As I may have mentioned once or twice, I have long been a fan of the tortured superheroes (Batman being the obvious choice here) and the antiheroes. One of the very first comics that I ever picked up featured a Deadpool/Spiderman team-up and I instantly fell in love. With Deadpool, that is. He is the quintessential anti-hero: a frankly terrible excuse for human being who’s inclined to be selfish and violent yet somehow, every once in awhile, ends up being on the side of good. And occasionally, he even has his heart in the right place even as he totally screws everything up. It’s just the Deadpool circle of life. It’s been at least a decade since I first dived into the world of Deadpool but given that the universe (and Ryan Reynolds) has FINALLY given us the Deadpool movie that we deserve, I thought it was the perfect time to look at the Merc with the Mouth himself in Graphic Reviews. So this week I’m taking a look at the recent (2014-15) Deadpool run, written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn and illustrated by a number of talented artists including Tony Moore, Scott Koblish, Mike Hawthorne, Val Staples and Salva Espin (among others). This run had 44 issues which has been gathered into eight volumes, which I’ll be condensing into a semi-coherent, love-filled rant.
Given that the story stretches over eight volumes, Duggan, Posehn and company put Deadpool through the wringer over and over again over the course of it. And they start off with a bang with the most patriotic of resurrections! In an attempt to bring the country back to the glory that it used to be, a misguided necromancer attempts to bring all the former (dead) presidents back to life. Of course, this does not go even remotely according to plan. Given that S.H.I.E.L.D. cannot have Captain American decapitating U.S. presidents on live television, they finally resort to hiring Deadpool to do their dirty work for them.
If you want a hint of the insanity of just the first two volumes, check this out. Literally all of this happens in just those volumes.
And this is just the beginning! Deadpool’s past of course comes back to haunt him even after he puts the presidents to rest and he must decide between the family he’s built around him and the violent chaos and mayhem that has been his life since becoming part of the Weapon X program. The series ultimately comes back to the quintessential Deadpool question: can his good intentions prevent him from walking down that well-paved road to hell? And can he stop himself from taking everyone down with him?
What makes Deadpool so fantastic as a character is that he’s someone who constantly burns down his own life, without ever really trying to. It’s like watching Harley Quinn and the Joker. They try so hard to do the right thing and yet the chaos of their past keeps pulling them back in. Posehn and Duggan do an absolutely fantastic job making Deadpool as fourth-wall-breaking, irreverent and darkly humorous as ever. In fact, I think this Deadpool run made me laugh more than any series ever has. And at the same time, some of these volumes are heartbreaking. Deadpool’s been through a lot of terrible things in his life and many of them are not (directly) his fault. Posehn and Duggan make you hurt for Deadpool even as you’re laughing at his antics.
Story-wise, Posehn and Duggan generally keep the story from going off the rails (rather difficult for the insane things that happen in your typical Deadpool storyline) but while it has a very strong start in the first four issues, it starts to get a little strange once it gets to Deadpool’s wedding in the fifth volume. At no point was the story un-readable but I have to admit that I definitely enjoyed the first half more than the second. Given that this was the last Deadpool run before the Marvel reboot, Posehn and Duggan of course have to end it with a bang and it’s one you won’t forget anytime soon. Overall, Posehn and Duggan deserve a lot of praise for their excellent handling of everyone’s favorite Merc.
Deadpool isn’t a hero (?) for everyone. He’s foul-mouthed, irreverent, sarcastic and really kind of a selfish jerk when it comes right down to it. But the core of Deadpool is that he’s always been loveable despite his flaws. He works as an anti-hero because as a reader you want him to succeed despite the almost zero chance of him actually pulling it off. And no matter how many people he hurts, you can’t help but identify with his confusion and fluid morality. The dark humor of the series is a facet that has always drawn me in and the fourth-wall breaking and pop culture references are so skillfully done by Duggan and Posehn that I couldn’t help cheering out loud a few times. If you’re a Deadpool fan, this is a must-read series! Now excuse me while I go drool over the trailers until I finally get to see my favorite Merc with a Mouth on the big screen tomorrow!