MANGA REVIEW | "Deadpool: Samurai" - Volume One
For years, I wondered what it was about Deadpool that appealed most to me. Was it his crass sense of humor? Perhaps his fourth-wall-breaking personality? Maybe it was because he gave zero shits about superhero rules and regulations. After reading Deadpool: Samurai, the Marvel (anti-)hero’s first official manga series, I finally figured it out. Deadpool’s style rings strongly for me because he reminds me of Sesame Street’s beloved furry blue monster Grover.
Give me a moment to explain. When I was a toddler, no book would make me smile more than The Monster at the End of This Book. The story followed Grover, as he pleaded to his audience to not turn any more pages. Otherwise, they will get to the end, and the monster will be waiting for them. Throughout the book, Grover would pull out all stops to keep the reader from turning the pages, reaching higher levels of ridiculousness the closer the end got. And when it reached the end, well, I’m not one to spoil punchlines.
Deadpool: Samurai is a lot like reading The Monster at the End of This Book. Our titular hero takes his time to explain the ins and outs of both American and Japanese comics, to the point where clichés and lazy twists send him in a fiery tizzy. The Merc With a Mouth acts exactly like Grover in these moments, going so far as to ridicule the writers, the publishers, and even the readers themselves. And no one bats an eye because, hey, it’s Deadpool! It’s what he does!
And what Deadpool does here is showcase the proper way for American (anti-)heroes to make the jump to Japanese manga. The story has Wade Wilson recruited by Iron Man and the Avengers to start a new team in Japan known as the Samurai Squad. His first recruit is Sakura Spider, the manga’s attempt at wiping away the really cool Japanese Spider-Man who had the giant robot. She and Deadpool don’t see eye-to-eye much, but it’s when Loki makes his presence when they realize that they should maybe work a little bit better together.
In Merc fashion, Deadpool takes his time to rip apart every single thing wrong with shonen comics, but with a slice of love. While he knows he can’t be his normal self due to kids reading Shonen Jump (despite it being 16+ in the US!), Deadpool dances on the line that rests between the appropriate and inappropriate. And sometimes, when the censors aren’t looking, he’ll erase that line and fill kidnappers, vile scientists, and smelly otaku with enough bullets to make the Suicide Squad envious! In other words, this is the Deadpool we as a society have come to fall in love with!
Impressively, writer Sanshiro Kasama has a knack for showcasing the brilliant sides of Wade Wilson in Deadpool: Samurai. The inside jokes, the manga & anime references, and even his way around certain heroes all fit with Deadpool’s motif. There isn’t anything here that he does differently from his American writer counterparts, keeping this adventure as canon as possible to our beloved (anti-)hero. (Then again, if he did something non-canon, um, would anyone actually mind?)
Kasama even takes the time to bring in plenty of familiar faces to the party. From legit Avengers to some of the best villains in Marvel’s arsenal, almost everyone here that shows up feels both like a genuine surprise and something you should expect. Even if Deadpool is a jerk at times, the legit heroes can’t stay mad at him for long. The fact that one of the big Avengers actually shows up for Deadpool’s party is not just cute, but also endearing of how much they care about Wade Wilson.
Of course, a Deadpool adventure needs to look great, and Hikaru Uesugi hits a home run with their visuals. From limbs being chopped up to buildings exploding, every frame is captured with terrific detail. Uesugi also knows when to toss in some Easter eggs that’ll make any reader crack a smile, from certain homages to shonen manga to the way Deadpool signs an autograph for a fan. (I’ll admit that the latter made me laugh harder than it should’ve!)
If you don’t like Deadpool, then Deadpool: Samurai won’t change your mind about him. But if you are a big fan of the Merc with a Mouth, then this Marvel/Jump collaboration will scratch more itches than you could imagine. Filled with plenty of laughs and terrific action, Deadpool: Samurai shows that Japan was fully prepared for Wade Wilson to appear on their shores. And just like The Monster at the End of This Book, it knows how to keep its readers both surprised and fully entertained, despite our (anti-)hero’s frustrations.
Promotional consideration provided by Chantelle Sturt of VIZ Media