Gwenpool Strikes Back #1
Written by Leah Williams
Art by David Baldeon and Jesus Aburtov
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
Is it Gwen Stacy? Is it Deadpool? No - it’s Gwenpool! Following her swan song in The Unbelievable Gwenpool and her more grounded adventures in West Coast Avengers, writer Leah Williams dials Gwen’s fourth wall-breaking narrative to 100, as this fangirl-turned-superhero goes on a quest to gain superpowers in order to continue to exist in the 616. But Gwen proves to be a victim of her previous success, as Williams’ gag-heavy script doesn’t create her own emotional beats for the character beyond what lingering feelings readers might have from Christopher Hastings’ previous work. Gwen can literally be wiped from existence, and excluding the emotional tether connected to this existential crisis is the biggest weakness of this premiere.
Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 is a meta storyline that allows Marvel and Williams to showcase the importance of this limited series for the future of Gwenpool’s appearances, but the issue’s over-the-top storytelling may also alienate potential new readers that the character needs to survive. This issue goes from 0 to 60, which caters nicely to established fans of the character, but this can be a harder pill to swallow for newer readers as there is a lot of information thrown at you at once in a less than organic way.
As much as Gwen’s style of monologuing is what makes her unique, it’s also what brings down this issue. There just isn’t enough meat in her narration, with a lot of repetition amongst the gags that don’t always land (such as a recurring gag about pregnant ladies and pimples). By leaning so hard on the jokes, the lack of heart behind the series feels even apparent — the series bounces back a bit with a Spider-Man cameo (no matter how unearned it might be), but even Pete doesn’t have the patience for Gwen’s antics.
While Gwen’s new superpower comes across as a bit clunky in a storytelling sense, you can’t deny how incredible artist David Baldeon is portraying Gwen as she falls into undiscovered panels of the Marvel universe. It’s a really unique layout that only a character like Gwen could pull off, proving that she’s more than a female Deadpool. Exploring these comic panels isn’t just played off as a joke, but instead celebrates the medium and the infinite possibilities of comic books. Baldeon’s crisp pencils and Jesus Aburtov’s colors brought a lot of personality to this issue – from Gwen’s flossing dance moves to her easily pulling Spidey’s mask off.
Overall, I’m interested to see where Gwenpool Strikes Back will take Gwen’s narrative as she moves through these untapped Marvel stories, but I hope there are some stronger character beats for the rest of this limited series. The balance between heart and comedy will make or break this title. As this issue spells out, it will also dictate the future of the character and her “existence” in the 616.