Deadpool is the Merc with the Mouth, a lovable psychopath with an unstoppable juggernaut’s whose popularity kind of came out of nowhere. Emerging from Rob Liefeld’s time on New Mutants that truly kicked off the dark age of comics that was the early 90s, Deadpool went from being a ruthless, albeit smart-ass, killer to the comedic powerhouse that he is today. The forthcoming live-action movie has had a similar history when it comes to gaining traction with fans. Chances are that if you asked the mainstream movie-going audience who Wade Wilson was a few years ago, you would have gotten weird looks or may a faint recognition stemming from his role in the reprehensible X-Men Origins: Wolverine and various video game spin-offs. The totally unintentional and not in any way staged leaking of the test footage has brought the character into the public consciousness and that traction is what allowed this movie to be made. Deadpool is the Howard the Duck of the modern age, a weirdly charming and subversive character and if you have only just discovered him here are five comics that you need to read.
As New Mutants was on its last legs, the emergence of Cable would bring with it a character that would forever change the landscape of the Marvel Universe. Deadpool would rise from the ashes of this oft-forgotten X-men spin-off and go on to play a minor antagonistic role in its successor; X-Force. Another victim of the Weapon X project and a long-time rival of Cable and Kane, Deadpool was a new kind of antagonist for a more cynical age. Everything that you would come to love about this character is set-up or hinted at in this one issue, from the yellow dialogue boxes to the witty banter. It’s very much proto-Deadpool, a strange mixture of the Punisher, Wolverine and Spider-man, that is very much of its time, but worth reading for it’s historical importance if nothing else.
Deadpool and his pal Weasel, along with a cast of assorted mercenaries (read as secondary X-men characters) are all on the hunt for the world’s greatest weapon. The catch? They don’t necessarily know what is it and are being targeted by various members of the Weapon X project. This is where we first start to see Deadpool as the Bugs Bunny of comic books and it’s the first to show that there is potentially more to this character than a flare for the theatrics and a love of gore. Funnily enough, this is one of those comics that takes place in a country that no longer exists; Yugoslavia and that’s always an interesting thing to see that reflected in the cultural space.
Dead Reckoning (Deadpool #23-25)
Much of Deadpool’s character development is based around his desire to be seen as a hero without knowing what that truly means.He likes the idea of being a hero, but his methodology doesn’t add up. He still enjoys evisceration and making heads go “boom”, but Deadpool tries to be better, even if he doesn’t always succeed. “Dead Reckonin” is a story about exploring that aspect of us character. For months, Deadpool has been working with the clandestine private espionage outfit of Landau, Luckman, and Lake in preparation for the arrival of a “messiah” who will bring the world “bliss”. Deadpool’s role is to protect that messiah and in doing so become the hero that he do eagerly wants to be. Things don’t go according to plan and although the “messiah” brings about world peace, it comes at the expense of free-will. Ultimately, Deadpool is faced with the choice of allowing world peace to prevail or to sacrafice it all for the sake of free will. It’s a choice even he, himself, is not sure of, but he’s the only one left capable of making that choice. In the end, Deadpool is left in a world which doesn’t remember what he did or sacrificed for them, resigning himself to be whatever the world needs him to be. It’s funny, it’s tragic and it’s essential Deadpool. If you have the time check out all of Joe Kelly’s Deadpool run, it’s the series that made me fall in love with the character and showed me that there was more to comics than just Spider-man and Wolverine.
Have you ever seen that Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-lations”? In it, the crew of DS9 travel back in time to an episode of the original Star Trek series and through subtle uses of green-screen and clever editting interact with Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. If you like that sort of meta-storytelling then this issue is for you. The pitch is that Deadpool accidentally travels back through time and ends up in an earlier issue of The Amazing Spider-man (issue #47 for those interested). After he accidentally knocks out Peter Parker, Deadpool is forced to assume his place in the original story and defeat Kraven the Hunter. The artwork is a loving homage to John Romita, stubtlely recreating the original work panel-by-panel with a dark comedic twist. If you don’t believe me, put the two-side by side and see for yourself. This one-issue story is hilarious, showing Deadpool at his funniest.and more than certainly served as inspiration for last year’s Deadpool’s Secret Wars which wasn’t as good, but is worth your time if you are interested.
Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force
If you want to know why people like Deadpool, but are turned off by the character’s over-saturation and tendency to break the fourth wall, then this is the comic for you. So Wolverine has re-formed X-Force as a black-ops militant wing of the X-Men aimed at tackling the biggest threats to mutant-kind and ending them permanently. It’s first mission? Assassinating long-time X-Men villain; Apocalypse. A necessary evil, no doubt. but the catch here is that Apocalypse has been reborn as a young child, unaware of his true nature. It’s a vicious series that doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to the violence on display and one that gives a unique insight into the darker aspect of some of your favourite characters and Fantomex, who will become a favourite character before long. Deadpool joins the team as a hired gun and in a strange twist of fate, becomes to team’s moral center and its comic relief. He may be despicable, he may be in it for all the wrong reasons, but there are lines even he won’t cross. It’s interesting to see him being welcomed into the fold, but only to the extent he serves as a weapon to be pointed at whoever Wolverine deems unworthy. This is a fantastic series and the ramifications of which are felt in Remender’s later work on Uncanny Avengers which just so happens to currently feature a certain Merc with a Mouth.
Honorable Mentions: “Dead Presidents” because really who doesn’t want to see Deadpool take on zombie versions of former US Presidents. So while we wait for next week’s release, head over to your comic service of choice and check out some the character’s defining moments. Make sure you keep a chimichanga handy.