Projection and Toxic Masculinity in West Coast Avengers 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

When discussing West Coast Avengers 2, we went into significant detail about how B.R.O.D.O.K. represented the worst traits of toxic masculinity, of entitled, deluded men who think of women as objects or prizes rather than real people with their own needs, personalities, and desires. With issue 3, Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli continue to explore this topic, but come at it from a slightly different angle. This time, their attention is focused less on the delusions that drive B.R.O.D.O.K. and more on how his actions effect the women around him. Spoiler alert: things don’t go well for them. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 2: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney

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

Spencer: Kate Bishop’s California adventures — under the pens of both Matt Fraction and Kelly Thompson — have all more-or-less revolved around the idea of appearance, on Hollywood’s obsession with beauty, fame, and youth. On first glance, M.O.D.O.K.’s transformation into the chiseled B.R.O.D.O.K. in West Coast Avengers 2 seems fueled by the same kinds of obsessions, but there’s actually an even greater danger lurking deep within: B.R.O.D.O.K.’s preoccupation with appearance is driven entirely by dangerous entitlement and toxic masculinity. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers 

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

This is the true story of seven strangers picked to work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.

The Real World.

Spencer: Despite that famous tagline, reality television rightfully has a reputation for being anything but real, with contestants purposely taking on certain roles for the camera and producers editing footage in misleading ways to construct particular narratives (whether they’re “true” or not). Part of what makes West Coast Avengers so interesting, then, is that, despite its “superhero reality show” concept, creators Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli seem devoted to depicting the sad realities of their cast’s lives, to finding the truth behind their day to day existences, even when those existences are patently absurd. Continue reading

With Issue 25 The Unbelievable Gwenpool Never Ends

by Patrick Ehlers

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

A couple months ago, I went to Disney Land for the first time. I’d been to Disney World in Orlando a bunch as a kid, but despite living in Southern California for the last seven years, I’d just not gotten around to visiting the Land. I went with my girlfriend, my best friend from back home and his wife. We had one day, but it was a nostalgia-fueled tornado of a good time. We were there until after the park closed, and in that last half hour or so, we got on more rides and ran around that park more than we had in the previous 5 hours. You do anything to make the most of those last precious minutes. As The Unbelievable Gwenpool comes to a close, Gwen finds herself doing very much the same. Continue reading

Gwen Faces the End in The Unbelievable Gwenpool 24

by Spencer Irwin

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

The first monthly comic book I ever followed was Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans in the early 2000s — it was the book that got me into comic shops every week, buying single issues and learning and following creative teams. Johns’ eventual departure from the title was also the first time I ever dealt with the end of a beloved run, and I didn’t handle it well; it felt like a friend had died. I should note that the series wasn’t even cancelled — it went on for over 50 more issues with several different creative teams — but the end of that particular take on the property that I loved so dearly was devastating nonetheless. The Unbelievable Gwenpool 24 finds Christopher Hastings and Gurihiru digging into a similar kind of loss as Gwen mourns the cancellation of her own comic book, only for her, the loss is far more real. Continue reading

Gwen is Armed with Head Canon in The Unbelievable Gwenpool 22

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Gwen Poole reads comic books; she’s a Marvel fan. This means that she’s held all the conflicting ideas that Marvel fans have been wrestling with for decades — including a bizarre mix of love and hate that comes from a feeling of ownership so many fans carry. In issue 21, Gwenpool proved that she had mastered the medium of comics, but was losing her edge in terms of up-to-the-minute Marvel continuity. Issue 22 furthers that journey, doubling down on her medium mastery powers, while emphasizing the failings of her regressive fandom. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Gwenpool 20 Stays Sincere in a Landscape of Cynicism

by Patrick Ehlers

Unbelievable Gwenpool 20

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

This arc of Gwenpool appears to be taking a lot of its cues from the recently concluded Secret Empire. While not retreading any of the same thematic ideas, the narrative structure of one moral-extreme version of a character over-writing the history of the opposite-moral-extreme version of that same character features in both. For Captain America, this is a battle over the national zeitgeist, a startling reflection of the persistence of racism and white nationalism, but for Gwenpool, the stakes are more personal. Secret Empire Omega 1 just chillingly illustrated how definitive, national change is virtually impossible, but Gwenpool 20 offers a more hopeful path for the individual and — more importantly — for the comic fan. Continue reading

Gwen Tries Her Hand at Creating Stories in The Unbelievable Gwenpool 19

by Spencer Irwin

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

Last month I theorized that Gwenpool’s newfound cosmic awareness essentially made her a god, but within the world of comics, is there really that much of a difference between a god and a writer or artist? (After all, when the Fantastic Four met their god, he was Jack Kirby). That’s something I couldn’t help but wonder about throughout Christopher Hastings and Gurihiru’s The Unbelievable Gwenpool 19, especially once Miles finally reveals Gwen’s dark future. The hell she puts Miles through should feel familiar to anyone who’s ever read a comic before. Continue reading

Gwen Becomes a God in The Unbelievable Gwenpool 18

by Spencer Irwin

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

When Gwenpool was first announced, I assumed she would just be a meme, a jokey mash-up of Deadpool and Spider-Gwen. Throughout The Unbelievable Gwenpool, though, Christopher Hastings and Gurihiru have made Gwen a compelling character in her own right, primarily by treating even her zaniest personality traits and adventures with respect and gravitas. This includes Gwen’s knowledge of Marvel’s fictional existence; while Deadpool’s breaking the fourth wall is treated as a fun in-joke with no bearing on the plot, Gwen’s ability to do so has not only become one of her greatest advantages as a fighter, but has now essentially made her a god. Continue reading