Gerry Duggan’s tutelage with Deadpool has produced some of the Merc with the Mouth’s best, if not darkest, stories. Sadly, Duggan’s run on Deadpool has fallen casualty to Marvel’s “soft relaunch,” with this week’s issue being his second to last story with the character. Deadpool #299 sets up a bloody finale for Duggan’s final issue while providing an in-depth reflection of the complexities of Deadpool’s recent failures.
What I’ve found most enjoyable about Duggan’s nearly decade long tenure with Wade Wilson is how flawlessly he has been able to balance laugh out loud comedy with surprisingly dark character developments. There are laughs to be had on every page featuring Deadpool in this issue, even when he goes on more serious rants.
From a hysterical Secret Invasion callback to a running joke about Hawkeye’s constant injuries, Duggan’s injection of humor allows this issue to maintain a comedic tone despite the heavy subject matter in the latter parts. Fans of 2014’s Deadpool vs. Hawkeye will love this issue as Hawkeye and Deadpool once again go toe-to-toe replete with one-liners both hysterical and nonsensical- like Deadpool’s “When I put the toilet seat down, I put it all the way down,” which he immediately admits made no sense.
Amidst the gut-busting quips and flying toilet seats- because “anything is a weapon in Deadpool’s hands”- is an utterly somber reflection on Deadpool’s latest failed attempts at heroism during the events of Secret Empire. I know that some people hated last summer’s crossover from Nick Spencer, but those who read the series (which I loved, by the way) will remember that Deadpool was an unsung hero of the Avenger’s victory over Stevil Rogers- something that Deadpool himself points out while sparring with Clint Barton.
Here readers will see Deadpool’s anguish on full display as he explains how his newfound devotion to doing good was ultimately taken advantage of by the one man he never thought could betray him- Steve Rogers. It’s a wonderful way of showing that Deadpool may actually be the most damaged character in the Marvel Universe left in Secret Empire’s wake.
Think about it- all Deadpool was trying to do was be a hero, serve his country, make Cap proud, and protect his daughter, which made him into an unwitting villain. Once he realized what he’d become and provided Maria Hill with intel instrumental to Hydra’s downfall, Deadpool still wasn’t able to restore his name and is left branded as a traitor and terrorist. All of this and more is succinctly displayed by Duggan in this issue, showing just how depressing Wade’s life has become and providing the context for what seems to be an elaborate suicide plot coming to fruition in next month’s landmark #300 issue.
Prior to this issue, Deadpool had already royally pissed off Cable, Captain America (the real one), and every big gangster boss in the Marvel Universe, to the point they all want him dead. After #299, Deadpool has added a special S.H.I.E.L.D. task force headed by Maria Hill, Quake, and both Hawkeyes and recent Nova Corpsman Scott Adsit to the list of people desperately trying to kill him. All of this plays right into Deadpool’s mysterious plan, the aforementioned suicide plot resulting in all parties joining forces to take him out in issue #300.
My only complaint about this book is the length of the introduction, which sees Captain America recruiting an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. technician to repair Agent Preston. It’s not that it’s bad, it just feels unnecessary and I would’ve rather had more of Duggan and artist Mike Hawthorne’s second to last issue devoted to Deadpool rather than Cap.
Speaking of Mike Hawthorne, I’d be remiss not to mention how wonderful the art is in this issue. Each page is richly detailed and I don’t know if anyone has ever drawn Deadpool’s masked facial expressions as expertly as Hawthorne over the last few years. The subtle lines and wrinkles in Wade’s mask elevate the comedic presence in some scenes while heightening the frustration and emotions of others.
I am really sad to see Duggan’s run on Deadpool come to a close- he’s brought immense emotion and weight to a character usually reserved for jokes. Luckily, there’s one more issue left in Duggan’s tenure. That final issue is setup to be a killer finale thanks to the hysterical, excellently drawn, and character reflection story in issue #299.