A review of the Deadpool Omnibus, by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness
This is a strangely warped yet complex story about superheroes, mental illness, guns, love, bad guys, unreliable narrators, confused beginnings, miscommunications, looking on the absurdity of life, laughing at it all, and keeping on trying. I loved it.
A confession. Growing up, I didn’t read comics. I read fast, I read a lot, I didn’t have much pocket money, and in the 1980s and 1990s there weren’t many graphic novels in public libraries. Comics were something I couldn’t afford much of the time, as I got way more enjoyment for my money from paperback books.
Happily for me the big publishers began collecting their comics in massive editions for those who wanted to read the stories… and oh boy, are we in a hero renaissance. (Also, happily adults have a bit more pocket money. These books ain’t cheap!)
Which brings me to a common reaction as an adult comics fan. You read some of this ‘classic’ dialogue and go… really? Seriously? I swear that guy/girl sounds like he/she never had a really good laugh in his entire life. Or a good fart, either.
After too much Pontificating Heroic Dialogue, I find myself wishing someone would just come along and give that guy a good old fashioned underwear pull to the hero taking him or herself waaay too seriously.
Which is why I love Deadpool.
Deadpool is an acquired taste. He breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader. He is insane and seems to have two internal voices. He also fills the need of my inner child to point at that naked Emperor and then laugh his black-and-red Deadpool ass off, before shooting the guards (to maim) and stealing the loot. Deadpool may not be the ‘contrary’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrary_(social_role)_ ) Marvel comics deserves, but he’s definitely one they need.
Joe Kelly’s run on Deadpool is collected into an full-color gorgeous omnibus.* We are hugely lucky to have the same artist (Ed McGuinness) throughout this series, which really makes the characters pop and come to life. I like to think McGuiness has a good balance between cartoon camp, active mayhem, character visualization, and action shots. I like the clean cartoon style without a lot of shading. The back copy assures us ‘Joe Kelly Redefines The Merc With A Mouth’, and it’s not lying. The dialogue pops and sings – this reader never knew just what would come out of that mouth next. This hefty tome contains two annuals, over thirty-five issues, and Baby’s First Deadpool book. Awesome.
We meet Deadpools’s allies: Blind Al (she’s Deadpool’s prisoner), Weasel (Deadpool’s go-to guy for the big kabooms), promotion-hungry LL&L employee Zoe, Patch the fixer and the other mercs at the Hellhouse bar. Deadpool’s adversaries include Bullseye, the ever-nose-bandaged T-ray, Zoe’s boss Culloden, the Lightning Rods, and more.
We also have crossovers with many Marvel luminaries, such as Spiderman, the X-Man Siryn, Daredevil, Typhoid Mary, Wolverine, and (oh-God-I-Can’t-Spoil-It-Because-Amazing).
Deadpool’s arc throughout this book is a classic trope; what does it mean to be heroic? When we meet him, Deadpool has compromised on trying out this hero gig by no longer killing people. Thankfully, he’s never stopped the jokes or cracking wise. He meets a strange woman (Zoe) who tells him that he has been chosen to stop certain apocalypse on Earth. She works for a corrupt boss with shadowy motives, and has a skinless coworker guy who can see the future. Which is how they know they need Deadpool. He declines, and the story is off and running.
Around this Kelly illustrates how Deadpool copes with… simply being Deadpool. He’s got a variant of Wolverine’s healing factor, and he dies a lot – and comes back to life, head all jumbly. His face is covered in cracks and scars. He has a holographic projector that can make him look like anyone, but he can’t settle on how he wants to appear. He can teleport through space but doesn’t really seem comfortable anywhere, even at home.
The holes in his memory and his strange compulsions are mirrored in the strange and decrepit house he calls home. He keeps Blind Al prisoner there, and we have no idea how long she’s called Castle Deadpool home. Sometimes Deadpool will torment Blind Al with near-freedom, and then she’ll fold his laundry and spike his food with laxatives. Deadpool loves to hate it and continue sparring with her. It seems Deadpool’s insanity and Blind Al’s insistence on repaying a debt (to whom?) keeps her sane. It’s an odd sort of family, but it works somehow. Deadpool often walks the line between despair and hope, as well as bleakness and slapstick black comedy. Anyone who has lived with someone with a mental illness can relate to the sane people trying to maintain relationships with him.
Unfortunately, the holes in Deadpool’s memory make us doubt if some of what we’ve seen him narrate really happened? This may annoy some readers. We do discover the story behind the name Deadpool, however, and it’s hella fun. (I don’t want to spoil it. Email me if you’re curious.)
Deadpool often personifies ‘good is not something you are, but something you do’. He often succeeds in spite of himself, and then we get to see him celebrate victories by using his powers for goofy awesome effects. He is thrown into and out of ridiculous situations hilarious of themselves, but made richer with references to other facets of the Marvel Universe. In this volume there is also a Deadpool annual where they wrote a Deadpool story around a 1963 Spiderman comic. This provides a cracked and hilarious perspective on the Spiderman universe. Fortunately the spoofed comic is included in the back of the volume for readers to compare and contrast.
One of my favorite issues is when Deadpool decides he needs enlightenment, and so he seeks out Wolverine and picks a fight, because in Deadpool logic he always learns something new after a fight. Why Wolverine? Well, who else can Deadpool be sure will bounce back from a fight just fine? Hijinks ensue.
And yes, we do get to see what happens when the apocalypse comes, and Deadpool is compared to a classic heroic ideal. When the world is saved we are left with Deadpool’s jaunty quips and wanting more.
No, Deadpool doesn’t give Iron Man a wedgie in these issues.
A girl can always hope, though. 🙂
*Collecting Deadpool (1997) #1-33, #-1 and 0, Daredevil/Deadpool Annual ’97, Deadpool & Death Annual ’98, Baby’s First Deadpool Book; Amazing Spider-Man 1963 #47 and #611, and material from Deadpool (2008) #900