Gwenpool Strikes Back #5 Review

by Charles Martin on December 18, 2019

Gwenpool Strikes Back #5 Review
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldéon
Colourists: Jesus Aburtov & Guru-eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Here we are at the end of the miniseries. Solicits and even the cover hint at Gwen visiting her home universe (our universe). 

Does it happen? Don't bet on it! Maybe there's a case to be made for a metaphorical homecoming, something about the 616 being Gwen's home now. 

But the first order of business remains packing the book with absurd hijinks, like cramming Steve Rogers and Tony Stark into a get-along shirt or unleashing a horde of bees on the Punisher for literally no reason at all.

It gets a happy ending (with the story acknowledging that it treads very close to the ending of Unbelievable Gwenpool), and Gwen gets a new angle on her powers that cries out for further exploration.

In between, the heart of the book is the encounter between Gwenpool and Ms. Marvel. Kamala's too nice to make a fight of it, instead forcing Gwen to confront how manic her recent behaviour has been.

And she's the one that suggests the new angle, a reasonable and Marvel-logical explanation for Gwen's backstory.

Here's the remarkable thing: Gwen hates this. The semi-retcon shatters her world. David Baldéon earns major points for fully communicating the agony of the change in Gwen's face. 

It's the clear highlight of an artistic performance that doesn't slip out of high gear at any point. Jesus Aburtov and Guru-eFX team up smoothly to deliver a consistent colour palette throughout, even as the setting jumps from Gwen's night-time beach to sun-soaked Krakoa (too spoilery?).

After faithfully following this whole series, I arrived at the final issue with a fair crop of expectations. Leah Williams' scripting work pays off half of my hopes. There is no grand unified plot conspiracy tying up the title's random elements; they wind up being weird for the sake of being weird. And funny, of course.

But the Kamala/Gwen conversation was exactly what I was looking for -- and also a surprising novelty. Kamala says everything I thought needed to be said. Gwen's reaction is not at all what I expected. 

Fair credit to Ms. Williams, it is a natural reaction that fits earlier portrayals of Gwen and especially what we've seen of her in this series. Gwenpool Strikes Back is essentially the story of an existential crisis, and the Kamala conversation is the breakdown moment where Gwen confronts what she's been doing.

I'm tempted to say that this series needed an antagonist. What Gwen's worried about is being retconned out of existence, which is an unlikely end for any character with a strong fanbase. Would her disruptive antics in this title make more sense if there was an actual opponent trying to end her?

Yes ... and yet, GSB works without that opposition. It is, again, a piece of natural characterization. We're all capable of getting paranoid even without somebody being out to get us. Gwen's "chicken little" reaction to starring in a solo series again is irrational and counter-productive -- and completely human.

The final page of Gwenpool Strikes Back tips its hat to the title's biggest inspiration, letting her walk away through a Looney-Tunes-style end-card. It's been an absurd ride, and while there wasn't a giant plot twist explaining its absurdity, the final serving of character work for Gwen is wholly satisfying. Gwen's adventures will continue… and this series succeeded in assuring its star of that.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
"Okay, Mama Kamala."
"If that sticks, I'm gonna get mad."