Today’s reading: Deadpool #18 and #19, July-August 1998
Story by Joe Kelly
Art by Walter McDaniel and John Livesay
Ilaney Bruckner is having a bad day. Actually she’s probably been having a series of bad years, but it’s hard to tell, given what little backstory she has.
No sooner does she get home to her remote alpine cabin from collecting firewood than a masked man in a red-and-black bodysuit and tattered, oddly form-fitting overalls arrives at her door with a man who resembles Wilford Brimley with a ponytail slung over his shoulder. The masked man demands shelter so he can nurse his companion – whom he does not seem to actually like – back to health. He also slings a never-ending series of fat jokes at both the Brimley-esque fellow and his hostess, who while thickly proportioned is still curved in all the ways that count by ’90s comics standards.
Feeling threatened, Ilaney grabs her shotgun and fires off a shot or two, but the masked man is agile and dodges the bullets. He commandeers her weapon, apologizes to her in her native German and then asks to use her snowmobile. Someone is coming for him, with a menacing voice that echoes across the Swiss Alps. The masked man, whom his pursuer identifies as Wilson, fires off Ilaney’s last bullet at his target, an armored hulk of a man. Wilson misses, the but the sound triggers an avalanche, burying the man Wilson identifies as Ajax and in the process destroying Ilaney’s house, her refuge from the unclear events of her past. Not only that, but as they make their getaway, the weight of three people wrecks her snowmobile, her lone means of transport.
Wilson, who at this point is wearing only a mask, pants and boots, his bare torso resembling one giant, muscular scar, says Ajax will not stay buried and will come for them. He explains that a long time ago, he blew a hole through Ajax with two automatic assault rifles at point blank range. Killebrew, his portly, elderly companion, rebuilt Ajax, and so Wilson believes the doctor, presently slumbering in a cave by a roaring fire, knows how to stop him. Ilaney questions his life choices, and Wilson fires back at her about being a hermit.
“You don’t know … you don’t know me,” Ilaney says. “And I do know hate. … Oh, do I know hate.”
Just then, Killebrew comes to. Ilaney offers to get Wilson, who’d left to find more firewood, but Killebrew stops her, confessing he has no idea how to stop Ajax.
When Killebrew finally admits as much to Wilson, Wilson throws him clear across the campsite. The two men argue about whether cycles of violence can be broken and how to let go of hate and anger. Wilson would seem to think such things are not possible – it’s hard to tell when they argue in English – and appears ready to deliver a killing blow to the old man. So she whacks him across the head with a torch. Asked why she did it, she tells Killebrew once more that she knows about hate, and that she’s tired of running, though there will be much more running before the day is done.
That’s when Ajax shows up again. End first issue.
The second half begins with Deadpool and Ajax wailing on each other. Ajax clearly has the upper hand. Ilaney and Killebrew watch, helpless, as the masked freaks go at it. Finally, Killebrew says goodbye to Ilaney and jumps on Ajax’s back with gasoline and a torch in a bid to slow his creation. As Ajax burns, he picks up Killebrew and snaps his neck. Wilson and Ajax’s Dr. Frankenstein gets to die a hero.
Ilaney grabs Wilson and runs till they hit a cliff, Ajax screaming “YOU’RE NEXT! YOU’RE NEXT” behind them. At this point, Wilson starts arguing with no one (It’s actually the ghosts of the Weapon X rejects, but she doesn’t know that). With Ajax barreling down on them, they jump into the water below. The plunge knocks Ilaney unconscious. Wilson revives her with mouth-to-mouth, then makes sex jokes. More arguing, as if someone were telling Wilson to leave Ilaney behind.
As Ilaney shivers in Wilson’s arms, she hallucinates reliving her past.
“N-no, colonel … I don’t want to b-be safe anymore. … D-done that to d-death. … I want to fly again. … I’m a g-good pilot, sir. … I tried. … T-tried to save them. … But after the accident. … I c-c-couldn’t sleep … because I could hear them screaming … sm-smell burning. … B-but hiding. … N-no g-good any more … I want to live. … I want to f-fly. K-Killebrew changed. … He got what he wanted. … I w-want to change. … I want m-my life back-k. Can I fly again, sir?”
“Yeah, kid. … You can fly,” Wilson tells her as she slips into oblivion.
A lot of other stuff happens in these two issues. Deadpool drowns Ajax and cracks his neck at the bottom of a lake. Killebrew becomes a Force Ghost. The reject ghosts don’t move on after Ajax dies and question whether they should have sent Deadpool on a blood quest given how hard he’s been trying to become a hero. Montgomery the precog lets Zoe Culloden know her superiors have tapped the substitute Mithras in case Deadpool doesn’t make the cut. Blind Al dithers on leaving the Deadhut again.
But on rereading this story for the first time in years, it occurs to me this two-parter should have been Ilaney’s story. In the age of Rey and Furiosa, Ilaney appears woefully underwritten, and it’s a shame she was created just to die. It would have been interesting to see her narration boxes tell the story of Deadpool and Ajax’s final battle, on top of her terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.
As for Ajax, he’ll stay dead and buried for a good, long time, till 2015’s Deadpool vs. Thanos miniseries, when he shows up because Death (capital-D Death, as in Deadpool’s ex) has disappeared, leading to resurrections all over the universe. The man born Francis Fanny will also be the big bad in next month’s Deadpool movie, played by Ed Skrein.
Next time on Thursdays with Wade: Deadpool and Monty do Monte Carlo, as we get back to this Mithras Directive business. See ya then!
In addition to writing for The Matt Signal, Dan Grote is now the official comics blogger for The Press of Atlantic City. New posts appear Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com/Life. His new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He and Matt have been friends since the days when Onslaught was just a glimmer in Charles Xavier's eye. Follow @danielpgrote on Twitter.