Right now, Deadpool is a big money maker for Marvel, so it would make sense that they would try to capitalize on it. Current or upcoming books include Deadpool, Deadpool and the Mercs for Money, Spider-Man/Deadpool, Deadpool: Back in Black, and then there’s The Unbelievable Gwenpool.

Gwenpool started out as a cosplay combination of Gwen Stacy and Deadpool and it became quite popular. However, when Marvel announced that they would be making an actual character named Gwenpool and giving her her own book (written by Christopher Hastings, with art by Gurihiru), the response was tepid at best. Deadpool was already over-saturating the place and just adding Gwen Stacy into the mix didn’t seem like it would be enough to justify its own book.

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However, Hastings (who also wrote the amazing Adventures of Doctor McNinja) turned what could have been an obnoxious cash grab into something else entirely: a tragic deconstruction of what it would be like to actually know you are in a comic book.

When we are introduced to Gwen Poole (yes, that’s her name, no relationship to either Deadpool or Gwen Stacy), she’s already in the Marvel Universe, but reveals that she comes from the real world and knows a lot about everything because she read a lot of comics.

Gwen decides to become a mercenary despite not having any fighting skills because she knows that in a comic book, you are either the hero, the villain, or one of the background characters and she doesn’t want to be a background character. At this point, this meta-jokes and fourth wall quips are pretty standard, the kind of things that Deadpool does all the time.

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Until issue #3, that is, when she is taken in as a new mercenary by MODOK and trained by Batroc the Leaper. She, of course, tells him that they are all in a comic book. Instead of it just being a funny joke, Batroc instead says something that turns the entire concept of a comic book universe on its head.

After this, Gwen realizes that it would be hard for her to survive in the Marvel Universe since she doesn’t technically exist in it, so she goes to Doctor Strange to help insert her into Marvel history (making a literal retcon). Even though this means her parents would forget about her, she does it, saying “It’s probably for the best.”

But the most tragic part of the book is when she meets someone she idolizes: Miles “Ultimate Spider-Man” Morales. At this point, she knows that telling people they are in a comic book would sound kind of crazy, so she explains away her knowledge of his secret identity by saying she’s the daughter of a dead Watcher.

However, Gwen still has trouble remembering that this isn’t a comic book to those who live inside it and often treats the world like it’s a big game of Grand Theft Auto. When she teams up with Miles, she tries to kill the villain, thinking him unimportant to the story.

You would think that this being a Spider-Man/Gwenpool team-up, it might go the same wacky route as a Spider-Man/Deadpool team-up. But you would be wrong.

It turns out that telling people that they live in a comic book won’t make them think you are “wacky,” but rather mentally ill. And breaking the fourth wall becomes something tragic instead of funny.

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