My friend Gabbie encouraged me to write up this post, probably because I rage incoherent every time panels from this issue show up on my tracked tags. My problem, tumblr, is this:
Deadpool: Psst! Sorry about tying ya up an’ gagging you, but, I dunno… is it just me or did you kinda like it?
Natasha: A little, yes.
Deadpool is a humor title but tying women up without their permission is not a joke, and sexual proclivities aren’t a punchline. I don’t exactly mind that Wade is acting like a creep: he is a creep, and thatisthepoint.jpg. Deadpool makes crass comments, he kept clones of Gwen Stacy as his personal sexy servants. He is Not a Role Model, and one of his central metaphors, the metaphor explored by this very story, is that the tragedy of his psychosis keeps him from being the good guy he might want to be. All attempts at reform are inevitably futile; Deadpool’s narrative power comes from being the eternal reject, and his behavior makes him so. Even his moments of fourth-wall lucidity are read as insanity by the world around him.
So of course Deadpool has no luck with women. He can’t. Instead, I suppose, he incapacitates them, ties them up, and decides that they like it.
What bugs me more is that Daniel Way has Natasha answer in the affirmative. There’s no prior canon that says being tied up excites her sexually— and sexually is what they mean here, in case her giant, almost totally visible breasts aren’t tipping you off. She’s been tied up a fair bit, really, and most of the time she rather seems to to hate it. There’s a lot of prior canon about how Natasha deals with this kind of casual sexual harassment, men who feel they know what she wants, what she really deep down once, just by looking at her. Men who feel they have the right to tell her this. Her response is usually some flavor of the middle finger.
But I’m looking at this the wrong way. I’m sure Daniel Way wasn’t trying re-imagine Natasha’s attitudes, to build upon her past continuities. I mean, it’s Black Widow. She like, sleeps with everyone, doesn’t she? And she totally dresses in fetish wear all the time! (Never mind that the “black leather” thing is a construction of J.G. Jones late-90s hyperrealism, and that, this scene included, Natasha costume isn’t usually drawn as leather. Never mind that Nick Fury wears pretty much the exact same thing, except, I suppose, artists are more likely to have him zip up. One thing I actually love about the Marvel universe is that the spy catsuit is unisex.) She probably does like being tied up, isn’t that funny.
I know, of course, that in the following two panels Deadpool tries to kiss Natasha and gets a fist to the face. But these only make the first panel more confusing. If Natasha isn’t interested in Deadpool at all (and she shouldn’t be, because he is a creep, and yeah, she does have a boyfriend) why did she ever go along with it? Her expression in panel 1 isn’t coy or arch: it’s hard to read it as just trollin’, though tbqh I wouldn’t find it a satisfactory explanation. (Her facial expression instead is worryingly humbled and complacent, though yeah I’d say the artistic emphasis is placed on her lower body parts.) I don’t mean to kinkshame, either, I don’t really care if Natasha is into bondage or not— but bringing it up in this context, as some kind of sexual punchline instead of something hopefully respectful and consensual, kinda bugs.
This arc of Deadpool doesn’t really demand Natasha’s character, it demands Steve Rogers eternal inspiration, so she and Moon Knight got to play back-up singer. In Natasha’s case, she got to be the mildly incompetent but ~sexy~ back-up singer, and to tell the truth, that good ol’ fashioned you done my favorite character wrong brand of nerdrage gets to me at least as much as the bizarre politics of this one particular panel. I’m sure there are people who’d think I’m overreacting, here, and to some degree I believe them— this is a one-panel joke, the kind of dismissal that happens all the time. And that’s true, it really is, but that’s kind of the problem.
From Deadpool #29, by Daniel Way and Carlo Barberi.