REVIEW: Gwenpool #5 – “Miles Swings By”

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THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #5
Written By: Christopher Hastings
Art By: Irene Strychalski (Pencils) & Rachelle Rosenberg (Colors)
Lettered By: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 8/17/16
Price Tag: $3.99

Last issue, Gwen sent the evil M.O.D.O.K. into space and sort of resurrected her dead friend Cecil. So naturally she’s officially the heroine of her own story. Right? That’s what she aims to find out in Gwenpool #5, having just acquired her very own team of mercs. Turns out she’s got an even scarier boss to impress and Cecil’s not thrilled about being a ghost, though. Who knew starring in a comic book series would prove so difficult?

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Plot: Gwen’s coworkers unanimously elect her as their representative, which means she’s got a big meeting with a shadowy force of evil. At the same time, Cecil has a lot of questions about why he’s a ghost now when he was much happier (or at least at peace) when he was fully dead. To top it all off, she meets Miles Morales on the subway and geeks out as much as anyone would. Unfortunately, he’s not a fan of strangers knowing his secret identity.

Quick thinking and a lack of inhuman skills get her on Miles’ good side, but the distraction might land her team in hot water with their mysterious new boss…

Story: A great thing about this series is how subtly it deals with complex issues of morality. In ways that seem almost accidental at times. The first few issues showed off Gwen’s careless side, but she’s never allowed to run roughshod over the universe she’s recently inhabiting. There’s always some voice of reason to help reel her in, whether it be Howard the Duck or Thor herself. And with each moral dilemma she encounters, Gwen learns to handle herself just a little bit better.

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Most of this issue deals with an admittedly fun encounter with Spider-Man. But the question of whether resurrecting Cecil was the right thing to do lingers throughout, and it’s clear Gwen will have to grapple with it soon.

This issue lays the groundwork for the new arc, so there’s not as much fast-paced action as usual. But the heart and humor more than make up for that. Even thus far minor characters like Batroc, Terrible Eye and Tony are already distinctive enough to develop a compelling camaraderie in Gwen’s absence. Just as readers feel for Gwen because she’s stuck in an unfamiliar world, they feel for the team whose lives she’s disrupted too.

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Miles Morales and his supporting cast are also a welcome addition to the story, allowing Gwen more time to act like the teenager she presumably is. Of course, that calls into question the lack of pants in her superhero outfit. But since pants are something Gwen herself has specifically requested, maybe the story is going somewhere with it?

If there’s something negative to be said about Gwenpool, perhaps it’s the difference between expectations and reality. I went into the series expecting it to be a lot like Deadpool, especially after her first appearances with Howard the Duck. A few issues into the series – some murders of extras aside – that clearly wasn’t the case. The comic settled into a series that was still quirky, but  more hopeful tone. Some readers aren’t enjoying the series, because it isn’t what they expected. However, I’m not one of those readers, as I’m very happy it’s not what I expected. Even the tonal shift is self-aware. It occurs as Gwen understands that she can’t act as if she doesn’t live in this universe. She’s here to stay, so she must adapt just as the series does.

Art: The art in Gwenpool is one of its strongest aspects. The cartoonish line art by Irene Strychalski and rosy color palatte of Rachelle Rosenberg combine to exude an innocence that belies Gwen’s often violent nature. It’s perfectly in line with how she giggles while setting off an explosion or shooting off a dozen rounds.

It works especially well in scenes where Gwen takes off her suit. That’s when the art depicts a naive young girl who really is in way over her head. If we were suddenly trapped in the Marvel universe, we could easily end up as reckless as her. Of course, there’s also something to be said for how the soft palette helps the more action-filled moments seem less overwhelming.

Even more impressively, Gwenpool‘s art displays a wide range of emotions without veering from its usual aesthetic. Behold what is arguably the saddest pair of comic panels you will ever see:

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Verdict: Gwenpool #5 is much more sweet than it is sour, and that’s thanks in no small part to the skillful art. And to Miles Morales, who brightens up everything he’s a part of. Gwen Poole has grown from a gag based on a variant cover to a complex character in her own right, and I personally look forward to what mess she gets herself into next.

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