THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #23
Writer: Christopher Hastings
Penciller: Irene Strychalski
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 12/6/17
In her single-minded quest to avoid villainy by becoming the Marvel Universe’s greatest hero, Gwen has called on Doctor Doom for an epic showdown. Too bad she didn’t get the memo that he was reformed, and Gwenpool #23 begins moments after she cut down Good Doom in frustration and conjured up the evil Doom of old. What will Gwen do now?
Plot: In Gwenpool #29, it’s time for Gwen vs. the Doctor Doom who is “a little less Bendis and a little more Kirby.” No matter how powerful the man is, he cannot avoid being kicked off the page and into the negative space between comics. But Gwen can’t avoid the rules of narrative, which dictate that a win within the first few pages is anticlimactic. Their extra-dimensional battle is just a cover for Gwen’s own insecurities, however, and that’s what she really needs to deal with.
Story: It’s a testament to how fleshed out Gwen has been over the last 23 issues that her extreme shifts between meekness and bravado are both believable and hilarious. That being said, Hastings wastes no time in starting and finishing the fight within the first few pages of Gwenpool #23. The real question isn’t whether Gwen can beat Doom, but rather the real reasons behind her desire to do so. It’s a good thing that the back-and-forth battle between the two super beings doesn’t last too long, because it gets old quick. Once the real Victor appears, that’s when things get really interesting.
Given how often Gwen goes into her manic phases, it’s easy to forget she’s just a young girl who has lost her way. But often in the presence of authority figures – even if they are Victor Von Doom – she will break down and explain the truth of her situation. In this case, it’s the fear of cancellation that’s at play. Or more accurately, the fear of not leaving a legacy, which is very relatable even to those of us not trapped in comic books. Hastings once again masterfully weaves the metatextual aspects with the more human ones: being a villain means more sales for Gwen, but doesn’t satisfy her heart.
I personally don’t want Gwen to be a villain either, which makes her misinterpretation of Doom’s advice particularly frustration. But she’s still finding herself, so it’s easy to see how she falls back on her old habits. Hopefully we still have a long road ahead of us for Gwen to learn how to be true to herself without taking things too far.
Art: It’s impossible not to miss Gurihiru when they’re not around, but Irene Strychalski and Rachelle Rosenberg continue to make a good team on Gwenpool #23. The warm, bright pinks and blues that permeate the book remain part of its iconic signature. Meanwhile, Gwen and every version of Doom gets moments to be introspective or exaggerated, and Strychalski is adept at handling Gwen’s wide range of emotions as well as Doombot’s more robotic ones.
The sequences that take place in the dimension just outside the pages of the comic books are as fun as ever, succeeding in bringing the characters to life in a whole new environment. And in a great show of collaboration between art and story, the same setting can be made to feel either intimidating or peaceful depending on what’s on the panels in the background and what the characters are saying to each other in the foreground.
Verdict: Gwenpool #23 brings many of our heroine’s insecurities to light using the same self-referential humor and wacky antics that Hastings is known for.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5