Charles Soule and Langdon Foss frame a series of funny and feel-good holiday features in “Gwenpool Special” #1, and yes, alternate-reality debutant Gwenpool is featured in one of them. Soule and Foss lead off with She-Hulk, though, and other creators in the roster fit in some loosely-connected stories featuring Ms. Marvel, Deadpool and a Hawkeye or two. It’s a fun and remarkably consistent festive romp, one that eschews Marvel’s big names in favor of some of their newer and less-trafficked heroes, and the creators pull together an enjoyable, if somewhat offbeat, seasonal special.
The She-Hulk sequence “Ever Green” finds Jen throwing an office party in her building full of super-powered tenants, but it’s refreshingly not a superhero/supervillain smack down. Instead, a trio of rather odd would-be buyers of said building are spreading some very un-Christmas-like anti-cheer, threatening to leave the landlady’s renters out of a headquarters. Amongst all that, though, Jen still throws one massive holiday blowout and invites all of her superhero friends, meaning that many more familiar heroes get a cameo appearance. Foss lends a comical, detailed touch, making nearly every panel worth a moment to study; looking for a familiar character or trying to identify a not-so-familiar one will lead to the discovery of some gut-busting gags that might otherwise have been missed.
Margaret Stohl and Juan Gedeon portray a seemingly Scrooge-like Kamala Khan in “Ms. Grinch,” where Stohl provides a pretty compelling introspection of a Muslim teenager who looks with envy upon those who observe Christmas and Hanukkah, lamenting that she has no holiday of her own during the so-called holiday season. Oddly enough, beating up Santa Claus — even if he’s just a robber in disguise — gives her a different outlook. Stohl delivers the kind of tidy, sentimental resolution common in Christmas stories, but it works fine because, well, it’s Christmas. Gedeon’s minimalist art is fitting for Kamala’s empty mood, but it’s a little too crude in some panels and doesn’t make for a jolly-looking a feature.
The issue’s most entertaining story is Gerry Duggan and Danilo S. Beyruth’s “Hawkeye vs. Deadpool vs. the Holidays,” and the plot pretty much matches that description; this time, the impostor Santa is Clint Barton and Santa is on the offensive, dishing out some justice to a crook. This scene is the highlight of Duggan’s story, but one comical moment among many that make this story the best of the bunch. Beyruth’s art is the most traditional of this comic’s artistic talent, but it readily carries the comedy of Duggan’s script with seemingly little effort. Duggan’s story also has a sappy but likeable sugary Christmas ending, and even serves as one of the feature’s final laughs.
Lastly, “Gwenpool’s Holiday Adventure” by Christopher Hastings and Gurihiru is a delightfully whimsical story that defies any kind of believability, but that’s just fine. Armed with all the skills a partially-viewed YouTube how-to video can supply, Gwenpool goes up against a villain who’s more akin to an evil version of the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin” than any kind of real threat, but — as scripted by Hastings and illustrated by Gurihiru with a touch of manga influence — the story is too much fun not to like.
“Gwenpool Special” #1 isn’t taken over by Gwenpool, like Kris Anka’s rendering of the character on this comic’s cover would indicate, but that’s no issue, as the creators involved collectively make Christmastime for Marvel fans a little more enjoyable.