Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Justice, Order & Luck or...
Skinless Drooler's Day Off! (Marvel)
Deadpool #20 When: September 1998
Why: James Felder & Joe Kelly How: Pete Woods

The Story So Far...
Back before everyone jumped on the bandwagon and the comics started sucking lame from cash cow's teat, there lived a merc' with a mouth named Wade Wilson! Known as Deadpool to his friends and victims alike; Wade lived a simple life of cash for killings and torture for fun - that is, until the intergalactic holding company Landau, Luckman, and Lake told him he was destined for greater!

A reluctant sort of hero (read; homicidal maniac); Deadpool was convinced of his destiny only by the realisation of several personal precognitions shared by LL&L's resident seer, Montgomery. Finally beginning to believe that beneath his crispy disfigured exterior and lethal lunacy there might lurk the trappings of a hero; Deadpool dedicates himself to walking the straight and narrow as best he can -- but not before taking "Monty" on a balls-out (literally) field trip to Monte Carlo, to thank him for the precognitive vote of confidence!

The life of the hero can be a hard one, however, and whilst enjoying the fruits of Monty's predictions in the casino, Deadpool runs afoul a fiend most foul indeed! Georges Batroc, aka; Batroc the Leaper, has the gift of fortune both in pocket and hand, but when the pompous villain dares call Monty a cripple, his financial fate is sealed. Burned by the loss of his money and suite, Batroc takes his disguised adversary up on an offer of a hotel room showdown, knowing not that the man who bares suspicious resemblance to Ricardo Montalban is in fact the merc' with a mouth and destined saviour of all -- Deadpool!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Deadpool 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Deadpool 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Batroc 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Deadpool 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Batroc 5 (Martial Arts)
Energy: Deadpool 4 (Arsenal)

- Georges Batroc is a French-born former soldier of the French Foreign Legion whose skills and physical prowess were turned to the self-serving occupation of international mercenary. Hiring himself out as an assassin, thief, and smuggler, Batroc has come into the service of THEM and HYDRA, Baron Zemo's Masters of Evil, Klaw's Wakandan coup, and was even forcefully drafted into the United States' government funded super-group, the Thunderbolts. These agencies have brought him into conflict with the likes of Captain America, Hawkeye, Spider-man, the Avengers, and Captain America's replacement, Bucky Barnes.

Possessing a rare mastery of the martial art savate and physical conditioning to rival any Olympian; Batroc's powerless talents have been sufficient enough to induct him into the super-villain fraternity. His savate kicking offensive and impressive leg strength earned him the monikker known the world over, Batroc the Leaper. Despite his legitimate skill, Batroc's humiliations and defeats have greatly reduced his standing, regarded by many as a joke.

- The exact details of Wade Wilson's early life remain a mystery, perhaps even to him. During his adult life he became a mercenary who, upon learning he had developed cancer, gave up on his life to submit himself to experimentation with the top secret remnants of the Weapon X program. The project experimented with altering Wilson on a genetic level, attempting to treat him with a healing factor developed from the genome of former subject, Wolverine. However, Wilson's cancer interacted with the process in unforseen ways, reducing the effectiveness of his healing powers, and rendering him hideously disfigured.

Deemed a failure after several missions, Wilson was discarded by Weapon X to the care of The Workshop -- a facility for rejected subjects who could be tested upon until their death. Wilson's healing factor, however, kept him alive, allowing him to eventually escape and resume his career as a mercenary, adopting the ironic codename of Deadpool. Wilson's fantastic healing abilities, expertise with conventional weaponry and munitions, and hand-to-hand fighting skills help him earn a reputation as a gun-for-hire despite being mentally unstable.

Math: Deadpool Ranking: Deadpool (#56)

What Went Down...
Once upon an evening dreary, while Monty pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quart and volume of liquor he'd forgotten to pour,
When Wade nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As if room service gently rapping, rapping at his chamber door.
"We're running out of pillow mints," he muttered, reaching for his chamber door.

The culprit was not room service, but rather the notorious French mercenary, Batroc the Leaper, whom Deadpool and Monty had fleesed for millions at the baccarat table, earlier in the night. His polite invasion of Deadpool's suite inspires only amusement in the merc' with a mouth -- which is quickly stuffed with an orange boot belonging to the deceptively skilled savate master!

The challenge is made, and Deadpool responds the only way a mercenary can -- by losing the bottom third of a few bottles of vino and going Shang-Chi with that mofo! A fair approach, but one that doesn't quite mesh with the savate style...

Recognising a need for adaptation, Deadpool shifts gears toward his strengths, opting to go toe-to-automatic with the martial arts monsieur. A light shower of ammunition is swiftly avoided by the fleet-of-foot Frenchman, however, who takes great offense to the corruption of fairness in their fight.

Seeking righteous balance (and the removal of "ugly things" in his flat), Batroc stoops to a level he feels fitting of the merc' with a mouth, by turning his attentions toward Deadpool's helpless, hapless, and skinless pal, Monty!

With a strong thrust of savate-styled legs, Batroc sends sage Monty plummeting toward his doom in the hotel foyer below. Deadpool interrupts the exchange of blows long enough to race to Monty's rescue, but he finds not the shattered body of a sickly psychic, instead, a man liberated by defying the odds. Monty is alive and well, despite the overwhelming statistical likelihood that his trip down the fifteen-storey road of plummetsville, via a plate glass window, and final destination in a water feature below, should have left him more soup than man!

Secure in the knowledge that his pal will live to see another second-place prize in a Calista Flockhart look-alike contest -- Deadpool returns to finish the fight with the self-proclaimed Leaper. This time around he opts for a more tactically suited lamp-based assault, using it to take the Frenchman out mid-leap!

Using the lamp chord as a makeshift rope, Deadpool binds Batroc tighter than Mick Jagger's pants, and fashions him into a human wrecking ball!

Having forced the Frenchie to suffer the brunt of an entire room's ruin, Deadpool decides to cut Batroc a break, if not the lamp chord. In exchange for liberating Monty of his introverted fear of the world, our hero spares Batroc the career-destroying effects of decapitation, to instead have him test his nickname.

Thus; bound helplessly and dangling above the same fifteen-storey drop already traversed by Montgomery -- Batroc is forced to leap! Although, not to disagree with Deadpool's judgment of the situation, or anything, but technically it was really more of a fall than a leap. I mean, usually you propel yourself when you leap. All Batroc did was plummet 150" and break both his legs...

The Hammer...
The winner of this bout via ironic conclusion, Deadpool!
[Ironic because Monty only helped Deadpool win baccarat with his psychic powers because Batroc callously called him a cripple; and then Batroc himself wound up in a wheelchair. See the symmetry? Yeah, I know, that's some sweet justice.]

We are running so unbelievably, atrociously behind schedule right now, you wouldn't even begin to believe it. Those future generations stumbling across this instalment of the Infinite Wars will assume, as per record, that this was the July 14 entry. In truth, however, I'm writing this paragraph on December 20, which gives you some indication of just how far things have gone to the shit. Pardon the French. Pardon my language, also. (Comedy!)

July 14, 2009 was -- much like every other year -- Bastille Day!
I ask you: what self-respecting/loathing comics blog could let such an occasion pass without putting together an obligatory Batroc-themed post? To be honest, the fact that it was a slow week for comic fights didn't hurt things, either, but I have had this issue on the top of my to-do stack for quite some time. There were other options, but considering Deadpool sort of made his cinematic debut in 2009, this seemed like the back issue to go with.

Deadpool's a bit of a staple when it comes to online silliness these days, but unfortunately, much of that humor has come from later years in the Merc' with a Mouth's career. Ask anyone who was around for the 1997 launch of the very first Deadpool on-going series, and I'm sure they'll tell you the work of Joe Kelly is a top contender for best writing in a Deadpool comic or musical. I cerainly will!

By the time Ryan Reynolds was saddled with role that ruined the character's legit opportunity to star in a feature film -- Deadpool had already seen a significant decline in the balance between comedy and character. I personally subscribe to the theory that comedy on the whole was shot nine times in the chest right around the end of Seinfeld. At least one of the bullets might have come from the 'good samaritan' season ender, but I think you can look moreso to your Family Guy's, your Futurama's, and your Vince Vaughan's for the real lethal injection.

The early Joe Kelly issues contain high quality comedy throughout. Kelly's sense of balance is one of the most obviously missing components in the current series, which fails to mimick his equal parts formula for laughs and action.

Batroc might be a walking-talking French joke, but when you read between the lines of an issue like this, there's still plenty of effort made to fully realise the legitimate threat he was in inception.
Likewise -- Deadpool, for all the quips and gags, also maintains a capacity to be taken seriously as a character and pseudo-superhero.

The referencial comedy is a good deal smarter under Kelly, also.

His work errs more on the side of classic Simpsons episodes, implying humorous references via the context of a scene, rather than contemporary meme/Family Guy-style writing that plonks a tongue-in-cheek reference to something that isn't quite cool, and waits for Gen Y numbskulls to giggle out of ignorance. Cast in point: Bea Arthur, contrary to popular belief, is not an all-powerful comedic reference unto herself. The mere presence of Bea Arthur on stage, or television, did not immediately cause all present to burst into hysterics. The same can be said of her name printed in a comic book.

As shameful as it is for neophytes to believe the character began life in Cable & Deadpool; fans of the now classic and definitive Joe Kelly run can at least rest assured that the legacy is secure. Increased popularity brought about by DP's less than impressive cinematic debut (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and a guest-role in the Hulk Versus animated project, have made the character's history a more prevelant issue. Marvel have begun trickling out a "Classic" trade collection scheme, which gives new readers an accessible opportunity to seek out the early glory days of T-Ray, Siryn, and the Great Lakes Avengers, and offsets the tripe being shovelled out in Wolverine-scaled guest spots across the Marvel Universe.

Kelly returns to the character he helped set into motion when the Merc' with a Mouth guest stars in Amazing Spider-man, later in the year. You'll have to wait quite a while before that turns up, but while you wait, there are three DP Classic trades ready and waiting to be snatched up. They also include the pre-Kelly years, which differ slightly from the now definitive take.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5

The Deadpool Classic collections haven't yet reached #20, but you'll find plenty of other Joe Kelly written issues, including the first handful drawn by Ed McGuinness, in volumes 2 and 3 of the collections. You'll find books like these, and other collected editions containing issues reviewed in the Secret Archives, in the Infinite Wars Online Gift Shoppe. By using purchase links provided there, or on any review page, you help sponsor future entries on the site.

No comments: