Marvel NOW Deadpool, Vol 1: Dead Presidents (2012). Collecting issues #1-6.
Writers: Gerry Duggan & Brian Posehn. Artist: Tony Moore.
It's that time, folks! That wonderful moment where we begin another grand journey, knows as a POP Comics Retrospective. This time around, I've gone for a lighter comic, which will end up breaking our hearts in more ways than we thought possible.
Like so many others, I always though of Deadpool as a fairly flat character. Fourth wall breaks, silly quips, and little more. But, after many, many, MANY requests from a good friend of mine to read this run... everything changed. In 2012, the work Posehn and Duggan did, showed the world exactly how amazing, deep, hilarious, tragic, and broken Deadpool is, as a character. Giving him everything he could ever dream of and so much more, and then... well. You'll have to read on to see how it all ends. So come along, folks; A new journey awaits us!
Issue 1: In Wade We Trust. Some bright spark has decided that the best way to unite America and foster a little unity in this troubled time is to resurrect its greatest Presidents, safe in the knowledge that these legendary figures will guide America back onto its path. Naturally, they immediately start murdering everything in their sight. Because they're freakin zombies. Of course, S.H.I.E.L.D. can't exactly send the Avengers to murder former presidents... so who CAN they send?
Issue 2: We Fought A Zoo. After recovering from getting his brains blown out, and with the assistance of the Ghost of Benjamin Franklin, Wade begins his mission! But where to start... How about the Los Angeles Zoo...where Teddy Roosevelt is currently shooting his way through the exhibits?
Issue 3: Dr Strange Lives (Or How I learned Deadpool Was The Bomb). Clearly, magical fuckery is afoot. So, who do you call, when magic goes sour? Doctor Strange! And while Wade tries to convince him not to be a tool, the Dead Presidents have plans of their own...
Issue 4: The Quick And The Dead And The Really Dead. Armed with his new Dead President Killing Sword, it's time for Deadpool to make some ex-Presidents. But, there are some things you need to do by hand. And it seems, killing Abraham Lincoln is one of them. This is a TERRIBLE idea.
Issue 5: Star Wars: Revenge Of The Gipper. With Lincoln dispatched, Deadpool's next target is Nixon. Who is currently in space... Which would ordinarily seem a bit strange, but is probably the most normal thing that happens this issue. So strap in folks, this issue is quite a ride! Also, there's VERY angry monkeys.
Issue 6: National Maul is one of my favourite pieces of wordplay ever. Things are looking really bad for Deadpool. Like, even by his standards, this is pretty bad. President Washington has sealed himself inside a Death Dome (tm), and is trying to cast some kind of horrific spell, one that I'm guessing won't end well for anyone that currently has a pulse. Of course, the fact that stopping Washington is almost certainly a suicide mission won't stop Deadpool. That's kind of his thing...
And, with one final surprise from his good friends, we wrap up the first utterly bonkers volume of Deadpool! I'm not sure if knowing a lot about American History would make this run better or far worse. But knowing a little bit about it made me laugh a little more than I should. And then, deep beneath the laughter and wise-cracking... Just a hint of something horrible, bubbling away under the surface. Oh yeah. This is going to be good.
I've read a lot of REALLY bizarre first volumes, but I have to say Deadpool Volume 1: Dead Presidents is definitely one of the weirdest I've ever read.
Nothing about this book should work. I'm honestly surprised that when Posehn and Duggan walked into the Marvel offices and said "Hey, we want to write an arc where Deadpool meets some of the greatest, most revered figures in American History, and murders them all horribly. Also, at one point, he fights Abraham Lincoln in a UFC ring." And the people in charge just wrote a big blank cheque and sent them on their way. But I have to say, I'm ENDLESS thankful that they did.
The book should not work. But dear god it does.
The premise of this volume is incredibly simple. A rogue wizard and former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, resurrects a bunch of dead Presidents, because he thinks they'll be able to set the country back on the right track. Of course, these murderous zombies do nothing of the sort, and instead decide to just burn the country down and start again.
Naturally S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rest of America don't really agree with this course of action, so the great and the good rally to take down this undead foe. But there's a problem... Nothing says "Bad optics" like a front page splash of Captain America decapitating a former president with his stars and stripes covered shield... So. When the great and the good aren't up to the job, what do you do?
You find some poor bastard that no one likes, and throw him at the former great heroes, now turned into undead monsters, of course!
Enter, Deadpool. The Marvel Universe's whipping boy. No job too mean, no foe too beloved for the Merc With A Mouth to murder on Primetime television.
Because let's be real, here. Doesn't matter what he does, or who he does it TO, public opinion of Deadpool can't get any lower...
And therein lies the crux of this whole series. Not just Volume 1, but the overarching thread that binds this whole era of Deadpool:
There are some heroes so beloved, that no matter what they do, the public will always be on their side. There are some heroes, that people just LIKE.
And then, there's Deadpool. Who can literally save the planet from an invasion of Lich Presidents, and gets chewed out after for not doing the job fast enough.
Ain't life a bitch?
This volume also introduces Agent Preston. Deadpool's long suffering S.H.I.E.L.D. Liason. When the people at the top realise that they need to 'Pool the Presidents, it's up to Preston to keep him mostly focused on task, until the job is done. She does an admirable job... right up until George Washington snaps her neck like a twig.
It's a pretty brutal scene and seems like a sad end for a potentially very strong character. However, this is Deadpool, where no one suffers like Wade. And thus, the volume comes to a close with Preston recovering from her slight case of deadness, and finding herself in a fancy new body...Wade's. Yup. Preston is now a voice in Deadpool's head. Which is probably a fate worse than death, honestly...
But naturally, that's not the only thing wrong with Wade. A trip to see the vaguely unhelpful Doctor Strange leaves Wade worried... that there's something wrong with him. No, not the usual stuff. Something wrong, even by Wade's freaky standards!
And these two threads, small and unrelated though they seem, are going to form the core of the horror and tragedy that is to come. Oh man, just thinking about what we have in store. It's going to be awesome.
Overall, Deadpool Volume 1: Dead Presidents is a fantastic start to a legendary arc. With enough comedy and gratuitous violence to satisfying even the most bloodthirsty reader, but with a very fun core that makes the peripheral nonsense really work. Then, underneath it all, an ever present current of deep sadness and a vague feeling that life simply isn't fair, when your name happens to be Wade Wilson.
Posehn and Duggan just GET Deadpool, managing to toe the line perfectly between the humour and heartbreak that are the core of his character, always making sure to throw in some dark portents when the scene is getting too comedic, or to throw in a humorous quip or reference to bring a small hint of levity to an otherwise tragic scene.
Then, somehow, Tony Moore manages to forge these disparate worlds together with his art. Making Wade look equal parts monster and clown: horrifically disfigured, but still oddly endearing.
I can't help but imagine the Deadpool team, while writing this book, running around like madmen trying to keep a thousand plates spinning at once. Balancing so many clashing themes and images, and somehow making it all work. It's really quite amazing. And this is only Volume 1...
So, if you want to see how crazy thing are going to get, come back next time for Volume 2: Soul Hunter! First: Flash back to Deadpool's adventures of yesteryear with Iron Man! Then: A demon hires Deadpool to reclaim damned souls! And just in case you didn't think he could get any stranger, Wade gets in touch with his feminine side! Plus: Deadpool targets a man with aquatic powers, and then teams up with your Superior Neighborhood Spider-Man! And we promise he kills one of those two!
If you want to read along, you can find this volume on Comixology, collected volumes on Amazon, or from your Local Comic Shop! Enjoy!