Deadpool #31 has delivered one of the most shocking moments of Secret Empire so far, as everyone’s favourite merc with a mouth does Captain America’s bidding – and kills fellow fan-favourite, Agent Coulson. Or did he?
While many fans were instantly outraged, some choose to believe Coulson somehow survived. It’s perfectly possible, since Coulson has always been one of Nick Fury’s best and brightest, and would pull out every trick in the book to stay alive. Of course, even if Coulson is dead it wouldn’t be the first shocker in Secret Empire, with Rick Jones having been executed as well. Besides, in a medium known for killing off characters and then resurrecting them over and over, death is rarely permanent. Plus, they didn’t really show the body. And as comic book readers know all too well, if you don’t see the body then it didn’t happen at all.
Yet the key to Coulson’s survival may hinge on something incredibly pedantic, which seems to have been missed by many readers. It’s one of the most curious moments of the issue, occurring shortly after Deadpool has destroyed Coulson’s beloved flying car Lola. Agent Coulson and Deadpool engage in a gun battle, one which Coulson knows he’ll lose.
As Coulson hides behind a tree, in one solitary panel we see a gash to his chest (presumably from Lola’s crash) and blood staining his shirt. Yet in the next scene, and every one after that, his shirt has magically repaired itself and there’s no blood stain.
Whether this was an error by artist Matteo Lolli or intentional will only be seen in time. If it was intentional, then it could prove fan theories correct that the Coulson whom Deadpool kills later isn’t the real deal and may be an LMD. If it was a mistake, then it’s one which could allow writers to bring his character back at any point and explain his death away – which in turn would garner those who noticed it a much sought-after No Prize from Marvel.
There are other mysteries in this issue, of course. Deadpool, for all his blind faith in Captain America, would still question the assassination order. Coulson’s death scene looks suspicious enough as it is, but for Deadpool to then burn the building down – one we know had a hidden safe room which Coulson was on the verge of reaching and could survive in – is another curiosity. For that matter, why would Coulson continue racing to the safe house if he’s already aware that Preston told Deadpool its location? Are Coulson and Deadpool working together in some way?
More importantly, it makes very little sense for Marvel to turn readers against Deadpool in the long run since he’s such a popular character. With Marvel seemingly heading for a company-wide reboot in the near-future, it’s fair to assume that anything goes. For Deadpool to kill one of the most popular characters in recent years, it’s bound to draw publicity and has… but it would make sense that Marvel has an escape plan, much as they do with the rest of Secret Empire itself.
While the plot for Secret Empire continues to intensify and the questions begin to build up, this latest moment is less shocking than it is intriguing. That one panel alone may hold some answers, and be the difference as to whether Agent Phil Coulson lives or dies.