I was a big fan of Christopher Hastings’ last Gwenpool volume due to its quirky humor its ability to find new ways to break the fourth wall. Breaking the fourth wall isn’t new, but Gwenpool’s brand of meta humor never gets old.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Gwen Poole is everyone’s favorite character from the “real” world! And her superpower is Official-Handbook-level knowledge of top-secret comic book facts! But the longer she’s in the Marvel Universe, and not reading about it from the outside, the more her powers ruGlenpoolor do they? Maybe a trip back to her world might help – but if that happens, will she be able to get back to the MU? And at what cost? Plus, Gwenpool is no stranger to trouble, but when she blurts out somebody’s secret identity she’ll brand herself a menace! Find out how Gwen plans on fixing her self-induced continuity drama!
Can I jump in easily?
Relatively easily, as long as you know the character’s schtick and the basic understanding that it breaks a lot of rules. This volume opens at a natural point in the story with Gwenpool going back to “reality” and then being thrust into an adventure because of the acts of her brother. It ends with a “to be continued” but a villain is vanquished and a new future awaits the hero. About what you’d want in a conclusion of a story!
Reason 1: Don’t just break the fourth wall, shatter it!
Longtime and new comic readers…prepare to be amazed.
The fourth wall breaking has always been a fun staple of Deadpool, but Gwenpool takes the very concept of reality and plays with it like Play-Doh on a hot summer day. Christopher Hastings toys with what it would be like for a character with no knowledge that she was in a comic, to then begin to realize and to interact with the comic around her. There are some really fun and innovative ways Hastings and artist Gurihiru play around with this concept, like Gwenpool reaching out to see if her caption is above her head (it is) or pushing a pen down far enough so that she can see it pop up above her in the next panel. It’s really fun and it’s exciting to read something knowing it has never been done before.
Reason 2: Dealing with the convoluted nature of comics.
Gwenpool must deal with the fact that her entire universe is malleable and a made up comic book world. She interacts with a future self that’s gone full villain and in the process, it’s learned retcons have taken place and even her sidekicks have been killed off (they weren’t needed in other comics anyway). Hastings is shining a light on the shared universe experience. With it comes a big bloated mess, but also a promise that hundreds of creators have combined over decades to create something truly special.
In the panel below you can see Hastings loves this universe, warts and all, and he puts it so poetically why it’s so great.
Reason 3: The art is so fun.
Ripping through reality may sound simple, but visualizing it is a flipping pain. That is if you’re not Gurihiru, who does a fantastic job visualizing the mind bending stuff Gwenpool has to relearn and then enact. The idea of a character thinking of something and then jumping into the thought bubble is so damn cool and Gurihiru manages to make it look just as cool. The amount of time and thought that had to go into some of these pages (like a scene where Gwenpool can see all her stories lining up like Rainbow Road in Mario Kart) is unfathomable. Gurihiru not only had to draw all this, but draw ahead and plan like a filmmaker cutting a movie. Gurihiru’s style is somewhat cartoony and that suits this crazy story. The design of evil Gwenpool is pretty cool and it suits the aesthetic of “good” Gwenpool. There are also some bonus pages that show off many of the cover sketches done before reaching a final and they’re all impressive.
How cool is that?
Reasons to be wary?
The mechanism of tearing through pages, diving into panels, and interacting with the gutters of a page is cool and done very well, but it’s also the main point of the entire book. There are fewer laughs than usual as it veers towards the clever hook. If this hook doesn’t sway you–if you’re not a longtime comic fan it probably won’t be as impressive to you–this may read like one long exercise in breaking the fourth wall. Fans of story could dig this concept-shattering comic, but I could see others hating it.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I really dug this book and enjoy seeing writers try out new things. When Gwenpool first tears through a page and we see the page that comes up three pages from now that’s magic. It may not be as funny as the last volume, but extra points are in order for creators trying new things. It also pushes Gwenpool in a new direction, making her more of a hero and less of a murdering Deadpool knockoff. Bring on the next chapter!
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