Introducing the lethal Deadpool!
Everybody’s talking about the Merc with a Mouth. Deadpool’s first film just kicked down Hollywood’s door by laying waste to box office records, so I figured we’d continue my Marvel Firsts journey by breaking from the norm. Usually I revisit the iconic #1s, but hell… Deadpool has had about as many #1s as his film has kills. This time, we’re going all the way back to the very beginning: Deadpool’s very first appearance in New Mutants #98.
New Mutants #98 was plotted and drawn by the 90’s it-boy, Rob Liefeld himself. Together, he and Fabian Nicieza, who scripted this issue, have co-creator credit on Deadpool. In addition to the Liefeld/Nicieza team, this issue has Joe Rosen on letters and S. Buccellato on color duties. New Mutants has the kind of art that Rob has been roasted for these past few years: huge muscles, dramatic poses during casual conversation, crazy weapons, high collars, weird feet, and angry faces all around. I’ve honestly read an issue of New Mutants before this, and while this era of comics doesn’t personally appeal to me, I don’t think this style deserves the constant crap it gets. Not only did Liefeld influence an entire decade with his personal style, it’s clear from the dialogue in this issue that Deadpool was a clever creation from the start. Don’t get me wrong, writers like Joe Kelly, Gail Simone, Daniel Way, and other writers developed him into the character he is today – that’s inarguable. But Deadpool, in both his design and characterization, though he doesn’t get much time in this issue, has the kernels that would later become the character currently dominating movie ticket sales. The art, as wild as it is and as much as it’s the very epitome of what is seen as 90s comics, is dynamic, weird, and fun – kind of like Deadpool himself.
The story starts in the middle of an ongoing plot. Obviously I’m missing 97 issues of backstory here, so hey – I knew going in I’d be a little lost. It starts with Gideon, a white-haired dude with the power of super human enhancement assimilation, fighting off some training bots sent his way while planning his day. We then move, for most of the rest of the issue, to Cable and the New Mutants. Cable is training them in the Danger Room, and it becomes clear through the dialogue that their team’s forces were recently decimated, so they’re all in recovery mode. One of their foes, a Mr. Tolliver, sends an assassin after them to take advantage of their weakened state.
That assassin is named Deadpool.
Deadpool has a brief skirmish with the New Mutants, and he is a force to be reckoned with. He throws out wisecracks the whole time he’s kicking their asses until Domino appears from out of nowhere to knock Deadpool out and then flirt with Cable.
And then? Cable returns Deadpool to Mr. Tolliver via FedEx. I mean, how do you guys ship your enemies?
There is a good amount of fun to be had here, but it’s not only the art that feels dated. That works in Deadpool’s favor, though, because while it’s a little bit of a chore to get through some of these scenes, Deadpool stands head and shoulders above the rest of the characters. Even without much to do here except kick ass and then, in turn, have his own kicked, he is instantly engaging and fun. It’s partly his design, which has a more timeless quality than the others, but it’s also because he’s unpredictable. There is a lot of time here spent with the New Mutants bickering and brooding and talking in accents that are phonetically written out – and then, boom, Deadpool comes in and starts making fun of everyone while beating their heads in.
It’s been twenty-five years since Deadpool’s debut in 1991’s New Mutants #98, and the character is bigger than ever. A lot of things change in comics, that’s for sure. But the big things, the important things, they become legends. And Deadpool? Thanks to Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, and the many brilliant writers and artist who added to Wade Wilson’s legacy, Deadpool isn’t going anywhere.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Family Pets, Robyn Hood, Hellchild), novels (Charmed for HarperCollins), and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). You can find him at local coffee shops, looking over his shoulder to make sure no one saw him shamefully Googling his own name.