Y’all might already know I love games. So when Marvel announced that Al Ewing, one of their best and most inventive writers, was concocting a five-issue “comic-as-an-RPG” adventure, I was immediately sold.
Ewing and co.’s You Are Deadpool allows YOU to control the titular Merc with a Mouth, navigating multiple branching pathways that weave between issues and decades and eventually result in … no, I won’t spoil it now. Instead, I’m going to show you exactly how fun (and goshdarn hard) the game Ewing and his collaborators created is.
That’s right, reader: WE ARE DEADPOOL! It’s an Actual Play for comic books, a Twitch stream for the printed page. If you’re wary of spoilers, turn back now! Otherwise our story starts, as most do, at the beginning …
Panels 1-4: Ah, the tutorial level. If there was ever a reason for ‘Pool to break the fourth wall, explaining how a video-game-turned-comic works feels like it. We are, of course, going to play the tutorial, because we want to see Kieron Gillen pop up with a submarine sandwich.
Trust me, it’ll make sense when we get there.
Until then, we should remember to track our Sadness and Badness scores, as they’ll matter to each issue, as well as our inventory (we can carry any three items we find within the comic, as long as those items are smaller than a breadbox). Currently we’ve got:
Sadness: 0 Badness: 0 Inventory: Nada, zilch, nothing
Panel 5: Our first choice! We want positive vibes on this playthrough, so of course we’ll choose a thumbs-up rather than a thumbs-down. That moves us on to …
Panel 8: So you get how it works now. We skipped over panels 6 and 7, because our choice of thumbs-up kicked us ahead to panel 8. What happened in panels 6 and 7? I don’t know. Surely nothing of any significance.
Panel 10: While it seems extremely fun, and while it makes the gag on the next page that much sweeter, we’re not going to use the Deadpool Die™ here. I built enough paper dice in kindergarten; I know how sticky they make your fingers. We will, however, use some black and red dice that my friend Patrick gave me a few Christmases ago, so we’re kinda on theme.
Panel 13: Don’t mind the mess in panel 11. Instead, focus on the fact that even here, in a comic he didn’t write, Kieron Gillen’s puns are inescapable. Deadpool’s right: We must end him.
Panel 14: Our first combat! I always roll for enemies first, because I am a superstitious nut. Knowing what you have to beat surely changes the result of your dice rolls, right? Here, Kieron Gillen rolls a 4, while we roll a 10.
Success! Gillen’s sandwich is ours! Oh, the tasty sandwich!
Panel 17: Here, we get to stock up on supplies. We’re going to end up using none of these items (I think), but just in case, let’s take:
Inventory: Deck of cards, metro card, Rubik’s Cube
Panel 21: We did not take the donut. Apparently my memory is slipping, as this is my second playthrough, and I did not remember this gag. This does not bode well.
Panel 22: Listen up: You want to do the flashback here. Trust me; you just do. So we’re doing it. The fact that it’s a tutorial into a flashback? Whatever. Deal with the narrative slowness. Everything will make sense when we get there.
Panels 72-73: We should probably have let Zarrko explain what’s going on here, though that’s not a choice we get to make. We do, however, get to pick up that screwdriver in panel 73 and add it to our inventory (leaving behind the Rubik’s Cube, unsolved).
Inventory: Screwdriver, deck of cards, metro card
Panel 75: Deadpool’s right! We DO need that paperclip to solve a puzzle later. Let’s take it.
Inventory: Paperclip, screwdriver, metro card
Panel 77: Don’t press the red button on the MacGuffin Helmet. So noted, Zarrko.
Panels 67-68: We’re going around the back. I’ve played Metal Gear Solid 2; I know to always choose sneaking over fighting. Besides, there are a lot of guards by that door, and while you might not know this yet, combat in this game is SUPER HARD.
Panels 49-50: We took the screwdriver for this. Don’t let Deadpool convince you to chicken out. You do not want to go fight the guards. You do want to crawl through the nasty sewage pipe. It is the easiest way to accomplish the mission. Narrative captions bedamned, on to panel 25.
Panel 25: Listen, Deadpool’s done a lot of worse stuff than this. Rick Remender even had him kill a kid. He can Shawshank through this sewage pipe. Accept the addition to your Sadness score, and let’s move on.
Panels 36-37: Ah, our first dice-based minigame! Let’s see how we do, navigating the hallways of Roxxon’s evil secret base.
First we roll a … 1. OK, not great (and depending on what square you actually start from, we’ve already been caught). But we still have a shot? A roll of 2, 3, or 4 will get us to a safe space. That’s a 50 percent chance. And we roll … another 1.
We’re caught. So let’s take our medicine and move on to panel 38.
Panels 38-40: See?!? I told you combat was hard. The Grasshopper has 3 D6, while we have only 2 D6. He’s the Grasshopper! He’s not even a notable guest-star or a C-List villain. And we’re Deadpool! The Merc with Two Movies! Whose book is this, anyways?
All of which is to say we lose this combat. It was close though, as the Grasshopper (a.k.a. Brent Punchwell, who I would guess … punches well?) rolled only a 4, giving us a glimmer of hope. But poor, pathetic us, we rolled a 3. So it’s on to panel 58.
Panels 58-60: Ah, Sadness my old friend. What’s even more of a crime, outside of just the fact that we lost to the Grasshopper, is that he didn’t even punch us. His name is Brent Punchwell! And he crushed us with his bionic feet.
Panels 69-71: Nice. Also, thanks for the slack, Mr. Ewing. The adventure was almost over before we got started there.
Panels 61-65: OK, so if I remember correctly here, a higher Sadness than Badness score will take us to issue 3, after we finish this adventure in issue 1. In issue 3 … none of these items will be useful? We might want the voice recorder, as that’s definitely useful in issue 2. So let’s drop the screwdriver, since it’s already done its job, and pick the voice recorder up.
Also, is that Editor Jordan D. White on the cover of “How to Play Ukelele”? I think it is?
Inventory: Voice recorder, paperclip, metro card
Panel 54: So on my first playthrough, I never talked to Zaarko. So I had no idea which button to press here. But now, obviously, I do. So let’s do the smart thing and press the green button!
Panel 84: We did it! We reached the end of the issue without dying in a horrible time vortex! With Deadpool’s incredibly sad emotional center driving, we’re on to issue 3, where we have a date with the ’70s!
Sadness: 3 Badness: 0 Inventory: Voice recorder, paperclip, metro card
Before we get started, can we note how sad Man-Thing always looks? Look at that cover. Doesn’t he look like he’s about to cry? Poor Man-Thing.
Panels 1-6: Ah, the ’70s! Should we take that toad in panel 2? It really seems like we should take it. (Editor’s Note: The toad does nothing.)
If you don’t get the Disco Duck reference here, allow me to enlighten you. After you’ve listened to the song, you’ll be in the right headspace for the rest of this issue.
Oh, also, we have no *Gems. That will make this issue very hard.
Inventory: Toad, voice recorder, metro card
Panels 44-47: Seriously though, what’s with the asterisk in *Gem? If you know, sound off in the comments.
This pentagram confluence, positioned directly in the center of the issue, is a really neat device. We’re going to start from the star’s upper-right point, taking us to panel 21.
Panels 21-25: If you haven’t read the original Secret Empire arc, in which Captain America watches a thinly-veiled stand-in for Richard Nixon commit suicide in front of him … well, you don’t need to anymore, because these panels pretty cleanly sum it up. The costume Cap’s wearing here is only slightly worse than the one he eventually picks up as Nomad.
But enough of that! Let’s sock it to Nixon! He rolls a 10, and we roll a … 6. Looks like Tricky Dick gets the upper hand again.
Panel 70: We killed Captain America? That’s probably not good. Let’s head back to the Nexus.
Panel 47 > Panels 27-29: We’re going to work our way clockwise around the star, putting us squarely in Marvel Monster territory. We do not have a stick, and we do not have a steak, so we’re just gonna have to fight every monster in order, one by one.
Dracula rolls a 4, and we roll a 10. Good start. And then, Werewolf by Night rolls a 5, and we do, too. That works out, because Deadpool wins ties (as he should, it’s his book!). So all we have to do is beat stupid ‘ol Ghost Rider, who rolls a 6 while we roll … a 10!
We did it! That … should not have worked. On to the victory panel!
Panel 60: We acquired our first *Gem! And also, look at the way that mirror is positioned in this panel. For the same reason we took the toad, we’re going to take the mirror. (Editor’s Note: The mirror DOES actually do something.)
Inventory: Mirror, toad, voice recorder
Panel 47 > Panels 32-36: Oh god, it’s Judge Dredd. Listen, in a comic written by a British writer, I’m not going to fight Judge Dredd. Let’s team up with that guy.
Panels 51-53: Aw yeah, we bad. Oh, and also, we’re gonna see Justice Peace again in issue 5 (you know it’s 5 because the he says the future, and issue 5 is the only issue that’s locked into place as being “after” this one). Let’s take his anti-monster gas and get the heck away from him.
Also, note that we still have only one *Gem. Maybe a bit too tough, Mr. Ewing?
Badness: 1 Inventory: Anti-monster gas, mirror, voice recorder
Panel 47 > Panels 9-14: I have mad respect for Rufus “One Eye” “Super Midnight” Carter, who is apparently an actual pre-existing character. Do you see this guy?! He’s got an eyepatch and a turtleneck sweater. We don’t want to piss him off. We just want to fight him.
Panel 73: Rufus called us “babe.” Swoon.
Panels 75-78: See, Rufus is cool. Not only did he hand over the *Gem, he taught us a super secret fighting move! I think we may have already missed our chance to use the Super Midnight Technique, but maybe it’ll come up …
Also, our official *Gem count is two.
Panel 47 > Panels 15-16: Oh man, that classic second person narration. Now THAT is peak ’70s Marvel to me. I first encountered it in Iron Fist reprints, which are some of the better Marvel comics to own in black and white. It makes them feel like a fighting manga or a classic kung-fu movie.
But I digress. Let’s fight this big sad plantboy.
Panel 19: Oh man, we have both the anti-monster gas and the mirror! I used the gas on my first playthrough (it goes well), so let’s try the mirror here.
Panels 40-42: This is actually a really clever bit, with Man-Thing burning himself because he looked in the mirror, but I do feel sorry for that guy. No wonder he always looks so down. Let’s take care of this quickly; the on-fire Man Thing rolls a 6, while we roll a 7.
Panels 58-59: We wound up with three *Gems, which is two more than I acquired on my first playthrough. We’re also definitely taking some of that Man-Thing mud, for future use.
Inventory: Man-Thing mud, anti-monster gas, voice recorder
Panel 47 > Panel 93: This is it. We’ve got three *Gems with which to appease the Nexus of All Realities. But can we do it?
In order to appease the Nexus, we have to give it as many *Gems as a die roll, minus one. We roll … a one, so we could have made it through with zero *Gems? All that hard work for nothing!
Panels 94-95: We’re on our way, but are we really going to the ’80s? Our Badness score is sending us to issue 2, which looks more like the ’60s than anything else. But before we move on, let’s take stock of our Sadness, Badness, and inventory.
Sadness: 3 Badness: 1 Inventory: Man-Thing mud, anti-monster gas, voice recorder
Oh no, we’re all out of order! That’s okay, though, because linear time is for squares, man. Let’s explore the ’60s!
Panels 1-3: Do you think the year is 1961? That fiver in panel 3 is definitely positioned in such a way that I want to take it. Let’s drop the anti-monster gas (which we already used and surely will not need later in this issue) and take that money, honey.
Inventory: Five bucks, Man-Thing mud, voice recorder
Panels 4-5, 21-24: In celebration of The Immortal Hulk, we’re going to “get green ‘n ragey” with some gamma rays. So it’s on to panel 25 for us.
Panels 25-26: Oh youths. “Groove on rebellion,” indeed. Let’s stow away in Rick’s car, because I see no need to hijack it.
Panels 64-66: That’s a neat trick in panel 65. I didn’t really know the song, so I had to look it up. I’ll save you the trouble. I guess I can see how it would make Deadpool (who is a known softie) cry. We are so sad.
Panels 67-74: A few things here:
- “He’s trespassin’ on my trespassin'” really seems like a Futurama line.
- Why? Why did we throw away the anti-monster gas? The Hulk’s whole deal is “Is he man or monster?”. It’s his tagline. We’re so dumb.
- The Hulk gets 4 D6? 4??? That … seems fair actually.
The Hulk rolls an 11, and we roll a 7. A crushing defeat which leads us to …
Panels 32-34, 81: Well, good news, bad news. Good news is, we accomplished our objective. Bad news is, we no longer have any hands with which to activate the Time Helmet. And we caused a nuclear war. And we lost.
Listen, this ending’s pretty unsatisfying, right? Like, you didn’t come here to read a playthrough that gets cut off halfway through the story. So let’s all just fudge things a little bit? What if I told you that when we got to panel 67, this was our inventory:
Inventory: Five bucks, Man-Thing mud,
voice recorder anti-monster gas
You’d believe me, right? You’d be willing to go along with it? Great. Let’s all just pretend. Circling back around here, to the Incredible Hulk’s incredible transformation …
Panel 74: Oh, wow, good thing we saved that anti-monster gas! We’re very intelligent (and quite good-looking as well). Let’s use the gas and go to …
Panels 11-13: It is pretty lovely to play the series out of order. When this first came out, my wife and I actually had to wait and jump from issue 2 to issue 4! The extra week’s wait was killer.
But not as killer as this anti-monster gas. We really don’t care about that *Gem (because, y’know, we already beat issue 3), so we’re off to the end of this issue!
Panel 84: We’re pretty much stuck with issue 4 at this point, which if the timeline progression holds, will drop us square in the 1980s. Before we go, let’s take stock of our Sadness, Badness, and inventory.
Sadness: 4 Badness: 1 Inventory: Five bucks, Man-Thing mud, anti-monster gas
We are much more sad than bad, which is actually my kind of Deadpool.
Panel 1: If you had any doubt that we were in the ’80s, just look at that lady’s headband.
Panel 3-5: Comics are great, right everybody? There is a man who calls himself The Arranger. He arranges things. And he is a total actual, factual part of Marvel continuity.
Panel 10: Here, The Arranger dies a little before his time (and before he can tell us the Kingpin’s secret elevator code). Oh, the irony. We’ll take that bowling ball though, and make good use of it later.
Inventory: Bowling ball, Man-Thing mud, anti-monster gas
Panels 13-16: It’s not Daredevil’s sweatshirt that makes this gag; it’s the coffee cup. Also, yeah, Daredevil being his own twin brother is a whole thing.
Panel 17: A three-headed monkey, really? Let’s say that we’re an Avenger, taking us to …
Panel 28: We aren’t lying, DD! But explaining why we’re not an Avenger anymore … yeah, we don’t really want to get into that.
Panel 60: Even Daredevil is more competent than us in combat? Also, note the two-headed monkey here. Two-headed, not three-headed.
Oh, yeah, also, Daredevil knocks the stuffing out of us, rolling a 4 to our 3. Yeah, we somehow lost to a 4.
Panel 89 > Panel 26-27: Well, this issue has sure started out well. We should be able to take Turk, though, provided we can navigate our way through Josie’s Bar. Deadpool’s dialogue in panel 27 contains a joke that you won’t really get, because we did the Hulk bit in issue 2. Proving that, yes, this little miniseries has a ton of replay value.
I think we already established that we are a sneaky Deadpool, so let’s check around back, rather than bust through the front of Josie’s Bar.
Panel 49: Ninjas! Crikey! We somehow beat them both, rolling a 6 to a 5 and an 11 to a 10, making up for our awful role against DD. So let’s sneak on in to the back of the bar.
Panel 56: A minigame! It’s been a while since we got one of those.
It looks like we got to bypass a few Deadpool Die™ rolls by coming in the back. We make our way through the kitchen successfully (rolling an 11), and then we swipe the gun out of Turk’s hand (by rolling a 4 exactly). Let’s … grill that guy.
Oh, also, there’s that steak we could’ve used in issue 3. I wondered where the heck that would’ve come from.
Panel 83: Ok, one digit of the elevator code we need is the square root of the other digit. Remember that, True Believer. And then let’s move on.
Panel 18: Don’t rub it in, ‘Pool.
Panels 19-21: Y’know, when I learned that this issue was set in the ’80s (and that the fifth issue was … well, we’ll get there), I really thought Ewing and co. were wasting some massive potential for ’90s jokes. But they got some in, and that’s great. I also feel it’s my duty to point out to you, a reader who has made it this far, that Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld has created a character who is literally made of pouches. Click the link; I can’t make this stuff up.
Oh, also, we super lose this fight against the Extreme Grasshopper (’95), rolling a 7 to the Grasshopper’s 9. We could’ve grabbed an anatomy textbook off Daredevil’s desk in panel 13 and won this fight handily, so the loss is on me.
Panel 90: We leave without an elevator code clue again. We might be in trouble here.
Panels 50-51: Except, y’know, I’ve already played through this once. So I know which panel is the correct panel to go to. I can, however, avoid spoiling the correct answer here, thanks to some clever narrative trickery from Ewing and co. There are a bunch of extra panels between you and your fate, meaning that as long as I don’t tell you what number I picked, you can make your own choice during your own playthrough!
Panels 63-67: Ok, thank goodness, the Pin King didn’t exist before this issue. I looked it up, just to make sure. His dialogue in panel 67 is a little too real, though, to be honest.
You’ll remember that we’ve got that bowling ball. And the Pin King? He’s got a bowling pin on his head. So I think you can guess what’s gonna end up happening here.
Panels 84-88: Strike! Nice one, Bullseye.
Panels 101-102: With the Time Helmet recovered, we’re on the way to the end of our adventure! Issue 5, the final chapter! Here’s the state of our Deadpool, on the way to this time caper’s conclusion.
Sadness: 6 Badness: 1 Inventory: Bowling ball, Man-Thing mud, anti-monster gas
The fraught and frightening finale! What will become of us, Deadpool? Will we manage to return to our own time? Do we even want to?
Panels 1-6: Silly billy? Us? Surely not.
Panels 10-11: Ok, strap in everyone. It looks like we’re going to go full meta in this issue. And things … might get stranger before they get better.
Panel 13: Oh yeah! Justice Peace! We still have to meet up with that guy in this issue!
Panel 14-15: Throwing some shade, eh, Ewing? The self-shade about the eighth cosmos concept is something else.
Also, you might want to take a quick peek at panel 17 before we move on.
Panel 18: Wow, we totally won the game! What’s the back three-quarters of this comic book for? I don’t know! Because we already won, and surely nothing else will happen in this book.
Panels 19-24: And. Here. We. Go. Let’s light ’em up, Deadpools. We’re headed to the year 2109 AD, to fight against the very concept of comic book reboots from within a five-week limited series that is a comic pretending to be a game.
Panels 28-29: Space Rome is likely much better than regular Rome, because it is in space. We roll a 5 to the Space Gladiator’s 4, meaning we win this round of gladiatorial combat.
Panel 38: Ok, this panel’s super interesting because there’s another way into it. You could get here by reading straight through from panel 37. But we have no idea how you would even get to panel 37 (unless you’re CHEATING), so that means there’s some other timeline happening within the book RIGHT NOW that we have no control over.
This is the kind of buckwild stuff I picked up this series for. Also, note that panel 39 is where we would’ve gone if we’d lost to the Space Gladiator. The story would’ve continued on without that Deadpool, even if we’d gotten him killed.
And now, a minigame.
Panel 41: The Old West! Let’s ride our wild stallion into town and do a crime? But not successfully? It looks like we’re dead? But if my hunch is right, that really shouldn’t matter …
Panels 44-46: And nope, it doesn’t. The Deadpools we journeyed to the Old West with are dead, but that doesn’t matter now, because we have 82 more!
I’m gonna be honest with you here: I don’t remember which of these doors is correct. I feel like the right choice had something to do with American revolutionaries, or something? Which would mean one of the 1600s doors is correct. I feel like living dangerously, so we’ll divide our Deadpools up as follows:
- 0079: 10 Deadpools
- 1620: 10 Deadpools
- 1666: 52 Deadpools
- 1945: 10 Deadpools
(Editor’s Note: This doesn’t work out.)
Panel 60: There go 10 Deadpools.
Panel 61: Oh no. We’ll come back to this.
Panel 62: There go 52 Deadpools.
Panel 63: There go 10 Deadpools.
Panel 61 (again) > Panels 55-58: Ok, so here’s how this sequence goes –
Grasshopper 1620 attacks with his Pilgrim army, and we lose the first round. 10 to 9. But, we have exactly 10 Deadpools. Which means, according to the rules in panel 57, we both can and must fight again. We did lose the fight but WE DON’T have less than 10 Deadpools, so we can’t go to panel 59 yet. The game won’t let us. So we have to fight again, and we have to continue with 0 Deadpools (assuming we win).
We win the second round, rolling an 8 to tie the Pilgrims’ 8. So we read on to panel 58 with 0 Deadpools in the bank. For the sake of narrative and mathematical convenience, we’re gonna round that 0 up to 1.
So we’re in contorl of one Deadpool, with the option to make two choices. This is not looking good for us, huh? I think we have to go back to the TVA (as founding Wademerica seems a bit silly), so let’s swing over to …
Panels 47-49: Things are getting a bit screwy now, huh? Imagine if we’d had enough Deadpools to do both things in panel 58. Then we’d have to track two separate decision trees. I’m kinda glad, for the purposes of this blog post, that our weird math and combat rolls worked out as they did.
But we’re gonna lose here. We don’t know the emergency frequency (panel 48), and with our one, rounded-up Deadpool eliminated, we have to move on to panel 59.
Panel 59: Well, this is it. The end. We’re out of Deadpools and out of time.
Or are we?
Listen, we already know this comic is composed of multiple timelines that are happening without any actual input from us. We learned that when we entered panel 38. So somewhere, there’s a version of this playthrough in which we didn’t make terrible choices. In which, say, we founded Wademerica instead of going straight back for the TVA.
We’re not cheating here, reader. We’re just accessing an alternate timeline, as we already did when we started reading from panel 19 (skipping over the ending laid out in panel 18). Our power over the comic allows us to reshape our destiny, as we’ve done before.
So let’s go found that country.
Panels 64-66: Well, we definitely do not have over twenty Deadpools left. Justice Peace, like all named opponents, has 3 D6. We are unlikely to beat him here. And in fact, we do not. He rolls a 13, and we roll a 5.
But I see the emergency frequency below us, in panel 68. I know the frequency now, and I know where we need it. Rules bedamned, we have a timeline to save. The Wades need us.
Panels 47-48 (again): We do know the emergency frequency! Let’s use it and summon Justice Peace to help us! Quickly!
Panels 50-54: Getting a little too British with this Time War, methinks. That aside, do you know what object we can use to contain this situation? I will tell you that I did not guess it on my first playthrough, though if I’d had to cheat to the extent I have on this playthrough, I might’ve figured it out. And yes, that’s an obtuse hint.
Panel 69: Nice.
Panels 70-78 : Did you figure it out? The object we needed to use? I found the solution to be rather brilliant, and I think it does actually make sense.
We’re in full-blown cheating mode here, so even if we hadn’t “figured it out,” we’d be moving on toward the best ending. This heartwrenching hit in the feels fits very well for OUR Deadpool, who is possibly the saddest Deadpool anyone’s ever seen.
As you’ve likely figured out from this walkthrough, the comic does have massive replay value, and I highly recommend checking it out and playing through it at least a couple times.
I don’t, however, recommend writing up your playthrough, as holy cow this blog post is over 4,000 words long. So I’ll leave the post-credits sequence for some other blog post or comics review outlet to explain. At this point, I’m exiting the timeline, leaving you , and you alone, to BE DEADPOOL!