Although the character has only made a few appearances, Gwen Poole — aka Gwenpool — gets her own ongoing series in “The Unbelievable Gwenpool” #1, written by character co-creator Christopher Hastings and drawn by Gurihiru. Readers who picked up Hastings and Gurihiru’s delightful short holiday story in last year’s “Gwenpool Special” will find similar amusement here, but this time Hastings delivers a Gwen Poole who’s got a little more Deadpool in her. Even so, the tone is darkened only a touch, and it’s not like the character has any kind of extensive continuity that’s being violated, so — despite the nudge into a grittier mood — the kickoff issue sets a fun and decidedly comical precedent that bodes well for the series.
Yes, there’s some death and destruction to be found, but at least it’s not wanton death and destruction — mostly. With no powers to rely on, Gwen is forced to use her weapons to stop the bad guys, and anyone who’s read a Deadpool comic knows how well that usually ends. If anyone still fancies her a bona-fide superheroine after that, Hastings convincingly dispels that notion on her next mission, where a fortunate windfall and a touch of dirty fighting wins the day in a decidedly non-heroic way, selling the notion that — as far as Gwenpool is concerned — you don’t have to be good if you’re lucky. That good fortune doesn’t befall everyone in her circle, though, and Hastings hammers home her true nature come issue’s end.
As this issue combines a sweet and beloved character with one of comic’s deadliest and most sarcastic mercenaries, Hastings places himself on a tightrope with his story; falling off to one side means developing Gwen as a little too sugary for hardboiled Deadpool fans, and the other means making her a killer in the eyes of those who see her as an alternate version of Peter Parker’s onetime girlfriend. He largely dodges that choice for now, and justifiably so, and so this high wire act is a persuasive selling point for the series’ upcoming issues for now.
Hastings and Gurihiru also dodge a direct fourth wall breach, which is something that’s become almost synonymous with Deadpool; save for the credits page, Gwen doesn’t address readers directly, but instead makes repeated mention of her home world, one not unlike our own where superheroes are only the stuff of comic books. The acknowledgement that her adventures aren’t “real” keeps Hastings’ story grounded with some degree of whimsy; Gwen doesn’t completely take her own adventures seriously and — in doing so — doesn’t ask readers to either, which keeps the story from seeming a little too over-the-top. Gurihiru’s whimsical style plays into the mood nicely; the manga touch keeps the story light, and the lighthearted look to the art is an all-but-perfect match for Hastings’ story.
Gurihiru also keeps the textures light throughout, which in turn makes the colors more expressive. When a notably sinister super-villain appears near the end of the issue, the style seems to take a more deliberate cartoonish look, as if to tone down the character’s menacing appearance — but only the appearance, as the villain’s actions are especially deadly. While the majority of the issue’s art chores fall to Gurihiru, the lengthy preamble is illustrated by Danilo Beyruth, whose style is more traditional but carries the same not-so-serious vibe that meshes well with the rest of the book. Many of the characters in Beyruth’s segment of the issue — such as the crooks with funny animal masks — lend themselves to the comical feel of the issue and help set the mood as soon as the comic opens.
There’s a kind of uncertain demeanor to “The Unbelievable Gwenpool” #1, where Hastings begins to explore his character in earnest while remaining vague about the concept’s longterm workability. For now, though, the comic carries a lot of darkly humorous fun and has earned the benefit of any doubt.