Marvel’s Merc With the Mouth was close to achieving Wolverine-like levels of overexposure in the wake of the publisher realizing what an untapped font of popularity they had after fan reaction to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but some of our newer readers may not know that Deadpool’s origin stretches all the way back to the fun and carefree days of the nineteen hundred and nineties.
Deadpool debuted in the pages of Rob Liefeld’s New Mutants as a mercenary hired to take down Cable and his squad of teenage killers (it really was a different time). And though he failed miserably, you couldn’t keep a good merc down. Fabian Nicieza and Joe Kelly would grab the character and run with him, turning into a wise-cracking, fun-loving, mercenary with a supporting cast that included the likes of milquetoast hacker Weasel, the mystical assassin T-Ray, and hostage Blind Al.
Wait, what? That’s right: good ol’ hilarious, wise-cracking Wade Wilson kept a blind woman hostage in her own house. And while she would generally browbeat and belittle him, if she crossed a line that she herself didn’t know about, he would lock her in a room that was filled with shards of broken glass and other sharp things called The Box. He was also known to lock Weasel in there from time-to-time. I don’t know for sure, but I think Nicieza and Kelley introduced this rather macabre and sinister aspect, as well as his penchant for murder, to remind us that, for all the quips and cracks, Deadpool is a psychotic killer. This is what’s lacking from current incarnations of Wilson.== TEASER ==
Now don’t get me wrong, I love what Daniel Way and Rick Remender have done with the character (the twenty spin-offs I could perhaps do without, but that’s another article for another time), though I find the internal monologue in Way’s rendition a little baffling. It seems to be an attempt to give Deadpool someone to riff on, even if it’s just another voice in his head and it usually works, but it was a little disorienting when I picked up the book for the first time. I kept thinking that Nick Fury was talking to him through a radio, since it was taking place during the Secret Invasion and Deadpool was working with the Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It has yet to be explained, and the other voice tends to be the straight man, but sometimes gets just as crazy as the “yellow” voice. Contrast this against Nicieza’s Cable & Deadpool (now being released as Deadpool & Cable in trade paperback) where Deadpool had Cable to play off of. One specific story arc stood out in my mind.
Cable had raised an island from the ocean and offered anyone who wanted it free asylum, human or mutant or whatever. He called it Providence and, of course, it was soon flooded with refugees from all across the globe. One such person was a known terrorist leader who was still being hunted by the international community, which couldn’t touch Providence. When he was found dead, a massive investigation launched spearheaded by Cable’s good buddy Deadpool, but it turned out that Deadpool himself was the culprit and he was exiled from the island. Deadpool didn’t remember the murder or even why he’d done it, but on reflection came to the realization that he’d killed the man not due to any perceived threat but merely because he'd felt like it. Think about that for a moment: Deadpool killed this person, perhaps deserving and perhaps not, because the idea of doing it entered his mind. This sent him on the path to self-improvement and becoming a true hero, which would span the rest of the series’ run. It was interesting to see Daniel Way reset a lot of this development, only to come back around and have Wilson embark on a very similar quest for validation as a hero.
Then there’s Uncanny X-Force Deadpool who doesn’t get as much time in the spotlight, but since it’s a team book, that fits, where Deadpool seems to have achieved a certain degree of stability and even nobility. Warren Worthington mentions at one point that he’s been giving the mercenary checks, but that they’re never deposited nor cashed, so Deadpool appears to be doing the X-Men’s dirty work out of the goodness of his heart. The notion that he wants to belong is also a very strong theme of that book, such as during the first arc of Uncanny X-Force. Angel and ‘Pool are wounded and Wade essentially carries his teammate to safety, putting himself at great personal risk. When we get a peek inside his head during this, we still see a fractured, near-schitzophrenic internal monologue that seems to imply that his quipping and wisecracking is more of a coping mechanism.
In the end, Deadpool is at his best when he’s going up against his own nature. He’s borderline sociopathic, he has trouble relating to other people, and he makes jokes when he probably shouldn’t, but he wants to be a better person. But even if he achieved that, if he became the hero that he’s aspiring to be, it wouldn’t change the fact that he got there standing on a pile of corpses and that most of those corpses were created for the wrong reasons. Whether or not Deadpool can ever find redemption and peace will be interesting to see, but I definitely think the character deserves better than to just be a constant punchline.