Happy Birthday, Deadpool. Yes, it’s been 25 years since the sarcastic killer made his way onto the Marvel scene and since then he has gone from a lowly Deathstroke rip-off to a bona fide superstar. So then, could this anniversary edition comic do the man justice?
The most important thing to know before diving into this book is that it is not designed to further the plot for the most part, but instead it is meant to be a fun homage to Deadpool. That’s not to say there aren’t some main continuity advancements, there are, but the focus is absolutely on giving fans a tour through the messed up world of the mouthy merc.
So with that in mind, did the vast creative team deliver on the promise of some classic Deadpool fun? For once, yes they did. It is actually a little surprising as this series has thus far been one blighted by a string of lackluster issues and plot choices. That all changed here as the ridiculousness of this character finally shone through with a madcap narrative and something that was desperately needed… good jokes!
The bulk of the story centres around ‘Pool taking a trip down memory lane and righting perceived wrongs by taking revenge against those who have slighted him in any number of hilariously minor ways. One of these also happens to be the book’s best joke as Wade waits in line for a new Harry Potter book only for some guy to speed past shouting spoilers. Of course the only natural course of action is to, several years later, revisit him, break his nose, and shoot him a few times.
There are hints throughout at a major plot development in the form of a memory that Deadpool has previously been unable to get to. After an entertaining trudge through a series of minor memories he finally discovers this truth and this should lead to a very interesting a murky path in his future. This new direction will certainly make this incarnation of ‘Pool much better rounded as a character as he faces sadness and failure aplenty. It should make for a far less superficial title in the near future.
In terms of the actual writing for this main story, it is a lot better than it has been in the past. Gerry Duggan is still in the driver’s seat but he appears to have let his creativity run free in a way that he hasn’t managed up until now. He basks in Deadpool’s insanity instead of trying to ground him and it serves to make a very fitting tribute to the man’s 25 years in print.
The art follows suit as Scott Koblish goes for a more cartoony style than Hawthorne favoured. Everything is exaggerated to some degree and it makes for a more vibrant book that just screams Deadpool. He excels at showing different sides of the same character in various shots as he changes the look and feel of ‘Pool depending on the era and situation. Sometimes you’ll be looking at a 90’s throwback copied to perfection and then you’ll be very noticeably launched back into the modern day. Similarly, Koblish uses line work expertly to show when things are light and fun and when they’re much darker such as in the last panel.
This oversized book does not come with just one story though as each of the ‘Mercs For Money’ receive individual background stories that better explain their motivations and traits ahead of the new Deadpool title that focuses on the Mercenary group they have put together. It has to be said that something like this would have been really useful at the start of this main series since most people would not have been familiar with these relatively minor characters. Still though it is nice to see them more fully fleshed out now even if it is a little late.
Arguably the best of these backup tales is the first one which deal with Terror. Cullen Ben takes point on the writing and is joined by Tyler Crook on art. In just a few short pages they make you feel immense sympathy for the decomposing warrior. He is made to be more than just a zombie looking fella and instead is given a gripping past. Each limb he acquires retains memories for a short time until the flesh rots. When his love died long ago he attached her arm to his body and encased it in metal to retain the memory of her forever. In this tale that gauntlet breaks during a fight and you see him desperately try to cling onto her fast evaporating memory before it disappears completely. It is a surprisingly sad moment and will definitely endear Terror to fans in a way that no one will have thought possible.
Slapstick also has a highly enjoyable little story, written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker. In it he is portrayed as a certifiably insane cartoon character. The grip here is that he is fighting to defend a woman who is forgotten as soon as you look away from her. It makes for some very funny scenes and a brilliant battle sequence with The Taskmaster.
Foolkiller’s story is a little less entertaining as he works towards his psychology qualification. It still has a few good moments but Amy Chu and Emilio Laiso don’t quite deliver as grand a tale as some of the other stories.
Stingray is given a story that shows him to perhaps be the weak link of the team but also depicts him as by far the smartest member. It also explores that little relationship he has going on with the original Captain America. It’s a good story set forth by Tim Seely and Mike Norton which also gives insight into his home life, something that doesn’t get enough attention with regards to most of the other Merc’s.
Masacre, who was introduced in the Spanish language Deadpool comic a month or so back. Gets an origin story here. It doesn’t do an awful lot to inform the character or his motivations but it does show him to be tough as nails and Mexican… what more do you need? The usual artist for Deadpool proper, Mike Hawthorne, both wrote and illustrated this story and it does show him to work best when by himself. Make of that what you will.
The main author, Gerry Duggan, also teams up with Phil Noto to give Solo a story all of his own. It tells of his strained family life brought about a by a lack of money as well as the quite hilarious way that he was recruited by Deadpool. It’s a great read and adds some dimensions to the most boring member of the team.
When all is said and done, this is an excellent way to recognise 25 years of Deadpool. Sure, there is a hefty price tag with this book as it costs $9.99 but, as you will have seen, you get a huge amount for your money. This is a must have for Deadpool fans.
Score: 4 out of 5.
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