‘Tis the Christmas/holiday season ladies and gentlemen; spending time with the family, having eggnog, Christmas music taking over the airwaves, and most importantly… comic book holiday specials!
Marvel’s Gwenpool Holiday Special is a small anthology collection of various characters from the Marvel Universe, and the titular random hybrid character herself, having fun during the holidays. Is it good?
Gwenpool Holiday Special #1 (Marvel Comics)
Since this is a holiday special, let’s break this one down story by story and see if we find ourselves lovely presents… or lumps of coals.
She-Hulk in… Ever Green
Christmas party time at the building where She-Hulk works. Good times, although the owner of the place may be selling the place off to a group of… very weird characters. The only way to stop this sale is to… what else? PARTY!
Written by Charles Soule, “Ever Green” is the main story for the Gwenpool Holiday Special, the hub that all the ancillary stories in the collection end up bleeding into (there’s a party going on, so everyone eventually ends up there). The story is relatively simple: She-Hulk wants to break the magical spell on the owner through the magic of Christmas partying. A premise that seems charming and fun on the surface, but one that ends up ultimately feeling like a flimsy excuse to get a bunch of characters together. The pacing ends up being a little jarring since the story is constantly interrupted by the other short stories in the collection, and the resolution feels rushed as well. Oh no! She-Hulk detransformed… then she just retransforms and gets the party going again after an out of nowhere message about the size of the gift doesn’t matter but the thought does. It just doesn’t work at all.
When it comes to Langdon Foss’ (The Surface, Winter Soldier) artwork, the guy does a terrific job putting together layouts and well-crafted scenes; when it comes to depicting the characters however… not so much. Appearances are inconsistent from panel to panel (characters look like they’ve aged up and down at random or fluctuated in weight), facial expressions don’t match the mood and no one really looks like themselves (if it weren’t for costumes, you wouldn’t be able to tell who is who). It’s the type of art style that may work for Indie books, but it doesn’t lend itself well to iconic and recognizable characters.
My She-Hulk! What big green eyes you have!
Kamala Khan has the holiday blues. Being Muslim, she doesn’t necessarily have the same upbeat thoughts on Christmas. And that’s pretty much the entire story, folks: Kamala doesn’t really care too much about the holidays and other characters tell her to lighten up.
Kamala being a Grinch because of the holiday doesn’t work all that well due to her usual personality in the ongoing series being upbeat and positive (her being more negative than her family really seems off). Until the ending, she just doesn’t feel or really even talk like herself that much. The story feels like a loose collection of scenes pasted together and as such, Kamala’s change of heart on Christmas doesn’t feel natural either.
Not helping matters much is the artwork; Juan Gedeon features a very minimalist style when it comes to details and it doesn’t click. He’s good with expressions, but his storytelling and transitions are awkward and the action comes across as stilted most times. Overall, as a big fan of the character, this story doesn’t ring true to Kamala Khan.
Ever had one of those days where you felt like your nose or mouth could disappear? No? Well it’s just me then.
Hawkeye Vs. Deadpool Vs. the Holidays
Clint Barton and Deadpool (who apparently thrust himself into the situation for unknown reasons) are on the hunt for a pickpocket who stole a wallet from one of Barton’s friends. Holiday shenanigans ensue in a quick, simple, but overall fun story. There’s no real message to the tale and no real twists or surprises (there’s sort of one, but it’s mostly played for laughs and doesn’t unfold in the way you may think) — just Gerry Duggan providing a short story that’s ultimately funny and solid when it comes to characterization and character interactions.
While Clint seems slightly off in one area and a few lines are groan worthy, there’s nothing wrong with the writing or humor. Danilo S. Beyruth provides artwork and he does an alright job. While some times the characters seem to age inexplicably due to the amount of lines in their face, everyone is on model and are expressive. The layouts flow and read well, all of the panels have actual backgrounds, and some of the jokes work due to the expression in the art. All in all, a strong story.
Gwenpool’s Holiday Special
Gwen Poole (aka Gwenpool) gets assigned to kill this big sword-wielding snake-guy who murdered the brother of the man who hired her. I know very little about Gwenpool and her origin outside of originally appearing in variant cover, so I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one. The best way to describe her is that she is like a combination of Kamala Khan and Harley Quinn. She has the violent and zany side that Quinn has (though not vicious), but is wrapped in Kamala’s upbeat, heroic, fangirl nature. Overall, she’s fun for what she is and isn’t as annoying as some may think. This might be the strongest story of the bunch.
Ah, professionals at work.
Gurihiru, an art team who has drawn Avatar: The Last Airbender comics, provide the art and their manga/anime-ish style works well with all of Gwenpool’s goofy, wacky expressiveness. The action is quick and energetic, the layouts look good, and the comedy is depicted very well. Probably the only problem with the story in general is the fact that this isn’t a good holiday story. There’s nothing holiday related about it besides the ending (which is only used to tie back to She-Hulk story). So, it’s not a good Christmas comic, but as an introduction to the character and what she is all about it, it succeeds.
Is It Good?
Gwenpool Holiday Special #1 is a middle of the road special. Ignoring the fact that this should have been simply called a Marvel Christmas Special (Gwenpool is barely in the comic beyond her one story), the quality of this anthology is up and down. If you’re a diehard fan of the characters — give it a look. Otherwise, there might be better use of your six dollars for this week’s pull-list.