Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1

Review Deadpool Classic Volume One Fabian Nicieza Rob Liefeld Mark Waid Joe Kelly Joe Madureira Ian Churchill Lee Weeks Ken Lashley Ed McGuinness Circle Chase New Mutants Marvel Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookWriters: Fabian Nicieza, Rob Liefeld, Mark Waid, Joe Kelly
Artists: Rob Liefeld, Joe Madureira, Ian Churchill, Lee Weeks, Ken Lashley, Ed McGuinness
Collects: New Mutants #98, Deadpool: The Circle Chase #1-4, Deadpool (1994) #1-4, Deadpool (1997) #1
Published: Marvel, 2008; $29.99
For whatever reason, Deadpool has come pretty much out of nowhere over the last few years to become one of Marvel’s biggest-selling characters. He’s always had a devoted following, to be sure, but the current Deadpool craze is fairly unprecedented, with the character currently appearing in almost as many comics per month as the likes of Spider-Man and Wolverine. I’m not sure yet where I weigh in on the matter – I find the character interesting, although perhaps not enough to read him in half a dozen comics every month – but either way, in light of Deadpool’s current popularity it seems only fitting to take a look back at where it all began, which is what Marvel’s Deadpool Classic trade series has set out to do.

Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1 begins, fittingly enough, with the character’s first appearance in New Mutants #98 (first published February 1991). As with most things written and/or drawn by Rob Liefeld, to call this issue “subpar” would be a tremendous compliment. Deadpool, in this first incarnation, is vintage Liefeld – a completely unremarkable character with big guns and a whole mess of bulky, impractical “gear” who briefly shows up to attack Cable and his mutant protégés. His role isn’t significant to the series’ ongoing plot at all, but rather a means of biding time while Liefeld and scripter Fabian Nicieza develop a boring subplot featuring Gideon (another Liefeld creation which, along with most of what happened at Marvel in the early 1990s, is best forgotten).

The book jumps a few years ahead from this point to Deadpool: The Circle Chase, a four-issue miniseries from 1993 which revolves around a number of criminals all on a hunt for the will of Mr. Tolliver (an illegal weapons merchant, actually Cable’s son in disguise, who was for some reason or another assumed dead at this point). At times it reads sort of like a “who’s who” of the characters in Marvel’s early-‘90s D-list, which isn’t a plus considering I wasn’t particularly fond of the direction in which even the A-listers were headed at the time. This isn’t helped by the presence of Juggernaut and Black Tom, a duo that quite frankly bores me to tears and who I don’t think I’ve ever been able to take completely seriously.

But unlike in his initial appearance, Deadpool finally starts to show some personality in The Circle Chase, and for that alone I don’t think the series is a total wash. Although he acts like a jerk for most of the time, we’re treated at the end, in his interactions with ex-girlfriend Copycat, to a rare glimpse at the character’s compassionate side. Add to that a fairly competent job on the artwork (for the ‘90s, at least) by Joe Madureira, and I’d rate The Circle Chase as being slightly above average overall, although just barely.

It’s followed in this collection by another Deadpool miniseries from 1994 (called just Deadpool this time, although it was retroactively subtitled Sins of the Past when it was collected in 1997), written by Mark Waid and drawn mostly by Ian Churchill. Juggernaut and Black Tom rear their ugly heads again, unfortunately, but for whatever reason I didn’t mind them as much in this story. Perhaps it’s because Waid is a much better writer than Fabian Nicieza, who wrote both New Mutants #98 and The Circle Chase, but I think it’s also because the second series’ main emphasis is on the ongoing relationship between Deadpool and Siryn (member of X-Force, daughter of Banshee, and niece of Black Tom). Deadpool is infatuated with her from the moment they meet, and Waid creates legitimate tension between them as she first resists his advances and later begins to warm up to him.

Churchill’s art is characterized by his penchant for drawing far more lines than could ever be considered practical, but surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it in this series. Linework aside, his figures are well-proportioned (other than Juggernaut, obviously, who looks just as massively over-the-top as he should) and he does some interesting things in terms of panel composition. Lee Weeks does a nice-looking flashback sequence in the second issue, and Ken Lashley takes over for Churchill for a few pages in issues three and four. In the latter, curiously, Lashley draws five pages right in the middle of an action sequence – these are some of the only pages in the series to show Deadpool unmasked, and my guess is that someone in editorial felt Churchill’s version of Deadpool’s face (seen briefly in the first issue) was a bit too grotesque to be revisited. I’m curious as to whether Churchill ever drew these pages before it was decided that Lashley would do the final versions; if so, I think they would be really interesting to see.

Deadpool made a number of appearances in the pages of X-Force before and after his two miniseries, none of which are collected here. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing – I’ve never read them, and I suspect they weren’t very good – but a page or two explaining the events that take place in those issues would have been appreciated. As it is, I’m left slightly confused by the collection’s final story, the premiere issue of Deadpool’s first ongoing series from 1997. Published three years after the Mark Waid miniseries, it makes vague references to developments in the Deadpool/Siryn relationship that took place during the time between – something I would have preferred to read about rather than the issue’s actual story, which involves Deadpool fighting Sasquatch in the wastes of Antarctica. It’s not bad, I guess, but it’s obvious that Marvel only included it in this collection to entice readers to buy the second volume of Deadpool Classic, which continues with the second issue of Deadpool’s ongoing series.

Although there are some good stories in this book, the disparity of quality throughout, as well as the exclusion of a number of stories that probably should have been included (or at least explained), makes it difficult for me to recommend it wholeheartedly at the price Marvel is asking. Ideally, the first volume in a series called “Deadpool Classic” would bring readers totally up to speed on the character’s early history, but instead it leaves bothersome gaps that readers will have to fill by other means (either by tracking down the issues or waiting to see if they’ll be collected separately) to get the full picture. If you’re a fan of Deadpool and you really want to see how he got his start, then give this a shot, I suppose – just don’t expect the same level of polish the character’s numerous titles receive today.

Rating: 3 out of 5


  1. So I posted a comment but I guess it didn't take. Anywho, great review Marc, I'm a big Deadpool fan as you know and this seemed more like a collection of his early stories thrown together without any cohesiveness, and I kinda expected lower than a three to be honest. Either way great job summing it up for us and once again great review. I'm also wondering where all this Deadpool fandom came from as well!

  2. Thanks, JT. Maybe a three was overrating it, I'm not sure...but the way I see it, a 2.5 is dead average and I thought the Waid-written miniseries pushed it just above that. Anyway, cohesiveness shouldn't be an issue after this point since the next two volumes just collect the 1997 ongoing series by Joe Kelly - although it's kind of lame that in order to get the full story, Marvel is forcing readers to buy the first volume for the beginning of that story.

  3. That sadly doesn't surprise me though. Sucks that you gotta buy two volumes for what should rightly be one. The second volume does sound good though, since it's Kelly's series which I liked although I haven't read most of it, but what I have read I did enjoy. You plan on reviewing the next two volumes?

  4. Maybe, although it probably wouldn't be for a while (if it ever happens). I haven't read the early issues of the 1997 series either -- I started reading Deadpool when Frank Tieri came on the book in the early 2000s, and I followed it up until its cancellation not too long thereafter.

    I'm just not sure the early issues are really for me. One thing I didn't like about the first issue was the presence of so many off-the-wall characters other than Deadpool. I think his stories work best when he's the only truly crazy one...weirdos like Weasel and Blind Al just sort of dilute the Deadpool experience for me.

  5. Thanks for hitting this Marc, I've been wondering about it. I feel like it can wait for me. Developments of late have made me feel like I can ignore the lesser aspects of the 90s for a little bit when I have so much more interesting stuff to catch up on.

    I'm a bit of a Marvel noob, compared to DC, though - is the rest of the Deadpool stuff worth examining? Some particular collected arc that is absolutely essential?

  6. Well, I haven't read Joe Kelly's work on Deadpool, which is probably the most highly regarded creative run on the character. It ran for 33 issues starting in 1997, half of which have been collected in the three Deadpool Classic trades so far.

    I started reading Deadpool a few years after that with issue 57, which was written by Frank Tieri and followed up on what Tieri had been doing in the pages of Wolverine. His run on Wolverine with penciler Sean Chen is the single best Wolverine story I've ever read (and I've read quite a few), and his work on Deadpool was very good as well.

    Sadly, Tieri's Wolverine and Deadpool issues have only been partially collected, and even those trades have been out of print for the better part of a decade now. And although I love the story, I don't think they're not worth getting even if you can find them -- they collect the story completely out of order. Marvel has recently brought back some of the characters Tieri introduced in those issues, though, which gives me hope that they may publish new collections of that material.

    The only other Deadpool creative run I've read in its entirety was Gail Simone's, which came directly after Tieri. It was similarly brief (the book was canceled due to low sales -- it wasn't so long ago that Deadpool couldn't maintain a single monthly book, much less five!) but it was very good, and has unfortunately never been collected. It introduced a number of characters (like Outlaw, for example) who continue to play an important role in Deadpool comics today, and it also spawned a surprisingly good Taskmaster miniseries (also uncollected, of course).

    So there you have it...a handful of Deadpool comics, mostly uncollected, that I think would be far more worthy of the name "Deadpool Classic" than this particular collection!

  7. I think the recent DP craze has been due to the characters portrayal in the recent Wolverine movie(whatever it was called, I didn't see it actually!). Anywho, great review as always Marc. You know I love reading your work.

    I've got all of these books, including the full X-Force series, plus all of the DP series from the 90's and Cable/Deadpool from the 2000's(which is why I'm going to ignore that Fabian Nicieza shot! :P) It's funny how a character who seemed like a total throwaway in NM #98 transformed into one of the biggest names in comics... The Joe Kelly run really WAS the defining run for the character as you said, except for his big Wade Wilson reveal... I won't get into it unless you ask, but yeah, it was ugly...

  8. I actually think Nicieza is a decent writer, but he wasn't exactly at the peak of his abilities in the early '90s...not to mention the fact that he wasn't even really coming up with the ideas for New Mutants, he was just doing scripts based on Liefeld's plots. His writing in this book just felt very "work-for-hire" to me, if that makes sense -- not bad necessarily, but it didn't seem like he was trying all that hard.

    I've heard good things about Cable/Deadpool, and that series should be fully collected by the end of the year (it was already collected in eight or so normal-sized trades, but some of those are out of print -- now they're re-collecting it in three massive "Ultimate Edition" paperbacks). I may check those out once the final book has been published, which I think should be sometime this fall. I'll probably read the Joe Kelly run at some point too, once I've had time to fully digest all the Deadpool I read so I could do this review!

  9. That's a shame about the good work being collected so haphazardly. Is that common with marvel books? I don't read floppies at all these days, so it's pretty hard for me to tell if stuff is horribly collected.

  10. I don't read single issues anymore either -- but since I did back then, I'm pretty familiar with what has and hasn't been collected from that era (and in this case, I'm also familiar with what's been collected poorly!). Those Wolverine and Deadpool trades were done at the infancy of Marvel's current collected edition program, and fortunately that kind of thing is extremely uncommon now.

    Those collections were also done right before the start of Marvel's "let's collect every single thing we publish from this point forward" mentality, which has been going strong ever since. I'd say the majority of Marvel comics released since 2001 have been collected in one form or another, although how long those collections stay in print is another thing entirely.

    DC is actually the company that's regularly guilty, even today, of producing collections that leave out important issues; the current series of Booster Gold trades is one example. Sometimes the skipped issues are collected in a future trade, and sometimes they're not -- either way it can be extremely confusing, especially since DC's comics in general tend to be a lot more continuity-heavy than Marvel's.

  11. Yeah, that's why I asked. I KNOW it's common in DC books. Terrible. Though they, too, have gotten a LOT better about it.

  12. I pretty much grew up on Fabian's(and Scott Lobdell's)X-run, so I guess I'll always have the warm fuzzies for them(no matter HOW bad things actually were storywise!). I definitely don't blame you for taking a little bit of a DP breather though Marc... Sometimes too much Deadpool is a VERY bad thing!

  13. Yeah, I'll admit to having a bit of nostalgia for that era of the X-Men as well -- X-Men #1 was one of the first comics I ever owned, after all! I think my feelings probably have more to do with the art by great pencilers like Jim Lee than with the quality of the writing, which was never as good after Claremont was driven off the titles. Still, I do think Lobdell was pretty good for being a relatively novice writer at the time. I enjoyed his brief return to the X-books in 2001 as well.