With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: Steve Dillon (Wolverine: Origins), Paco Medina (#1-4, #6-12), Carlo Barberi (#4-5), Bong Dazo (Thunderbolts)
Issues: Deadpool (2008) #1-12, Thunderbolts #130-131, Wolverine: Origins #21-25
Ah, Deadpool. The Merc with a Mouth. Everyone’s favorite anti-hero. On the surface a GI Joe reject that constantly spouts one-liners and non-sequiturs should be the dumbest thing to come out of the 90s. Instead, Deadpool has become one of the most beloved figures in the Marvel Universe, and I’m inclined to agree. His witty retorts and likable (and somehow relatable) attitude is a refreshing change from the many brooding and angsty jerks that parade in costumes.
Coming off the very successful Cable & Deadpool run (four yeas and fifty issues, which I loved), Wade Wilson stars in his first solo series in years. While I was a bit annoyed by the constant crossovers with then-current Marvel events and other series, Deadpool is in good hands with a lively art style and excellent writing that explores his delightful insanity and penchant for mayhem.
Deadpool: The Complete Collection Volume 1 is a massive collected trade paperback. It includes the first twelve issues, as well as two other series crossovers that Deadpool stars in: Wolverine: Origins and Thunderbolts. “The Deep End” (#21-25) covers the Wolverine: Origins issues, which act as a stand-alone precursor to Deadpool’s own series. The story is classically simple: Deadpool tries to kill Wolverine. When two powerful combatants with incredible healing factors go toe-to-toe, the results are a bloody and entertaining mess of a fight, that somehow lasts five issues.
Despite my hatred of Wolverine: Origins‘ art style, the writing and story are surprisingly great. I especially enjoyed the twist at the end that it was Logan that hired Deadpool to take him out, only to draw his son Daken into the fight. Daken is a ridiculously awful character, and a big reason that Wolverine: Origins has become a slog, but thankfully he plays only a minor role at the end. The remarks between Logan and Wade are pure fun, and the action is gorey but silly in true Deadpool fashion.
Deadpool begins right in the middle of Marvel mega-event Secret Invasion. The first three issues – “One of Us” (#1-3), are a direct tie-in as Deadpool runs afoul of the invaders at a baseball game. He pretends to defect and allows the gene-splicing aliens to clone him for their army.
It was all part of the plan as the skrull-clones prove just as insane as he is. Without his cancer to keep their healing factor in check, they soon mutate and die on their own, leaving Deadpool to have the last laugh.
It’s a fun romp if a bit overly silly, even by Deadpool‘s standards. I get the need to involve the greater continuity at the time, but it does feel weird to start a new solo book with a tie-in. One of Deadpool’s advantages is that he can go around and do silly little mini-adventures, which thankfully this series quickly transitions into.
“Horror Business” (#4-5) is a weird little tale where our Merc gets hired to rescue an old acquaintances wife from the clutches of a shady plastic surgeon. Turns out the doctor is turning women into flesh-eating zombies. When they capture Deadpool his healing factor could potentially give them an unlimited source of food. Too bad he tastes terrible – a funny and recurring joke that also includes his smell, appearance, and fractured mind state. Oh Deadpool, we love you for your flaws.
The series finally seems to settle in with “How Low Can You Go” (#6-7), another simple two-part story. Tiger Shark is hired to kill Deadpool, and what follows is a pretty standard but very fun series of cat and mouse games and action. The normally lame Tiger Shark is powerful and vicious, and drawn in a big, fun way that reminded me of the anthropomorphic world of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
That story also features the triumphant return of sidekick Bob, former Agent of HYDRA, and one of the best additions toward the end of Cable & Deadpool. It reminded me that I missed the little agency that Deadpool set up toward the end of that series, and how hilariously funny of a foil the cowardly Bob is to Deadpool’s reckless regard for life.
Just when things were settling in, the series felt the need for another crossover story. “Magnum Opus” (#8-9/130-131) directly includes the new and updated Thunderbolts series. After his rise to power from Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn restructured the old Thunderbolts team into his own personal hit squad (full of Z-listers, which he jokes about).
At the end of Deadpool’s Secret Invasion story, we learned that that he was actually working for Nick Fury. Norman Osborn intercepted the information Wade gets, allowing him to kill Queen Veranke and become the hero. Wade finds out and is none-to-pleased, and assaults the now-Dark Avengers tower to take Osborn to task.
Osborn responds by siccing the Thunderbolts on him, and what follows is a fun series of giant battles where Deadpool proves to be a match for them. He also falls for the team’s leader, a new Black Widow assassin, in the only real eye-rolling moment I had in the whole book. Fellow mercenary and frequent random guest star Taksmaster is brought on to masquerade as another Deadpool and throw the Thunderbolts’ plans into chaos. Despite the Thunderbolts issues having a completely different creative team, the crossover ends up working quite well, as each issue flows into each other to create a cohesive and exciting tale.
Team fights can be fun, but I still love Deadpool best when his stories involve one-on-one battles with equally witty opponents. Apparently Daniel Way felt the same way, as “Bullseye” (#10-12) sends Osborn’s titular lapdog after him. Bullseye, wearing Hawkeye’s old costume and acting as a Dark Avenger, is a brilliant and fun opponent for Wade to battle. Bullseye was an enjoyably sadistic part of the old Thunderbolts crew, and his sadism transitions well as he trades barbs and blows with Wade.
Things get delightfully absurd as we’re treated to brief flashes of Deadpool’s and Bullseye’s childhood classrooms, and our two fighters bond over their violent and insane attitudes. In the end Deadpool gets the better of him, and Bullseye responds by paying him off. The two laugh about their horribly vicious exploits and leave on good terms – a funny twist that I really enjoyed.
Deadpool is just fun as hell. Daniel Way captures his insanity perfectly, and translates it to no less than three or four differently-structured thought bubbles that Wade argues and debates with. All the fight scenes are visceral while still being light-hearted and fun, and the balance between good-absurdity and bad-stupid is towed pretty well. I wish Bob had a bigger role and hope we get to see more of him. I also hope that future Deadpool issues come into their own rather than rely on other events, on-going storylines, and series as much as this initial Collection did. Admittedly it turned out quite well, and cemented my love for the Merc with a Mouth.