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Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 Review

Bracingly smart and delightfully manic.

Gwenpool is a fascinating character. Many may deem her a cheap knockoff, but they’d be sorely (and I mean two black eyes sorely) mistaken. Her ability to break the fourth wall, her origin in our universe, and her lunatic wit make her an incredibly fresh character. I adored the stories Christopher Hastings gave her and now she’s back with a new ongoing from Leah Williams, David Baldeon, and a whole new purpose. 

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So what’s it about?

Read the preview.

Why does this matter?

If you were a superhero without powers, what would you do to stay relevant? That’s the main crux of the story here, wrapped in fourth-wall breaking, Spider-Man annoying fun. Need I say more?

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

The Youtube style panels are great.
Credit: Marvel Comics

Serving as a good opening salvo for those who don’t know the character, this first issue lays out the rules of Gwenpool and her current status. She no longer wants to be on a team but needs a hook to get her own title. Thanks to writer Leah Williams, the voice of this character is spot on and I’d even wager it’s a bit more tuned towards the internet vocabulary and mindset. There isn’t a character that’s more of a character than Gwenpool in the Marvel Universe and it’s through her self-awareness that we can laugh both with and at her. There are plenty of wisecracks in this issue and many hit the mark, with some surprises too. I never would have thought Spider-Man’s radioactive sperm would come up in a comedy book, but here we are. 

One of the big reasons this book works is because Williams has Gwenpool interacting with Spider-Man in this issue and it’s done so that it’s Spider-Man who is the annoyed one. Who would have thunk it? There is also the fourth-wall breaking fun which I can’t get enough of. When a comic character pulls the pages back as well as it’s done here it’s hard to fault it, even when we know it has been done before. There’s even a clever twist to this issue that you won’t see coming.

The art by Baldeon — with colors by Jesus Aburtov and letters by Joe Caramagna — is so clean you’ll feel less dirty after the book is over. Seriously though, the character is sharp, the panels within panels within pages (you get the picture) that are easy to follow and sharp as a tack. I had no trouble understanding what Gwenpool was doing when she was fluttering between panels. There is also an epic full page splash page-turn that’ll have you in stitches. Comedy is a tough nut to crack for many, but it’s pulled off effortlessly here. 

Here he comes to save the day!
Credit: Marvel Comics

It can’t be perfect, can it?

Some of the ADHD-style humor can take a second to land (or maybe I’m just slow). The pace of the first four pages is a bit all over the place (probably partially by design) with a slow creep over four panels, a general speeding up over the next page, some heavy exposition on the third, and finally the super speedy joke after joke on the fourth page. It’s such a whirlwind I had to get my bearings after these pages which, again, might be a good thing, but it left me disorientated. 

Is it good?

A whiz-bang comic story that’s bracingly smart and delightfully manic.

Is it good?
A whiz-bang comic story that’s bracingly smart and delightfully manic.
The humor works quite well throughout
Clever fourth-wall breaking fun
Sharp art that is never confusing when things could be (but aren't) very confusing
The pace of the first four pages really threw me off, but it picks back up well

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