Fear not, True Believers: Gwenpool is back! Leah Williams and David Baldeón‘s Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 has the character back on her bullsh*t, and her first order of business is…unmasking Spider-Man? That can’t be right…
Also up this week, Jonathan Hickman‘s X-Men relaunch marches on in the wake of last week’s massive reveals with Powers of X #2. And finally, Punisher Kill Krew #1 finds Frank Castle focused on eradicating the holdovers from War of the Realms!
Discussion and reviews of all of those titles in this week’s packed installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Gwenpool Strikes Back #1
Written by Leah Williams
Illustrated by David Baldeón
Colored by Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Terry & Rachel Dodson
Alexander Jones: Joe, Chloe, Gwendolyn Poole is back in a brand new mini-series with Gwenpool Strikes Back #1! I’m curious to know if the off-the-wall nature of Poole’s personality delighted or disappointed? I for one appreciated the bold nature of Leah Williams‘ animated writing and the streamlined pencils from David Baldeón…for the most part. What did you think?
Chloe Maveal: I found it sort of a mixed bag, to be honest. While I think Williams went a wildly fun route with Gwen and stuck to the character’s bombastic nature, I found a lot of the dialog really obnoxious and sort of grating at being too “lolz so millennial.” At least when it was so rapid fire.
Joe Grunenwald: I’m really on the fence about this one, friends. I came to the original Christopher Hastings/Gurihiru Gwenpool book late in the game and fell in love with it just in time for it to end, and while it was nice to see her in West Coast Avengers I’ve been anxious for Gwen to get back to her fourth-wall-breaking ways. This issue, though, felt like A Lot, and I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Help me!
Jones: I think Chloe is getting at something which what she had said before. The writing and pacing of the dialogue is really impressive, but I don’t think Williams had something to say that was mind-blowing. I can’t help but compare this issue to some books by Brian Michael Bendis that really dig into the character and find something poignant to say about the hero. Books like Daredevil or Alias broke the fourth wall to carry some novel concepts. That being said, Williams does craft some truly fun dialogue and scenarios.
Maveal: To me this felt like it was trying really hard to capture the magic of what we know as Gwenpool, minus the nuance and instead added random fluff for cheap laughs (and cringes). It didn’t really tell me anything about what I can look forward to with the series.
Grunenwald: I think that’s the bump I’m running into with it. It looks like Gwenpool on the surface, but at this point it’s missing the heart that Hastings and even Kelly Thompson gave the character. If I put aside comparisons to previous runs on the character and just look at this issue on its own, it was really fun and completely bonkers. It just wasn’t quite what I was expecting going in.
Jones: It doesn’t help that I am already pre-disposed to not like anything Deadpool or Deadpool-related. Again, this isn’t bad, but it carries some of the typical ideas and story from a Deadpool comic book. I think the part of the issue that charmed the most were the first couple pages with Gwen turning the pages of the issue. I think if the whole book carried the same tone of the first three pages my feelings would be completely different.
Grunenwald: Williams and Baldeón do an excellent job of bringing readers who aren’t familiar with Gwenpool up to speed on who she is and what her whole thing is. To say those first few pages are exposition-heavy would be an understatement, but Williams handles it well, using it as an opportunity to give readers a taste of Gwen’s voice and personality. What could’ve been a really clunky sequence ended up being very entertaining.
Maveal: The ending had its charms in that regard as well. While there are definitely some interesting choices made as far as panel layout, it’s playful and really shows off Baldeón’s skills in terms of playing with dimensions and having the narration run through that.
Jones: I agree and found that while I liked Baldeón’s art in the final sequence, I did not enjoy the script in that section. Baldeón captures the expressive nature of Poole really well overall even if I find his art predictable or even derivative in certain spots. Those final pages have really interesting layouts and details. I also really like how Baldeón breaks the fourth wall by reflecting some changes in the interiors. Also, did anyone notice how unhelpful Gwen’s search engine Geegle was?
Grunenwald: I loved trying to decipher the visual easter eggs in the backgrounds of both Gwen’s Geegle search and the informational video that plays at the beginning of the issue. And my favorite gag may have been Gwen’s high school senior portrait, which definitely made me laugh out loud. Baldeón and colorist Jesus Aburtov did fantastic work representing Gwen’s powers over the last few pages of the issue. Gwen unlocking those abilities and the way she used them was a big part of the final few arcs of the original series, but Baldeón and Aburtov’s work during the final sequence didn’t feel like a retread of anything we’d seen before in terms of how Gwen’s abilities are shown.
Maveal: For readers unfamiliar with Gwenpool and previous series, I feel like the ending will really stick the landing. It’s clever enough and provides the “aha!” moment for her abilities that will definitely draw in new readers even if it’s a been done for those familiar with previous iterations.
Jones: I found the cliffhanger fairly engaging as well. Do either of you have any final thoughts before we draw the last page on our discussion today?
Grunenwald: I’ve come around on this a bit, but I still hope future issues of this miniseries maybe lay off the jokes just a little and include more of the heart that the previous Gwenpool series brought to the character. Or maybe this is just the natural evolution of the character and I’m an old man? Get off my lawn? I’m willing to give the remainder of this series a shot, though.
Maveal: Weirdly enough, same. If it gets reigned in just a bit, this could be something I’d at least want to give another issue or two of a chance. It has a lot of potential to be incredibly clever in terms of concept and the artwork is already pretty dang phenomenal. This is very much an interested but side-eyed “yeah, okay…maybe” from me.
Jones: I’m not feeling quite as gracious! I have a feeling the story is going sink in quality ever-so-slightly as the title continues. Williams writing is clever and Baldeon’s art is pretty but the issue comes off as disposable for me. I’m going for a BROWSE verdict if anyone is curious about picking up the book off a shelf at a comic book store.
Grunenwald: I’d give it a BROWSE as well. It’s not going to be for everyone, and I’m still not sure it’s for me, but it’s worth taking a look at.
Maveal: BROWSE for me, too. Worth a shot, but not necessarily fulfilling. It’s certainly fun, pretty, and quirky, but those qualities alone do not a fantastic comic make.
Final Verdict: It’s a unanimous BROWSE verdict from Alexander, Chloe, and Joe!
Powers of X #2
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencilled by R.B. Silva
Inked by R.B. Silva and Adriano Di Benedetto
Colored by Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design Work by Tom Muller
Cover by R.B. Silva & Marte Gracia
Alexander Jones: This week marks the fourth installment of Jonathan Hickman’s epic X-Men saga with Powers of X #2! Joe, Chloe I’m curious to hear what both of you thought about newest entry of the beloved X-Men retcon. I’m curious to hear your initial impressions, theories and takes on the beautiful art from R.B. Silva, with Adriano Di Benedetto inks and Marte Gracia’s colors. I for one am incredibly glad that we are past last week’s important installment and finally have a grasp on the premise of the series!
Joe Grunenwald: I was somewhat lukewarm on the first issue of Powers of X, but this one really grabbed me from the beginning. It’s nice to see some of the disparate threads from the first three installments of this reboot starting to come together, from big movement in the present day storyline to some more hints about the nature of the future events. This week’s issue didn’t blow my mind the way last week’s did, but it was a solid step forward.
Chloe Maveal: For both issues that I’ve seen of Powers of X so far, I find myself struggling through them. Don’t get me wrong—the premise is fantastic, and the writing is detailed and full of great information, but as someone who had basically spent the better part of two decades having given up on keeping up with the X-Men, it’s a lot to take in. This issue in particular though had me hooked and able to keep track up until they passed “present day” (what we see in House of X) and started getting into Year 100 and so forth. It felt like there’s a lot of lore and hidden gems there that’s hard to grasp if you haven’t kept up.
Jones: Chloe, I’m loving this issue but I understand where you are coming from as a reader getting back into comics. I think this issue isn’t quite as alienating as the debut but it is difficult to wrap my mind around. The first ten story pages of the issue are so complex and build off recent continuity in such a vibrant manner. Plus, the story reintroduces Moira’s status quo with the last issue by folding it back into the relationship with Magneto. I was in love with this opening sequence that also paired X back together with Cyclops and Magneto. This is the payoff we have been waiting for and seeing the reveal come together after the startling events of last issue makes the title an absolute slam-dunk for me. The dialogue between the trio is also perfect.
Grunenwald: There are definitely elements in of the future-set scenes that I recognized the names of but don’t really know what they are, so I’m sort of with you there, Chloe. Hickman’s threading the needle of creating an accessible entry point that’s still pulling from the decades-long history of the X-Men, and so far I think he’s doing it really well. And I agree with you, Alex, on those first two scenes being slam dunks. The opener was a perfect follow-up on the reveals of last week’s House of X #2, while the present-day scene went a long way to tying up those threads I mentioned earlier. I’m hanging in there with the future-set scenes, especially after the arrival of one particular character in the ‘squared’ sequence.
Maveal: I totally agree with Hickman threading the needle. There’s clearly a lot of effort being made to take the intricacies and rewriting of information and combining it with the passage of events in Powers of X—specifically Moira’s involvement becoming more of the bigger picture in the first few scenes. Honestly with the way that it’s going though, I have a feeling that anything that (E)x-X-Men fans have FOMO about from previous years tying into the story will have things explained pretty well. It’s certainly been doing that with everything else so far and Hickman doesn’t seem to want to leave any stone unturned.
Jones: If you missed the past couple years of X-Men, I think there are only a handful of truly important developments readers are missing. I have faith in Hickman to take a step back and explain them all over time. Also, I want to stretch the fact that I don’t think the issue is as good as the first couple sequences. In the X 100 and 1000 scenes there are lots of new concepts and ideas. Frankly, I’m not convinced Hickman has given us a reason to care with all of these timelines…yet. I’m sure that will change by the end of the mini-series though.
Grunenwald: Yeah, I think that’s what’s keeping me from really getting invested in the ‘squared’ and ‘cubed’ sequences. How many alternate futures do the X-Men have now? I’m interested in the concepts and some of the characters that’ve been introduced in those sequences, but I’m having trouble seeing how it relates to the here and now, even though I’m sure it will by the time all’s said and done.
Maveal: The one thing that is consistently perfect for me is the visuals. I mean…Garcia in particular is serving a whole riot of colors and great saturation. Even if you can’t pick apart the scene through dialogue it’s really easy to pick up from the color usage and combinations.
Jones: The visuals in the issue are particularly stunning in my perspective from those first couple chapters. Silva and Gracia’s visuals capture the sunny disposition of Charles Xavier shockingly well. Also, I’m a huge fan of how Hickman and Silva change the designs of the costumes for each time period. Silva has shown in this issue how dynamic his art can be with the context of the space sequences in the far future to scenes interspersed with older continuity from decades prior.
Grunenwald: I completely agree with you on the art here: it’s spectacular. This is a dialogue-heavy comic, but Silva and co-inker Adriano Di Benedetto make sure it’s never boring to look at, with dynamic panel composition and expressive characters. Gracia’s color work is also fantastic throughout for all the reasons Chloe mentioned and more.
Jones: The only other thing I have to say about the issue is something I think we already hammered home; I don’t understand why Hickman didn’t sneak more plot reveals or changes in these future scenes. Hickman is already doing a solid job blending chapters together from both titles but if the book could take one future out and focus in it for a full script it could alleviate some of these concerns. Maybe Hickman doesn’t have the option to do that because of the schedule of reveals from two mini-series?
Grunenwald: Now that I have a sense for what the structure of each issue of Powers of X is going to be – four scenes, each in a different ‘power’ of the X-Men’s history – I think I’m more interested in seeing how the future scenes play out, and seeing how they either loop back or cross over with their past. I’m still not as invested in them as I am in the past or present sequences, but like I said before I’m hanging with them. It would be interesting to explore one of the timelines fully for an issue, and maybe that’ll come later in the series, but for now I think the way it’s being presented makes sense.
Maveal: Agreed with that. Each timeline individually seems to be enough, if that makes sense. Having them crammed in so tightly into one book feels cumbersome, but I’m really hoping that all of the future timelines can get the play-through that they deserve (or would get if they were done individually.) “Hanging in there” seems like an appropriate way to explain it right now as-is, though.
Jones: I also want to stress that I enjoyed some of the issues and ideas with Nimrod and the future scenes. The cliffhanger was pretty interesting as well. Given that Hickman has planned so many stories for the property, I also want to stress that I don’t want to understand everything going on here.
Grunenwald: I’m also fine with being in the dark on some things, and I think the end of the current-day scene started to plant the seeds for connection between the present and future timelines. I look forward to seeing those seeds grow into Krakoa gateways. Are we ready to render our verdicts?
Maveal: I am all for being in the dark and confused as long as the web being weaved keeps being this funky! I’d call this a BUY for the sheer sake of “What is happening? What does this mean will happen next?”
Jones: I’m going to offer a BUY verdict on this one as well. I was extremely happy with the cliffhanger from the last issue tying so strongly into this week’s chapter.
Grunenwald: This is a BUY for me as well. If you’re already into what Hickman’s doing with the X-Men, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by this issue; if you’re still on the fence about it, Powers of X #2 just might give you the nudge you need to get on board.
Final Verdict: Another unanimous decision! Alexander, Chloe, and Joe all give Powers of X #2 a BUY!
Punisher Kill Krew #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Juan Ferreyra
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by Tony Moore and Dean White
Reviewed by Chloe Maveal
Taking us back to the War of The Realms crossover event, Marvel has decided to treat the masses to Gerry Duggan and Juan Ferreyra’s Punisher Kill Crew. The series picks up right where War of the Realms left off: after roaming the streets battling Frost Giants, including the Frost Giant Kasyckla, and bearing witness to an innocent family caught in the crossfire leaving only the father left alive, it’s safe to say that Frank is having a hard time dealing with the fallout. And by fallout, I mean Frank Castle doing what he does best, but with Frost Giants.
The issue starts out with Frank doing a bang-up inner monologue recapping his experiences that… well, echoes all of the angst and desperation you’d expect from him in the current situation, including the frustration of not being able to enter the portal through which Kasyckla escaped, thanks to Doctor Strange. Present day Frank, however, is stuck alongside Mr. Jones–the father and sole surviving member of the family I mentioned above–explaining that despite the circumstances, he vows to take care of the forces that destroyed Jones’ family. Things get totally random and really zany really quickly as Mr. Jones has a surprise for the Punisher: a van packed with kids whose parents were killed in the Frost Giant attacks! And what do you do when you have a van full of orphans? Take them out for pizza. (Obviously.)
From there it’s a whirlwind of not only leftover monsters for the Punisher to deal with, but finding the key to traversing the universe to Jotunheim to finally defeat Kasyckla.
I’ll be honest, this first issue is a pretty great set-up for the rest of the series—as long as you’re not planning on taking it seriously. Though Duggan is traditionally a very versatile and funny writer, I was slightly concerned that the absurdity was not meant to be satirical. By midway through the issue, there is no doubt that leaning into the camp factor was a priority for this story, which makes it all the more palatable even if it’s not the super-hardened version of Frank that fans tend to yearn for.
Ferreyra clearly had a lot of fun with panel layout and character detail line work as well and the colors are bold enough to carry the mood of the story. Combined, both creators have brought me back to old (we’re talking 1980s) Punisher issues where it’s just brutal enough to be badass while just silly enough that I can’t take it seriously—which honestly isn’t the worst thing but is probably not what readers are hoping when reading a new Punisher series.
For me personally the issue is a pretty hard BROWSE. Despite my love for a more nostalgically camp and absurd version of the Punisher, the issue is just vague enough on what it’s intentions are that “silly” turns into “uninspired” really quickly and ultimately begs the question of if War of the Realms material really needs this kind of continuation at all.
Final Verdict: Browse.
Next week, Ghost-Spider arrives in the 616!