Daniel Way’s Deadpool run is left with many people loving or hating it. If you’ve been a fan of the character before, you can kind of understand why. Even though many people think Deadpool has been played out by now, he’s still kept a very large fanbase because the character is rather unique. He’s funny, breaks the fourth wall, and he’s got some pretty twisted morals. Daniel Way had an idea for Deadpool that he wanted to portray, and I don’t think it was particularly bad. I just think there were many missteps that he took in his run of Deadpool that really made people think poorly of it.
Now let me start by saying I don’t think that Daniel Way is a bad writer. He’s had a few mini-series that I’ve enjoyed (Sabretooth: Open Season and Bullseye: Greatest Hits), as well as a few series that were received pretty well (Venom, Ghost Rider, and a favorite of mine Wolverine: Origins). He’s not a bad writer a lot of the time, so I don’t want anyone to get that impression. I’ll even say that I loved parts of his Deadpool run. And with figuring out why I liked some storylines he wrote more than others, I was able to determine exactly what I think the problem with Daniel Way’s run was.
Deadpool’s main appeal is that he’s a crazy and weird character in a world that is supposed to take itself seriously. It’s simple, right? If you take a look at his well-received series, you can kind of understand that. The original series by Joe Kelly was very well received because it really created the Deadpool character. Even though it still had Deadpool being a rascally goofball, it gave him a backstory that turned him into a tragic sort of character veiled by his comedy. It built Deadpool up with his own supporting cast and made him seem like a real character. Fabien Nicieza’s Cable and Deadpool run was also another very popular series that was well-received (and also my favorite Deadpool series). This is mainly attributed to Deadpool having to deal with the ten ton anvil of straight man that was Cable. Most storylines in this series were serious, and Deadpool was always the hilarious in it because he’s not the most serious guy.
So that brings us back to Daniel Way’s Deadpool run where we had a good start of serious storylines. Deadpool wants to help destroy the Skrull army for Nick Fury. He has his own goofy way of doing it, and he’s able to give Fury the data on how to kill the Skrull Queen. This is a great storyline with some value that introduces us well to the Deadpool character. After that, we learn Norman Osborn stole this information and became leader of The Avengers and SHIELD. So Norman wants to have Deadpool killed by sending various people to assassinate him. These are really fun and serious storylines (especially the crossover with Thunderbolts written by the highly talented Andy Diggle).
And then Deadpool… wants… to be… a pirate? Well, it’s a goofy premise but I guess it’s only a two parter, so it’s okay right?
Now Deadpool wants to be a hero and goes through some storylines examining what he does to try and be a hero and why he wants to be one. It’s actually pretty good and because Deadpool is so ass-backwards all of the time, it works out. We see him struggling to truly be a hero and we can empathize with him as he goes through it, because it’s not easy with the horrible reputation he has. Deadpool is just… really bad at being a hero, and we come to think maybe he’s trying to be a hero for the wrong reasons. Overall, it’s a good direction to go because we want to see him overcome it and try to become a better person over it.
…And then Macho Gomez happens. This random alien mercenary comes after Deadpool, and Deadpool helps out this family who had screwed him over once because he’s a hero. He has a crazy plan to get rid of Macho Gomez that works, and then in one page all of the development Deadpool has gone through to try and be a hero was absolutely demolished.
This family Deadpool helped is shocked that he saved them, and then Deadpool goes into a rant about how when he was paid to do stuff, they didn’t look at him like that. Words can’t describe how frustrating that was for a reader! We finally have Deadpool going through a massive change and it’s all reverted for something as poorly conceived as this! Why does Deadpool suddenly care that people are surprised he’s good at being a hero? Why does this lead to him saying “Forget this whole hero thing!”? I know you can say “Deadpool is crazy” as a catch-all for anything he does—but as a reader, this is hard to swallow. Deep down, we know Deadpool is a good guy and this madness of his just makes it harder for him. We want to root for him to overcome his madness and become a hero. That’s all we’ve done for the past seventeen issues (that means it’s been over a year), only for it all to go away because Deadpool feels like it!
If we root for Deadpool to be a hero when he’s treated unfairly by people, and we’ve done it even when he completely screws over his good buddy Weasel, then we’re in it for the long haul. We want a payoff where Deadpool finally becomes a hero. But then he just throws it away. That’s just infuriating for the reader! To make things even worse, we’re now in a storyline where Deadpool just goes into space and starts killing a ton of space alien mercenaries. This is so goofy and ridiculous, and this isn’t anything like the Deadpool we’ve followed for 32 issues. This is just Deadpool being goofy for the sake of being goofy with nothing else going for it. And that is what people absolutely hated about this comic. This storyline almost made me drop the series altogether, but I love Deadpool and I just didn’t want to do it.
I stuck through it as Deadpool decided he actually wanted to die now, on a whim. So how, exactly, do we root for him now? The whole appeal of Deadpool is us wanting to root for this guy to overcome his craziness. If he just wants to do awful, crazy things all of the time transparently, we can’t root for him. So Deadpool wanting to die and putting others in harm for it? I think that’s when we stop rooting for him. And then Deadpool is locked in a mental asylum where he is constantly being a violent jerk to everyone. Again, we don’t root for Deadpool here. He’s even being a violent jerk to his female psychiatrist who is just trying to help him! And now we have Deadpool’s psychiatrist starting to love him and go absolutely insane in love for him and keeps parts of Deadpool in her refrigerator for reasons that aren’t explained well. This story is, again, goofy. And it adds very little to Deadpool, especially since it reverts back to zany Deadpool who only wants to die again.
At this point, it just feels like Daniel Way doesn’t really want to explore Deadpool and develop him so much as keep the status quo. I get that in a way though, because a major appeal of the character is that he’s a crazy mercenary who runs around doing anything he wants, and people love that about him. If you change that, you have to change much of the dynamic about the character, especially in future stories.
Eventually, Daniel Way does make another very enjoyable story when he brings in the X-Force, Deadpool’s then teammates, to help him find a serum to sap mutant powers. He does get his healing factor fixed and is allowed to die, but he chooses to save his friend Bob instead because he’s in danger of dying and wants to protect him. This is a great development, I think. And better yet, it was a very serious story about Deadpool that people were clamoring for. The only problem is that this development feels out of order after Deadpool has already tried to be a good guy and reverted back to being selfish again. Wouldn’t it have made sense if this sort of storyline was the reason he wanted to try and be a hero?
Of course, like many other people I never expected it to stick, but for the stories he created after, it was pretty decent. He finished off with some decent stuff with Deadpool dealing with being mortal, but it wasn’t particularly great. Deadpool beating up D-listers who want to kill him wasn’t a particularly enthralling storyline, although I got the sense that Daniel Way was trying to develop the character further. Eventually, the series ended with Deadpool’s healing factor being reverted, and that’s that.
What I think Daniel Way ended up trying to do was write a Deadpool comic that focused more on the humor of the character rather than his dark and troubled past. In Wolverine Origins, Daniel Way showed he could write a dark and serious Deadpool. Many people agree he did a great job of it, even. I think it was by Daniel Way, Marvel, or both of their choice to appeal to a wider audience and write a Deadpool book that was comedy first and serious story second. People loved Deadpool before, and Marvel probably wanted him to gain a bigger fanbase, which meant focusing Deadpool on being a clown (and too many other series to stomach).
I like to think of Daniel Way’s Deadpool run as being a roller coaster ride. Deadpool is at his best when he’s being a clown in a world of seriousness and you can really feel for the issues that he deals with. When he’s being a completely terrible jerk for no reason or being in a world of goofiness, you lose your will to root for him to win. I don’t blame Daniel Way for his dips of quality. Writing for one character for so long is very difficult and taxing for many great writers. And let’s face it–Deadpool isn’t easy to write character development for consistently. Still, I commend Daniel Way for trying to keep this character alive and popularizing him for the world.
We have a new Deadpool series out now, and I think they’re doing a perfectly fine job hinting at deeper developments for Deadpool while they solidify his character and his supporting cast right now. I have high hopes for Deadpool, as I think many people do, and I can’t wait to see what they do with him next. There’s also a Deadpool game out that Daniel Way is wrote, and I’ve played through it all. If you’re interested in my opinions on that, subscribe to any of my social media to get an update on when I post it later this week.