Gwenpool Trades Genre for Medium in Gwenpool 21

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

This may be the first time in my life where I’m reading a superhero who is as obsessed with the gutter as I am. Since discovering that she can manipulate the physical space of the comic book page, Gwen no longer needs to rely on her knowledge of story tropes to defeat her enemies. Gwen is on something of a fan’s journey here, discovering that her real power (read: her real fandom) lies not in the genre but in the medium. Gwen’s no longer a fan of superhero stories, but a fan of of comics.

In fact, it sounds like Gwen’s starting to miss a step in keeping up with her Marvel monthlies. After a long day of expelling The Masster to the gutter, Gwen returns home to Cecil-in-a-monster-body and clumsily explains her plan to get in good with the Avengers, who — she assumes — pay pretty well. Cecil interjects “they don’t,” before straight up asking if Gwen is caught up on her comics.  But Gwen’s too excited about her plan to answer, and she explains that her plan doesn’t even involve blowing up the Avengers Mansion or the Avengers Tower, neither of which exist in current continuity.

Gwen has lost whatever meaningful connection she had with the Marvel Universe because she’s found something better: comics. The artist team of Gurihiru normally delivers clean, cartoony, emotive action, but here they luxuriate in the sheer spectacle of Gwen violating the gutter.

That’s a journey I can relate to. When we started this site, Drew and I were only talking about new DC comics (hence the name). But we gradually expanded to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and Marvel, and eventually into artsier, fartsier comics that had nothing to do with superheroes. Gwen’s clearly become disinterested in her reality — she can’t even bother with the cops that she deems “not realistic.” Hell, even her plan to take out Doctor Doom reads like she’s not plugged in what the big problems are right now. “Eliminate Doom” is a solution so broad that anyone with a passing knowledge of Marvel could suggest it. Writer Christopher Hastings has brilliantly recast Gwen as a Marvel fan who is over it. Why would she be obsessed with these characters anymore? She’s got a whole medium to exploit.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

3 comments on “Gwenpool Trades Genre for Medium in Gwenpool 21

  1. I don’t think Gwen has got disinterested in the Marvel Universe. Hell, last issue ended with her fundamentally changing herself because of her love of the Marvel Universe. She’s still spouting out comparisons to how different writers write police.

    I think the problem is something a bit simpler. Gwen is no longer up to date with comics. The Secret Empire tie that should have existed was Gwen teaming up with Steve Rogers, completely unaware that she was secretly working for HYDRA because she wasn’t up to date with the comics. They are basically telling that story now. Gwen’s first appearance was in the immediate aftermath of Secret Wars. Which means she hasn’t read Infamous Iron Man. She may not have even read Secret Wars. And that’s the key idea of the arc. She’s out of date, and has built a plan to be a hero that ignores the fact that while she’s been distracted with her own adventures, Doctor Doom has become a hero.

    That’s why she was making mistakes around the Avengers. The last Avengers comic she read would have been from Hickman’s run, which was based in Avengers Tower (I’m pretty sure the choice to say mansion first was a reference to Hawkeye. Certainly a reference to a classic comic cliche. That’s why she used Mansion. Because that is the one that historically got attacked. But also because it helps draw the point of Gwen being out of date. That she hasn’t been reading comics).

    But yeah, she has certainly evolved in her understanding. Grown to have a new respect for the medium. It goes into everything I said about the growth of a writer. In fact, I basically made the same comparison about Gwen turning into us here way back in Gwenpool 17. And I love how that growth to that deeper level has expanded her powers from continuity facts to controlling the medium itself.

    Also, I love how Hastings has managed to find fantastic ways to update silly villains into something functional, without trying to get rid of the absurdity. First, he turned Batroc into a guy who’s silly aspects makes his role as the straight man even funnier. Then he turned Paste Pot Pete into a villain who pretends to be silly to get underestimated. He is doing such a fantastic job at redeeming villains, and creating a fantastic gallery of villains to be used for Marvel’s comedic books.

    • That’s a good point about Gwen caring about the people in the Marvel Universe, but I think the point still stands that she’s less tuned in to the mythology of the Universe. Hell, this may be a sign of growth – she’s not thinking of them as cogs in a story machine, but as people she loves. I think that goes hand-in-hand with valuing the medium of comics over the genre.

      Hey, so speaking of PPP, what do you think his experience is in being taken off the page? Is he dead? Or is he hanging out with the Masster in the space between the panels? Will Gwen ever have to deal with the baddies she keeps piling up in the gutter?

      • Yeah. She has certainly grown. I don’t think she is fully at our level, that third stage of the media consumer lifecycle I discussed back in Gwenpool 17. But she’s certainly learning more. Learning to love the characters for who they are instead of treating them as a way to fulfill her fantasies. Understanding the medium itself, instead of just the plots. I think she still needs to understand theme/meaning. For a character who committed to being a good guy last issue, she certainly isn’t a good guy here. But she certainly is learning to value the medium and developed as a fan. Only disagreement I had was the idea that she wasn’t interested in Marvel any more. She is, but she has other loves as well.

        And on PPP, I’m imagining a place similar to Limbo from Final Crisis. Not dead, merely trapped in A place where nothing happens. What better way to describe the gutters as the play where no story happens?
        And yeah, wouldn’t be surprised if a future plot has all the gutter prisoners break out. As we enter the second stage of her story, this feels like the inciting incident of Gwen’s new arc. And pushing people into the gutters will go as wrong as attempting to vicariously live out her fantasies without care did in the last arc (could be interesting if a new Dark Gwen appears. Could be a fantastic ‘arch enemy’. Every so often, Dark Gwen turns up, completely different each time. And Gwen has to learn which of her personality flaws have created a horrible future this time)

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