Here we are! It’s the end of the line! Okay, I know Deadpool’s taken us to some emotionally heavy and intellectually intense places this week. If you’re starting to feel a little fatigued, fear not! This final graphic novel literally has Deadpool teaming up with a panda version of himself called Pandapool. I guarantee it is even more adorable and awesome than it sounds. Today we finish our philosophical tour of Deadpool’s most meta adventure ever as we look at the final volume of Cullen Bunn’s groundbreaking Deadpool Killology – illustrated by Salva Espin – Deadpool Kills Deadpool. Like usual, this post is spoiler-free with regard to all major plot points.
In the opening pages of this volume, the reader learns the Deadpool who has been murdering his way across first the multiverse and then the Ideaverse is not our Deadpool. Rather, he is a twisted version of our hero now conveniently called Dreadpool. So our Deadpool’s been normal the whole time! Deadpool’s humor is restored. Deadpool’s superhero(ish) status is restored. Even the traditional comic narrative structure – good guy fighting the bad guy to save all of creation – is restored. We even have two opposing Deadpool Corps to help with the job. After two intellectually and at times emotionally challenging (not to mention wildly postmodern) deconstructions of comic books as a medium, we’re now finally back on familiar territory.
However, far from undoing the questions of the previous two volumes, Bunn brilliantly adds a new layer to his intellectual challenge. The question is this – will we allow what we’ve seen and what we’ve learned to change us? In life, when we experience eye-opening moments and become aware of injustice, we are faced with a choice. Our “normal” life will resume after the eye-opening moment has come and gone. So do we let what we’ve learned affect our life and change how we act in the world? Or do we reset, conveniently forgetting, and slide back into our usual blissful ignorance? By having the concluding volume of the Deadpool Killology revert to a “normal” comic book narrative, Bunn offers his readers this choice. What will we do? Do we continue to think critically of comic books, seeing them in a new light from here on out? Or do we simply appreciate how Deadpool will now fight to “save the day” and dismiss all that other stuff as the product of Dreadpool’s evil?
Weaving the meta-threads together, as the reader decides what they want to do with the knowledge presented in the preceding two graphic novels, Deadpool Kills Deadpool finds our Regeneratin’ Degenerate trying to decide who he wants to be. So even though this graphic novel returns to the usual pace and style of most comic book storylines, that doesn’t mean it’s lessons end with the question above. Rather it presents some quiet reflections (amid Deadpool’s usual wild hilarity and violent bloodshed) about the dissonance we face between how we see ourselves and who we really want to be. Ultimately this is a story that isn’t just about the battle without but the battle within.
The graphic novel begins with Deadpool (our Deadpool) fighting Hydra in Times Square. He is expecting the Avengers or the X-Men or maybe the Fantastic Four to show up and help…but he’s joined by the Deadpool Corps instead. They crash land their spaceship, the Bea Arthur, onto the Hydra robot and the plot rolls onwards from there. As with the other two graphic novels, the beginning is important. There are some battles we must fight within ourselves. The struggle to decide who we are is one of those fights. So no one else can help Deadpool here. This is a fight he must face himself. Deadpool is battling to answer the ultimate question of who he is, hero or villain. This universal struggle is presented in the craziest, funniest, most postmodern way possible by having scores of Deadpools fight each other to the death.
That’s the symbolic battle going on within Deadpool – Who am I? The narrative device that allows this metaphorical struggle to play out adds enough fun to this story to more than make up for the dark, uneasiness and mental headaches that may have arisen from careful consideration of the previous two volumes. Dreadpool decides, since Deadpool alone is the only character in all the multiverse who is so self-aware, he must be the progenitor of all reality. Okay…just, just for the sake of the story, role with it. Anyway, Dreadpool realizes Deadpool is the progenitor of all reality and since he wants to end everything (in order to free everyone) he rationalizes that he needs to kill all Deadpools. His hope is, with all Deadpools dead, reality will cease to exist.
So the Deadpools of the multiverse line up on both sides. Those who want to end all there is fight with Dreadpool. But those who want to protect creation side with the (original) Deadpool Corps; (our) Deadpool, Lady Deadpool, Kidpool, and Dogpool. The action flows from there. In addition to the existential allusions, much of the books hilarity comes from watching all the various Deadpools battle and kill each other. This also allows Bunn to play with Deadpool’s ever-growing popularity as we see every sort of Deadpool, from a Wolverine inspired Deadpool to a (I kid you not) Galactipool appear through the course of the comic. And there’s (obviously) the previously mentioned (and totally bad ass) Pandapool. On a personal note, even having read all of the incredibly fun and funny Deadpool Corps books, Pandapool is my absolute favorite alternate universe incarnation of Deadpool.
Despite the humor and the fun, the book is not all splash-page sensationalism. It offers a few deep insights, as Deadpool fights his metaphorical battles and considers these probing questions of Self. First, Bunn returns to a note he’s hit throughout the series. As the conflicting Deadpool Corps battle at the amusement park the Watcher declares, “Witness, dear reader, the true nature of war! For this is not just the struggle against one’s enemies…but also the struggle against one’s very being!” This is a point I discuss with my students often. Many anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, and psychologists have come to the same conclusion. In class we read their works and wrestle with their findings. But they say the same thing. We are not built for war. It’s not natural to us. Conflict, yes. But “war” is a result of the Agrarian Revolution. So we began to kill in this way once we developed the idea of “mine.” But, I digress. We learn how to adapt to war quickly. And we are excellent students of the action. However, for us to wage war, we must battle our true nature, our inner self. We must kill something inside of ourselves to allow us to kill.
We see this in Deadpool Kills Deadpool too. As Deadpool fights, it isn’t all cosmic comedy. This battle will cost him. For a very fun book, there were some surprisingly dark turns. Characters were lost, hurt, in ways I wasn’t ready for. But again, this illustrates Bunn’s point. When we face our own darkness, when we struggle to figure out who we really are, sometimes we lose parts of ourselves in that struggle.
One of Deadpool’s foundation character traits is how he wrestles with his own inadequacy about wanting to be a hero. Deadpool sees himself as a superhero…even if no one else does. The other heroes of the Marvel Universe see him (at best) as a joke and annoyance or (at worst) a potentially dangerous homicidal nut-job, waiting to go off the rails at any time. No one wants to work with him. No one likes him. And everyone tells Deadpool that all the time. But, despite that, he keeps joking and he keeps fighting the good fight (albeit in his way). This is one of the great tragedies of Deadpool as a character and perhaps one of the things about him that resonates so closely with us as readers. He wants to be included as he is for who he is and to be seen by others as he sees himself. Yet, with a few possible exceptions, he never is. Deadpool is hilarious and irreverent…but deep inside there is a sad, tragic core. He seeks inclusion he never finds, rejected by those he wants so desperately to join. I’d wager that speaks to us on a very fundamental level.
So who are we? Are we the person we think we are or are we the person others see when they look at us? It all gets very existential as Deadpool battles Evil Deadpool (a Deadpool that cobbled himself together from discarded parts of the real Deadpool in the real universe…I know). Evil Deadpool taunts, ” It’s your fault the world turned out like this! You…me…we’re all responsible! The…noble…thing to do…would be to just lay down and die!” When we look at the state of our world, filled with poverty, racism, war, human trafficking, sexism, and the strongest desire we have culturally is for the newest iPhone, it seems obvious that Evil Deadpool is right. The world is the way it is because of us. So what do we do? Do we give up? Do we get out of the way, lay down and die? I’d argue that isn’t a very helpful or healthy approach. And thankfully, that’s not who Deadpool is either! Before Deadpool kills Evil Deadpool (again), he assures him, “Not my style!”
In Deadpool Kills Deadpool, we see Deadpool struggle to become who he believes he is. He faces the darkest parts of himself and tries to triumph over them. Exactly what this conclusion turns out to be is something I will let you figure out for yourself (again, YOU SHOULD READ THESE BOOK!). Regardless of Deadpool’s answer to the Who am I? question, it’s a search we can all relate to. This is a very human struggle. And, as weird as it sounds, we could have far worse guides along the way to realizing who we want to be than Deadpool.
There you have it folks! I hope you enjoyed this little guided tour through the philosophical depths of Deadpool’s most meta adventure ever. I can see this being a storyline I return to often. The masterful level of Cullen Bunn’s writing is on display through every page. As should be clear at this point in the week, I can’t say enough about the admiration I have for this man’s writing and what he does with Deadpool. Personally, I don’t think anyone gives us a Deadpool so layered, so dynamic. And I’d argue there’s no Deadpool we as readers need more than Bunn’s vision of who he is and what he can do.