involved having Deadpool and his two new found allies getting the head of his alternate reality doppelganger back to it's native universe, but this is quickly forgotten, once the quarter get to the other dimension. Thankfully, their AIM pursuers from the opening storyline follow suit, retaining their original goal of treating it as an item to be secured.

Meanwhile, Deadpool, Betty and agent Bill spend most of the arc trying to survive the immediate threat of Manhattan besieged by perpetually hungry zombie superheroes, and later on actually change their goals by integrating the animated head's on plan with their return to proper reality. These kinds of rambling plots are a necessary evil of trying to fit in an exotic story into official superhero narratives, and the readers have long proven patient with ignoring various bits of pseudo science involved in order to get to an interesting story. "Merc with a mouth" certainly offers something resembling a complete adventure in the Marvel zombies universe, albeit with a large focus on the plot mechanics involved in bridging narratives.

As for the story Gischler and Dazo offer, it's very peculiar, while limited to a small geographic area. Literally, the arc's central five issues span what feels like no more than a single city block, and even then significantly little world building occurs. Tied to roughly the same location featured in Van Lente and Walker's "Marvel zombies 3", Dazo offers a lot of post apocalyptic paraphernalia, of broken buildings and dirty environments under colorist Matt Milla's scorching sun. The penciller is from the start in an unenviable position, having to produce a large amount of work in a very short time. He responds by producing the quirky yet convincing designs the survivors of the zombie outbreak, yet his work ends up lacking a bit of energy and refinement seen in "Head trip". And while inker Leonardo Ito could be blamed for not giving further definition to Dazo's work, the storytellers do still establish the story's major two locations and the frantic actions going on all around them in a manner befitting Marvel's house style.

The problem is that the confinement rarely feels genuine, as precious few undead react to the rumors of a hidden group of extinct humans hiding in New York's ruins. While producing a humor book starring an indestructible mercenary, perhaps it's to be understood why the creators focused on the more oddball details of the scenario, but there are still some of the glaring flaws. For instance, of the super villains encountered, only a rare few are properly identified, sporting fairly uniform evil hungry zombies personalities. For the benefit of the new reader, their powers are clearly established through the action sequences, but for the reasons already stated, "Merc with a mouth"'s second arc remains firmly aimed at longtime fans of Marvel and their superhero properties.

Of the villains involved, the Absorbing man gets most space, and his conflict with Deadpool and the survivors gathered around him feels genuine, nicely developed, and eventually pays off in a hilarious way that is definitely the book's high point. Commendably, Gischler and Dazo realize that their new characters probably don't have a lot of life beyond this story, and use this to interject drama in the scenario.

To be fair, some of the twists are downright juvenile, even by the standards of the protagonist. And while the character subplots fare somewhat better, some of the plot twists and humor reveal a focus on teenage audience, who would be most likely to sympathize with Deadpool praising of gaming consoles, and constant focus on fast food and rash interactions with women. It goes without saying that the love triangle he so stubbornly tries to create (mirroring nothing less than Archie comics) consists of unusually proportioned Betty and Veronica behaving in slightly illogical ways, but Gischler still injects them with enough personality that their motivations feel adequate considering the post apocalyptic zombie surroundings.

At least horribly scarred Deadpool's fantasies occur in a comedy book, with his bravado and flamboyancy being part of the character's anti-hero charm. Of the supporting cast carried over from the previous story arc, the writer finds roles for all of them, even Bill, agent of AIM, a wholly superficial character ends up with a plot-convenient role of being capable of driving various vehicles the protagonist forces him to use to help their escape. Dr. Betty on the other hand, remains perhaps the best developed character in the book, although Dazo does end up on settling her with a very generic outfit for the final part of the story. With the addition of professor Veronica as a more approachable target for Deadpool, the creators largely avoid making her play the constant oversexed teasing role she had in the previous six issues.

As for the two AIM agents, their role finishes off the final parts of Deadpool's stay in the Marvel zombies' universe, but the diminishing focus renders them a momentary threat at best, eventually turning into nothing more than the targets for a couple of easy jokes. Unforunately, with the ultimate fate of Deadpool and his animated head companion's return to regular reality already revealed in "Deadpool corps", the 32-page finale is sapped of some of both drama and momentum. The "Headpool"'s complicated plan, set up in a very clumsy previous sequence, takes center stage, but Gischler is careful to include the resolution of the tension between the protagonist dr. Betty in tow with the time traveling mechanics.

Thus, at least some of the titles' 13 issues have impact before colliding with an ending that has already been revealed in the "Prelude to Deadpool corps". Thus, the discussion of Deadpool's second ongoing title ending is once again tied with it's follow-up. Marvel's decision for such a radical change of direction seems to make sense once the reader has been privy to Gishler's first two stories in "Merc with a mouth". The relentless tying in to "Marvel zombies 3" does nothing so much as belabor the final issue with a tedious scenario, which isn't helped by Dazo's inability to illustrate the whole episode. Hence parts of it's 32 pages featuring fill-ins by Matteo Scalera and, once again Kyle Baker (this time without the in-story reason for the varying styles) feeling as simply Marvel doing all it can to finally complete the project it has commited to a little more than a year ago.

And despite the ludicrous premise of featuring a cast of four different versions of Deadpool uniting to combat cosmic threats, it still feels a step up from "Merc with a mouth", that never really developed beyond it's creators trying to put their own spin on what Daniel Way has been doing since reintroducing the character. And it's not that the duo have felt redundant by using the tropes the writer introduced in the "Wolverine: origins" arc, like dual narration and Pool-o-vision, it's just that the book felt by covering much of the same ground, despite the different supporting cast and the Marvel zombies connection. Time will tell how the market will react to both Gischler's work on "Deadpool corps" and the overall, rapidly expanding line of Deadpool books, but for now, it's safe to say that his and Dazo's work feels complete, despite the number of other books it connects to. "Merc with a mouth" seemed like trying to offer an alternative to the creative vision behind the core Deadpool title, before actually seeing the creators responsible finish their commitment to the book.