WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Gwenpool Strikes Back #3 by Leah Williams, David Baldeon, Jesus Arburtov and VC's Joe Caramagna, in stores now.
Irreverence has defined Gwenpool comics since her inception as the antihero upturns that comics conventions, wields tropes like weapons, and pokes fun at just about anything there is to poke fun at. But, there has always been a dark edge to the humor, demonstrated by the character cranking things up to 11 and murdering the Hulk in Gwenpool Strikes Back #3.
The action seems more villainous than heroic for a character who so often dances along the line between the two, but it comes as a result of the biggest motivation for any character: keeping her sales up!
The concept behind Gwenpool is that she is a real-life comic book fan from our world who was transported into the 616 Marvel Universe. Armed with her intricate knowledge of Marvel lore and basic storytelling conventions, she first became a superhero in order to keep herself "alive," rather than a side character or no-name henchman who often get killed off.
Going a step further, Gwenpool eventually reasoned that the best way to keep herself alive in perpetuity was not only to be the main character of a book, but to keep that book popular among readers. By understanding the basic business model behind comic books, she demonstrates an understanding that what is more important than moralistic platitudes or a belief in the fundamental ethics of the universe is... money. And, the best way to keep the money flowing, she realizes, is to not be a hero, but a villain.
The development comes straight from her examining her own sales performance from past series. Since she often fluctuated between a heroic character and an amoral one, Gwenpool saw a clear trend in her sales toward favoring the stories where she was more villainous. However, in keeping with her own previous logic, Gwenpool knew that she couldn't just simply be another villain, but had to try to become the greatest villain of all time.
Surprisingly enough, she might have the power to actually do it. While Gwenpool doesn't have "powers" per se in comparison to someone like Namor or Carnage, her metafictional awareness always gave her an edge over her more straightforwardly powerful compatriots. After exploring this awareness further, however, Gwenpool eventually discovers a "flashback ability" where she can essentially rewrite Marvel's history by simply referring to something as happening previously.
In the latest issue of Gwenpool Strikes Back, she demonstrates this ability by constructing a massive island to serve as a gladiatorial arena for Marvel's biggest heroes, organizing all of them and promising the winner Tony Stark's money. Both the island's construction and Stark's money have their origins in offhand references she makes to flashbacks, and Tony himself notes that he didn't remember bequeathing her the money until the moment she said she did it.
But none of the heroes take Gwenpool seriously. Those who ran into her before know she isn't truly a villain, so in order to demonstrate her alleged villainy, she shoots Bruce Banner in the head, seemingly killing the Immortal Hulk.
The Hulk pops right back up, as has been his custom for the past year of his comics, but he storms toward Gwenpool ready for a showdown. Given her powerful metafictional abilities, she may be the only force the Hulk has faced who actually could put him down, but it's up to the next issue to show if she's really willing to end the fight so decisively.
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