The Unbelievable Gwenpool #1
By Christopher Hastings, Gurihiru, Danilo Beyruth, Tamra Bonvillain, and Clayton Cowles.
Gwenpool #1 answers the question of “Will people buy anything associated with Deadpool?” with a resounding, “yes.” However, the real question is, does this book really add anything to the current Marvel Universe (no) or does this title really embody the spirit of Deadpool with lots of violence accented with fourth-wall breaking and inappropriate jokes (kind of). Yes, people may find Gwenpool #1 hilarious and entertaining when she is walking around with Howard the Duck, but a whole book centered on her is a little much. This book serves as a reintroduction to Gwenpool and shows her attempt to find her place as a mercenary with no discernible super powers as she is relocated from her home world to a new Earth where all her favorite super heroes live. She thwarts a bank robbery and in the process gets a sidekick. With her sidekick in tow, she then reaches out for mercenary work, but quickly learns she is not great at it. Things take a turn for the better for Gwenpool when she lands a big score to get her in the good graces of some important people in the merc field, but it all changes once she finds out who she will be working for now. The book does a good job giving a voice to this character and setting the tone of the series, but it does fall short in capturing the essential Deadpool-iness that a reader has come to expect.
Marvel did pick the right person when they tapped Christopher Hastings (Adventure Time, Howard the Duck) to write Gwenpool. He understands the mentality of a far-fetched character like Gwen Stacy from an alternate universe who attempts to emulate Deadpool. Getting to the reasons why this character exists and why should we care about them is hard to do and Hastings really writes this character with a lot of empathy and understanding of that mindset. However, as we begin to more clearly understand her, she does not always come across as a likeable and endearing character throughout the issue. The reader follows Gwenpool on an emotional journey throughout this comic and Hastings cleverly decided to side-step an origin story and instead deliver a prologue that introduces Gwenpool to the new universe she is joining. Hastings really delivers in expressing the emotional state of Gwenpool from nervous anxiousness to eagerness to remorse throughout the issue. He does this through great dialogue between Gwenpool and her sidekick, Cecil, and it allows Gwenpool to have a straight guy to place off of. Some really big missed opportunities in this were giving some of the best lines to random supporting characters throughout the issue and not Gwenpool herself; for example, a random hostage calls Gwenpool “Ghostface no-pants killer” in the prologue. Part of what makes Deadpool so Deadpooly is that he plays off of his surroundings and he brings the reader in by making obvious and often crude jokes that help to break the fourth-wall and endear Deadpool to the reader. Gwenpool does not come across as endearing or crude in this issue whatsoever, which would be okay and forgivable if they had created an engaging character in Gwenpool. If you are going to clean up her jokes and violence compared to an average Deadpool comic, the very least you can do is make her a sympathetic character.
The art in this issue is a high-note showcasing two artists, Beyruth on the prologue and Gurihiru (art duo from Japan) for the main story. It was fun to see two separate artistic takes on Gwenpool, specifically her costume and mask. The prologue from Beyruth had accompanying coloring from Bonvillain and letters from Cowles that was a fun ride to take as a start to Gwenpool debut issue. Beyruth draws Gwenpool as a bright pink and white beacon amidst a wash of dark hues. She really pops off of every panel in the prologue. There are some nice touches like really emphasizing how expressive the emotions are on the masks from Gwenpool. In the main story, Gurihiru is joined by Cowles on letters and Gwenpool is drawn with an almost storybook-meets-manga quality to it. She is drawn with big, dewy eyes, and her sidekick Cecil is also given this treatment with big eyes and soft lines. The layout of the action panels is great, easy to follow, and the art style is a reflection of the lighthearted tone of the story and the immaturity and naivety of Gwenpool. It completely fits together and gives a perfect complement to the story.
Calling this comic “Gwenpool” may be a disservice to this series and the character because there is very little this version of Gwen Stacy has in common with our Merc with a Mouth apart from a similar costume. Spider-Gwen has been such a success that maybe Marvel got a little ahead of themselves by trying to force another Spider-Gwen success with Gwenpool. Maybe years of Deadpool exposure have turned some readers into hardened cynics who like their Deadpool wrinkly, disturbed, violent, with a wicked sense of humor that scoff at the premise of Gwenpool #1. However, some readers are not complete misanthropes and will go into reading Gwenpool with little expectation, an open mind, and an open heart. There is an appeal to this concept with the bright costume, fun artwork, and zany writing that will capture some of those readers from Spider-Gwen. There are going to be plenty of people who love this comic for sure, but for others it is going to be another title added to just inflate an already oversaturated brand.