Delayed Reaction: Deadpool Classic Volume 1

Earlier this week I picked up the first volume of Deadpool Classic. It collects Deadpool’s first appearance in New Mutants #98, his first two miniseries – The Circle Chase and Sins of the Past – and the first issue of his 1997 ongoing series by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness. The current ongoing series has grown on me (even if the recent story arc with Spider-Man and – ugh – Hit Monkey left me rather cold), so I figured it’d be nice to see where the character came from.

Sadly, there are definitely some serious flaws with this collection, not least of which is the fact that it’s so very, very ’90s. For some, that may not be a problem, but the sketchy, over-muscled, everyone grimaces all the time stuff just doesn’t do a whole lot for me. If it weren’t for the fact that this set includes the first of the Kelly/McGuinness run, I’d probably have just passed on this book.

Let’s start at the beginning. New Mutants #98 is a Rob Liefeld comic. That should really tell you everything you need to know: ridiculous musculature, loads of unnecessary pouches, poorly-drawn feet and hands, etc. We all know the flaws in the man’s art. Deadpool is in the comic for all of maybe three or four pages before he’s subdued by Cable and shipped back to his employer in a box (seriously). The character seems pretty bland here, without any of the zaniness or wacky color commentary the character’s become known for. He shows up, he’s beaten, then end. There’s a little banter, but nothing that really makes the character stand out.

What happens next is my main problem with this collection. Rather than giving us Deadpool’s subsequent appearances in X-Force (where a lot of his backstory was fleshed out and we got some hint of what he does and to whom he has connections), we’re thrown right into his first miniseries, The Circle Chase. It’s written by Deadpool’s co-creator, Fabian Nicieza, and drawn by ’90s superstar (hey, I’d heard of him back then, and I didn’t know squat about comics until just a few years ago) Joe Madureira. We get some so-so characterization and a whole lot more banter, but we’re thrown into a story that has very little context. And it’s a story that doesn’t really seem to achieve much: there are a bunch of people looking for someone’s will, there’s a bunch of folks trying to kill Deadpool for his supposed connection to it, Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy run around and occasionally smash through walls, and the thing comes to an end with Deadpool fighting his (apparent) arch-nemesis, a guy named (I’m not kidding here) Slayback (thank you, 1990s).

Deadpool’s second mini, Sins of the Past, seems to pick up right where The Circle Chase left off. Deadpool teams up with Siryn and her father, Banshee, for this one, there’s a subplot about an Interpol operative who got screwed over by Deadpool several years back, and there’s a doctor trying to fix whatever had happened to Black Tom during The Circle Chase. Again, there’s not much happening here, but Deadpool is slowly evolving into the morally-gray, wise-cracking character he is now. Ian Churchill’s art is sketchy and very much of its time, and Mark Waid’s script is decent if forgettable.

The one redeeming factor of this collection is the first issue of Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness ongoing series from 1997. It’s closer in tone to the current Deadpool series, with fast-paced dialogue, lots of violence and bad decisions on the part of the main character, and some fourth-wall-breaking metahumor thrown in for fun. That particular issue actually makes me want to pick up the next couple of collections, since they feature the Kelly/McGuinness Deadpool series.

All in all, Deadpool Classic Volume 1 is a fairly mediocre affair, though maybe it’s just too much of its time and I don’t have quite the appreciation for ’90s comics that I thought I did.

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