Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, Again #1
Marvel Comics, July 2017
Writer: Cullen Bunn
In 2012, American superhero comic publisher Marvel Comics released a non-canonical comic book miniseries titled “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe.” We use the term “non-canonical” because that is the American superhero genre’s term for stories which fall outside its regularly continuity. But there is also something satirical in this: “canon” usually refers to a religious text, and while we know many superhero comic fans engage in zealotry, we have always thought the term overstepped the mark.
In any event, the original title featured the mentally unstable mutant antihero Deadpool unwillingly subjected to hypnosis in order to bring him under the control of a villain. But the hypnosis succeeded in making the character realize the true nature of his existence as a fictional comic book character. This sort of existential epiphany underpinned Grant Morrison’s “Animal Man” (DC Comics, 1988-1990) and has been briefly explored in other titles (notably Warren Ellis’ “Planetary” (Wildstorm/DC Comics, 1998-2009), in which the multiiverse is revealed to be a stacked arrangement of “flat informational stacked planes” – the pages of a comic). Thus enlightened, Deadpool decides to kill the rest of the heroes and villains in Marvel comics as a way of “freeing” his friends from the endless cycles of trial and tribulation imposed by the publication. Deadpool then goes after the “real world” comic book staff at Marvel Comics.
“Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, Again” may seem like it is trying to bleed the concept dry, especially as there have been other titles featuring other characters each invoking the “….Kills the Marvel Universe” concept. Once again Deadpool goes around killing his superhero colleagues, and once again it is the result of hypnosis. The difference this time around is that writer Cullen Bunn has foregone the metafictional elements that so heavily dominated the original. Deadpool’s trademark irreverent humor is still present, but there is no breaking of the fourth-wall. In a sense, “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, Again” has a plot structure which is leaner than the original title, and is all the better for it.
In the new story, a cadre of villains consisting of prominent Marvel Comics antagonists such as Magneto, Red Skull, Doctor Doom, MODOK, and others have come across a phrase (“tirelessly, I pondered, what daydreams a carcinogenic piranha might revere.”) that serves as a posthypnotic trigger for Deadpool, allowing any one who says the word to influence Deadpool’s actions. And so the villains use it as a means to sic Deadpool on other heroes, starting with his teammates in the superhero ensemble called the Uncanny Avengers.
A unique twist this time around is that Deadpool is not completely unaware of the hypnosis and is actively trying to fight it – in one scene, he left a plea of help to a group of heroes tracking him down (consisting of superheroes the Punisher, Jessica Jones, Moon Knight, Misty Knight, and Cable), before making his way towards his next target. Deadpool shows a lot of forethought when undertaking his missions, at one point even assassinating a group of low-ranking deities and using them to lure powerful gods like Thor and Hercules. Deadpool then disposes all of these gods in one swoop using Medusa’s severed head (Medusa is the mythological snake-headed creature from Greek legend, whose gaze can turn any living thing, including gods, into stone.)
The presence of the superhero group tracking him down also adds texture to the narrative. As opposed to Deadpool going from target to target and killing heroes at random, the plot is interspersed with scenes of the trackers trying to make sense of things and preparing to take down their former ally. The time-traveling mutant Cable’s participation also creates some pathos, in the sense that Cable accepts that his inability to use his awareness of the future in order to predict Deadpool’s movements could only mean that Cable will not survive.
Deadpool’s point of view is also given much more importance this time around. His awareness to what is going on coupled with his resistance to the commands has resulted in the creation of a fantasy reality inside his mind. This is rendered in bright, cartoony visuals as he receives “special” missions from caricatured versions of heroes like Captain America and Nick Fury. But Deadpool’s targets are depicted as horrible, malformed versions of themselves. It is a way for the unwilling killer to make sense of things or justify his actions to himself.
Based on how all of Marvel Comics’ “…Kills the Marvel Universe” titles end, the suspense in “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, Again” is not reliant on guessing whether Deadpool will be stopped or who is going to survive. Adhering to canon in Marvel’s publisher-wide shared continuity is not an issue. The title itself communicates to readers what is waiting at the end. The meat and bones of this comic is in seeing how things unfold. To our surprise, we recommend this comic to readers who want an engrossing read, particularly those who are fans of the Deadpool character and his ultraviolent, cynical take on superheroics.