It seems that at least once a year, I get taken by a couple of Kelly Thompson books. I’m not sure what exactly it is about her writing that appeals to me so, but it does, and thusly needs to be celebrated here. So, it’s November and we’re gearing up for the holidays. LeBron James has just become the first-ever basketball player to score a triple-triple on every team in the league (whatever that means, for you sports-ball fans.) And some Korean boy band was featured on a magazine cover and proceeded to break the internet. (If only someone could harness all that k-pop energy for good.) With that being said, let’s dig into the funny books.
Deadpool (2010) #1
Published: November 20, 2019
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Cover Artist: Chris Bachalo
Deadpool’s newest mercenary job has him going after the King of Monsters, who has claimed a new kingdom for his monstrous subjects…on Staten Island! But you know what they say, when you come at the king, you better not miss! The Merc with a Mouth finds himself neck-deep in political intrigue, monster law, and a monster hunter out for blood! It’s like The Crown but with even more swords and monsters! Can Deadpool’s smooth charisma and deft diplomacy allow him to keep his head, or will he be royally screwed?
At first blush, the combination of Kelly Thompson and Wade Wilson feels off. Like it wouldn’t be a match. However, as Thompson herself puts it in the back matter of the issue:
“Wade is very bendy. You can do almost anything with him. This is both the best and worst thing about him.”
Which tells me that Thompson has an extremely competent handle on the character. And she proves it here. First of all, under Thompson’s pen, Wade’s voice is spot on what we’ve come to expect from the Merc with a Mouth, but there’s also a more sinister quality. There’s a bit at the beginning in Wade’s ‘Super Secret Lair’, what’s ingenious about this exchange is the dissonant captions from Wade, describing the wonderful things he’s doing on his birthday like hanging out with friends (who turns out to be an abducted mailman who is horrified) and rooftop parties with gifts, juxtaposed with the horrifying reality. This is a Deadpool who’s more murderous than madcap and a little more melancholy than I remember seeing him. An important distinction to make when pairing him with literal monsters. There are some inclusions which have become Kelly Thompson Hallmarks, notably the appearance of Elsa Bloodstone, Gwenpool, and Jeff the Shark. Rather than feel stuntish, they all feel relevant to the story. DP is going after the King of the Monsters, so of course, he’s going to have a run-in with Bloodstone, and Gwenpool’s explanation for bringing Jeff the Shark to DP is perfect 4th wall shenanigans.
Chris Bachalo is a legend in comics. So much so, that Kelly admits to being a fan of his when she was coming up as a fan. Bachalo and DP are an excellent match as the hyper-kinetic and exaggerated anatomy of Bachalo’s art plays well with Wade’s various injuries and mishaps. The opening sequence is literally Wade getting ripped in half, with Bachalo’s art handling the viscera of the event with the deft skill of a true master. Interestingly, Bachalo seems to make a point of obscuring Wade’s face when he’s without his mask. Using some creative panel angles and various articles of clothing (a rather festive DP themed Santa hat that I expect to see as merch soon) to hide the majority of Wade’s disfigured face. What’s interesting about this choice, is that it seems to amplify the monstrous qualities of Wade’s disfigurement rather than hiding it. Again, we see this theme of Wade as a monster, something I’m sure we’ll explore in more detail in coming issues. My only criticism of Bachalo’s art is that sometimes the panels can feel a bit zoomed in and hard to discern. The frenetic detail in the action can sometimes obscure the storytelling and make the art look like a chaotic jumble of images. However, I think that might be more of a ‘me’ thing than them thing, as this is clearly a stylistic choice and one that Bachalo has been consistently successful with.
Overall, I believe this is another in what is becoming a long line
of characters that are benefiting from the Kelly Thompson treatment. Which is to say, benefiting from being written by an enthusiastic and competent writer who has an intrinsic knack for unlocking character voices and motivations. BUY IT!
Captain Marvel (2019) #12
Published: November 20, 2019
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Penciler: Lee Garbett
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
CAPTAIN MARVEL VERSUS THE AVENGERS! Captain Marvel has fought off alien hordes. Rescued X-Men. Punched Thanos in the face. Literally saved the world. She now faces her greatest challenge: kill the Avengers. Has one of the world’s most powerful heroes gone dark? But why? And what does this mean for Carol…for the world? Life on earth will never be the same. Kelly Thompson teams up with Eisner-nominated artist Lee Garbett for a brand-new arc – and a bold new direction!
As we enter Thompson’s third full arc on what is arguably her highest-profile book to date, we’re thrown a bit of a curveball. When I started reading it, I could almost hear the cartoonish record scratch in my head. We’re immediately thrust into the story in medias res, and treated to what is essentially a 20-page fist-fight between a re-designed Carol and Thor. What Thompson does
Incredibly well here is to juxtapose the bombastic action with a mysterious narration from Carol herself. She makes the statement,
“…I always thought, no matter what…in the end I’m the hero… That dream is over now.”
This is chilling and also relevant to Thomspon’s recent take on the hero, which has been incredibly introspective, especially in Carol’s learning of her Kree parentage. Another thing that stands out to me in this issue, is that when Carol really cuts loose at the top of her power, we get a real demonstration of just how powerful she can be. I’m not really sure what machinations are happening behind the scenes to put Carol up against her former allies, the Earth’s Mightiest, but seeing her basically own Thor was shocking and fascinating. There’s a scene with Mjolnir that I’m not going to spoil because it’s so good.
The new artist for this arc is Lee Garbett, and he’s an absolute breath of fresh air on a book who’s art up until now was basically serviceable, (the cover art on the first few issues almost warned me off the book altogether, and I normally like Amanda Conner.)
I’d describe Garbett’s style as a cross between Fiona Staples and Chris Samnee. The new design of Carol’s costume is radical and effective, evoking the kind of evil twin vibe we expect from a Carol-gone-bad. The fight choreography in the battle between Thor and Carol was amazingly over the top with amazing long shots to impart the scope of the powers being smashed against one another.
If I had a criticism of this issue, is that the mystery is almost too vague. I understand that we’re leading up to something and we get the shocking final page reveal a revelation of the big bad. But for the previous 18 pages or so we’re dropped into what equates to an action figure battle while we’re still dealing with whiplash from the lack of context from the previous issue. However, I think I’ve made it abundantly clear in the time I’ve been writing this review column that I trust Kelly implicitly and am willing to go along for the ride to see where she takes Ms. Danvers on this next adventure. Buy it!
JD Ketcham is a writer of imaginative fiction in comics and prose as well as the owner of Planet Fiction Productions. Otherwise, he’s been a professional musician, barista, bartender, and musical instrument repairman. He’s an unabashed geek and aficionado of all things comic books, dogs, genre fiction, good coffee, and Irish whiskey.