This weekend, fans the world over will get to watch the first comics-based movie of 2016, and the genre is kicking things off with a bang (which, because of the character we're talking about, might actually be a euphemism). Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Tim Miller, hits theaters after years of development hell and impatient waiting, and if the pre-release critical reception is any indication then it should prove to be a memorable Valentine's Day weekend.
As anyone who's already seen the film can likely tell you, the necessity of actually reading some of Deadpool's comics in order to enjoy the movie isn't really present. If you're a Deadpool comics fan, you'll likely pick up on a lot of the many Easter eggs the movie seems to throw at you, at both high and frequent velocity. If you're just looking for a raunchy, action-oriented and very R-rated night at the movies, then it also delivers on that promise, too.
Still, that doesn't mean that you should avoid the character's adventures in the comics. Maybe you're a comic book fan who hasn't explored what the ol' Merc with a Mouth has to offer, maybe you're a lapsed fan who wants to re-familiarize yourself with the character, or maybe your familiarity with the character starts and ends with the movie, and you just want more. If any of those descriptions apply to you -- or, even if they don't -- it's hard to go wrong with the following selection of Deadpool's greatest hits.
1) Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1 by Joe Kelly, Fabian Nicieza, Mark Waid, Joe Madureira, Ed McGuinness, Rob Liefeld, Ian Churchill, Lee Weeks, and Ken Lashley
Really, the only place that you should start if wanting to absorb some of Wade's best comics stories is right here. In addition to containing his first appearance, you can check out the first celebrated miniseries by the super-team of writer Joe Kelly and artist Ed McGuinness, who helped to define Deadpool as the first best stop for off-the-wall humor and over-the-top action for Marvel's Merc with a Mouth.
This collection is also something of a revelation concerning how Deadpool first makes his mark on the Marvel Universe in New Mutants, since he goes through a very noticeable evolution by the time you start reading Kelly's and McGuinness' contributions to the character. Not that Deadpool wasn't always a wisecracker -- he was -- but you can definitely see that his sense of humor was meant to be more unsettling than irreverent when he first makes the move against Cable in his debut issue.
You can also read some of writer Mark Waid's contributions to the history of the character, who tends to make anything he touches better on a shockingly regular basis. By offering the best of the character's 1990's appearances, it's really difficult to go wrong with Deadpool Classic Vol. 1 if you want to really do your homework on who Wade Wilson is, how he came to be, and why he evolved into the action/comedy hybrid he is today.
2) Deadpool by Daniel Way: The Complete Collection - Volume 1 by Daniel Way, Andy Diggle, Paco Medina, Carlo Barberi, Bong Dazo, and Steve Dillon
When Marvel began their 2008 Secret Invasion event with just about as many tie-in books as you can possibly imagine across the whole line of titles, the first issue of the new Deadpool series by writer Daniel Way went slightly under fans' radars. This came at something of an inopportune time, since the explosion of popularity the character would go on to enjoy after his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine would mean that this series' early issues quickly became rarities in comic shops for the better part of a year.
That set the tone for how well Way's series would perform: it would print, and immediately sell out, and need to be printed again. This went on for quite a while, and the reasoning is pretty simple: Mr. Way knows how to give good Wade...Wilson, that is.
With an already-strong penchant for comic book storytelling with many of Marvel's icons under his belt, Way's Deadpool series solidified his position as the guy to tell stories with the character, and the humor and twists that Way would infuse into his plots always made the series a joy to read. Add to that some solid contributions in this collection by writer Andy Diggle (Green Arrow: Year One, The Losers) along with fantastic artistic collaborators like Paco Medina, and it's easy to see why Way's volume of Deadpool was a consistent sell-out for so long. Read this collection and try not to laugh out loud. I dare you.
3) Uncanny X-Force: The Apocalypse Solution by Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña
Where Daniel Way excelled in plotting out zany, action-packed adventures for Wade Wilson to embark his somewhat messed up psyche on, writer Rick Remender took something of a different tact while also staying true to the core of Wade's character: when you put him into the middle of a pretty messed-up situation with a lot of moral ramifications, then Deadpool might surprise you.
Right from the first issue, "The Apocalypse Solution", it's deceptive. It literally opens with Deadpool talking about some ominous "puckering in [his] posterior," which seems to break the ice for this series pretty well. Then, as you read each issue, it becomes clear that Remender is setting up a serious moral dilemma for X-Force to undertake, and the end results will likely leave you feeling a little...wrong.
In addition to giving him an awesome gray black ops uniform, the Uncanny X-Force series definitely made Wade something of a stand-out when compared with his X-Force teammates: next to Wolverine's effective and uncompromising resolve, Archangel's intimidation and sheer power, Psylocke's stoic attitude and Fantomex's sardonic superiority, Deadpool's demeanor is unique among his peers. So too, though, is his skill with a sword and as a general weapon of quiet war that the X-Force was assembled to wage in the first place.
Chances are that the last few pages of this story will leave you generally speechless. They also left Deadpool pretty quiet as well, which is definitely saying something for a guy with the word "mouth" in his nickname.
4) Deadpool: Dead Presidents by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, and Tony Moore
The character's newer ongoing series under the Marvel NOW! relaunch of 2012, comedian Brian Posehn and his writing partner Gerry Duggan are completely in their element in writing a series featuring the fourth-wall breaking, wisecracking mercenary. Coming off of Daniel Way's very memorable four-year run with the character would be no easy task, but Posehn, Duggan, and Moore wisely don't try to follow in his footsteps. Instead, they choose to embrace the comedy of the character, while using a surreal flavor to take him on a crazy, and endlessly entertaining new adventure.
When you get down to it, the simple fact is that you won't be able to read any other comic book that features an image of a red-clad superhero character going toe-to-toe with a zombie Abraham Lincoln in a boxing ring. Besides, from the very first few pages, you know you're in for a ride: a crazy ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent has reasoned that because of the country's fragmented political state, he needs to revive our greatest leaders in order to show us the way back to political prosperity and substantive discourse. Unfortunately, the lamb-slaughtering ritual he uses to bring the Presidents back to life instead cause them to want to destroy the country, so of course, everyone looks for salvation in...Deadpool?
With great minds for satire, a fun and detailed art style, punchy writing, and several laugh-out-loud moments, you'll likely have a pretty good time reading Dead Presidents.
5) Deadpool & Cable Ultimate Collection - Book 1 by Fabian Nicieza, Patrick Bircher, Mark Brooks, and Shane Law
He was there for the character's very first appearance in comics when Deadpool tried -- and failed -- to kill him, and they've gone on to become one of the best odd couples that all of comics has managed to produce: Deadpool and Cyclops' son from the future Nathan Summers, aka Cable. While both characters have their share of noticeable differences -- particularly in attitude and overall outlook on their respective places in the Marvel Universe -- Deadpool's co-creator Fabian Nicieza does a great job in bringing both men together, with an early part of this collection actually making that statement literally true.
While much of the series actually focuses on Cable's efforts to make the world a better place, Deadpool is placed in the middle of Cable's plans, and is even hired by the X-Men to put a stop to them in one of this collection's stories. There's even some tragedy involving Cable and his futile efforts to make the world more peaceful, which transitions the series to a greater focus on Deadpool's adventures.
This combination series was first created by Marvel after the cancelation of both Deadpool's and Cable's own solo series. In the past this formula has worked, most notably when DC Comics paired up Green Lantern and Green Arrow to take a long trip across America in the 1970s. Here, the Deadpool & Cable series isn't quite as much of a classic as that series, but it's definitely a memorable and recommended chapter in the history of Wade Wilson's adventures in comics.
Deadpool is in theaters now! Go see it (as long as you're old enough), and enjoy the crazy ride that Wade has become so good at taking people on. Then, head into your local comic book store and give some of his other adventures a try. They're at least as good as a hot chimichanga. And, if you haven't yet, check out the character guide for the film written by Movies.com's own John Gholson!