With the release of The Despicable Deadpool #300, writer Gerry Duggan ended a long run on one of Marvel’s most popular ongoing comics. In fact, Duggan has now written more issues of Deadpool than any other writer. It’s not hard to understand why. Duggan clearly understands as well as anyone that you can’t build a good, lasting Deadpool saga without emphasizing the tragedy of Wade Wilson as much as the comedy.
Warning: spoilers for The Despicable Deadpool #300 ahead!
That blend of silliness and pathos was established early on, back when Duggan and co-writer Brian Posehn were setting the stage for everything that came later. The 2013 storyline “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” is where their approach to Deadpool truly clicked. That story took what had been a running joke in the series – that Wade was being periodically knocked unconscious and having his organs harvested – and used it as fodder for one of the darkest Deadpool stories to date. Wade learned that his own body was being used as materials for a new generation of genetically engineered super-soldiers. It’s fitting that this story also paired Wade with Wolverine and Captain America, two heroes who know a thing or two about being used and experimented upon by secret government agencies.
“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” really set the tone for the series going forward. No matter how zany Deadpool’s antics became after that, his life was always bombarded with hardship and suffering. He married a vampire queen named Shiklah, but that romance quickly turned sour when it became clear Wade lacked both the ability and desire to balance work and home. Wade discovered his long-lost daughter, only for it to be revealed that he was once brainwashed into murdering his own parents. He became a member and financial backer of the Avengers Unity Squad, but had to resort to questionable methods to keep the money flowing in.
Duggan’s series also gave us one of the best and most unlikely villains in the character’s history. The series built on the reveal that D-List Captain America villain Madcap had been literally trapped in Wade’s head for years. Madcap became a major thorn in Wade’s side, someone driven to seek vengeance for being stuck inside one of the most deranged minds in the Marvel Universe. The series was often at its best when Madcap turned the screws on Wade and his family.
All of that culminated in the final phase of Duggan’s run, with the series being rebranded “The Despicable Deadpool.” The past six months have followed the character as he’s dealt with the fallout of 2017’s Secret Empire and the fact that Wade is now a pariah after supporting Captain America’s’s impostor and murdering Agent Coulson. Deadpool was briefly on top of the world, but true to form for this series, he lost everything.
Issue #300 truly embodies that unique balance of comedy and tragedy. It opens with a massive fight scene as Wade gains the power to make anyone in his vicinity vomit uncontrollably. But that battle quickly transitions into a race against the clock as Wade tries to erase his own mind and forget the people he’s lost and mistakes he’s made. And ultimately, he succeeds. This isn’t the first time a series has wiped the slate clean for a character in preparation for a new creative team. However, it is a rare case where a writer is able to make that blank slate a poignant part of the character’s ongoing journey. Even at the very end of this particular, Deadpool is a character consumed by tragedy.