Is this the Deadpool we need or the Deadpool we deserve? Amid the wise-cracking and wanton murder, Deadpool: Secret Empire deals with a number of serious issues that seem out of place for the casual Deadpool-ite. Even for those who have followed the Merc with the Mouth for some time, this collection feels like a drastic change of course. Recently, Deadpool has dealt with discovering a daughter he knew nothing about, a platonic relationship with Preston in her Life-Model Decoy body, and his place amongst the top-tier superheroes, including a stint as an actual Avenger. Want to see how all of that can be undone in less than 100 pages?
One of the successes of this collection is the coloration of the flashback panels. Flipping to a black/white/red tone palette separates these scenes and gives them an unexpected vibrancy. Another success is the development of Ellie as her own person and an inheritor of Deadpool’s attitude. And, that pretty much ends what I feel are the real successes of this series in Deadpool’s existence in the Marvel Universe. The rest…well, I’m not even sure I get where it either comes from or is going. Let’s get into some spoilery territory here while we dissect Deadpool.
First, Deadpool is an Avenger thanks to Old Steve. He promises to, essentially, take Wolverine’s place as the go-to wet-works guy of the team. He takes Cap’s orders at face value and does what he is asked without question. In any other circumstance, I don’t buy this, but it’s Cap doing the asking. What beggared belief was the execution of Phil Coulson. We’ve already gone through this with Phil in the MCU at the hands of a villain. It isn’t harder when a hero does the deed, it’s more puzzling. Why would Deadpool hunt down and kill Coulson?
Meanwhile, Hydra marches on and Deadpool plays the dutiful soldier. Is he looking for a way out? No, not really. He simply brings in Z-team heroes and villains while ostensibly on the lookout for Maria Hill. Wheeeeeeeee. The mustachioed Cobra-Commander wannabe who berates Wade on a regular basis is a poor substitute for anyone with actual authority. The actual worst part of this series is the fight between Preston and ‘Pool after she is attacked by Hydra agents and discovers who really iced Coulson. I don’t understand. I just don’t. If there is an ending to this that makes any logical sense, there is no sense of foreshadowing. It’s just Wade Wilson burning everything, every shred of good will, to the ground.
While I’m not giving up on Deadpool, writer Gerry Duggan has really pushed me to my limit with this multi-issue collection. Deadpool has no positive influence on anything in Secret Empire, but also doesn’t fully complete the heel turn that his actions suggest. He’s not a hero, he’s not a villain. He’s just a guy who can’t be killed and that’s just sad.