Before you read any of this, before you consider buying this trade, before you even blink, answer me this one question: Have you read The Unbelievable Gwenpool by Christopher Hastings and Gurihiru? All 25 issues of it? Well, did you, punk? If your answer is yes, you are not a punk and I apologize for calling you one. Keep reading! I hope you enjoy this review. But if your answer is no, you need to drop whatever you’re holding, leap away from wherever you were sitting or standing, and go to your local comic shop or favorite online retailer for comics and order those trades. Or, maybe better, go to Marvel Unlimited, pay the $10 for a month if you haven’t, and read all 25 issues right now. This isn’t a recommendation, it’s a command. You’re missing out on one of the best comics of the decade and really just doing yourself a disservice if you don’t listen to me. I can’t enforce this, but please.
Now, onto Gwenpool Strikes Back, which is itself a wonderful comic lovingly crafted by Leah Williams, David Baldeón, Jesus Aburtov and Guru-eFX, Joe Caramagna, and a whole host of cover artists and editors. This book is fantastic. I need to say this up front because if that’s all you wanted to know, you can go right now. I don’t plan on spoiling very much, but if you don’t want to know ANYTHING beyond whether or not this book is worth buying, I gotchu. It’s worth buying.
Now that we’ve gotten past the people who haven’t read The Unbelievable Gwenpool and the people who don’t want to know ANYTHING about Gwenpool Strikes Back, I can start talking about the actual comic here. Leah Williams has gotten some notice for her absolutely incredible Age of X-Man: X-Tremists in the first half of 2019, but even before that, a lot of people in comics knew her because she had an absolutely fantastic Twitter account. Now, me bringing this up might be concerning for a few of you: “Vishal,” you might ask, “Hastings’ Gwen had a sense of humor that was more coherent than the average Twitter user. Does this book turn Gwen into a… meme lord?” And the answer, true believers and false believers alike, is yes. Gwen can do memes now. BUT BEFORE YOU START FREAKING OUT ABOUT MILLENNIAL HUMOR I gotta ask you, if Gwen was a comic fan in her late teens/early 20s before being brought into the Marvel Universe, how could she not be a meme lord? This isn’t an alteration of Gwen’s character as much as it is a fleshing out. This is an extra facet of her character that really just makes her even more enjoyable to read. And by the end of the volume there’s even an explanation for why Gwen acts differently, beyond just having a different writer! So you can headcanon it out if for some reason you don’t enjoy hilarity and fun in your comic books.
This series is a love letter to the character of Gwenpool as she was created by Hastings, and all of the creators on the book understand the character in a significant way. It’s not just Leah Williams who does a great job here — David Baldeón has cemented himself as on par with Gurihiru as the definitive Gwen artist, and Joe Caramagna’s letters bring so much life into this book in a way I haven’t seen maybe ever. There are so many in-jokes and references to the current Marvel Universe that might feel dated in a couple years, but are still hilarious as this trade is coming out. And by the end of the series, if you’re not getting emotional, there may be no help for you at all. I love Gwenpool, and it’s clear that every single creator on this book loves her too. If you love Gwenpool, you’re sure to enjoy this one, and if you don’t, you better start soon. It’s worth it.
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