Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Volume 1: Believe It Review (Christopher Hastings, Gurihiru)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character get their own series off the back of a variant cover before but that’s what happened with Gwenpool! She originally appeared on a Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars variant cover by Chris Bachalo as a mashup between Gwen Stacey (popular at the time as Spider-Gwen) and Deadpool. Fans liked it and wanted more so Marvel obliged - and it’s fantastic?! 

Writer Chris Hastings wisely walks back the Gwen Stacey/Deadpool combo, rewriting Gwenpool as Gwen Poole, a Marvel fangirl from our world who has somehow made the transition to the Marvel Universe - and she’s very aware that she’s a comic book character! So much so that she immediately gets a superhero costume because, if you’re a Marvel superhero you’ll never die, but if you’re an extra? Oh boy. And so her madcap adventures begin! 

The setup alone is really intriguing but I love the curveballs Hastings throws in too. He flips off the idea of an origin story (for now) as being too obvious a place to begin and prefers to just jump straight in rather than wade through boring how, what, when, etc. - a writer after my own heart! 

It’s a very meta comic, which makes for a refreshingly experimental approach for mainstream Marvel. I know Deadpool’s been doing it for years but this is slightly different as Gwen is one of us who’s somehow ended up in a Marvel comic. Even Doctor Strange gets in on the act, peeking into Gwen’s/our world and approving of the Benedict Cumberbatch casting choice for his recent movie! 

Gwen does act nuts but that might just be the excitement of being a Marvel fangirl actually being a Marvel superhero in the actual Marvel Universe. Maybe she’s just having fun testing the boundaries of what’s possible because a kind of cartoon physics seems to apply there allowing powerless her to fall out of a helicopter without injuring herself? I like that we don’t know enough about her that we have to keep guessing. She is occasionally genuinely funny too - that scene where she draws dollar signs on her mask made me laff. 

I was worried the story would be Gwen going on one wacky mission after another without any direction but just as that approach started getting stale, Hastings introduced MODOK, followed by another twist with Batroc the Leaper. Two minor Marvel villains, yes, but they totally fit the barmy nature of this comic - Batroc especially, who actually feels like a real character for maybe the first time ever! 

You’ve heard that motivation crap about being the star of your own life story/movie (I know I’m mangling it but whatevs) - well, Hastings does some really clever stuff with that approach and Gwen. The way the overall story develops is quite brilliant and I look forward to more bizarre meta-narrative! 

I also really enjoyed Gurihiru’s anime-esque artwork which is the perfect complement to Hastings’ script. I especially liked the trippy Doctor Strange scene and he draws a great Thor too. 

Gwenpool is Chris Hastings’ best book yet and Marvel’s best new original character since Kamala Khan. Her first book is surprisingly great - believe it!

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