We screamed “Wakanda forever!” from February to April, then lost our minds at the cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War, but Marvel isn’t done with us yet. Deadpool 2 arrives in theaters on Friday, and the advance buzz suggests it’s as gleefully filthy as you’d expect, given, you know, everything about the first one. If you’re reading this, there is an excellent chance you’re going to see it, or perhaps you clicked the wrong link? (Whoops!)
But is just watching Deadpool’s antics onscreen enough? Wade Wilson has nearly 25 years of comic book adventures under his spandex suit. The movies barely scratch the surface.
And that’s the thing: there’s a lot of Deadpool out there. His popularity has waxed and waned over the years, but the last decade in particular, has been a golden age for the red menace, with showers of ongoings, one-shots, and miniseries. It’s a good time to be a Wade Wilson fan, but more than a little intimidating if you’re just looking to dip your toes in. To help you get started, here are eight books and storylines that serve as particularly good entry points to Deadpool’s weird world.
“Sins of the Past” in Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1, by Fabian Nicieza, Joe Kelly, Mark Waid, Rob Liefeld, Joe Madureira
You could start at the very beginning. (That’s a very good place to start.) Created in 1991, Deadpool is one of the more recent Marvel characters to have achieved crossover success, but it was still a long, slow road to transform him into the wacky Wade we see today. In the early going, he was just an especially agile assassin who cracked an occasional joke. Originally sold as a parody/riff on DC’s Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke) the Merc with a Mouth first popped up in an issue of New Mutants from Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld before hopping over to that duo’s X-Force, the book that truly ushered in the ’90s era of superhero comics (big guns, big muscles, shoulder pads, pouches—so many pouches). This omnibus collection includes Deadpool’s first two miniseries. “The Circle Chase,” from co-creator Nicieza and artist Joe Madureira, pits Wade against several other Marvel mercs on a hunt for a mega-powerful weapon. “Sins of the Past” (from Mark Waid and Ian Churchill), sees Wade turn away from outright villainy and decisively steers him toward his career as an anti-hero. The series also gave us our first (sexy) look under the mask.
Deadpool, Vol. 1: Dead Presidents, by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Tony Moore
Writer Gerry Duggan just ended a stretch on Deadpool that began way back in 2013 with “Dead Presidents,” co-written by comedian Brian Posehn (they wrote as a team for more than two years). The opening arc has everything that would characterize DP’s modern era, and also everything you would dream of asking for in a Deadpool book: cartoony violence; wisecracks; and zombie Abraham Lincoln. A necromancer has revived all of America’s former presidents, hoping they can restore the country’s founding spirit. Unfortunately, the ex-presidents aren’t entirely happy with what they’ve seen of the modern world, and collectively decide to burn it all down. Not wanting to involve a reputable hero in putting down Washington and company, S.H.I.E.L.D. calls on Wade. Fortunately, the ghost (not zombie) of Benjamin Franklin (not a president) is on hand to offer advice.
If you like this one, continue with the rest of the Duggan/Posehn run. It’s got a lot of humor, plenty of action, and even some heart. The third storyline, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” is particularly good.
“The Battle for Wade Wilson’s Soul” in Deadpool Classic, Vol. 2, by Joe Kelly, Ed McGuinness, Kevin Lay, and Pete Woods
Deadpool’s first ongoing series began in 1997, with Joe Kelly and EdMcGuinness taking over chief duties. The two were clearly having fun, and introduced the slapstick elements that would become DP’s hallmark. It’s here that we first see Wade regularly breaking the fourth wall to talk to the audience; it’s also here the merc gets a supporting cast fans of the movie will recognize, including Blind Al and Weasel. (The first issue of the series is collected in Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1—so completists will want to check out that one as well. Also, this run only gets better and funnier, so don’t feel bad if you’re compelled to move on to Vol. 3.)
“If Looks Could Kill” in Deadpool & Cable Ultimate Collection—Book 1, by Fabian Nicieza, Patrick Zircher, Mark Brooks, Shane Law
Deadpool (and Cable) co-creator Nicieza teamed with artists Mark Brooks and Patrick Zircher in 2004 for what would become a long-running series bringing the two quintessential ’90s heroes into the new millennium. Once antagonists, D&C become an awkward buddy cop duo here: anti-heroes with tragic pasts who deal with that trauma in very (very) different ways. The contrast between the time-displaced prophet and the smart-mouthed mercenary is pure gold. The first arc finds the pair infected by a virus that ultimately blends their DNA, linking them for the rest of the series.
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Uncanny X-Force, by Rick Remender Jerome Opena, and Leonardo Manco
Rather than headlining, Wade becomes a team player for Rick Remender’s 2010 X-Force reboot. The series sees Wolverine lead a special off-the-books team of mutants who take on morally ambiguous missions that the other X-Men won’t touch. Deadpool is just one part of the ensemble, but he’s well-used as the comic relief in an otherwise very dark book. Given the more serious tone, he also gets some character development that isn’t always present in the sillier solo books. If zany Deadpool is too much for you, the more action-oriented (but still wisecracking) take here might make for a good introduction.
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, by Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic
There’s Deadpool’s typical over-the-top, and then there’s this: using his wits and virtually unlimited healing ability, Wade sets out to take revenge on the heroes who have dismissed and ignored him over the years. By killing everyone in the Marvel Universe. Cullen Bunn and artist Dalibor Talajic go all-in on the characters traditional ultra-violence. This is an alternate version of the Marvel U, which makes this a standalone tale in which anything—and everyone—goes. It’s ridiculous, and probably a bit much—kinda like Deadpool himself.
(If you’re ready to commit, this book and two sequels are collected in Deadpool Classic, Vol. 16: Killogy. The first finds Wade entering worlds of fiction to kill everyone; the second sees him traveling the multiverse to wipe out different versions of himself.)
Suicide Kings, by Mike Benson, Carlo Barberi, and Sandu Florea
This one’s a wildly entertaining read that has the virtue of not being tied to any larger series. After responding to a help wanted ad, Deadpool finds himself framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and his quest to clear his name is complicated by the Punisher, who is determined to bring him down. Fortunately, Deadpool has help in the form of Spider-Man and Marvel super-lawyer Matt Murdoch, aka Daredevil. It’s a fun, action-heavy story, and particularly appealing in that Spidey and Deady make for an endearingly quippy team.
Deadpool: Paws, by Stefan Petrucha
Deadpool faces his greatest enemy: puppies! And also prose. This un-graphic novel is his first largely picture-free adventure, which is probably for the best given the rabid puppies in question have been genetically altered to turn into flesh-eating monsters. S.H.I.E.L.D. tries to put Wade to work hunting them down before they can do the whole monster thing, but he’s not particularly keen on the assignment, especially the part about telling the very good dogs apart from the nasty killers.
(The paperback edition is out now.)
How do you plan to get in the mood for Deadpool 2?