Standing in my in-laws kitchen on a Thursday morning, I watch a single pancake the color of wood-glue resting on the surface of a frying pan. I wait for the damp center surface to bubble, letting me know it is ready to be flipped. In the background, the cheery, bell like voices of children singing the Sesame Street theme song drift across the house, colliding with the smell of warm pancakes and hot syrup wafting like the steam from a cooling pie in a cartoon windowsill. It’s my oldest daughter’s second birthday, my youngest daughter, who is five days old, has arrived three weeks early, healthy and happy, to celebrate with us, along with my mom and my wife’s parents. I’m taking my third day of paternity leave, and I’ve decided I’m going to start reading Joe Kelly’s Deadpool comic. It’s going to be a good day.
As if to confirm all this a smattering of bubbles appear in the center of my latest pancake as I turn my Marvel U app over to Deadpool issue 1, and when I flip my flapjack I’m greeted with a tan circle of dough that looks like it was cut from Snookie’s arm waddle; by the time the other side is done and I’ve poured in my next quarry, I’m already two pages into the Kelly book, and I know I made the right decision waiting until I was a father of two before I dove into this title.
The reason I put this book off is because according to every comic fan I know whose read the first 37 issues of Deadpool, I was going to love this title. It seemed like a reasonable assertion. After all the premise was appealing, a wisecracking psychopath (think Aziz Ansari mixed with Hannibal Lecter) who is nearly immortal and works as a mercenary (think Aziz Ansari mixed with Hannibal Lecter mixed with Dick Cheney) discovers through a series of adventures, that he is much more of a hero than a villain.
The first issue of this series lays this all out first by showing Deadpool as he murders his way through a cadre of Bolivian Paramilitary forces, followed by an assault on a scientific installation in Antarctica run by former Alpha Flight member Sasquatch (Dr. Walter Langkowski). Eventually Wade weaves his way into the top secret facility chattering the entire time like he is Pac-Man gobbling up digital dots. Once inside, Deadpool risks the lives of everyone living in the southern hemisphere by nearly destroying a highly volatile machine that uses gamma radiation to absorb atmospheric radiation, but just as the machine is about to melt down, Wade Wilson swims into the flesh melting gamma brine and saves the day.
Of course this doesn’t mean Deadpool has become a complete pushover, he wants to know who sent him into Penguinville to tussle with Sasquatch and blow up half the planet so that he can pop them open like a stingy bag of chips. He gets his chance, when he is asked to meet his employers at the Statue of Liberty. It turns out he was hired by a pair of time traveling investment bankers who explain to Wade that he can bring about a universal renaissance if he functions as the Guardian of Humanity (Think Asiz Ansari mixed with Hanibal Lecter mixed with Dick Chaney, meets Rufus from the Bill and Ted movies).
Now certain of the books premise, with a stack of flapjacks as tall as a syrup bottle warming in the oven, I dole out breakfast to my family and take hold of my newest daughter for a while after I kiss the oldest one on the head. Like all parents I am shocked at how quickly my oldest has grown into a toddler, who has likes, Cheerios, coloring, and Tinkerbelle who she thinks placed fairy wings in my Mom’s closet this morning that my daughter now wears. ”Pancakes?” I ask her.
“Butter,” meaning peanut butter, she replies, and my wife, still recovering from surgery and like me still wrapping her head around the idea that we are a family of four instead of three, obliges Charlie, and soon we sit around the table, eating the warm dough covered in sweet and salty toppings while I play a drumbeat on my newest daughters back in an attempt to burp her.
After taking the birthday girl and our dog for post-breakfast walk with my mom, I am allowed to hide out in my In-Law’s study with our youngest daughter, Penny sitting in an underwater themed bouncing chair while my wife and Charlie go down for a nap. It’s not a bad writing setup, one that I remember having when my other daughter was first born, but one that won’t last for long. In a month or two, Penelope will not be content to sit and sleep while her father types away on a laptop considering the merits of Deadpool’s choice of costumes.
Having finished my writing for the day before my family wakes, I take a seat on the couch holding my youngest daughter along my forearm like I’m a running back cradling a football. I find the weight of her tucked into my arm comforting, like a bottle of water in my free hand on a long hike. Sitting together like this I read the second and third issues of Deadpool where I learn that our hero, who was once invincible, seems to be slightly less so as his healing factor is fading. Like some sort of disfigured Cool Hand Luke Deadpool instigates a wager amongst the other mercenaries at Hellhouse, a mercenary dispatch center, which he loses because he is not able to grow back a finger in front of his peers. Thankfully for us he is lured to the mountain home of former Weapon X program employee Dr. Emrys Killbrew, who Wade considers executing on sight for the heinous way in which Killbrew imbued him with his healing factor.
This comic is about Wade Wilson trying to take the moral high ground though, so at the behest of Siryn, the X-Force member Wilson loves most, Deadpool takes Killbrew up on his offer to try and fix his healing factor rather than skewer him like I did my pancakes earlier in the day.
Through a battery of test Killbrew determines that Wade needs to get an injection of Gamma irradiated blood, the only source of which happens to be the great green goliath known as the Incredible Hulk. This means that in issue four Deadpool will of course do battle with the cucumber colored crusher, who should have no trouble defeating a sickly mercenary no matter how skilled he is with a sword, but for now my family has woken up and I decide to set aside my comic books and make my way onto my grandparents back porch where I’ve set up my daughter’s birthday present, a sand table with rakes and shovels and a bucket, the perfect accessory for a kid who loves to get dirty and destroy things. When her and my wife come down the stairs, and we show my daughter her newest plaything we get all the payoff any parent could want as she takes us by the hand and pulls us over to the table saying, “Mommy sit. Daddy Sit,” and then shows us how she can dig.
We spend the better part of the hour playing in the sand, making little castles with the bucket and pretending they are birthday cakes with pine needles for candles which we practice blowing out.
Afterwards, we take our daughter and her cousin, who is six months younger than her over to the park. The two girls climb the play structures and slide down the slides, and are certain when they talk into a metal flower that functions sort of like a fast food restaurant PA system that they hear Cookie Monster singing happy birthday to them.
The real happy birthday singing doesn’t happen until an hour later, after our daughter and her cousin have sat shirtless at my In-Law’s dinner table, eating my daughters favorite meal, spaghetti with meatballs. The two toddlers rubbing the red sauce over their pail white fish bellies with slurps and coos of ecstasy.
When the time to sing does come, and my mother pulls out the green Tinkerbelle themed cake she baked for Charlie, our daughter is ecstatic. There is cake; there are candles, and everyone is singing her favorite song. Life doesn’t get any better.
Charlie’s family feels the same way. As my wife and I sing, we smile at one another. My wife struggles to operate her camera phone, which means we have to sing the birthday song all over again, which everyone is happy about since the moment is so wonderful for all of us.
In the midst of the second singing my wife gets the picture she wants, and my daughter who has been practicing blowing out candles all day attempts to huff and puff the little blazes away, but she is only turning two, so she does more spitting than blowing. That doesn’t stop her from making several attempts until I step in and say, “On the count of three we’ll try it one more time. One, Two, Three” then we both blow, and who can say who does the most to put out the little flickering wax sticks, all I know is Charlie thinks she does it, and she raises her arms as if signaling a touchdown while we all cheer.
Having cut the cake and doled out small mounds of ice cream to go with it, I take more pleasure in watching Charlie ingest the delicious cake than I do in eating it myself. Like any two year old she practically bathes in the cake, mixing the green icing with the red tomato sauce on her stomach like she is Jackson Pollack crafting a Christmas card.
The grandparents set to doing dishes once dessert is finished, while I take our daughter and prepare her for a bath, knowing that no amount of wash cloth wiping is going to take away all the sand and sauce and frosting mashed between her fingers and run through her hair and settled in her belly button.
As my daughter soaks in her tub, playing with floating weebles and rubber ducks and a sort of spigot which noisily splashes water across the bathroom , I try and convince myself to read the fourth issue of Deadpool, knowing that I want to write about it over the coming days. I do what I set out to, watching as Wade Wilson gets the Gamma Irradiated blood he wanted from the Hulk. I write down a note about how the green of the Hulk might match the green on Charlie’s cake, and I think about how I might author some sort of clever phrase about how the comic is icing on the cake for what has otherwise been a perfect day. I tell myself I can write about how the green substance seems to make the world seem right, but then I realize that that this isn’t true. That sometimes comic books, no matter how entertaining and thoughtful can’t augment the joy that real life provides, and so I shut my phone off and pick up my daughters favorite towel, a blue terrycloth thing that makes her look like an elephant. I lift her out of the tub, and I say, “Happy Birthday Charlie.”
She looks back up at me, her eyes, shaped like my wife’s but the same color as mine peeking out from beneath her funny elephant crown as she says, “Happy Birthday Daddy,” and I figure who am I to tell her that my birthday was in June? Who am I to tell her she is wrong?