It's hard not to like Deadpool/Wade Wilson, the loveable if terrifying Merc with the Mouth who took the world of Marvel by storm in the 1990s. It's also sometimes hard to imagine this fourth-wall breaking, smack-talking, own-hand-cutting-off and ultimately tragic character existing alongside the likes of Reed Richards or Tony Stark, but exist he does.
Well, he does a bit more than exist. Sometimes things get out of hand — they don't call him a merc for nothing. He's bounced around from the X-Men to the Avengers, never quite accepted by any group for long given that he's bat-shit nuts.
But perhaps there's good reason to keep him at arm's length. Always the anti-hero but never quite the hero, Deadpool's got a depressing history and a killer streak a mile long. He's offed beloved characters and innocents alike over the years, though nowadays his morality tends to run a bit more centered to our own.
But, of course, there was that time that he killed the entire Marvel Universe.
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe (2012)
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe series was a limited and now famous series that did exactly what it says on the can. A visual orgy of blood and guts, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe saw the scarred merc finally snapping — with a little help from Psycho-Man — and heading out to wipe out the entire cast of the Marvel Universe, heroes and villains alike. No small feat.
The limited series was entirely non-canon and scripted just for fun, but it played interestingly with the concept of the fourth-wall and Deadpool's foray through it. Here we run down and rank the highlights of Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe in a real "who's who?" of decimated superheroes. Strap yourself in and let's begin.
The Fantastic Four
We open in the Fantastic Four's lab: Sue Storm cradles a dying, melting Reed Richards, and Ben Grimm has already been reduced to rocks and ash.
A plane carrying Deadpool and Johnny Storm crashes into the lab, and Deadpool slits his throat in front of the Human Torch's sister, Sue. The Invisible Woman explodes Deadpool's head, but he reanimates almost instantly, stabbing her through the chest and killing her.
Whilst Reed Richard's melting face certainly makes for a horrorshow, the whole scene is glossed over pretty quickly. Hey, we love the Fantastic Four — the First Family of Marvel — who doesn't? But given that we don't actually explicitly see the deaths of three of the four members, it's not the most impactful of the series.
Rating: 3 Deadpools out of 5
Uatu The Watcher
Next up is Uatu the Watcher, the omnipresent extraterrestrial being who regards the whole of time and space in the Marvel Universe, generally never interfering with the path events would take. Uatu has been narrating this story since the beginning, but Deadpool catches up with him here as the Watcher stands over Sue's body, knocking him down with a "cosmic taser" he stole from Mr. Fantastic's lab, and beheading him.
Though the Watcher is a pretty big deal in the Marvel Universe — and his canonical murder became the center-point for Original Sin — he's not really a character we know and love like the rest who feature in this story. Deadpool get a big point for managing to find and take him down though.
Rating: 2 Deadpools out of 5
Next up is a confrontation with a neighbourhood Spider-Man a bit less friendly than normal. The two battle it out across the air of New York city, cumulating in Spider-Man throwing Deadpool to the ground far below. He splats into a police car, but his healing factor allows him to get right up again. Spidey confronts him again, and Deadpool pulls out a gun.
There's something particularly sickening about this one, watching Deadpool blow the brains out of Spider-Man, with whom he has a pretty amusing frenemy dynamic with in the comics. It also marks a line crossed, as Deadpool taunts Spider-Man, not even his worst enemies would dare shooting Spider-Man point blank range in the face as New York City looks on in horror. That's just cold.
Rating: 4 Deadpools out of 5
After Spider-Man, Deadpool decides he can find bigger fish to fry — "something meaty, something big." And what's bigger in New York than, you guessed it, the Avengers? The Avengers — Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Thor, Ms. Marvel and Spider Woman — call a meeting to decide what to do about Deadpool's rampage, and Jarvis rushes in to inform them that Hank Pym/Ant-Man is missing. Then Wolverine realizes, they're the next targets.
Deadpool used Pym's Particles to miniaturize enough bombs to level the entire building, hiding them right on top of the table in the meeting room. They explode, killing everyone except Thor and Luke Cage.
As Luke confronts Deadpool, saying "You need more than a couple of bombs to take down someone with unbreakable skin", Deadpool reveals that he put some of the tiny bombs in Luke's coffee too. They explode internally, killing him. As for Thor, Deadpool uses the particles to enlarge Mjolnir, crushing Thor to death with his own hammer. Rough.
A nasty, sneaky way to go — especially for the externally indestructible Luke Cage. Obviously it's a huge deal, seeing all the Avengers wiped out at the same time, but at the same time it doesn't feel all that impactful. It's over pretty quickly and most of them died before they knew what hit them. Just goes to prove though, don't make fun of Ant-Man's Pym Particles, just be grateful he's no Deadpool.
Rating: 3 Deadpools out of 5
Next up is Hulk, and he's pretty pissed off at Deadpool. As he tells him, "You hurt Hulk's friends! You hurt Hulk's enemies! Only Hulk gets to kill Hulk's enemies!" The big green machine rips Deadpool to pieces and leaves, taking refuge in a cave for the evening. But as he falls asleep so he turns back into the vulnerable Dr. Bruce Banner. Big mistake, Deadpool creeps up on him in his sleep and slices his head clean off, stealing Hulk's catchphrase as he does so. That's just rude.
Another pretty visceral one, but somehow underwhelming considering that Deadpool killed him Hulk in his Bruce Banner form. On the other hand, that panel stays with you. Whilst Hulk might have been a bit of a gray area, Bruce Banner was generally a good guy, who didn't deserve to go out that way.
Rating: 3 Deadpools out of 5
Another big team fall before Deadpool, and this one is pretty horrific. The Merc with the Mouth kidnaps and tortures Professor X, sticking a knife into his knee and forcing him to telepathically call out for the X-Men.
The rest of the team are trying to navigate Deadpool's specially constructed maze to find their leader, and Cyclops, Cannonball, Pixie and Emma Frost are all killed when Cyclops's head is trapped in a strange bubble, which amplifies his blasts outwards, killing everyone in the vicinity.
Gambit, Rogue and Colossus are all electrocuted to death in a room as the walls close in on them. Professor X attempts to telepathically shut down Deadpool's mind, but only succeeds in causing his own brain death when he sees the truth Deadpool knows — that they are all only fictional characters in a comic strip.
Magneto is caught in acidic jelly and fried alive, whilst Kitty is trapped forever in a funhouse mirror maze like cube, unable to phase her way out. Wolverine shows up, having regenerated from being blown apart alongside the X-Men, and discovers X-23 and Daken strung up in a machine which sets their bodies on fire everytime they start to regenerate. Deadpool, you're one sick mother.
Wolverine and Deadpool cross blades, but Deadpool manages to cut off Wolverine's head, telling him that his real power is "popularity", not regeneration. The sword he uses to behead Wolverine is made of Carbonadium, which renders his healing ineffective, killing him dead.
This is one of the most horrific sequences of the series, as it's neither quick nor painless. We watch Professor X as he's forced to witness his students dying to try and save him, then eventually end up shorting out his own brain when confronting Deadpool. And the methods Deadpool uses to take out the X-Men are pretty horrific — especially the flamethrowers used to subdue X-23 and Daken, killing them everytime they come back to life, forever.
It's grim all round, especially because the X-Men most of all are a family, not just a team.
Rating: 5 Deadpools out of 5
A very brief one at the end of the X-Men issue, we don't even get to witness the murder of the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Stephen Strange. Instead his death is treated as more of a footnote: The bodies of Doctor Strange and his manservant/friend Wong discovered by Taskmaster in the library of Strange's home, the Sanctum Sanctorum, except there is no Sanctuary there anymore.
The Taskmaster finds them along Deadpool's trail after being hired by the families of the heroes he killed to put the insane mutant down once and for all. And here Taskmaster discovers Deadpool's end game when he discovers that the murderous merc tossed the library in order to find information about The Nexus of All Realities.
Since we don't actually get to see the altercation between Deadpool and Doctor Strange, this one doesn't rate very high on the Deadpool-ometer. The manner of their deaths aren't nearly as brutal as some of the others too — Doctor Strange, stabbed through the heart, his body posed ritualistically, and Wong beheaded. It's a shame to see the powerful Sorcerer taken down this way, but it's also treated as the least important, and we move on pretty quickly.
Rating: 1 Deadpool out of 5
Punisher hasn't just been sitting on his ass this whole time, in case you were wondering. One of the few Marvel characters as brutal and unforgiving as Deadpool himself, the war vet is hot on Deadpool's tail even as heroes and villains alike begin committing mass suicide to avoid being murdered by the insane merc.
Punisher stakes out Deadpool's hideout and seemingly puts the merc down with a clean sniper headshot, but too late realises he shot Puppet Master in the guise of Deadpool. The actual Deadpool appears behind him, puts a gun to his head, mocks him and pulls the trigger.
Again, you have to give Deadpool credit for outsmarting Frank Castle, one of the tactical battle geniuses of the Marvel Universe. And pouring salt in the wound before pulling the trigger is cruel, but certainly not as cruel as some of the other entries on this list. At least this way, it was a quick and clean end for the Punisher.
Rating: 2 Deadpools out of 5
Taskmaster & Man-Thing
Taskmaster finally confronts Deadpool in the swamps where Man-Thing lives. They exchange blows, and Deadpool waxes lyrical about his reasons for doing what he's doing. Deadpool is able to match Taskmaster throughout their battle, and uses his photographic reflexes, to trick him into feeling fear.
Remember where they're standing now, because as we all know, "Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing's touch!"
Taskmaster is killed by Man-Thing, whom Deadpool then talks into assisting him. He explains his goal, to end the continued cycle of life, death and suffering that the Marvel characters go through for the amusement of those beyond the Fourth Wall. Man-Thing seems to understand, sacrificing his life to open a mysterious portal for Deadpool.
Apart from Taskmaster's head getting exploded, there's nothing hugely brutal about this. Instead, it comes out feeling quite melancholy, and swinging from one to the other is something Deadpool has become synonymous with.
Rating: 4 Deadpools out of 5
The Marvel Writers, And...
Deadpool steps through the portal created by Man-Thing, and follows the nexus through. He witnessed the multitude of realities flowing all around him and complains at the sheer scope of what he witnesses — "Aw, c'mon. I thought I could just... y'know... stab creation in the heart, or something..."
He floats through the possibilities to the "centre of the universe" — the Marvel writers room, where the team are working out the last two pages to Deadpool's story.
Fiction and reality merge — the plotting of the writers playing out upon the page as Deadpool watches them. He's now resigned himself to chopping away at reality until everything collapses, starting with the ones penning this story.
The series ends as he raises his sword to strike, suddenly becoming aware of an "otherworldly force" (that's us!) watching him. He turns to us and says:
As for the rating for this one? You'll have to decide for yourself, when Deadpool comes for you.