Deadpool Bi-Annual #1, Marvel
Brute Force was one of Marvel's weirder concepts of the 90s. A team of technologically enhanced animals -- a dolphin, lion, bear, eagle, and kangaroo -- armed with heavy ordnance and the ability to transform into hybrid vehicles, that fought evil clowns working for a fast food company. For some reason, such creative genius failed to take off, and the team hasn't been seen since. Enter Deadpool, Marvel's fourth wall-breaking mercenary/living cartoon character and the perfect character to pair with the weird animal... robot... hero... things.
Despite the inherent and deliberately ludicrous nature behind the mere concept of bringing Brute Force back, writers Paul Scheer and Nick Giovannetti manage to pack a hefty wallop of social commentary into this standalone issue. Piggybacking off -- and even alluding to -- the documentary Blackfish, the 'Pool is hired by a notable Florida-based aquatic theme park to protect the venue from animal rights terrorists. Enter the the robonimals, except it turns out they've been working covertly for SHIELD's Agent Coulson, bringing down actual terrorists such as the evil masterminds behind "Water World".
While the story at its most basic boils down to the comic book cliché of "super heroes fight then team up", it's elevated well above that low watermark by being flat out hilarious. Deadpool is essentially a comedy character but even so, I've not laughed this hard at a comic in a long while. Scheer and Giovannetti pack the pages with jokes that work whether you're a fan of the comics or the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity, while artist Salva Espin shows an incredible talent for visual humour. Each page bursts with pop culture references, rapid-fire puns, and sheer brilliant anarchy. Somehow, Espin even makes the Brute Force look simultaneously ridiculous yet awesome -- you've not lived until you've seen Deadpool form a Voltron out of assorted cybernetic zoo animals, or, well, this:
The Deadpool Bi-Annual (because there's already been a Deadpool Annual this year) is ultimately unimportant. It doesn't change the face of the Marvel Universe forever, and it doesn't even impact on the title character's monthly adventures. Instead, it's just a damn fun single issue, the kind we so rarely see published nowadays. It's a complete story, it's hilarious, it has some depth to it, it looks fantastic, and then it ends. And that's OK. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't secretly want to see Brute Force back again.