Hi my name’s Matt and I love Gwenpool. I was not expecting to admit that to you today but that is the weird and wonderful world that we live in.
(This all sounds like I’m being completely disparaging by handing out back handed compliments, so for that I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m personally surprised that not only did Marvel produce a comic book based off of a variant cover, but that they did such a spectacular job with it.)
Gwenpool as a concept started life in June of 2015, when Marvel released a series of variant covers of comics with the theme of Gwen Stacy (Peter Parker’s doomed love interest from the first hundred or so issues of Amazing Spider-Man, and more recently Peter Parker’s doomed love interest from the Amazing Spider-Man movies). The reason for this theme was the rise in popularity of the character since her reinvention as Spider-Gwen, an alternate universe version of Gwen Stacy that was bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Parker that was profiled in the Spider-Verse crossover.
This popularity led to the variant covers, specifically the variant cover for Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #2, which depicted a female Deadpool in a pink version of his costume, sipping a cocktail on a lounger, the name Gwen scrawled over the word Dead in the title to create: Gwenpool.
This one image seemed to explode all over the internet. Bleeding Cool ran an article chronicling how it captured the imagination of fandom. Ironically the article was titled “Has Marvel Noticed that Gwenpool is a Thing Now?”. Whether they had up until that point is unclear but suffice to say, they noticed.
Following her success, Marvel introduced her in backup stories within Howard the Duck, and a one-shot Gwenpool Holiday Special (they’ve since re-released all of that material in one issue called The Unbelievable Gwenpool #0), and now she has her own ongoing called The Unbelievable Gwenpool.
Here’s the thing: I already knew all that. What I didn’t know was that the book was Rad as Hell.
This is a book based around a character created for a variant cover based on a parody mash-up of Gwen Stacy and Deadpool it shouldn’t be good you guys. But it is. It really is.
Why? Two words. Christopher Hastings. The creator of the superb Dr Mcninja webcomic has brought his own brand of surreal humour and general amazingness and brought this book and this character to life.
Not only is the humour on point, but the very concept itself is unique. Lesser writers would have taken that variant cover to its literal conclusion: that this is some sort of alternate universe version of Gwen Stacy where she was somehow enrolled in Weapon X etc etc that universe’s Deadpool.
Not Hastings. Instead, Gwenpool is actually Gwen Poole, a girl ripped from our very own universe, you know, this one that we’re both in right now? In a move giving her more ties to Superboy Prime than Wade Wilson, Gwen Poole is just a normal girl that just so happens to have been thrown into the very universe that she has spent a lifetime reading comics about.
This concept does two things. Firstly it gives her vastly in-depth knowledge about the world she’s now in; knowledge that surprises and confuses those around her to perfect comedy effect.
Secondly, it enables her to break the fourth wall in a way utterly unique to her. No one knows how or why Deadpool breaks the fourth wall like he does, and in a way I’m happy not knowing. It’s a funny narrative concept, that’s all. With Gwenpool though, there’s an in-canon reason for her to know that people will be paying $4.99 for her comic.
And it’s all so funny. Again, if you’ve read any Dr. Mcninja this will be completely unsurprising, but it’s true all the same. The comic timing and the voices of the cast, specifically of Gwen herself, are absolutely hilarious. She even totally fangirls out over meeting real superheroes.
I should also mention the art here, because that’s a big part of why I fell in love with this book. Gurihiru is an art duo from Hokkaido, and together they’ve drawn, among other things, comics based on Avatar: The Last Airbender for Dark Horse, and here the style is perfect. That slightly exaggerated, westernised manga look suits the tone of Hastings’ writing and brings an energy and frenetic pace that the narrative deserves
It took me a while to even bring myself to pick this book up, which is a fault entirely my own. Despite the ludicrous IRL origin of the character, it’s created by the writer of one of my very favourite webcomics, so the fact that this book is great is only as surprising as Squirrel Girl being great (that book being written by Ryan North of the brilliant Dinosaur Comics fame).
The Unbelievable Gwenpool now sits happily on my pull-list alongside books like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck, and I’m proud of that. If you were put off from buying this book because of how it came into being, then put all that aside and pick up this book. I promise you won’t regret it.