Looking back at Joe Kelly's Deadpool run
Relevant trades: Deadpool Classic volumes 1-5
Significance: Many people cite Deadpool as Joe Kelly's greatest work. Indeed during a horrid 90's era when some of Marvel's worst stuff was coming out, Deadpool acted as a bastion of quality among several lackluster titles. It was funny, but dark. Action-packed, but smart. Strangely enough, the book didn't sell very well. Still, it is widely regarded as the phenomena that kick-started Deadpool's enormous popularity. Many die-hard Deadpool fans also argue that it is this run that offers us the most authentic look at the character.
Good: Wade Wilson is a complicated individual. With a terribly scarred appearance, the dude looks like someone went to his face with a football cleat. Needless to say, this mercenary's need for a mask is obvious. Kelly does a marvelous job exploring the many layers of this flawed character without spelling everything out for the reader. In many other big-name books, the supporting characters are more interesting than the bland superhero with his name on the cover. In Deadpool that is never the case. This is the Wade Wilson show and it's all about the entertainment. The Dead Reckoning storyline, which occurs near the end of the run (in issues 23-25), is particularly satisfying.
The art in this series is also quite good. Many people are familiar with the works of Ed McGuinness. This is where he got his start in mainstream comics. Frankly though, I was more impressed with the works of the second artist - Walter Mcdaniel. His work just clicked for me. He had this awesome blend where realism met the more cartoony look of McGuiness' pencils. Case in point, see the work below. Why this guy hasn't gotten more jobs within comics is a mystery to me.
Bad: In short, the villains suck donkey balls. T-Ray, the archenemy of D'Pool in this run, is probably one of the more lackluster villains that I've seen. He's just this big, unimaginative albino that seems to take pleasure in creating pain with his uninspired array of dark magic. While he certainly presents a challenge for D'Pool, their confrontations aren't that engaging.
Typhoid Mary brings a little more to the table, but her psychotic personality just isn't that original. She was much more interesting in the early issues where her personality seemed to jump between different personas. After that, she becomes just another comic book "bad girl."
Longevity: Since it's been a while, one must ask whether the book still reads well by today's standards. I think we've all picked up one or two "classic" stories that were supposedly great reads, only to discover that they were complete snooze-fests by modern standards. Fortunately, I don't think Deadpool falls into that category. I will say that much of the pop culture references are obviously based in the 90's. So if that's a little before your time, you might not see the humor in some these pages. Overall, the overarching story is quite good and provides a satisfying payoff. A great beginning to a well-loved character.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.