by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!
What do Batman, his creators and his fans have in common? We’re all experts. Or at least, we all fancy ourselves experts. Comics in particular have always had this interactive component to their fandom; requiring readers to visit specialty stores, travel to cons, keep track of unwieldy pull lists. Just keeping up with Marvel comics requires a nearly insane amount of time and energy tracking character and release, and the comic fan reaches their 10,000 hours of practice with the medium early. Gwen Poole is an expert at comics — but is she an expert fan? Expert creator? Expert hero?
Gwen’s settled back in to what she believes is her old hum-drum life, saving up for school and drawing in her spare time. But she just can’t shake the idea that she’s in a comic book. This isn’t the kind of “in a comic book” where she’s privy to the underlying mythology of the story she’s in — in fact, there’s a telling moment when she reveals she doesn’t know what happens in Captain America: Civil War yet. She is well-versed in the medium her story is expressed in. I love this shit. Gwen’s aware of the panel dividers around her, and even posits that she’s living her life in between the pages and in between the panels. That’s an old Scott McCloud-ism: that the action of a story necessarily takes place between the static images on the page. Writer Christopher Hastings writes Gwen with that studied level of comic fandom — blurring the line between fan and creator.
Gwen knows a panel divider allows time to pass, so she gets a pencil in her hand and starts interacting with the page Duck Amok-style. So naturally, obliterating panel dividers allows her to see through time.
Artists Gurihiru pull off this surreal gag and have no problem pivoting their camera outside of the medium itself to try to make sense of what we’re seeing on this page from a different angle. Unlike Daffy, Gwen plays the role of both subject and creator, so she can use the gag to escape the page, and presumably whatever magical prison she’s been placed in. And in this moment, she (or Hastings or whomever) is blurring the line between creator and hero. All three — fan, creator and hero — are united under one umbrella of comic book expertise.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?