While I was putting together that really long post about Deadpool a couple weeks ago, the one in which I was trying read my way towards an explanation as to why the character was so incredibly popular all of a sudden, I looked to see what Deadpool trades were available at the library.
None, it turned out.
Oh, they had three trades featuring Deadpool in some capacity, but no collections of the series, which seemed rather odd. A quick search on Amazon reveals plenty of trades to choose from, with more coming up in the next few months. Maybe Columbus just doesn’t have many Deadpool fans around? At least not any that bug their local libraries to order trades for them?
Of the three they had, there was Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 16: Deadpool, in which Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley introduced the Ultimate Deadpool in a not-very-interesting story pitting him against Spider-Man and the X-Men, Wolverine/Deadpool: Weapon X, Frank Tieri and Sean Chen’s comics featuring the pair, and, finally, Wolverine Origins: Deadpool.
That’s the one I remember Tucker Stone speaking fairly highly of at the time it was being released in serial comic book format, so I took it out to give it a looksee.
It’s actually two story arcs. The first, “The Deep End,” is by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon, and it is fantastic. It’s followed by a two-issue story arc entitled “Son of an X” by Way and artist Stephen Segovia and tells the origin of Daken, Wolverine’s son with bad hair and worse tattoos.
The second story is no damn good, and its presence kind of ruins the whole book. But that first story? The first issue/chapter begins with Wolverine finding a bomb stuffed into a roast duck in the Chinese restaurant he’s eating at, and ends with someone dropping a piano on the ol’ Canucklehead’s head.
Deadpool’s attempts to kill Wolverine seesaw between typical for such comics high-tech, sci fi weaponry and things he saw in a Warner Brothers cartoon. Way’s not the first writer to play Deadpool as some sort of Loony Tunes character—Buddy Scalera put him in the position of Wile E. Coyote in Deadpool #56—but Way certainly does a good job of it.
Both Deadpool and Wolverine have healing factors that make them impervious to any mortal harm, so, not unlike cartoon characters, they heal after each explosion they’re caught in, and come back for more punishment.
Way also frequently lets us inside Deadpool’s head, and it’s clear he sees the conflict as something out of a cartoon, with Wolverine appearing in his mind’s eyes as a skinny guy in a baggy costume with sporks for claws and, later, as a rabbit in a Wolverine costume.
Then there’s the simple fact that the story is, like a Roadrunner or Tom and Jerry cartoon, almost completely devoted to traps and combat. What little story there is doesn’t intrude into the narrative until about halfway through the fourth issue of a five-issue story arc.
The rest of the story? It’s just Deadpool subjecting Wolverine to one deadly trap after another, forcing him to run a gauntlet of meticulously orchestrated violence until he finally “kills” him and takes the already-healing body to a place that will keep him dead (I’m a little lost on the science of killing Wolverine at this point, but Deadpool’s plan is to keep him chained underwater indefinitely—if you left Wolverine underwater like that for ten years, would he come back to life once he could breathe again?)
That probably doesn’t sound all that appealing, and I would have been horribly frustrated with the story if I was reading it in 22-page installments over the course of five months, but it’s enormous fun in one big, chunk like this—a perfectly accessible, super-straightforward action comic that plays to both of its leads’ strengths with just enough eleventh hour plot revelation to justify all the slapstick violence that precedes it as a necessary part of the story.
That story? Well, it’s more of whatever the hell’s going on in Wolverine: Origins, a title that at least in theory sounds interesting, but seems to deal with Wolverine chasing around his three-clawed, mohawk-ed son and an always off-panel wolf man. Characters that hadn’t appeared in the first eighty-some pages of the story simply walk onto the scene at the climax of “Deep End,” and I’m not sure how one even makes sense of them without having read previous collected volumes (I read enough Marvel promotional material that I have a general sense of what’s going on in the title and who’s who, but if I didn’t I imagine I’d be pretty frustrated with the way it plays out).
The reason the story works as well as it does comes down to the simple fact that Steve Dillon draws it. Dillon draws absolutely perfect comics, and you could take almost all the words out of this thing and still be able to follow the action perfectly well. In fact, most of the good parts come from the drawings, from the perfect clarity with which Dillon renders a character’s expression or stages a transition between two panels.
How good is Steve Dillon? Let’s put it this way. He makes Daken look cool. That is no easy task, since Daken looks like this:
Once “The Deep End” ends, this is the next thing that confronts a reader:
It’s a terrible Greg Land image, in which Wolverine doesn’t look like the Wolverine in the preceding 100 pages, Daken doesn’t look anything like the Daken of the preceding 100 pages and he seems to be missing his third claw.
That’s the awful cover of the first issue of a two-part story drawn by Stephen Segovia, whose art looks so much like Leinil Yu’s I had to check and make certain it wasn’t.
“Son of an X” follows Wolverine as he carries his now-in-a-coma son Daken to a secret military compound only he knows exists, and there he finds some monsters created by mad medical science who want revenge on him. The story flashes back to both Wolverine being a total cock during WWII, when he guarded the compound and made sure none of the interred Japanese human guinea pigs escaped, and to Daken’s secret origin. Apparently, he was born with his haircut, as he had it even as a baby.
As I mentioned, it’s not very good, and it is particularly jarring following “The Deep End.” The shift in art style is so drastic that the characters don’t even look like the same people, making it harder still to care about what these two monstrously unlikable guys with claws were up to in their flashbacks. I was sort of rooting for the monsters, but our hero Wolverine kills them all, out of mercy.
If you’re curious about what so many people seem to see in this Deadpool character, this Wolverine: Origins trade isn’t a bad way to go. At $20, it’s probably a pretty expensive curiosity satiate-er—Deadpool #900 is a more economical choice—but it’s definitely worth a borrow from your local library.