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May 30, 2017

Deadpool: The Last Days of Magic #1 (review)


Deadpool: The Last Days of Magic #1
(Marvel Comics, May 2016)
Writer: Gerru Duggan

“Deadpool” is one of a handful of superhero comic books that lean heavily towards contemporary humor and outrageous satire, while remaining in lockstep with American publisher Marvel Comics’ shared and rigid mainstream continuity. It is a setup that affords writers a relatively generous amount of creative freedom. But a problem with many “Deadpool” stories is that writers get so caught up on playing around with this freedom that they overlook conveying a cohesive and meaningful story.

“Deadpool: The Last Days of Magic” #1 seems to have found a workable balance between, on the one hand, Deadpool’s trade mark lunatic antics, and a story that may actually have better things to do than poke fun at the superhero genre’s more egregious tropes.

The premise is esoteric yet improbably straightforward: a mysterious force, consisting of robotic entities that feed on magic, called the Empirikul, are hunting down the Marvel universe’s magic users and destroying mystical landmarks all over the world. This plot dovetails with that in Marvel Comics’ title “Dr Strange”, which we have previously reviewed.

The title character, Deadpool, finds himself stuck in the middle of this pogrom, as he is in a relationship with a demon named Shiklah, mistress of an underground society called the Monster Metropolis. Shiklah is prime target of the Empirikul.

“Last Days of Magic” is as chaotic as any “Deadpool” story can get. The story has Deadpool fighting the forces of Empirikul alongside Shiklah and a motley crew of second string magic users, such as Doctor Voodoo, the perpetually sexually-aroused ghost of Benjamin Franklin, and the former SHIELD mage and reformed supervillain called “Necromancer” (who went from being a slightly comedic, over-weight, kilt-wearing magic-based villain to Deadpool’s close friend).

Doctor Strange, Marvel Comics’ Sorcerer Supreme, is described as missing and it is his absence that is brought up frequently by the participants of the melee. Every player is of the consensus that they are merely holding the fort until Dr Strange shows up to save the day. But he fails to do so.

The chaotic fight scene, which admittedly lacks gravity or even detail, is window dressing for the true subject of the issue – even Deadpool himself is uncharacteristically not the main focus. Rather, this story is the swan song of Necromancer. This character had sworn off his supervillainous ways and tried to live a normal life away from magic and away from even Deadpool, only to be caught up in it again out of misplaced loyalty to Deadpool and a need to make up for past crimes.

There are not enough pages in the comic to flesh out the tragedy, nor does the “Deadpool” franchise have enough gravitas to ever give one of its recurring supporting characters’ death any lasting significance. But surprisingly, it still works. All of the characters in this title are existentially aware of their respective status as B-grade characters, both within the story and – thanks to the title’s popular fourth wall-breaking practices – within the superhero comics industry itself.

As Necromancer himself points out with pathos before crumbling to dust, his death is unnecessary because someone of Doctor Strange’s magical pedigree could have saved everyone without dying in the process.

“Deadpool: Last Days of Magic” #1 suffers from the problem that is endemic to Marvel Comics these days, being the reader’s need for extensive knowledge on the background of characters in order to completely enjoy the story. Once the reader navigates that, the comic is a decent read. It is not groundbreaking and will not make a fan out of any one who is not already into “Deadpool”. But we can still recommend this issue as an example of a “Deadpool” story done right.

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