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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

X-amining Deadpool #1

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"Hey, It's Deadpool!"
January 1997

In a Nutshell
Deadpool battles Sasquatch and turns down a job from Zoe Culloden

Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciler: Ed McGuinness
Inkers: Nathan Massengill & Norman Lee
Letters: RS/Comicraft/DL
Colors: Chris Lichtner
Enhancement: Digital Chameleon
Editor: Matt Idelson
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

In the Bolivian jungle, Deadpool steals a powerful energy cannon and turns it over to the general of the rebel army who hired him. However, when he is paid in rebel currency that will only have value when the rebels win, Deadpool kills them all and teleports away. The entire scene is watched by Zoe Culloden and Noah Dubois, who believe Deadpool might be the man they need; they decide to test him by arranging a job in Antarctica and making sure Deadpool's handler, Patch, assigns it to him. Arriving in a lab being run by Sasquatch, Deadpool attacks the superhero. Their fight causes the lab's gamma core to go into meltdown, but Deadpool is able to stop the disaster. Later, Zoe and Noah approach Deadpool and explain they need him for a mission with galactic stakes, one which will lead Deadpool to play an important role in creating paradise. Deadpool doubts this very much and turns down the mission, but Zoe remains convinced Deadpool is their man. 

Firsts and Other Notables
After a pair of limited series and consistent guest appearances (and, presumably, fan demand) Deadpool gets his own ongoing series. This is launched as part of Marvel's early '97, post-"Heroes Reborn", push to launch a bunch of new series to replace the "core" books that have been farmed out to Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee's studios (this is the same push that will lead to Maverick and Quicksilver solo series, as well as the launch of Thunderbolts). While this initial series will only last 69 issues (plus an additional 15 as Agent X, part of a revamp that also saw Cable and X-Force get retitled) in which it exists as a cult favorite always flirting with cancellation for the duration of its run, Deadpool will later skyrocket in popularity as a character, reaching a point where he supports his own little sub franchise of titles for a time, something which, effectively, begins here. 

This issue introduces Blind Al, a former intelligence agent  and friend of Deadpool who will serve as a supporting character in the series going forward (and will eventually appear in the later Deadpool films). 

It also introduces the Hellhouse, a hangout of sorts for Deadpool and his fellow mercenaries, where they receive jobs from Patch (no relation to Wolverine's occasional Madripoorian identity). 

Deadpool's associate/tech guy Weasel is on hand as well. 

Zoe Culloden and Noah Dubois, agents of the interdimensional law firm Landau, Luckman, and Lake, appear as well. Zoe last appeared in Uncanny X-Men #332, doing what she does best (being cryptic). The pair attempt to draft Deadpool into a mission, with Zoe believing Deadpool to be critical to its success. Zoe/LLL will continue to play a role in the series going forward.

Deadpool battles former Alpha Flight member Sasquatch.  

The issue concludes with a series of behind-the-scenes notes and sketches. 

Creator Central 
Though not his first published work, this marks the beginning of Joe Kelly's run as a regular writer on an ongoing series, which lead to him becoming a fan and critical favorite for about a half decade (after which he'll move mostly into TV, during which he'll take over Adjectiveless X-Men from Scott Lobdell for a brief run alongside Steven Seagle on Uncanny X-Men

Similarly, this marks the first regular work for penciler Ed McGuiness, who will go on to work on various Hulk and Avengers books at Marvel and Superman for DC, amongst other things. 

A Work in Progress
Right off the bat, we've got Deadpool breaking the fourth wall, to talk about exposition. 

The Reference Section
Deadpool references Marlin Perkins, the host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, a show I'm sure what hot amongst all the teens reading this book at the time. 

Later, he cribs the "pop quiz, hotshot" sequence from Speed.

At the end of the issue, Deadpool tells Zoe that if she needs a hero, he hears Luke Cage is for hire again, a reference to the new Heroes for Hire series launching as part of the same initiative that launched this book.  

Austin's Analysis
While I largely enjoyed "Circle Chase" and, to a lesser extent, his second mini series, Deadpool is a character I most appreciate when he comes in very, very small doses under the right circumstances. Thus, it is with no small amount of trepidation that I have looked to the launch of his solo series, a series which begins a largely unbroken run of the character having one (or more, often more) series on the stands every month (for the record, at this point, I am committing only to reviewing this Deadpool series. And probably Cable and Deadpool. We'll see what the future holds for the rest). For the start, at least, that trepidation seems unfounded. This is a strong first issue, one which marries much of what made the character appealing in those first two minis - a constant stream of mildly-jokey chatter providing commentary which treats the tropes of the genre with mild irreverence married to darkly comic action beats - to the foundational elements any good first issue of a series needs. Here, amidst the chatter and the antics, Joe Kelly sets about building up a supporting cast, establishing some recurring settings, and laying the narrative seeds for potential future stories.

At the same time, by using Sasquatch - a character with a lengthy history and superhero bona fides - as the central antagonist of the first issue, Kelly preserves Deadpool's status as someone operating in that all-too-popular gray area between hero and villain. One could easily read this issue from the other side, so to speak, in which this is the first issue of a Sasquatch series and he is the protagonist fighting to stop the villainous Deadpool. It's a smart way to kick off the series, keeping the character true to his roots while also doing the necessary work to build out an ongoing series. And, of course, Kelly is ably assisted in these efforts by Ed McGuinness who, even at this early point in his career, immediately livens things up. His more cartoon-like style is a perfect fit for Deadpool, making each page exciting to look at it even if what's happening is little more than "Deadpool exchanges gunfire with nameless goons" (and, really, Deadpool's evolution from "Liefeld's attempt to do a kewl Spider-Man with swords" to basically a self-aware PG-13 Looney Tune is driven at least in part by McGuinness' work in this book). The issue looks lush and vibrant, and combined with Kelly neither shying away from the necessary work of a first issue nor twisting the character to fit his newfound status as a leading man, the end result is a surprisingly strong and entertaining read.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the "truth" about Douglock is revealed in Excalibur #105. Next week, X-Man '96!

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  1. I didn't bother with DEADPOOL initially; I had little interest in the character. But a friend of mine did read it, and at some point I read his copy of issue 11 (the issue where he time-travels back to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #47). I couldn't stop laughing. It was one of the funniest comics (if not THE funniest at that time) that I'd ever read. So I started reading DEADPOOL with the issue on the stands at that time, #14. I also went back and filled in the back issue gap not long after.

    From that point up through #25, I thought it was great, and I really enjoyed it. Post-25, after Kelly finished the major arc he had been building since #1, I thought it became a little aimless until he left. I kept reading, though through the rest of Kelly's run and into the runs that followed. I didn't much care for Christopher Priest, because I felt like he abandoned a lot of what Kelly had been doing with the character. Likewise when Jimmy Palmiotti succeeded Priest. The series just didn't feel like it followed from Kelly's stuff. Deadpool reverted to just killing people for money again, and it was like all of Kelly's development was thrown out the window.

    (Part of this was due to the fact that Kelly himself basically jettisoned the orginal supporting cast -- Blind Al, Weasel, etc. -- after issue 25 to go in a new direction of his own, and the subesequent writers continued to not use those characters.)

    It was Frank Tieri's extremely short run that got me invested in the series again, as he revisited several of Kelly's characters and plots. Then Gail Simone came aboard and kept my interest up, and I kept reading the series as AGENT X after it ended, due to to Simone.

    So I did read DEADPOOL all the way through, but mostly out of habit for a long stretch. For my money, it's good for the first 25 issues, decent to sub-par for the next 30 or so, and then it rebounds for its final year (plus all of AGENT X).

    I loved CABLE AND DEADPOOL all the way through, however. Great series, owed in large part to the fact that it's written all the way through by Fabian Nicieza. But my mistake was in continuing to read the newly launched ongoing DEADPOOL after that. Daniel Way was just as bad as Priest and Palmiotti, but this time I knew better than to try to ride things out. I think I dropped that series about a year in when I realized that history was repeating itself and the new writer was completey ignoring everything the prior writer had done, and was (again) reverting the character to an assassin for hire. And I'm just not interested in reading about that kind of character!


  2. I’d only read the Waid miniseries, I think, until other folks at the comics shop where I worked at the time went nuts for #11. A sucker for meta stuff like that, I bought it, although I don’t think I even kept up with reading the series at the store. I recognize the head-shot cover to #12, looking around online, but it could just be one of the issues passed along by a friend who worked for Marvel then that I’ve never actually read.

    Given the love for the Kelly & McGuinness run, I’ll probably read along as possible despite #1 not doing much for me; hell, I finally read Liefeld X-Force when you got there, despite a keen awareness of my own mortality, so…

  3. "While I largely enjoyed "Circle Chase" and, to a lesser extent, his second mini series, Deadpool is a character I most appreciate when he comes in very, very small doses under the right circumstances."

    This. I have always said this. He drove me crazy in the end. Much prefer him as he was in his first appearance. Quiet and deadly.

    Emphasis on the 'quiet'.

    In all seriousness, I genuinely find his constant talking, both to himself, his word balloons and commentary deeply exhausting to read.

    1. Honestly, me too; it's one of the reasons I was reluctant to take this series on. I sometimes think I only get through it by skimming most of his dialogue (which isn't a great approach for reviewing purposes lol).


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