REVIEW: THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #23

This issue is what many fans of the series were waiting for: the big test for this young character. This is a complicated and dense issue with a lot to unpack if one knows what they are looking at. It sometimes feels like three different comics are going on at once, but it works quite well and is, in fact, one of the things I like most about it.

In general, I enjoy Christopher Hastings’ writing in this issue. I can’t remember any particular wording that stands out, but the pacing and plotting are very well done. The first page has her speaking directly to us the “reader-type person” positioning herself as also being a comic book reader. This is even further codified as she then clarifies that the Doctor Doom she is facing will be “The one that’s a little less Bendis and a little more Kirby…” making it clear that she is not going up against Infamous Iron Man while also establishing her credibility as a comic fan by knowing there is a difference. This gets complicated, but Clayton Cowles’ lettering saves the day on that one. There is also a nice bit of foreshadowing and the humor was mostly well done too. I especially loved the Avengers voicemail part. Although, I was disappointed to see her insulting Doom’s scars. It was very much expected that Gwenpool would eventually fight Doctor Doom as way into the Avengers. Not only is this a standard goal for a few characters at this point, it also provides yet another parallel between her and Squirrel Girl. Hopefully, the results of this fight will be accepted as continuity instead of the debate surrounding Squirrel Girl’s battle with Doom. Characters who think outside the box and get creative instead of just beating somebody bloody should be praised instead of rejected. I have further criticisms regarding this point, but I cannot discuss them without spoilers. With this in mind, it was interesting to track Vinnie’s reactions throughout the issue.

Irene Strychalski’s art style fits the character exceptionally well with its more cartoon like aesthetics, but I don’t think it works as well when applied to Doctor Doom. He never strikes me as the imposing character he is in this issue. This is THE Doctor Doom after all! There is darker shading to help bring that home, but I wish they had done more… perhaps made the cowl cover his face more or something… That said, Strychalski really shines in the meta moments. Rachelle Rosenberg is also instrumental in these moments with the pink tinges applied to everything in these making it clear that this “higher level” is her territory. The pages that feature this has a lot of quiet negative space in conjunction with the seemingly strewn papers making it feel like time has ceased along with the rest of the world.

As complex as this issue is, it doesn’t take a lot of background on Gwenpool herself to understand it making this a perfect issue for any curious about the character to check out. Long standing fans are sure to love it. We get to see her both at her strongest and her weakest. Comics certainly are a journey and I hope hers is far from over.

(W) Christopher Hastings (A) Irene Strychalsk (CA) Gurihiru

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