Throughout history, mankind has been searching for ways to become immortal, both figuratively and literally. In the Marvel Universe, several characters have achieved this goal thanks to super human abilities they were born with or received via accidents or experimentation. Some of these characters are not comfortable with the fact that they’ll outlive their friends and loved ones, but then there’s Deadpool. Wade Wilson, a mercenary who has the attention span of an over-caffeinated fifth grader, is not one to consider anything beyond his immediate needs and wants.
Deadpool’s super-fast healing ability makes him virtually unkillable, which is really handy when you’re a chatty, super powered mercenary with a penchant for annoying people. Recently, he’s begun to reconsider his life choices, which has put his wants in conflict with his body’s regenerative abilities. Deadpool has decided he wants to die, and in usual Deadpool fashion he wants to die right now.
In the current “Operation: Annihilation” arc of “Deadpool,” writer Daniel Way and artist Bong Dazo kick off the Merc With a Mouth’s quest to off himself, and in the following arc, “Institutionalized,” Wade’s suicidal tendencies land him in a prison for the criminally insane.
Way has been writing “Deadpool” since issue #1, a run characterized by Deadpool chasing various things, be it Norman Osborn, the status of the Marvel Universe’s greatest mercenary and most recently recognition as a hero. None of these goals turned out to be exactly what he expected, so now he’s pursuing death with the same sort of gusto he showed in earlier arcs.
“I teased this a little bit in the recent done-in-one issue I wrote with Ghost Rider. Deadpool has hit the end of his rope and he wants out. My take on him has always been that he has no patience whatsoever. Whatever he wants, he wants it now. Of course, he usually ends getting exactly what he asks for, but it’s never what he really wants. He always ends up missing the mark a bit, and ends up screwing himself over,” Way told CBR News. “Plus, he’s been in love with the Marvel U’s female personification of Death for a very long time. So in his mind, what he’s doing makes perfect sense. Instead of doing something someone else wants him to do, he’s going to do what he wants to do. What he wants is get himself killed permanently and then go hang out with Death in some nice little place. He’ll mow the lawn in the afterlife and they’ll hang out and watch TV together. It’s a love story.”
Indeed, the French phrase of cherchez la femme, or “look for the women,” is a useful lens through which to view Deadpool’s actions, and in upcoming issues, readers will find out exactly what sort of people of the female persuasion Deadpool finds irresistible. “Some readers may be wondering why Deadpool latches onto certain women and not others,” Way said. “It’s something we’re going to explain more later, but women that can help him are attractive to him, and women that need something from him are repulsive to him. He’s kind of a one-way street in that regard.”
In “Deadpool” #37, Way kicked off “Operation: Annihilation” and his protagonist’s pursuit of his beloved Death by having him provoke a Marvel character notorious for both his strength and foul temper, the Incredible Hulk. “It’s the unstoppable force versus the illogical object. Deadpool is the type of guy who’s not going to throw one grenade when he can throw 30. If he decides he wants to get himself killed, he’s going to go to the biggest weapon he can find, and the biggest weapon on the planet is the Incredible Hulk. There are just some certain things he has to work around to his advantage. The Hulk isn’t the rage-driven, mindless brute that he used to be. Banner is in control these days,” Way said. “Deadpool’s got to figure out a way to get that pesky Bruce Banner with his big brain off the table and to just get as much Hulk as he can get. That’s really where we start. ‘Operation: Annihilation’ focuses on this clash with the Hulk, but this is stage one. As impossible as it may seem, after the Hulk storyline, this will actually get bigger.
Insane or not, Deadpool knows that when you mess with the biggest, baddest, gamma-powered bull in the Marvel Universe, you’re bound to get the horns — but he’s counting on that. He also knows that by provoking the Hulk, he’s not just putting himself in peril but thousands of other people that live in the surrounding area of their current New Mexico-based conflict. Thus, the Merc With a Mouth has to work hard to minimize the collateral damage in his battle with the Hulk.
“Deadpool is doing everything he can to make sure it’s just him that gets hurt, but like any Deadpool plan, he has to personally shepherd it across the goal line,” Way stated. “There will be some instances where things get a bit out of his control and he’s forced to derail slightly to make sure this all works out well for everyone, mainly himself.”
Way has named several of his “Deadpool” arcs after songs — “Operation: Annihilation,” for example, was named after a song by the cult Canadian thrash metal band Annihilator. The arc that follows it, “Institutionalized,” begins in issue #40 and is named after the classic song by crossover thrash pioneers, Suicidal Tendencies.
“If you look at the solicits for the first part of ‘Institutionalized,’ I just copped the lyrics ‘They said it was the only solution to save me from the enemy, myself,'” Way said. “I couldn’t fit in the part about just wanting a Pepsi, though. I’m sure there would have been a licensing issue.”
When “Institutionalized” begins, Deadpool, much to his chagrin, is still alive and in government custody. He won’t be conscious of either of these facts right away, however, since his mind will have shut down as his body recovers from the horrible beating the Hulk inflicted on him. While that happens, the Hulk’s cousin, She-Hulk, sets the events of the arc into motion.
“She-Hulk is Deadpool’s defense attorney, and even though she’s defending him, she definitely puts the screws to him. Things don’t play out like Deadpool would have wanted,” Way stated. “Deadpool gets sent to Crossmore Prison, a detention facility with one of the worst security records in the Marvel Universe. It seems like someone will be there for about three pages and then they’re busting out,” Way laughed. “The prison has suffered through some hard times. This is just a bit of reality bleeding over into comics. The economy had been pretty rough and Crossmore isn’t exactly the jewel in her majesty’s Prison Services crown, so they’ve taken on a lot of private funding and started to focus more on the super powered, criminally insane.”
Crossmore is located in England, which is part of the reason why the facility has become a maximum security insane asylum for those with super powers. “In England, hospitals are funded by trusts that have a great amount of power in steering what certain institutions do. This person in charge of this trust has a daughter whose a psychiatrist that’s interested in working with the criminally insane,” Way explained. “Crossmore has now become a specialty unit. Deadpool is in there with other super criminals who are all bonkers. I even got in a Steve Gerber villain, John Serious, who made his debut in ‘She-Hulk.'”
Serious isn’t the only Gerber creation playing a role in “Institutionalized.” The main antagonist of the arc will be Kurt Gerhardt, the third character to assume the identity of “Foolkiller,” who Gerber introduced in a ’90s self-titled miniseries. “He’s been locked up for quite a while and he plays an integral part in this story. It’s just too perfect; a guy who specializes in killing fools versus Deadpool? It had to be Foolkiller,” Way said. “He’s behind bars, so he doesn’t have his ‘purification gun,’ but readers will see he’s still pretty damn formidable. He’s a ‘committed’ individual, no pun intended.”
Rounding out the supporting cast of “Institutionalized” is the chief psychiatrist of Crossmore Prison. “Her name is Doctor Ella Whitney. She’s a new character, kind of a frumpy, stumpy woman who has dedicated her life to the study of, really, Deadpool in particular,” Way stated. “She’s kind of fascinated with him and wants to see what makes him tick.”
Waking up in a British prison filled withl insane super villains and a psychiatrist that’s obsessed with him will come as quite a surprise for Deadpool, who will remain mentally out of commission during his sentencing and transport to Crossmore. “When Deadpool wakes up and finds himself in prison, he immediately attempts an escape and almost makes it,” Way said. “The most confusing thing to him is why every one in the place is talking like a pirate.”
“Institutionalized” will feature art work by Carlo Barberi, who has collaborated with Way on several “Deadpool” stories. “Obviously, Carlo is just stunning. His pages are clean, to the point and every image is totally cool. What you’ll notice in that story arc is an increase in panel count. It will be a much denser story. That’s intentional, because this is a story that’s set in some very confined spaces. We want to give you that sense of claustrophobia and a tension that just keeps building. It was something that we talked about before I went ahead with it,” Way told CBR. “It’s just another gold star on Carlo’s resume that he could switch up his style like this, still keep it all bad ass and go with a more story-driven page layout. It’s always great when you look at a page and you don’t even need the dialogue. Carlo’s pages move your eyes to all the right places.”
“Deadpool” currently publishes two, sometimes three times a month, so Way already has “Institutionalized” and several arcs beyond mapped out. “After ‘Institutionalized’ is a story called ‘You Complete Me.’ It’s a very twisted love story. I’ve been dying to write a Deadpool love story, and this is another complication on his way towards his ultimate goal. You’ll see that the end of that story arc actually provides him with a means of achieving his goal. So once again, Deadpool makes all the wrong moves in all the right directions,” Way said. “This is all leading into an event we’re planning, the biggest Deadpool story I’ve ever seen. We’re blowing things out and this story will put Deadpool once again right in the middle of the Marvel Universe with all eyes on him.”