The comic book industry is at its best when it is self-aware. The big publishers like Marvel and DC have put out so many stories, iconic and embarrassing. Either way, the quality of past works doesn’t matter when you aim to make a parody. That’s where Deadpool shines.
Whenever I grab a Deadpool comic to read, I expect a wide array of references and jokes about comic book sagas. That’s where a comic book fan like me finds everything they could want.
When comics reference past events, I feel like all my years of reading comics have been put to good use. I’m in on the joke because I’ve invested so much time. I’m part of the club.
So when I first came to know Deadpool: Back in Black, I was curious, to say the least. Turns out Deadpool became Venom for a while before Eddie Brock met the symbiote? What an intriguing thought! I love when comics explore alternative scenarios. Besides, when Deadpool is involved, I know I’ll probably laugh.
Well, let’s put some emphasis on the “probably” because my expectations of what a Deadpool Venom would be like were crushed, and I didn’t have a single laugh while my dreams were destroyed. In this Deadpool Venom guide, I’ll explain how the Back in Black story could have been great and how it failed miserably at this task.
My Bottomline Upfront
Even with an intriguing premise and a scenario right out of 1984’s Secret Wars, one of Marvel’s most iconic sagas, Deadpool: Back in Black, fails to entertain. The comic doesn’t provide a well-crafted narrative or compelling characters.
Even Deadpool, who manages to save a story when well written, is dull here. The Merc with a mouth is unrecognizable and has lost all his charms. I spent the whole five issues wondering who that guy behind the mask was. Because if I’m sure of one thing is that this wasn’t Deadpool.
Give me the superhero fights
Before dissecting Deadpool: Back in Black in extensive detail, we must discuss Marvel’s Secret Wars. To be clear, I am talking about 1984’s Secret Wars. A 2015 Marvel saga with the same name is also an incredible read, but that’s a matter for another time.
The 1984 saga was Marvel’s first big crossover event involving all of its heroes at the time. The craziest thing is this was created with the sole purpose of boosting up sales of Mattel action figures. The high-up execs figured that by creating a story that involved heroes battling each other and new costumes, children would want to buy toys.
Ultimately it’s all about toys, isn’t it? After all, that was allegedly why DC canceled Young Justice after only two seasons and broke my heart into a million pieces. For my lingering happiness, the series is back. I digress.
Marvel’s Secret Wars remains iconic because it didn’t conform to being a cash grab. Instead, it created a compelling storyline that changed the status quo of the various superhero teams in it.
The story presented the Beyonder, a powerful cosmic entity that transports Earth’s mightiest heroes and supervillains to Battleworld to make them fight each other. Furthermore, the Beyonder established that the victor would have any of their dreams granted.
A cosmic and arbitrary reason to make heroes fight! Who doesn’t love that? However, I must say that the fights weren’t the only reason that made me excited about this comic.
Doctor Doom was another essential element in my love for this saga. Doom has always been one of my favorite Marvel heroes. In my opinion, this is the first instance where he proves himself to be a large-scale threat to the Fantastic Four and the whole Marvel Universe.
Besides, the saga introduces critical changes like Ben Grimm staying in Battleworld as a human with She-Hulk replacing him in the Fantastic Four and Spiderman’s black symbiote suit. As we all know, this suit would later become Venom, one of Spidey’s most beloved villains and an essential subject of this article.
Deadpool’s good ol’ pals
There aren’t many exciting or essential characters in this comic. Even Deadpool is boring in this iteration. So I bring you here the ones I deem necessary. Whoever I don’t mention is entirely forgettable.
Deadpool: The comic book’s main character and a beloved hero of mine. Unfortunately, he was unrecognizable in this story. Whenever I read a Deadpool comic, there’s that instant spark of recognition. “Yes, this is my old friend. It’s good to see you again.”
Here I didn’t feel that. I felt like I was reading a more generic version of Spider-Man. The jokes were weak, there was no fourth wall breaking, and he had no motives to do what he was doing. This is the tamest I’ve ever seen Deadpool.
Killer Thrill: She is a bounty hunter with the mission to capture the symbiote Venom. Killer Thrill is ruthless and relentless. The type of person you wouldn’t want to be hunting you. That’s it; there’s no character development, so there’s nothing else for me to comment on.
Black Cat: I am a big fan of Black Cat, so whenever she appears in a comic, I am happy. However, I didn’t buy that she thought Deadpool was Peter Parker just because of the costume. I mean, c’mon, if she’s so infatuated with Spiderman, she would know the difference. It’s not even about love. His voice is different, and his body language is not the same. Just pay attention, Black Cat!
Spider-Man: The Friendly neighborhood Spiderman makes few but vital appearances in this comic. The story begins with him right after getting rid of the symbiote suit with the church’s bells. In the end, Spiderman emerges again to wrap things up. His final shot is probably the only time the story comes close to hitting an emotional point.
The Symbiote Suit/Venom: Venom is portrayed in a good light here. I enjoyed the fact that his time with Peter made him want to do good. Besides, his feelings of rejection for being discarded by Peter made me feel bad for him, even when he tried to do bad stuff. The portrayal of Venom’s emotions is the most genuine thing Back in Black has to offer.
Deadpool: Back in Black was released in 2016. The comic book is written by Cullen Bunn and has art from Salvador Espin. If you are good with names, you may be thinking, “this writer’s name sounds familiar.” That is because Bunn is also the author of Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe.
So now you may be a little bit confused. In the Deadpool Samurai Guide, I’ve talked about how reading Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe was an essential experience for me, and now I’m trashing a story from the same writer.
Yes, as life proves many times, you can have a great success and then a significant failure. That sums up pretty well my reading experience with Cullen Bunn regarding Deadpool.
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe is by no means a masterpiece. It is enjoyable to read, though! People may complain about the absurdity of the comic, but that’s the point. It is not meant to be taken seriously.
What matters is that the narrative successfully creates a sense of expectation of what will happen next, and Deadpool’s dialogue is spot on. Somehow, all these qualities are missing from Deadpool: Back in Black.
I don’t know if demands to write a PG-13 version of Deadpool is what messed up this version or if there was something else at play behind the scenes. The truth is, if I had only read Back in Black, I would be screaming from the top of my lungs, “Please, Marvel, never let this writer touch Deadpool again. He ruined one of the best characters in comic book history. I can’t deal with that stress.”
Since I am a fair person, I’m just going to say Deadpool: Back in Black is not worth your time. You can skip this reading altogether and only read this article to know what happens. Because I know, if you are a true comic buff like me, you will want to know what happened. This type of curiosity is in our nature.
What is it all about?
Right after Peter Parker rid himself of Venom in the iconic church bell scene from Web of Spider-Man #1, the symbiote didn’t immediately bond with Eddie Brock but hid until merging with Deadpool in the middle of a chaotic battle. As a result, the mercenary becomes the target of Killer Thrill, a bounty hunter determined to capture the symbiote.
On the comic’s first page, Deadpool explains the premise of the story in front of an 80s cybernetic background while he throws in various references to the decade. At this point, I was thinking, “great; it seems like we’ll have lots of great fourth-wall-breaking jokes coated in nostalgia.” Well, I was dead wrong.
Warning! The beginning page of each comic with the cybernetic background is the only time Deadpool will be referencing anything about the story to the reader. I thought this was such a waste of potential. Deadpool’s trademark is used here only as a bland summary of previous events that almost no one reads. I was highly disappointed.
Issue 2 makes things even worse with a meaningless storyline and characters. It follows Obnoxious, the clown, performing for a group of kids until aliens invade the party. First of all, why aren’t there any adults at this party? And who hired the inappropriate drunk clown?
None of this matters as a group of children called Power Pack to fight the aliens. But they can only defeat the enemies with the help of Deadpool Venom, who eats all the aliens in the end. Seriously. This issue is an example of how to use absurd situations badly.
There is no conflict or suspense; things just happen without reason. The supposed humor is the equivalent of fart jokes. To top it all off, Deadpool’s motives aren’t at all clear. The Merc with a Mouth is not the kind of guy who will just swing by doing good. Not if there isn’t any incentive, like money or the pure joy of slaying people.
Yes, the comics have shown him to be heroic at times. That happens in the middle of the plot as a catharsis. Or when he wants to show the other heroes that he is as honorable as they are.
Here I felt Deadpool had nothing better to do, so he pretended to be Spider-Man just to know what it would feel like. I could stand by that if that was the premise from the beginning and done funnily.
However, I don’t think that was the intention, but something I conjured up through my mind to try to explain this story’s mess. Proof of that is in the story. Throughout the following issues, people confuse Deadpool with Spider-Man, and the mercenary always tries to undo the mistake.
Moving to issue 3, Black Cat and Deadpool pursue a criminal together and confront Killer Thrill.
In issue 4, Kraven the Hunter fights Deadpool until the mercenary proves he is not Spider-Man. Then comes issue 5, where the writers have to wrap it all up to the original chain of events.
The bounty Hunter captures Spider-Man, thinking he has the symbiote. Deadpool arrives to save him but has to fight against Venom’s urge for revenge. The symbiote feels rejected by Parker and wants to kill him.
Together, Deadpool and Venom defeat Killer Thrill and the aliens. Venom is hellbent on murdering Spider-Man, but Deadpool separates himself from the symbiote and says that to kill spidey, the alien will have to kill the mercenary too.
Deadpool delivers a cheesy dialogue that convinces the symbiote to leave. This was one of the few moments I liked in this terrible comic. In the end, Eddie Brock heads to where Venom is, hinting that they will merge like in the original timeline.
The art style by Salvador Espin is quite pretty and distinctive. It’s not one of my favorites, but it is very competent at creating a specific feel for the comic and separating itself from the plethora of generic comic art out there.
Still, I am not a big fan of the particular way things are smooth and kind of glossy. I don’t think it is terrible; I just find this is not as eye-catching as some of my favorite artists.
However, I like the color in this comic, especially the parts with the aliens. The use of analog colors like blue, green, and purple with a few specks of complementary colors like orange and pink make a pleasing aesthetic.
Besides, even when the artist uses complementary colors to create contrast, like orange and purple, it is done in a way that is still easy on the eyes and reaffirms the overall smoothness of the art.
Awesome or lame?
The answer is pretty obvious because of my extensive rant in almost every section of this article. Deadpool: Back in Black is lame. I have already presented a few of the reasons in previous sections of the article, but I will discuss things further in this part. To clarify my reasoning, I will divide problems into three main categories that explain the failings of Back in Black.
1 – Lack of narrative cohesion
When I read the comic, I felt like nothing I was reading mattered; and that is never a good thing. This fact essentially points out that the comic has no plot. There is no reason for anything to happen or for characters to do what they do. Events happen one after the other without providing context to the story or showcasing a connection between them.
Furthermore, there is no cause and effect between events. Things happen out of the blue, not because a character made a decision. The people in the story are not agents of events but subject to the writer’s whims, which are not even engaging or creative, to begin with.
2 – This is not Deadpool
I already mentioned that, but this is not Deadpool. The lack of fourth wall breaking is jarring but could be remedied with good quips with other characters. Guess what? That doesn’t happen as well. This version of Deadpool is boring and has no real character arc.
It’s neither the random chaos that can work when the mercenary is written in the most maniacal way possible nor the complex anti-hero with a hidden heart. It’s just plain and meaningless.
3 – Characters are forgettable
On the other side of the story, characters are the base of good storytelling. If they aren’t well written, it is hard to root for them, as is the case with Back in Black. The comic seems more interested in throwing in random characters without developing them instead of focusing on the few that could give weight to the narrative.
For instance, everything from issue 2 is unnecessary. The story and the characters are expendable. I believe a better way to use this issue would be to write about Killer Thrill. Maybe a backstory or something else is set in the comic’s present to show her motives and develop her personality. I don’t know, something to make people care!
Ultimately, that is what I wanted from this comic: to care. With such bad writing, this wasn’t possible.
The award for the best moment goes to…
It goes to none. That’s it. There’s not a redeemable moment in this comic…
Hold on, don’t go yet. I’m just kidding.
A moment when Deadpool was fighting Kraven intrigued me. The mercenary finally proves to the hunter he is not Spider-Man and says the hero is awesome. Right then, Venom protests saying the following:
“No!No! Spider-Man!Not awesome! A monster! Turned his back on me! Brought me here! Abandoned me! (…)
I helped him! I saved him! He left me to die! Left me to be hunted!”
Deadpool: Back in Black, issue 4
Look at all these exclamation points! Venom is clearly troubled. Poor guy! Turns out he is the only fleshed-out character in this comic. I like this scene because it showcases Venom’s emotions. He may be misguided and sometimes evil, but he has feelings like all of us.
For that reason, the best moment is his.
Now that I outright said Deadpool: Back in Black is a bad comic, you may feel sad that you don’t have any good reading recommendations. Well, fear not, my friend. I come here to recommend two excellent mini-series that will thoroughly entertain you.
The first is Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars. You may have liked the premise of Deadpool: Back in Black and wondered if there wasn’t something similar but good. Well, this recommendation is just that.
The comic saga is a retcon of 1984’s Secret Wars but with Deadpool in it. Thankfully, Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars delivers everything: good parody, funny jokes, engaging character development for Deadpool, and a sweet ending.
Who wrote such a good story? I’ll give you ten bucks if you guess it. That’s right! Callum Bunn. The same guy who ruined Deadpool in Back in Black. I can’t understand what happened.
Knowing Bunn has the potential to write such good stories just makes me mad at him for what he did in Back in Black. Everyone has its ups and downs. I guess I should just let it go.
Now, my second recommendation is Spiderman: Spider’s Shadow. This one doesn’t involve Deadpool, but it has a similar premise to the stories we’ve seen in the article. Author Chip Zdarsky writes about how things would unfold if Peter Parker didn’t get rid of the symbiote suit.
This is a beautiful story that celebrates Spider-Man and the Marvel Universe. Spider’s Shadow is definitely one of the best Spider-Man mini-series I have read in the last few years.
It’s all about the toys
Just because Deadpool: Back in Black isn’t a good comic doesn’t mean Deadpool Venom doesn’t look good. He looks fantastic. So even though I hated the comic, the aesthetic and concept are reason enough for me to want an action figure of the character.
Marvel Legends Series Back in Black 6-inch Deadpool has everything you could want from a figure like that: great detail and accessories. I love that the figure has different hands and heads for you to exchange. That gives a lot of variety to the toy.
Upon close inspection, I also noticed that the details are well done, and the finishing is well applied for a toy within this price range. Moreover, the sheer volume of articulations made me want to grab and play with the toy. If you like action figures and think Deadpool venom is a slick look for the mercenary, this toy is for you!
Question: Was Deadpool the first Venom?
Answer: In canon, Spider-Man is the first Venom host. However, in the alternate timeline of Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars, the mercenary was the first to wear the symbiote. The Merc with a Mouth soon realized the suit was a living being and got rid of it. At least until the sequel, Deadpool: Back in Black.
Question: Can Deadpool kill Venom?
Answer: I don’t think so. The symbiote is almost unkillable even though it can be weakened with sound, for instance. Deadpool doesn’t have the power needed to end the alien lifeform once and for all. Most likely, they would keep fighting and reviving without ever concluding the fight.
Question: Are Deadpool and Venom friends?
Answer: Not in canon. In Deadpool: Back in Black, you can say they are friends since Venom gave up destroying his mortal enemy, Spiderman so that he wouldn’t harm the mercenary.
You’re still here? It’s over. Go home!
Deadpool: Back in Black is a series riddled with wasted potential. Sadly, author Callum Bunn couldn’t bring the same flair and cohesiveness from the prior installment, Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars. If you want an excellent Deadpool story, you’re better off reading something else.
If you want to know more about the character, there are plenty of other articles here on the site that you can check out. Deadpool vs. Wolverine: Those Who Will Not Die and Deadpool and Harley Quinn: All You Need To Know are some of my favorites.
Take care and until next time!