Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldeón
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
Editor: Jordan D. White
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment

For the uninitiated, Gwenpool is basically Marvel’s Animal Man (specifically the Grant Morrison run) by way of Deadpool in Gwen Stacy drag. (Translation: she’s a fourth wall-breaker who originated as a Gwen Stacy-themed Deadpool variant cover.) But Gwenpool has the added wrinkle of being from a universe that’s more or less like ours, meaning she’s had access to decades of Marvel Comics continuity and therefore knows everything about everyone. Gwenpool is so meta that she makes Deadpool look quaint by comparison. 

The fact that Gwenpool is such a compelling character in spite of her (admittedly) groan-worthy beginnings is a testament to every creator who’s worked with her. Christopher Hastings and Gurihiru’s Unbelievable Gwenpool was a tough act to follow, but Leah Williams and David Baldeón have more than lived up to their high standard in Gwenpool Strikes Back.

Now that Gwen is a permanent fixture of the Marvel Universe (specifically the Earth-616 continuity), we find her in a place where she’s struggling to truly break out and cement her place in it. She never actually went away after the conclusion of Unbelievable Gwenpool — she was most recently a member of the West Coast Avengers — but as she alludes to in this introductory issue, being part of a team stifles her fourth wall-breaking capacity. The main plot thrust of Strikes Back is Gwen setting out to prove she’s a sustainable part of a fictional universe, by any means necessary. This leads her to deciding she needs actual superpowers to do it, but little does she know, she might already have one …

If anybody was gonna take over a Gwenpool title, Williams is more than suited for the job. Williams is representative of a new generation of voices writing for Marvel  — particularly one who grew up in Internet meme culture and tends to favor a postmodernist (dadaist, even) sense of humor. I’ve been a big fan of her Marvel work thus far (Age of X-Man: X-Tremists and Giant Man just being the most notable examples), so she was pretty much a no-brainer to take Gwenpool on a new solo adventure.

This first issue leans heavily on humor and meta commentary, so I’ll be interested to see if she delves into some of the more melancholic aspects of Gwen’s character; it’s easy to forget how borderline tragic Gwen’s origin story is because of how comical she tends to be. Based on the emotional depths X-Tremists reached toward the end of that run, I fully believe Williams is capable of balancing the scales.

Hastings was only half of the reason Unbelievable worked so well; Gurihiru was the other. Their manga-esque style provided some of the most inventive, memorable images I’ve seen in a Marvel comic to date (especially when Hastings started getting really weird at the end), so anybody replacing them would need to either bring something comparable or completely different to the character.

Baldeón’s art doesn’t look like theirs, but he captures the sense of fun in Williams’s script rather well. I first encountered Baldeón on Gail Simone’s recent Domino run, which similarly leaned heavily on comedy, making him an ideal choice to draw a Gwenpool series. Gwenpool is a deceivingly difficult character to draw because of her unique skillset that often involves literally hanging off the edges of pages, flying through the space between panels, and poking her head into thought bubbles–among other meta-tastic things. In that sense, I appreciate that Baldeón is privy to what drawing a Gwenpool book demands without being slavish or derivative to what Gurihiru did when they were drawing her. 

Letterer Joe Caramagna deserves a special mention for his work here as well; this is a dense script that undoubtedly took a long while to put on the page. I have to imagine Gwenpool is a character any letterer would kill to work on because of how inherently subjective and expressive she is! 

Gwenpool Strikes Back #1

9.2

Premise

9.0/10

Execution

9.0/10

Script

9.0/10

Art

9.0/10

Percentage of Fourth Walls Broken

10.0/10

Pros

  • Exceedingly funny and clever
  • Frenetic art matches the tone of the script

Cons

  • You're either onboard with Gwenpool as a character at this point, or you aren't
  • YMMV on the sense of humor on display
Nico Sprezzatura
nicofrankwriter@gmail.com
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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