I’m going to admit it right off the bat — I thought a comic based around the character of Gwenpool was going to annoy the crap out of me. The very concept of a “Gwenpool” is so extremely “inside joke” to comics fans, such a weird result of our modern day mash-up culture, that the idea of an ongoing series featuring Gwenpool made me roll my eyes into the back of my head the first time I heard about it becoming an ongoing series.
And yet, the first issue of the Unbelievable Gwenpool basically won me over pretty fast, which was mainly the most unbelievable thing about it. Yes, the whole thing is built around a gimmick, but the writing from Christopher Hastings was clever and engaging enough that I got on board pretty fast, and the art by Gurihiru, Danilo Beyruth and Tamara Bonvillain was solid throughout.
For those reading this review who are unfamiliar, here’s the whole idea of Gwenpool in a nutshell: She’s a mash-up — originally created as one-off variant cover — of Marvel’s Deadpool together with Spider-Man’s long dead girlfriend Gwen Stacy. She’s basically a cute blonde girl who wears a pink version of Deadpool’s costume, breaks the fourth wall constantly like Deadpool, and is just all wacky and crazy-like. Kind of like DC’s Harley Quinn. In fact, Gwenpool feels like an attempt by Marvel to get themselves their own Harley and together with Deadpool, rule the world of cosplay.
This first issue of Gwenpool doesn’t bother giving you an origin story, partly because they know that with this particular character you probably don’t really care, and secondly because they might not want to remind readers how silly her origin story is. But the Cliff’s Notes version of her origin story is this: Gwenpool is really a woman named Gwen Poole, and not Gwen Stacy. She’s from “our” universe, where she already knows and is well versed in all the Marvel heroes, since she’s familiar with them as comic book characters.
Somehow, Gwen gets transported to the Marvel universe (is it still called the 616 or did Secret Wars kill that for good?) where she thinks everything is just a comic book, so she doesn’t seem to have much concern or fear for her safety, despite not having any powers to speak of. Because it’s all a comic book, see? Like a Looney Tunes character, she keeps surviving things that should kill her, because that’s always funny. In the story, Gwen is constantly making references to being in a comic, like at one point saying out loud that she hopes her heroic antics are worth $4.99.
This first issue opens with our hero foiling a bank robbery, at a bank that Gwen happens to be trying to get an account at (Gwen finds it’s hard to get a bank account when your social security number is from another reality). A group of bank robbers bust in, and shout out “You’ve seen enough movies to know the instructions here!” This one remark makes it clear that it’s not only Gwen that is pop culturally aware in this story. On some level, everyone is.
Gwen, of course, proceeds to kick their asses, because that’s just what one does at this point in the story if you’re a superhero. Gwen’s just following the Marvel playbook. But seeing as she’s from the “real” world and therefore has no powers, she just uses guns. Sure, that scares some of the bank patrons (or “extras” as she calls them) but she can’t seem to be bothered about things like collateral damage. I mean, no one ever really gets hurts in these fights in the comic, right?
Depite stopping said robbery, Gwen ends up being arrested, and forms a friendship with a hacker named Cecil that was one of the robbers who survived the ordeal. Together he becomes the Oracle to her Black Canary, guiding her via computer on mercenary hero jobs, like saving a group of mutants from some Sentinels (and how does the non-powered, non-trained Gwen accomplish this? “they use the attack patterns from the old X-Men arcade game”).
This issue also introduces us to a woman named Ronnie, who runs a shop were she caters to making and fixing the costumes for heroes, and seemingly also gets Gwen jobs. Ronnie is vaguely Asian, and speaks in broken English, which will probably be offensive to many, even if the character is a riff on Edna Mode from The Incredibles. The character itself is cute, I just don’t understand the need to have her speak in a stereotypical broken English accent. Ronnie sends Gwen on a big job, but by the end of the issue, we find out that this job is way too big for her, and Gwen is suddenly snapped out of her whole “it’s all just a comic book” mentality.
Despite going in expecting to hate it, I thought Unbelievable Gwenpool was funny and really charming. Do I still think the character itself is a cynical cash grab? Well, yeah. But hey, if your cynical cashgrab is written this well and makes me laugh out loud more than once in an issue, I guess it’s all worth it. How this will fare as an ongoing series is anyone’s guess really — cute as it was, I could see the whole shtick getting tired real fast — but as for this first issue, it was pretty darn fun, and made me laugh at all the right places. In the end, what more can you ask for?
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Unbelievable Gwenpool #1 is now available at your local comic book store.