X-Men: Bland Design – Learning the Names of the Cast in Spider-Man vs. Deadpool #28

If you can’t get enough Deadpool, this is your week!

Welcome, dear readers, to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly multi-part recap column that strives to answer the question: “What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?”

Things have changed in the X-Men comics (and superhero comics in general) since the glory days recapped in Piskor’s magnum opus. Gone are all of the thought bubbles, most of the narration boxes, most of the references to past issues, and perhaps most importantly, any trace of the idea that any comic could be some reader’s first. Casting aside many of the properties that set comics apart as a medium, the modern superhero-industrial complex has instead chosen to treat comics as glorified storyboards, decompressed and written for the trade.

But for X-Men fans, it doesn’t matter. We’ll obsessively buy and read all of these X-Men comics until the day we die, no matter how bad they get! And if we’re going to do that anyway, we might as well document the experience for you, our dear readers, brothers and sisters and non-binary siblings in suffering.

This week there are five regular-priced X-Books on the stands, which will cost you 20 bucks to buy, and, thanks to the aforementioned decompression, roughly 10 minutes to read: X-Men Blue #22All-New Wolverine #31Legion #2Spider-Man vs. Deadpool #28, and Despicable Deadpool #295. It’s time for our second helping of Deadpool in…

Spider-Man vs. Deadpool #28

Spider-Man vs. Deadpool #28
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artists: Chris Bachalo and Matt Horak
Inkers: Matt Horak, Livesay, Tim Townsend, Victor Olazaba, and Wayne Faucher
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Cover: Scott Hepburn and Ian Herring

Last issue was our first experience with this comic, and we weren’t impressed. Despite being the first issue of a new story arc, the comic did little to introduce new readers to the book, failing to name half of the characters in Deadpool’s helicarrier crew, failing to explain much about the ones they did name, and failing even to explain why Deadpool has a helicarrier crew and what they’re doing.

Context clues allowed us to figure out that Deadpool’s crew is going around stealing weapons from old SHIELD bases and that one of them is some kind of amalgam of Man-Thing and SHIELD agent Clay Quatermain. There’s another character called Manphibian, and a woman with black hair called Kate. In addition, there is a character with a cow head whose name is never mentioned, and another character with pink or purple hair whose name is also never mentioned. Spider-Man is working with Paige Guthrie, the mutant known as Husk, to chase down The Chameleon, who is also stealing weapons. In the previous issue, Deadpool stole a bunch of weapons from SHIELD installation Area 14, while Chameleon stole a device used to control an army of robots. Deadpool is feeling bad about disappointing Spider-Man by being a thief.

Let’s see if this issue can redeem the comic, and also if we can hit character name BINGO and learn the names of everyone in the book this time.

The issue opens at Bobbi Morse, Mockingbird’s, apartment, where she and Paige are watching Spider-Man drink a Slurpee. A caption sets the time as “now,” which means we’re going to be treated to another flashback-heavy issue. The conversation reveals that Spider-Man had an encounter with both Chameleon and Deadpool “earlier,” and now we’re going to hear about it.

Spider-Man recounts his day, beginning with saving a busload of schoolchildren and then fighting Kraven the Hunter. The fight with Kraven is interrupted by a fight between Deadpool and Chameleon that literally explodes out of the ground underneath them. Down there is another SHIELD weapons cache, and Deadpool’s friends (person with a cow head who has yet to be named either explicitly or in context) and Clay-Thing.

Chameleon reveals that he has Man-Thing-like plant powers now, and Deadpool refers to the Man-Thing/Clay Quatermain amalgam as Branch, upending everything we thought we knew about this comic. We know it may sound like we’re fixated on this, but seriously, even ComicVine, a website whose purpose is to document this sort of crap, can’t be bothered to figure out the identities of the characters on Deadpool’s team that have been featured fairly prominently in the last two issues. It only lists the characters everyone knows already:

But we digress. Now that the comments are working, if we don’t learn it before this issue is done, someone will probably fill us in on who these characters are.

Back to the story: Chameleon grabs Spidey and Deadpool with his new tree/vine powers and slams them into the ground. Chameleon and Kraven are having a team-up now. Deadpool tries to break the fourth wall, but Spider-Man ignores him. He tries to talk to Spider-Man about their conversation while they were fighting last issue, but Spider-Man doesn’t know what he’s talking about because that was actually Chameleon masquerading as Spidey. Spidey takes out Kraven, but Chameleon knocks down some rubble, forcing Spidey to save some civilians with his webbing. That frees up Kraven and Chameleon to escape, and Deadpool too. Now that Spidey and Deadpool have figured out what happened last issue (Deadpool got played), Spidey wants to know what Deadpool said to fake-Spidey that Deadpool thinks is so important (it’s the guilt thing mentioned earlier). But Deadpool walks away sadly. Just what Deadpool needed: emo Deadpool.

Now we come back to the present, where Spider-Man explains that he couldn’t chase anyone down or stop Deadpool from stealing the weapons because of the civilians. Husk explains that Deadpool’s crew took all the weapons, but Chameleon got nothing (except we know he has that robot army). Spidey says he’ll take Deadpool down for good next time they meet. If that hasn’t happened in 28 issues, we doubt it’s going to happen anytime soon.

Back on Deadpool’s Helicarrier, which a caption informs us is called the S.S. Deadpool but which a banner on the actual ship identifies as the U.S.S. Pool, Deadpool’s Crew, all but two of whose names we know by this point, want to know how Spider-Man keeps showing up where they’re planning a theft.

Now we get a flashback to Deadpool’s perspective before breaking into the SHIELD vault. A caption box tells us that one of the characters is apparently named Screwball, but doesn’t specify which one. That’s something to go on though. A Google search tells us Screwball was created by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin in Amazing Spider-Man. She is one of the two women on the team. She’s wearing a helmet and glasses in every photo we can find, but from the color scheme of her costume, we’re able to determine she’s the one with the purple hair. From last issue, we know the other woman is named Kate and the green guy is named Manphibian. The guy with Man-Thing attached to him is apparently now called Branch, we learned earlier in this issue, though last issue we thought he was Clay. If we can learn the name of the cow-headed person before the end of this issue, this comic will have finally done its job on the most basic level!

As if reading our minds, in the very next panel, the comic casually drops the name of the cow-headed character: Hellcow. Oh. It’s Hellcow. Why didn’t they just say that. Before we can celebrate though, Deadpool is back to referring to the character called Branch earlier as Clay again. God dammit.

So anyway, they break through a sewer wall to find Chameleon waiting for them in the SHIELD vault, as if he knew they were coming. He blows a hole in Deadpool with a blaster. A brawl ensues. Chameleon reveals that Kraven is just a distraction and blows a hole in the roof. That’s where we picked up in the previous flashback. Now we get to hear about it from Deadpool’s point of view, which differs slightly from the earlier account as suits Deadpool’s ego. We see basically the same conversation again where Deadpool and Spidey figure out that Chameleon was masquerading as Spidey in the previous issue when Deadpool spilled his guts. This part of Deadpool’s story was amusing:

The story ends the same way Spider-Man’s did, with Deadpool walking away, disappointed that he spilled his guts to a fake Spider-Man but too emo to spill his guts to the real one a second time. Back on the helicarrier, however, we’re treated to more glorious X-position as we learn that the green Man-Thing growth on that guy is named Branch, and the human part is named Clay. We’re so grateful, we’re giving this comic a five-star review.

Anyway, Branch can sense emotions (like Man-Thing), and it detects that Deadpool is not lying, but is hiding something. Deadpool’s team is suspicious of what Deadpool talked about with Spider-Man. Deadpool claims it wasn’t important (but he’s been sulking about it all issue, so…). Some of the team members express a lack of confidence in Deadpool and a fear of going back to jail, but good old Hellcow has Deadpool’s back. Hellcow and Deadpool agree… the next time they run into Spider-Man, Deadpool has to kill him.

Now it’s time to see what Chameleon is up to, which is getting a shoulder massage from Kraven the Hunter. He’s talking to someone on the phone, and it might be a traitor on Deadpool’s team. Uh oh. Chameleon reveals that Kraven is a life model decoy. As are, it seems, the rest of that robot army we heard about last issue. That makes them considerably more valuable than your typical robot army, it would seem…

And that’s it.

By simply revealing the names of the characters on Deadpool’s team, and providing context clues to figure out a lot more about their personalities, this book pulled a major 180 degree turn. We were able to actually enjoy the clever narrative structure instead of being annoyed so much effort was put into that while ignoring the fundamentals. Maybe the creative team read our last recap? Whatever the reason, we’re glad.

One more Deadpool book to go…

About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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