Marvel NOW! Deadpool, Vol 4: Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D. (2012).
Collecting issues #20-25.
Writers: Gerry Duggan & Brian Posehn. Artist: Scott Koblish (#20) & Mike Hawthorne (#21-25)
Okay, is everyone all right? Anyone need a hug? Because last volume, things got ROUGH. A trip down memory lane lead Deadpool, Wolverine, and Captain America to a secret military base somewhere in Korea, where his old pal Butler was busy making chimeras out of unwilling subjects, crossbred with mutant DNA and a Deadpool chaser, to keep them "Healthy". Then things somehow got even worse, when he found out that a lady he barely remembered had given birth to his daughter... and then Butler had killed her, and possibly the daughter as well. Yeah, it was messed up. Wade didn't take it well. I didn't take it well. I'm kinda worried for anyone that DID take it well, honestly. But no one took it harder than Wade, and now he's trying to cope in the only way he knows how: By going to war with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Issue 20: Wakandan Vacation!! Yup, it's another flashback, folks! It seems Deadpool needs a little bit more time to get ready, before this volume can begin. So instead we're diving back into the Pool Pool, to relive a 'Classic' Deadpool adventure. This time around, it's Deadpool's visit to Wakanda, which involves run-ins with a number of cosmic threats, Uatu, and a Cosmic Baby with surprisingly useful waste...
Issue 21: Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D, Part 1. Deadpool pays a visit to Doctor Strange, in an attempt to free Agent Preston from her current imprisonment... inside Deadpool's mind. Meanwhile, Adsit tries to secure an LMD to place her mind in. Only one problem: He's not the first one to make this request! Then, that dick Agent Goreman, not content with refusing to pay Deadpool back in Volume 1, decides to put a hit out on Deadpool... for far more than he was meant to pay him to start.
Issue 22: Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D, Part 2. Deadpool ruins a perfectly good pizza joint while battling an evil LMD, then has to think fast as every lowlife in NYC tries to claim the 10mil bounty on his head! Then, after a surprise meeting with a new friend and S.H.I.E.L.D. LEGEND, Deadpool takes the fight to the real enemy: Ultimatum! (insert Korath the Pursuer "Who?" meme here)
Issue 23: Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D, Part 3. Deadpool takes the fight to Ultimatum and proceeds to spend the entire issue finding new and creative ways to horribly murder everyone that crosses his path. Is it possible, maybe, just a tiny bit, that this current spate of ultra-violence is about more than just getting his money? Nah. Couldn't be...
Issue 24: Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D, Part 4. Vengeance mission "Complete"; there's only one thing left to do. Get Preston back into her own (LMD) body! But, this is Deadpool, so nothing ever goes according to plan... And as a horde of Deadpool Mirrors slowly infest his mind and attempt to stop the transfer, Deadpool has to consider what might really be the problem here.
Issue 25: Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D, Part 5. The transfer is complete and Preston is safely back with her family, and Deadpool is... alone, again. So naturally, he deals with this the way any self-respecting, self-destructive psychopath would: by drinking a lot and then fighting a super-villain. So healthy...
Well, that was a bit easier to get through than last time, wasn't it? I mean, it was still pretty harsh, but not 'Why, why, please save me from this book, oh gods why' harsh. So that's a step up! Anyway, let's dive in and I'll point out all the ways this book was a soul-destroying journey of spiritual agony.
Okay, we'll get the flashback stuff out of the way first, because there isn't a huge amount to discuss. This volume starts off with another 'Classic' tale, Deadpool arrives in 1960s Wakanda with Cable, who promptly abandons him there, because... Deadpool, abandonment issues... you know the deal.
But it seems in the '60s, Wakanda wasn't the hidden, high-tech Afrofuturist utopia we know and love, it was actually a prime holiday destination. So, 'Pool checks in for some much needed R&R, which lasts all of five minutes before he's interrupted by monster attacks, a magic puzzle piece, Uatu the Watcher, and a being calling itself "The Ruler of Earth".
It is an utterly insane tale. Even by Deadpool standards. While attempted to get the missing pieces of this cosmic puzzle, 'Pool accidentally runs afoul of The Mangog, and only manages to stay alive by setting him on Shou-Lao the undying. He then finally gets all the puzzle pieces, only to hatch a creepy cosmic baby, end up on Asgard, and use the babies' poo to power the Golden City.
It's genuinely one of the weirdest things I've read in a LONG time, and I love every single panel. I can't help but imagine a broken Deadpool narrating this, clearly just trying to fill time so he doesn't have to talk about what's actually going on, as the people he's relating the tale too grow more and more exasperated and distressed by the nonsensical nature of the tale. Every inch of the story screams "I'm overcompensating by being wacky, please don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain."
And you'd think it was just a random, standalone tale... but you'd be wrong. It's not AS connected as some of the previous flashbacks have been, but what this tale does is perfectly sets the scene for the story to come. In much the same way that Deadpool's one man war on Ultimatum is just a way for him to work through his feelings, this tale is a classic misdirect, seeding in your mind the idea that when Deadpool is hurting the most, is when he tries to be the zaniest, to cover for himself. Keep that idea in mind, not just this volume, but for the rest of this sad tale. It's going to be fairly important.
Okay, obvious distractions out of the way, we dive into the real arc! Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D. Which is itself something of a distraction, because for the vast majority of the arc he's actually fighting Ultimatum. But I guess it would have been a BIT of a spoiler to put that on the cover, so Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D it is!
This is actually a fairly simple arc: Agent Goreman has roused Deadpool's ire, for the heinous crime of not paying Deadpool for all the murdering he did, back in Volume 1. He also jumps the queue, for Preston made into an LMD and is using it to commit all sorts of dodgy deals, and, strangely, do yard work, all over town. But mostly it's the money thing. Because Deadpool is a merc and will do anything for money... right?
After accidentally revealing his hand a little too soon, Goreman is alerted that Deadpool is on to him, and decides the best way to fix this is to put a huge bounty on his head, and hope that the various ne'er-do-wells of NYC can take 'Pool down, before he comes to collect. This leads to a fairly funny showdown with perennial loser Crossbones, who tries his best to down Deadpool, and ends up getting knocked out and sent into the sky on a runaway hot air balloon.
The first issue wraps up with the reveal of a new ally, for Deadpool and Adsit...
Agent Phil "I'm so good, they made me canon" Coulson. Hell yes!
Brief aside: Phil Coulson is my second favourite character in the MCU. His time on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was beyond badass, and he CARRIED that show, alongside FitzSimmons. It's great to see him finally join the 616. Even if Jason Aaron is currently ruining him in The Avengers.
Leaving most of NYC littered with bodies, including the Preston LMD, Deadpool catches a lift with Coulson, to go to his final destination: The Ultimatum carrier! Yup, Goreman is actually working for terrorist organisation Ultimatum, apparently.
We're then treated to pretty much a whole volume of Deadpool hatefucking a helicarrier full of redshirts.
This is the point you'll probably start to realise that something MIGHT be wrong.
You see, Deadpool loves a bit of violence. This comic has been excessively, borderline gratuitously violent since the very first panel... but Deadpool has never been sadistic. He kills. a LOT. But he does it quickly. He strikes to kill, not to wound or maim. But as he works his way through the helicarrier, the violence and pain inflicted starts to cross a line. You realise that it's really not about what Goreman did to him; that's just an excuse he needed to vent his darkest emotions onto some unwitting terrorists, people he knew no one would care about, so he'd be allowed to treat them as he pleases.
And this is where Posehn and Duggan have a little fun. Because as Deadpool murders his way through the ship, we get to see little snippets of their stories. From the two chemists arguing over the correct handling of Nerve Gas, to the guards who aren't sure which is more dangerous: being a member of Ultimatum, or working on a cruise ship.
It's an interesting glimpse into the seldom seen parts of the Marvel universe. I know the argument "They were just following orders" holds about as much water as a bottomless pasta strainer, but I always like it when writers take the time to point out that 90% of the redshirts that our 'heroes' murder their way through before they get to the super-villain behind it all (who, you'll note, usually ends up getting arrested) are just there for the paycheque and couldn't care less about the contents of the lab they're guarding.
It's the old "Second Deathstar" debate from Mallrats again. Do the tangential workers, those that are just there to do a job, hold as much blame as the real villains? And does injuring or even killing them, make you just as bad as the people you're there to stop?
The answer is usually "Of course not, idiot, we're trying to stop the apocalypse". But it's something to think about, next time you see the Avengers cutting their way through security guards or other nameless workers.
Eventually, Deadpool murders everyone on the Helicarrier, including the carrier itself, and exits before the whole thing crashes into the ocean. Mission complete! The only thing left to do now is put Preston back in her body, and all is right with the world.
There's only one problem: When it's time for Preston to leave, something is messing with the transfer. With the help of Michael the Necromancer and the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, Doctor Strange heads into Deadpool's subconscious, to see what the problem is. And that is a sentence I never though I'd have to write.
Of course, the problem is Deadpool. It seems our boy just isn't ready to let his only friend go. But some soul-searching and a little help from a mysterious black and white version of himself, lets him finally embrace Preston, and let her go. And everyone lived happily ever after.
Wouldn't it be great if that were true?
Sadly, Preston wakes from her rebirth to find that Deadpool has beaten a hasty retreat. You know what else he's beaten? Crossbones. Savagely, out in the middle of the street. After having a polite drink with him in a small bar, Deadpool and Crossbones decide to have one final showdown. It does not end well for Mr Rumlow. It doesn't end THAT well for Deadpool, either, who finally realises that he might be angry about something other than not being paid, or Crossbones trying to kill him.
It's an interesting and deeply upsetting scene. Deadpool has basically won. He got his revenge, he got his sack full of money and he's standing there with Preston, Adsit, Michael, and Benjamin Franklin. All of whom, I like to think, would be happy to call themselves Deadpool's friends. But sadly, he can't see that. He can't see the people around him are there for him, and so, his only recourse is to leave. To be alone for real, because that's how he feels anyway. It's a classic tale, that I'm sure anyone who has been depressed in the past will understand on an instinctual level.
It doesn't matter how much you "win," it doesn't matter who is there for you. If you're not ready to feel those things, to accept them, then they might as well not exist, because to you, they really don't.
And that's how this volume comes to an end. With Deadpool victorious, but still totally broken, heading off to Europe to be alone for a while. Because somehow, even the funniest volumes of this run are still just big balls of pain with a smiling face painted on top.
Overall, Deadpool Volume 4: Deadpool Vs S.H.I.E.L.D is another fantastic entry into this character defining run. It's not quite as horrific as Volume 3, and features marginally fewer war crimes, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't go out of its way to hurt us.
For everyone uplifting scene, like Deadpool secretly making sure Mama Camacho is looked after, there's a scene to remind you that Deadpool just can't catch a break. The story manages to bounce back and forth from zany to tragic in a way that ensures both emotions land, without watering down the other, and manages to do it multiple times per issues, often per PAGE. And somehow, you're left with the feeling that although things have been bad, so far, the worst is yet to come.
If you want to see how bad it gets, come back next time for Deadpool Volume 5: Wedding of Deadpool! Collecting Deadpool #26-28 & Deadpool Annual #1. The day you never dreamed would come has finally arrived: Deadpool is getting married! But to whom?! Tune in to find out as Deadpool and his mysterious bride tie the knot! And to celebrate this magical occasion, we've rounded up every single writer who ever penned Wade's series to contribute new stories! But when Deadpool and his bride honeymoon in Japan, will married life agree with our mouthy merc? Or will he start doing the "take my wife, please" joke all the time? Plus: another Deadpool flashback tale, as Wade travels to the 1950s to save Nick Fury from the menace of. . .time-traveling Hitler! And Madcap teams up (sort of) with Deadpool to answer the burning question: "Whatever happened to the white caption boxes?" Featuring Thor, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and more!
If you want to read along, you can find this volume on Comixology, collected volumes on Amazon, or from your Local Comic Shop! Enjoy!
Taheg Gloder is a Freelance Copywriter from England. Obsessed with comics and Manga since his teens, he now splits his time between writing comic reviews and retrospectives for POP, and doing reactions on his YouTube Channel, The Dragon & The Hound. He lives alone, because he’s a hermit.