After She-Hulk, my next favorite discovery in Marvel Unlimited is Deadpool, specifically, at least so far, the Deadpool of Cable and Deadpool, which title teams him up with a mutant from the future named Cable, who has a messiah complex. Cable wants to make the world a better place by any means necessary, and he has the power to do it.
So the plot conspires to throw them together, and I get to meet Deadpool, one of Marvel’s weirdest creations. He’s an expert mercenary, a gifted fighter with any weapon who came out of the Weapon-X program, the same one that grafted all that adamantium to Wolverine’s bones. Deadpool got Wolverine’s healing factor, which coexists with a cancer that is trying to kill him, leaving his skin incredibly scarred. Like many Marvel characters, he’s the victim of torture at the hands of evil scientists. (The ratio of evil scientists to good scientists in the Marvel Multiverse is, like, 100:1. Sorry, Mom.) His healing factor means his brain is constantly rebuilding himself, which makes him crazy. Bonkers. Also immune to telepathy.
He never shuts up, which is one of his superpowers, because he annoys the hell out of his opponents. And like my beloved She-Hulk, he breaks the 4th wall. He knows he’s a character in a comic book. His 4th wall breaking is of a different flavor than She-Hulk’s. While the entire She-Hulk comic has in-canon references to comics and comics tropes, and She-Hulk complains about her portrayal in comics written about her, Deadpool seems to know that he is a character in a comic, not that there is a comic about him that coexists with him in canon, but that he himself is a character. Or he’s just bonkers. But like many jesters, he sometimes speaks the truth.
It seems like most of the characters in Marvel’s stable have some sort of tragic back story. Some turn it into heroism, some turn it into villainy, but Deadpool’s reaction to it, to be crazy, is one of my favorite. His life sucks. Without his mask on, he’s pretty physically unattractive to most people, and even with his mask on, he’s annoying and unhinged. He wants to do good, but often he can’t get his brain together enough to figure out what that is. His banter is hilarious, and he makes fun of everyone, but in the hands of his best writers, that comedy is the funny icing on a rather tragic cake.
He’s one of the most interesting characters because the thing that stands in the way of him getting what he wants: mayhem, doing the right thing, friends, is usually himself. His healing factor means he can’t die, which means gross things happen to him. His personality makes him difficult to get along with. He and Cable were an interesting partnership because Deadpool, in his weird way, believed in what Cable was doing, and Cable liked to be believed in. Cable was a king in need of a hyper-violent court jester, and Deadpool was that jester. Cable, perhaps, saw Deadpool as someone that, if Cable could win Deadpool over, and make him better, make him use his powers for good, then Cable could do that for the whole human race.
Because Deadpool is extremely human, for a super-powered Marvel character. He does terrible things for the right reasons, and good things for the wrong reasons, and blunders around, not knowing what he’s doing, with inconsistent logic, going on flawed instinct more than reason, and annoying everyone while he does it. Doesn’t get much more human than that.
And Cable and Deadpool is funny as hell. I may have undersold that by talking about how much I like the pathos inherent in Deadpool’s story, but it has hilarious juvenile humor, offbeat humor, and intelligent brilliance.
But the character walks a difficult line. He is crazy. He does awful things. He’s cruel to people. He doesn’t always see people as people rather than entertainment. He’s violent and nearly immortal, and when super heroes do have to deal with him, they try to contain him, or point him in a helpful direction. When villains have to deal with him, they usually find that using him is more trouble than it’s worth. Because of that, I think he’s hard to write well. Or, the version that I really liked, the specific balance weirdness and whimsy and humor and violence and pathos and gross-out moments that Fabian Nicieza wrote for Cable and Deadpool is not the balance I find in other titles, and so I don’t enjoy them quite as much. They’re still funny, but missing the underlying reason for the humor that made Nicieza’s series work so well for me.
Comics fandom is challenging that way. Since characters are nearly immortal, the world is so sprawling, and the writers so varied, it can be exciting to see a new writer take on your favorite characters and bring them somewhere unexpected. Or it can be challenging to watch someone take characters in a direction that doesn’t work as well.
Oh well, Deadpool. We’ll always have the little yellow boxes.