By Avery Kaplan
Well, it’s been four issues. You’re still here, I’m still here, apparently Leah Williams, David Baldeón, Jesus Aburtov, VC’s Joe Caramagna, and the Dodsons are still here. I hope we’re all proud of ourselves!
Like several of the past covers for this series, this one is something of a puzzle: how will Gwen end up wielding Mjolnir? ‘Cuz, I like, love you and stuff, Gwen, but you aren’t exactly “worthy” material. Honestly, you’ve tried to unmask Spider-Man and make out with Reed Richards in like… the last three issues.
Is there a version of Mjolnir you can only wield if you’re a hot mess? Finally, a hammer I’d be worthy of wielding!
The issue begins in the same place that we left Gwen: crouching in the bushes as she fears for her life because of a giant green monster that is stalking her. Pretty standard, we’ve all been there. To avoid attracting the attention and ire of the Immortal Hulk, Gwen types out the contents of her dialogue in Morse code, with the accurate translations presented alongside the dots and dashes.
Or the translations are in the first row of panels, anyway. In the final panel of the second row, in spite of the fact that the pink box (heehee) Gwen is meant to be translating reads, “I have one question for you – ” the Morse code message Gwen is tapping out reads “Sorry to this man,” a reference to the twitter meme of Keke Palmer as she fails to recognize a photograph of Dick Cheney (note: Dick only sort of looks like Hulk).
On the next page, Gwen reveals a hitherto-unknown ability. She summons the author of the original run of The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Christopher Hastings. Hastings points out that he doesn’t usually look like a cloud [Disagree – Ed] but after writing the dialogue he realized he should add something to account for the visual medium of comics, an interesting deconstruction of the whole Mufasa thing he has going on. Gwen points out that even though he’s her original writer, they’ve never spoken before, because he’s not Grant Morrison – Morrison having self-inserted himself into Animal Man.
Are we not doing phrasing, Avery?
Hastings says it’s awkward for him, citing online roleplay accounts that refer to him as “Daddy” (see The Pervert’s Guide to Gwenpool Strikes Back #2, where we explore the potentially horny foundations of calling someone “Daddy”). Anyway, I’m fairly certain this is a reference to @gwenpool_ebooks on Twitter.
On the next page, Gwen runs past the “Loser Box,” where her ex-boyfriend Quentin is live-streaming Gwen fleeing from the Hulk for clout. Gwen almost forgets that she broke up with Quentin two issues earlier, but she remembers just in time – possibly, she is also a reader of The Pervert’s Guide to Gwenpool Strikes Back #2).
Gwen takes a break from running from the Hulk to comment on the battle between Black Cat and Black Panther, pointing out that it’s a catfight. Unfortunately, Gwen is overly distracted by the catfight (we’ve all been there), and it allows Hulk a chance to seize her by the leg and smash her so hard the panels go sideways.
I just wanted to check on that issue with the phrasing, Avery.
Gwen gets Hulk-smashed so hard she falls into the white space between panels. Her concussion causes the crystals over her head to multiply and spin (like the birds that fly around a cartoon character’s head after they’ve suffered a head wound). However, once the white space stops spinning (and an off-page Gwen steals the spinning crystals), Gwen has an idea. As she hurries away to execute it, Chibi-Gwen – the version of the character that sometimes delivers the recap at the front of Gwen’s comics – officially announces that she has a plan.
On this page, we see Gwen reach into several of Gwen’s previous appearances and literally drag herself out of the panels. There’s Superior Spider-Man #7 (2018), West Coast Avengers #1 (2018), Champions #5 (2018), Rocket Raccoon and Groot #9 (2016), and The Unbelievable Gwenpool (2016).
It’s a ménage a Gwen! Gwen has summoned five other versions of herself to create a team of Gwens. While the labels on this page describe the different personalities of the various Gwens, Baldeon’s art is really impressive: all six versions of the character are distinct, with the various alterna-Gwens each being presented in the recognizable style of the original artist for their various appearances.
The page also highlights one of the interesting characteristics of comic book characters: the variation in personality and interpretation of a single character that occurs as different creators are given the opportunity to represent said character. This was an important note in the original Gwenpool run – remember Batroc?
In order to avoid a continuity error, Gwen reaches into the white space from page five and grabs the crystals that are circling around her own head. After Gwen explains that she would have grabbed more Gwens, but she caught them at bad times, we see a panel from the backup comic in Howard the Duck #3 (2015b), part of the five-part story that introduced Gwen to the 616.
Next, Gwen admits that she tried to recruit Gwen Prime, traveling back to the variant cover by Chris Bachalo that originally spawned her character, from Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #2. Unfortunately, Gwen Prime has no interest in taking part any of these shenanigans.
The Gwens have a discussion about this miniseries (with Gwen having to explain to Marshmallow that it isn’t an ongoing). In addition to offering the opportunity to make more jokes based on the differences in the personalities of the various incarnations of Gwen, we also get some interesting meta analysis of the comic, including the fact that there isn’t really a villain for the series, aside from Gwen’s potential impending cancellation and subsequent disappearance from the continuity. She also recaps the events of Gwenpool Strikes Back so far, which causes Marshmallow to begin sobbing (honestly, not an unreasonable reaction).
After Gwen monologues her plan, Rocket Raccoon and Groot Gwen gets overly excited about her weaponry, drawing attention to herself and her exposed midriff, causing Gwen to call her “Harley-Gwen,” a reference to Harley Quinn. I mean… fair. But drawing attention to her guns is also clearly a Chekov’s Gwen.
I do like the way she has one eye shown and one not, in homage to Cable/Shatterstar/etc
The Gwens form a circle and discuss their plan, with GSB Gwen telling the rest of them to buy her some time by distracting Hulk. There’s a self-chest bump between Gwen and West Coast Avengers Gwen, which I feel like was a missed opportunity for some filthy jokes (the Voltron reference is kind of funny, but a little clean – hey, look, this is the PERVERT’s guide, okay, I’m working with what I’ve got here).
Gwen dives into the Marvel Comics Continuity Abyss! The walls of this “chute to nowhere” are made of various famous Marvel Comics covers, including Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first appearance of Spider-Man), Uncanny X-Men #1, and Fantastic Four #1.
Meanwhile, the alterna-Gwens are facing off against Hulk. Marshmallow Gwen, from The Unbelievable Gwenpool, uses her panel-stretching abilities to trip the charging Hulk and cause him to slip into the gutter between panels.
This feature slipped into the gutter months ago, IMO.
As Hulk appears high above the island after being squished between the panels, the battle continues. You just knew that Harley-Gwen’s weapons would come into play, and here she uses them to blast Hulk and send him flying, where he collides with the Loser Box. In response, America says “you hate to see it,” another phrase borrowed from twitter (and hey, I didn’t even have to translate any Morse code this time).
Gwen plunges ever deeper into her “Thor Hole” (PROTIP: purchase some of that water-based lubricant I mentioned in TPGTGSB#2 to help with this problem). Gwen calls up to see how it’s going “up there,” leading to a cute, subtle gag that has the panels from “up there” appearing on top of the… um… Thor Hole.
Anyway, up there: Hulk says that the Gwens courted chaos, and he’s consenting. After a particularly brutal smashing, Marshmallow Gwen is incapacitated, leading WCA Gwen to tell the rest of the Gwens to go “serpentine,” which I think may be a reference to the 1979 movie The In-Laws? How old is this version of Gwen, anyway?
On the next page, the slap game is being played between Miles and Kamala. In the slap game, one player extends their hands with the palms up. The other player sits facing the and puts their fingertips on the bottom of the first player’s extended hands. Then, the second player attempts to slap the palms of the first player, while the first player attempts to subvert these attempts by withdrawing their hands.
Meanwhile, it’s revealed that Marshmallow Gwen is alive, but Champions Gwen has died. I’m… not sure how, exactly? WCA Gwen points out that she isn’t being teleported up to the Loser Box, which may or may not be relevant for GSB #5.
Gwen is still continuity spelunking inside her Thor Hole. In the background, we see a number of alterna-Thors, including Beta Ray Bill, Frog Thor, and Jane Foster.
Finally, Gwen locates Malekith the Accursed, who is sleeping with Thor’s rotting arm. It’s a reference to Thor Vol. 4 #1 (2014): in opening of the first arc, “If He Be Not Worthy,” Malekith surprises the Odinson when he arrives at a Norweigian Roxxon Offshore Drilling Station, getting the drop on him and slicing off his left arm.
Gwen steals the arm and nearly rouses Malekith, but calms him by… telling him he’s having a nightmare about “a reptile dysfunction.” Kids, ask your parents what this pun means!
Gwen climbs out of her Thor Hole (it gets funnier the more you write it) and then uses Thor’s rotting arm to lift Mjolnir, which she then hurls into Hulk’s junk. As Hulk Team Rockets his way into the Loser Box, we see a R.I.P. panel for Champions Gwen (2016-2016).
Hulk arrives in the Loser Box, which sufficiently contains him, solving Gwen’s issue-long Hulk problem. Huzzah!
Best of luck reconciling this, Al.
Unfortunately, that leaves only Gwen and Kamala left on the playing field. Gwen versus Kamala!? This sure would be awkward if the first friend Gwen made in the 616 was Kamala. Everybody pick up Gwenpool Holiday Special: Merry Mix-Up (2016) if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Go ahead, I’ll wait; you’ve got until December 11th, when Gwenpool Strikes Back #5 is released.
Next Issue: A really great photo of @elena_strikes with an uncannily accurate cosplay of Gwen, which will also be the cover of the next issue. It’s neat, and it follows the key rules to Gwenpool’s look: no pants, big boots!
Anyway, there’s some big questions left to answer. Will Gwen be able to retain her relevance after the conclusion of issue five of this limited series? What happens to comic book characters that have their series cancelled? In The Sound and the Fury, did Darl Bundren become aware of the fact that he was a fictional character, and if so, was this a continuation or a mutation of the linguistic philosophy espoused in the Addie-narrated chapter? You owe us ALL of these answers, Leah and David, and this series only has one issue left to deliver. Get to it!
Whether we get those answers are not, the perverts here at Shelfdust will be standing by and ready to, um… annotate? Yeah, annotate. That’s it.
Gwenpool Strikes Back #4
Written by Leah Williams (and Christopher Hastings)
Drawn by David Baldeon
Colored by Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Avery Kaplan has written for sites including The Beat and The MNT…. and was very excited to write this piece, which should have been my first warning. For more from Avery, you can find her twitter page here!
Editor’s note: This whole thing was a mistake. I’m stepping in next month to annotate this whole thing PROPERLY and CLASSILY
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