Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 Review

by Charles Martin on August 14, 2019

Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 Review
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldeón
Colourist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Gwenpool is back! How surprising! How delightful!

Nobody is more surprised or delighted than Gwen herself, who finds her intrusive private thoughts suddenly converted into a protagonist monologue. She handles it like a Champion (the legal department would like to remind Gwen she was never actually a Champion!) and it hardly distracts her from the task at hand.

Which is robbing a bank to attract Spider-Man's attention. It's step one in an underpants-gnome-type scheme to increase her relevance by getting some superpowers. 

Things only get weirder (and, it must be said, zanier) when she realizes that headlining a solo restores the medium-manipulation powers that disappeared when she was demoted to comic-relief member of a comic-relief Avenger squad.

Being able to step outside the flow of panels again reveals a more pressing problem than a lack of according-to-Hoyle superpowers: Gwen is literally two pages away from permanent cancellation. She has to rapidly and radically evolve her powers and cobble together an all-new way to ☠☠☠☠ with her own narrative, creating more story ahead of herself.

That's right; this was going to be a one-shot until the protagonist intervened and converted it into a miniseries.

It's that kind of a comic. Which is perfect for Gwenpool.

Leah Williams kicks things off with a dense script. The first order of business is resurrecting Gwen's charmingly infuriating voice. The script does this exceedingly well, gently hinting at the angst and naivete underneath her bravado. But there is a lot of bravado on the surface and it veers into some wildly confrontational places.

Does her Spider-scheme inspire her to reference That One Plot Point, You Know The One, from Spider-Man: Reign? Yes, it does, and yes, she goes there. 

Gwen's ridiculous return is helped immensely by stellar art and colours courtesy of David Baldeón and Jesus Aburtov. Of course, the star's powers lend themselves to some wonderful fantasy shenanigans in speak-to-the-reader asides.

Chibi Gwen? Yes. Chibi Shark Gwen? Double yes.

The "real world" visuals are a delight, too. Mr. Baldeón's impeccable command of anatomy and posing is enhanced by a superb amount of lineweight variation. Bold, chunky outlines work seamlessly with fine-line details to give Gwen's world a tremendous amount of life.

Mr. Aburtov plays some subtle thematic tricks with the colours. With the majority of the action set in a very prosaic bank, the palette tends toward the drab. There's a conscious exception to that rule with Gwen and Spidey; the world is more vibrant when they're around. And Spidey is better than Gwen at dialling up the colour intensity. That cannot be an accident and I love it.

My one nitpick would be with the final scene that takes Gwen back into her beloved "white space." Words and art throw a lot of fascinating ideas at us very quickly, and the thread of the plot becomes a little hard to follow.

A little confusion is intentional. The creators are aiming to make us re-read at least half of the book. That second read does answer some questions. And it leaves some hanging, again, I think, intentionally. 

This wild first issue has such a method to its madness that I'm almost certain the questions will all be answered as the series unfolds. Even if they aren't, these creators are doing such a good job with Gwenpool - so authentic, so transgressive, so fun - that I already know I won't regret climbing aboard this ride. And you won't regret it, either.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Gwen's voice already had me close to sold, then I became a believer when Spider-Man arrived and Gwen's sweatpants fell down according to their own impeccable comedic timing.