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Self-referential text is the new rock and roll: Graeme on more from 7/11

Graeme McMillan

A short one today, because there’s work to be done before tomorrow… (And I’m not just talking about Hibbs’ big news – I also have deadlines for the newsletter and Comics International to deal with this weekend as well. I’m not quite sure how all of that happened…)

DEADPOOL/GLI SUMMER FUN SPECTACULAR: You know that criticism that often gets applied to things, that those involved in the creation clearly had a lot of fun making it, but forgot to be able to translate that to the audience? If there’s ever a need to defend that in a court of law, then the majority of this book could easily act as Exhibit A. There’s absolutely no doubt that Dan Slott and Fabian Nicieza are having a ball as they co-write each of the shorts in the vaguely-connected collection, but almost none of that fun comes over for the audience. The “main” stories are all pretty generic and throwaway pieces – enough to raise a half-smile, maybe, but that’s about it – but, it’s the Squirrel Girl interludes, where she discovers what happened to Speedball in Civil War and sets out to save him, that the true interest (and true fun) of the book lies. Those interludes are genuinely funny and have some purpose to them, as if they’re the entire reason for the oneshot, and the other stories were the price paid in order to get their snarky dissatisfaction with the fate of Speedball into print.

But if that’s the case then, the price was worth it. And the book itself is worth it just for those scenes, and in particular, the scene where Squirrel Girl meets the current-day Speedball, Penance.

The fact that the writers find Speedball’s transformation into Penance ridiculous and at odds with both the character and the general tone of the Marvel Universe is very, very obvious. Not only do they poke fun at the plot of Damage Control being responsible for Nitro exploding at the start of Civil War – “No! That couldn’t have happened! I know Damage Control! I’ve worked for them! They’re funny, silly, and goofy! They’d never do anything that… dark!” “Uh… Rob, you shouldn’t be dark either. You’re Speedball! You bounce! With balls!” – but they also point out the holes in Civil War’s “everything is different! Stamford was destroyed!” reasoning by referring to recent Marvel history: “The Avengers blew up half of Washington not long ago. Thousands died, and they did just fine… Iron Man killed a U.N. Ambassador – - while he was drunk – - on TV! And now he’s running SHIELD!” Penance’s response is priceless in its barely-concealed amusement/despair: “You just don’t get it, do you?! This self-punishment thing? It’s too deep for you! See?! I’m deep now! And that means I do deep stuff!”

It’s a (if you’ll pardon the pun) weirdly ballsy scene, and the kind of thing that makes me hope that people in Marvel aren’t taking all of the Civil War fallout stuff as seriously as they sometimes seem to. Don’t get me wrong; the book is still pretty Eh overall, but you should definitely leaf through it just to read the bits in between the stories…

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