Archive Binge: Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe
After the latest outburst from Marvel’s upper management about all the reasons that diversity is actually a bad thing which is killing the comics industry, I would normally have been a little peeved. The fact that they are making this statement when the only new comics that they have produced to a good reception in living memory have centred on people of colour is mind-boggling. When you factor in the usual slump in sales that running a crossover event brings to Marvel and multiply it by the 8 events that they are subjecting us to this year and the 7 that they ran the year before, you might suspect that mismanagement of the franchise may be the real cause for the reduced revenues.
This latest racist dog-whistle was sounded only after the company received some understandable backlash after transforming beloved WW2 veteran Captain America into a Nazi and implying that holocaust survivor Magneto would soon be receiving the same treatment.
This whole thing has left me with the distinct impression that I should leave off reviewing Marvel comics for a little while, but to end my decades long love affair with these characters with a bang, and to best suit my current feelings towards Marvel, I am going to discuss an Elseworlds story entitled “Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe” that was published back in 2012.
Deadpool as a character has always been defined as much by his humour as by the grotesque violence that he inflicts in what is normally a relatively PG rated world. A cornerstone of that humour has always been his ability to break the fourth wall and directly address the readers, to be a character who is aware that he is a character and not a person. When the writers at Marvel saw the critical acclaim of DC Comic’s Animal Man series by Grant Morrison, where that character eventually ascended to the point of recognising his own fictional nature they clearly decided that they wanted in on that action.
A previous Elseworlds story “The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe” was published back in the 90s and formed a template for this much later event, but while the Punisher’s attempts were rather simplistic and dismissed by the fandom as ineffective, Deadpool’s attempt goes far beyond the limits of his usual arenas of direct violence and delves into the fringe areas of the Marvel Universe. He uses both the science fiction based super technology of the geniuses of the setting, the magical powers and artefacts of the supernatural world and some genuinely clever technical solutions to heroes who should by all rights be invulnerable.
Rather than limiting himself to merely killing a few heroes and villains, Deadpool, who is both immortal and incredibly savvy about his co-workers melodramatic behaviours, goes a step further, wresting himself free from the fictional universe to go an murder spree ending in our own reality where he intends to kill the writers of his fate themselves before taking bloody vengeance against every person that has ever read a Marvel comic.
The story is an attempt at a meta-narrative which actually plays out well once you get over the first hurdle of the character’s identity being more or less entirely erased in the first few pages. The actual mechanics of the killings take up most of the book, with each one escalating to the next in a fairly natural manner but there is no growth to the character or development to that meta-plot after it is initiated.
The miniseries is fun if you want to watch superheroes being gruesomely murdered in the usual art style, and the little twists might surprise people who are entirely unfamiliar with meta-narratives but it is hardly required reading.