5 years ago, Marvel published what is still one of their most popular miniseries: Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, a story that does exactly what it says in the title. Now Deadpool is back for another round of universe killing, but the set up is pointing to something a little different behind the latest bout of murder.
The original Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe series, by Cullen Bunn, Dalibor Talajic, and Lee Loughridge, was a very metatextual affair. After Psycho Man meddled with Wade’s brain in an attempt to turn him into a loyal assassin for him, Deadpool merrily murdered his way around the Marvel Universe, believing himself an agent of free will—having broken the fourth wall enough times to be aware of the endless cycle of comic book continuity, reboots and events and shocking twists and turns one after the other, he thought he’d do the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe a favor by snuffing them out permanently…
And then going after the creators that made them. It’s a very Deadpool-ian premise that, while horrifically gory, has a bit more of a humorous bent than you’d expect for an insanely popular comic book series about murdering Marvel’s biggest icons en masse.
Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic returned to the well this week for Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again—joined by Goran Sudzuka and Miroslav Mrva—but it seems like, so far, this is a much more straight laced and ultimately more tragic affair than the first series. Once again, Deadpool is mindcontrolled (courtesy of a spoken command delivered by MODOK) into murdering his allies, starting with a few offshoots like Gambit and Luke Cage before really beginning by slaughtering his teammates in the Uncanny Avengers, and the premise of it to turn him into a villainous personal assassin is similar as well.
Deadpool goes on creatively killing Marvel’s superheroic roster, like gathering the gods of Asgard and beyond to petrify them with the head of a Gorgon before shattering their stony forms. Yet, Wade Wilson isn’t really enacting vengeance for years of being treated as a brain-addled joke like he was in Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe. This time, he’s actively under the control of another force (revealed at the end of the first issue to be the Red Skull, Magneto, Dr. Doom, and a host of other Marvel villains), and as street level heroes like Jessica Jones and Moon Knight discover investigating the wanton killing, Deadpool himself might be beginning to realise that his actions aren’t really his own either:
There’s still some Deadpool-trademarked zaniness involved, of course, it’s just less on the nose about its metatextual nature—while brainwashed, Deadpool sees the world in candy colors like it’s a retro comic book, and the heroes he’s ruthlessly extinguishing as corny old supervillains. But this also drives the fact that Deadpool’s motivations in this sequel are very different to his ones in the first: they’re not his own, and he only barely realises the horror of what he’s actually doing. This time around, Deadpool isn’t a willing agent of destruction, but a tragic tool that needs help rather than to simply be stopped before he can kill again.
We’re only an issue in, so time will tell how this angle will play out—it could be a red herring before revealing Wade really knew what he was doing all along, bringing us more in line with the Deadpool we saw in the 2012 series. But in and out of the comics in the five years that have passed since Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, Wade Wilson has changed. He’s an Avenger now, not a chaotic neutral mercenary. He’s the star of myriad series, riding high in popularity even more so now, from all the love given to his wildly-successful live-action movie. So instead of the irredeemably brutal killer we saw in Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, Again gives us a brainwashed hero who needs rescuing. So far, it’s making for an interesting commentary on how Marvel sees Deadpool in 2017 compared to how they saw him in 2012.