By Steve Morris

Good afternoon, most gentle and refined members of the Shelfdust audience. Firstly, I hope you will please accept my apologies for the most vulgar and unbefitting annotations provided for the prior four issues of Leah Williams, David Baldeon, Jesus Aburtov and Joe Caramagna’s “Gwenpool Strikes Back”, a Marvel miniseries about a plucky young girl filled with pluck and vigor, who is attempting to curry favour with readers so that she will not fall into comic book limbo. Across the first four issues she has been extremely hard at work, shipping every comic book character at Marvel across to a desert island where are to fight each other – in the process learning a firm and valuable lesson, even if that lesson does currently escape Gwen at this current moment in time.

If I hack into Steve’s wordpress account, Chloe, he still can’t see my browser history, right?

With Chloe and Avery gone and almost certainly unable to hack into my wordpress account, please slip on your most velvet slippers and settle down as we annotate the fifth and final issue of the series.

New game Avery: Copy and paste your browser history into Steve’s wordpress and see if he can look you in the eye afterwards!

The cover for this final issue shows the real Gwenpool, as photographed by Judith Stephens and portrayed by cosplayer Elena Strikes. The suggestion is that the issue is going to see Gwen head not into limbo – but back to the real world, where she actually comes from. I think this also means that Elena Strikes is canonically the first Marvel character to actually exist. 

What about Stephen Colbert?

Chris Evans is Captain America IRL. Fight me. 


Page 1

The first panel of this page should say “bee-lievers”. Incidentally, I keep sending my resume to Marvel in the post and it keeps being returned unread.

Gwen still has the little icon over her head from The Sims, so she must be taking just a short break from her time on the island. It would admittedly be pretty restful to endlessly crawl under the Punisher’s bed and unleash your bees on him.

Actually, they’re Cs. Whoa, wait, what are we talking about?

We’re so concerned about Gwen’s B’s and C’s but the question is still not answered what the Punisher’s D is like. (This correction is 100% brought to you by Sesame Street.)


Page 2

As Gwen explains on this page, the more she acts out, the more readers will read her crazy exploits. It’s also the rationale behind Bleeding Cool’s continued baffling existence. [“BREAKING NEWS: DONNY CATES SCRATCHED HIS ASS ONCE”] Or, y’know, America.

If you’re going to get yourself involved in a battle of legitimacy, you probably shouldn’t do so against the most rock-solid Marvel character right now. Kamala Khan is the most dominant character at the company right now, and Gwenpool was wearing little bee horns only a few panels ago.

Page 3

The Immortal Hulk probably would’ve made a smart choice for the final “boss” here, because – although he’s the Hulk – this version of the character has a limited shelf life. Gwenpool will be some variation of her current self forever, but when Al Ewing stops writing Immortal Hulk, we’ll never see this iteration of the character again. Gwen could ACTUALLY have won against him!

They’ve put him in a “Schrodinger’s Hulk” box, which seems to be a bit defeated considering we see him two panels before we see his box. 

It’s a good thing Chloe and Avery aren’t here to write about the Tony/Steve scene on this page!!

Oh, you mean the “Let’s Cross Swords” t-shirt? Finally, the endgame we’ve all been waiting for!

The real Endgame is the frottage we did along the way. (Can you believe there’s a posh science word for rubbin’ dicks? What a time to be alive!)


Page 4

Gwen has a little performance issue here. We’ve all experienced similar I’m sure.

David Baldeon didn’t HAVE to draw a little Spider-Man who only appears in the fourth panel when Gwen turns her head slightly, but he DID and we should admire that.

[Something about a “tiny Peter” joke here]


Page 5

“Red Hands” is another way of saying “slapsies”, which is the correct and dutiful name for the game. The idea is to essentially recreate High Noon, only with slapping somebody sat next to you rather than murdering anyone. 

Kamala seems concerned, but also legitimately hurt by that pinch.

Page 6

Notice how Gwen reverts back to codenames because she doesn’t want this to get too personal.

(Sigh) Just like all of my exes…

Calling her MS. Marvel more purposefully? Crying in a bikini? Saying not to look at her? Making something harder? I know this is meant to be a sad moment but let’s just take a sec to ruin that and appreciate the low-key submissive vibes here.

Kamala looks like a very sad puppy who is very upset and sad about something. I feel guilty for buying and reading this comic, because otherwise she’d never have been put in this position. Is this Inception? Where’s Tom Hardy?

Ooo, can I be Ellen Page’s character, then? Except, you know. I’d like a character arc, please!


Page 7

I’m not going to offer psychoanalysis of Gwen, because I’m not a psychoanalyst. What I am, however, is a basement-dwelling comic critic and opinion-haver, so I’m going to offer some basement opinions instead! This sequence is a very strange change of pace for the series and I don’t know that I really buy it. Gwen’s focus is solely in one place, for once, which is very unlike her: she’s not paying any attention to the reader here, which is peculiar.

It is nice to see Kamala doing what she can in a delicate situation. Immortal Hulk probably wouldn’t have been quite so helpful a character in this scene.


Page 8

One really interesting point here is that Gwen perks up a bit when she realises that Kamala views her as a contemporary, and as a potential threat. Anybody below the B-List is cannon fodder for a character like Kamala, so her fear of Gwen is actually somewhat positive for our heroine?

Page 9

I don’t think Mama Kamala will stick. Mainly because it just makes me think of wondrous Radio One DJ Maya Jama, who I’m currently listening to as I write this.

🎵Mama Kamala rolled outta bed and she ran to the police statiooon…🎵

Inhumans I know about. Human-passing aliens I know about. What’s an irradiated human?! Is that a thing? 

(cough, cough) SPIDER-MAN: REIGN

*chanting* death by cum! DEath by cum! DEATH BY CUM! DEATH BY CUM! DEATH BY–

Doctor Strange cut all Gwen’s ties in order to save her in the previous Gwenpool series by Christopher Hastings and Gurihiru. 


Page 10

Kamala’s offer to help comes in the form of offering up a retcon which Gwen can leap onto if she so chooses. Retcon is short for “retroactive continuity”, and refers to stories which rewrite the past in order to make the future narrative easier. You know – “Jean Grey wasn’t the one who murdered that planet!”, that sort of thing. 


Page 11

As Kamala offers more and more detail on what the retcon could be, you can see it slowly starting to take over Gwen’s life in the form of daydreams. It’s a fascinating approach, and Baldeon draws it really well. Aburtov’s colouring is exceptional, though. 

As Gwen stitches together her costume, you can see a poster for Jim Lee’s X-Men on the wall behind her. 


Page 12

Gwen surrenders herself to Kamala and submits. 

Too easy, pass.

Kamala’s reward for winning appears to be a unicorn and some singing gnomes. You know who would love to draw Ms Marvel and some singing gnomes? Adrian Alphona. I miss you Adrian.

Ugh. I was holding out for more active involvement of Kamala’s giant fist. I want my money back for this peep show.  


Page 13

This doesn’t feel very Gwenpooly.


Page 14

Krakoa is the island home of the X-Men right now, and it can generate portals to take you straight to the island. Fun fact: only mutants can travel through them! If you’re not a mutant, you can’t travel to Krakoa. You, presumably, have to take a jet ski there instead, or something.

“I thought I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but it turned out to be a train”, etc.

From what I understand, it isn’t trains that you have to worry about on Krakoa, it’s running a train.



Page 15

Gwen lands in Krakoa, proving that she is a mutant, Kamala’s retcon has taken hold, and this is her new status quo. She’s saved! Now she can become a beloved background character just like Loa and Trance before her. Where is Loa, anyway? Don’t tell me – is she dead? Bloody X-Men comics. BRING BACK TRANCE!!!

Wolverine is the first one to greet her, and Gwen visibly wilts under his strong, masculine gaze. 


Page 16

Gwen’s attempt to stretch the retcon just that little bit too far doesn’t work. Wolverine has a succession of cool teenage sidekicks he’s worked with over the years – Kitty, Jubilee, Amiko, Armor, Pixie etc – but Gwen is possibly one sidekick too far. 

Perhaps Laura Kinney is hiring…? Does Honey Badger have a solo series yet?

Does Quentin’s shirt say “visit Krakoa”? Is that conforming or is that anti-conformist because he knows that only mutants can visit Krakoa and he’s mocking everybody who isn’t able to oh dear I’m suddenly very very tired.

Yeah, Quentin will do that to you.

Irony is hot with the kids these days and yet that somehow doesn’t excuse the shirt. Or Quentin for that matter. 


Page 17

Nice to see the narrative captions confirm that this relationship is definitely dead. There’s like sixteen Stepford Cuckoos wandering around now, Quentin is too busy to date Gwenpool anyway.

Summoning up her inner Animal Man, Gwen is able to clamber up and out of her situation. The panel with her speaking emoji seems like it was designed for twitter. 


Page 18

Now she’s part of a bigger franchise – and not doing it all herself – there’s more security for Gwenpool. This must’ve been quite a difficult page to draw, mind. 

Do I see Deadpool’s scooter in those potential pages?

Gwen finds the readers again, and calls them “true believers,” referring to Stan Lee’s famous phrase. Speaking of Stan, she then looks ahead at the remaining pages and decides to go all “Marvel Style” on them.


Page 19

This is styled like one of the data pages from the X-Men, currently designed by Tom Muller and scattered through the franchise to throw in random bits of information. Gwen’s using it to define who she really is, and how she needs to be treated in the future. Psylocke is looking at this page with complete envy.

Gwen made friends with Batroc and Terrible Eye in her original series; Squirrel Girl, Jeff the Shark and Quentin are from West Coast Avengers; and I think Cecil first appeared in her Holiday Special. She sort of made friends with Deadpool earlier on in this series.

I think she met Cecli in Unbelievable Gwenpool #1… and then got him killed by the end of the issue. With friends like Gwenpool, who needs enemies?


Page 20

Gwen apologises for being a different character, which previous writer Christopher Hastings sort-of predicted would happen at the end of her previous run. 

This is a very long victory lap, isn’t it? I keep expecting one of the Ood to pop up to sing Gwen into her slumber.

Page 18 Gwen peeking across page 19 in the bottom left corner here pretty much proves my “voyeurism is Gwen’s superpower” theory, right?

Page 21

Gwen heads off into her future, whatever it will be. Strangely, it’s designed like something straight out of Looney Tunes, which is owned by Warner Bros. That’s the one franchise she won’t be showing up in!!

“Was it good for you too, baby?” Lord knows what Avery and Chloe would’ve made of THAT. What a genteel set of annotations to round things out, eh?

One good turn deserves another! Who else wants to head back to the top? Hee hee… “Top.”

The Looney Tunes background made pink just looks like a gaping asshole. Which is very clearly an indication that it was good. There. I said it.


Gwenpool Strikes Back #5
Written by Leah Williams
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 is apparently an expert in computer hacking. For more from Avery, you can find her twitter page here! 

Chloe Maveal has written all over the comics internet – including pieces published by Polygon, WomenWriteAboutComics and The MNT.  Chloe’s also the Culture Editor-at-Large for The Gutter Review. You can find them on Twitter here!


Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.


Editor’s note: you’re all fired.


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