Gwenpool Strikes Back #2 Review

by Charles Martin on September 11, 2019

Gwenpool Strikes Back #2 Review
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldéon
Colourist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Gwenpool Strikes Back #2 may win a prize for making the first canonical 616 use of the phrase "love you 3000."

And if you're a Gwenpool fan struggling to connect with this current miniseries, that might be the "stout Cortez star'd at the Pacific" moment when your distaste crystallizes and you understand exactly what's wrong.

It's such a Deadpool joke! 

Yes, Deadpool and Gwenpool share an understanding of their fictional existence within Marvel comics. But where Deadpool pops freely over the fourth wall to make meta-textual jokes about the latest goings-on in reader-land, Gwenpool doesn't do that.

Or she didn't used to do that.

But that crass MCU reference should not be the breaking point where you drop this series!

Let me address the basic premise and the quality of the storytelling before I go hog-wild on the more philosophical concerns. 

The premise: You see that cover of Gwen smooching Reed Richards in front of an outraged Sue? This issue is the story of Gwen ruthlessly making that happen. She's courting sex appeal and controversy in the crassest, meta-joke-iest, Deadpool-iest way possible.

It's such a Deadpool scheme, in fact, that she bows to the master and hires Wade Wilson to help her.

And the team-up is, in fact, a blast! They range over a host of humorous topics, starting with an earnest attempt to quash any fanfic or canon attempts to link the two of them up romantically. (Good ☠☠☠☠☠☠☠ luck, Pools!)

Gwen uses her restored panel-jumping abilities to teleport them into the Baxter Building 4 Yancy Street, and Wade fulfills his purpose by simultaneously bamboozling Reed and Gwen into making the kiss happen.

Gwen is skeeved out on one level - the one that acknowledges the age difference and Reed's extreme unavailability  - but on the more superficial, comedic level, she's delighted. Her exact words are, and I quote, "You hear that, Dodson(s)? That's the money shot, right there! That's the cover image!"

Leah Williams' script expands past the Pool-on-Pool shenanigans at this point to demonstrate a subtle mastery of the Fantastic Four, particularly Sue. A brief but brilliant Thing cameo is the icing on the cake.

On the art side, David Baldéon and Jesus Aburtov do a formidable job keeping up with the crazy. Character depictions are critical to making this madness work, and Mr. Baldéon strikes the ideal balance between realism and cartoonery.

(Plus, he draws Gwen's notoriously non-noteworthy butt in a way that perfectly conveys its normality. There's one over-the-top butt panel (you'll know the one) for which I genuinely want to read the art direction from Leah Williams' script.)

Mr. Aburtov adroitly juggles a diverse palette to enhance the art's details. The hijinks that develop from the kiss do make it a slight shame that Reed's costume is mostly black these days, but Mr. Aburtov employs the classic trick of highlighting black with blue and grey to keep things from getting too flat.

Okay, so, the philosophical bits! The problem is this: Those of us that followed Gwenpool down the glorious rabbit-hole of her solo series know that the last four years have produced some 57 spillion Basic Gwenpool Discussions in comics shops and internet fora. 

They all start along the lines of, "Gwenpool? Isn't she some pink Hello Kitty Deadpool knockoff?" And then a faithful fan must explain, "No no, she's got a very different, very cool Deal. She knows she's in a Marvel comic and she's read tons of them, but her journey is all about learning that even in a fictional world, her actions have consequences. (And that she can teleport through the gutter space between panels.)"

"Your actions have consequences, even when you've landed in a fictional world" is not an overlookable theme in the Gwenpool oeuvre. Howard the Duck tried to explain it to her in her very first story. She started taking it seriously after the first issue of her solo, where her rash "it's just fiction" attitude got Cecil, her first 616 friend, killed.

A faithful Gwenpool fan who has hacked her way through some of those discussions is not going to be pleased to pick this issue up and discover a Gwen that can, frankly, be perfectly described as "a bubblegum-pink Deadpool knockoff."

This is a good "LOL memes" Deadpool comic. But if that's all it is, it would be a waste of time and, more importantly, of Gwenpool. Lord knows, despite scaling back a little, Marvel is in zero danger of under-supplying the "wacky Deadpool antics" market.

Is there a silver lining here? Yes! 

Because all my whinging about Gwenpool 101 up there? It is really fundamental stuff you pick up in your first hour of reading Gwenpool comics. And that means the possibility that Leah Williams missed those themes is about 0.0 percent. 

Or, in other words, this issue's surface-level "Gwenpool is a Deadpool rip-off" reading is 100% a put-on. It even starts to come out in the final pages of the issue, when Gwen makes a deadly strategic error in how she recaps the Spidey-centric #1 for Wade.

(Those pages also suggest, gloriously, that Gwen has hired Spider-Man/Deadpool Wade rather than a generic Deadpool Vs. Whatever Wade, and that is going to cause problems in the immediate future.)

Gwenpool Strikes Back #2 is peak Deadpool rip-off-itude … but that is definitely not all that's going on. The confident creative team dives whole hog into the "LOL memes" style that Gwen, famously, doesn't care for. It's done so well, though, that we can enjoy the spectacle for what it is. It takes only a smidgen of faith to read on, certain that future twists will revisit the more complex Gwenpool we know and love and provide ironic context for this issue's absurdities.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Yeah, I did paraphrase Keats to complain about how this humour comic is the wrong sort of funny. I admit I'm a snob sometimes.