Remember back in the day when some guy said something about how there was nothing new under the sun? No? Well Marvel and DC surely do! Or at least that’s what you’d be forgiven for thinking, if Harleypool—I mean Gwenpool #1 was anything to go by.
Whoops! No, that wasn’t what I was going for at all. It’s just that I had my problems deciding what title I was reading. Surely the bright heads and decision-makers at Disney Marvel wouldn’t have voted aye for a recycled, borrowed (stolen), rebranded and repackaged character and set of story elements again would they? Maybe I need glasses, or I need to lay off this white tea and these hand-rolled cigarettes, because it feels like I’m seeing things slightly askew. But despite all this incessant blabbering about my warped view of things, maybe there’s a word or two or truth in there? Let’s find out.
Consider the following: How much fourth-wall breakage, or acknowledgement of one’s existence in a fictional universe in a form of media is even innovative anymore? Well, we’re reading a Deadpool-ish comic after all, so there would always be that kind of flavour in the pot. So maybe the creative team wasn’t really going for innovation, but instead for time-tested retro story elements and literary devices. Ok, let’s just forget about that for now. Gwen Poole is a powerless, but still reckless and irresponsible comic book fan amongst super-powered goodies and baddies in New York City. Danny Madigan somehow manages to compel us to root for him before the Last Action Hero…wait. What the hell? Why does that keep happening? I confused that Arnie film from 1993 with the comic book that I read this morning in 2016. Sorry about that. Let me start over. So Gwen is a New York-based blonde, powerless, irresponsible and volatile crime-fighter with an even less powerful half-ass sidekick buddy that the comic does well to introduce early on it its run. And so, Harley, I mean Gwen…ah fuck it.
It took me a while to get over that chip on my shoulder when I read this comic before concluding that maybe they weren’t going for something too serious. The phrase “why so serious?” comes to mind. Gwenpool 1 isn’t a serious comic on first approach, and it may be this element that reinforces the impact of the beautiful surprises that pop up sporadically between its pages, like Big Ronnie’s cleverly-worded window displays. It almost feels like the book was divided into two parts particularly for the benefit of people who’d like to publish their own comics but need a template. Christopher Hastings gave me the impression that he was trying to subconsciously influence his editors into promoting him because of his tongue-in-cheek references on this debut issue. Maybe that’s the genius of this comic’s creative team. Maybe Hastings, the same guy who got a derivative of the word ‘cynocephali’ on the page, is holding back just a little. The wonderfully talented Gurihiru, Danilo Beyruth and Tamra Bonvillain are all in on the act. I would’ve preferred more pages given to the Japanese powerhouse just because of the manga-riffic artwork which features in the non-prologue part of the story, but there will be more from Gurihiru from here on out.
Let’s just take a moment to shout-out to all things Japanese! Like they did with the black bun whopper. It might’ve been considered revolutionary by anyone who wouldn’t eat something that looked a little too well done, but the black bun whopper existed, and despite its unconventional concept, it was a variation on something classic. In the same vein, so too is Gwenpool. Take for instance the fact that within these pages, heroes and villains contend with a case of mistaken identity and we even see the teaming-up of the hero (traditionally reluctant, but quite the opposite in this story) and a redemption-hungry villain. Throw in the brilliant quips and one-liners a la Wade Wilson and a seemingly unpowered human being as another of the protagonist’s friends and you’ll have plenty that you would’ve seen before in other comics. Oh yeah, there’s also the revenge, blackmail, sidekick aspects readers will enjoy here. So, in that regard, we can only applaud the creative team for putting out the book that they did. All well and good, yeah?
Yes, but then again there’s the whole issue of…Wade Wilson and Slade Wilson and Deadpool and Deadshot and Captain Marvel and Shazam and Marvelman and Ms Marvel and the chicken and the egg. So, should we bother getting into the philosophy and social implications of these comic-booky-issues? Fuck no. There’s plenty to enjoy in Gwenpool, like that twist later on that just made me want to know what happens next. I’d wager a guess that before too long, readers are going to give Hastings the credit he deserves for presenting a gripping story considering the parameters he was given to work within.
Writer- Christopher Hastings
Artists –Gurihiru, Danilo Beyruth, Tamra Bonvillain