The Unbelievable Gwenpool by Christopher Hastings and (mostly) Gurihiru is one of my favorite Marvel comics of the last decade. It’s a meta masterpiece that started in the pages of Zdarsky and Quinones’ Howard the Duck, which is fortunate because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have ever given this character a chance. I’m not usually big on the cutesy, manga-style stuff.
To be honest I’m not always big into meta stuff either, but the character of Gwen Poole was written with such sharp humor and even a deep emotional core that I was hooked from the first full issue. As the series went on the concept of this character from the “real world” being in the Marvel Universe was explored in very earnest and compelling ways. It seemed very different from everything else that Marvel was doing.
As seemingly unbelievable as the concept itself, Gwenpool became one of my favorite characters.
I was pretty happy with Hasbro’s Marvel Legends Gwenpool, but as soon as I saw preview pictures of Medicom’s release I knew it was a huge step up. Of course, I also knew that it would cost a lot more, but I tend to be very conservative about buying Figuarts and MAFEX releases, so one of my favorite characters every once in a while isn’t a huge deal.
Was this Gwenpool worth the wait or should I have stuck with my twenty dollar Marvel Legend? Read on and find out!
This box alone screams “this is special”.
The exterior slipcover features wraparound art by Gurihiru depicting Gwenpool interacting with the box and the panels in her signature way. It’s visually stunning and goes a step beyond Hasbro’s fun insert. Even the interior of the slipcover features panel art from the comic.
The window box that contains the figure and accessories is a little more standard issue, but still nice. One of the best things about Japanese toys is how well they’re packed. The plastic trays inside the box are designed to prevent the figure and accessories from warping or being damaged in any way. Each piece has its own separate place.
The box is easy to open and is completely reusable.
This figure is all about capturing the dynamic, stylized look of Gurihiru’s art. In general I like my figures to be aesthetically neutral, but I do like having specific interpretations of characters from time to time. I love my sets of Tim Sale, Jae Lee, and Dan Brereton figures. And I especially want that when it’s something as integral as Gurihiru’s style was to Gwenpool’s success.
From head to toe this figure looks like a Gurihiru drawing in 3D. The sculpt and profile have the clean, rounded look of that mange-influenced style. The colors of the figure are bright and almost cartoonish. The paint on the costume pieces is remarkably clean and well-placed, with the pinks and whites contrasting nicely. The various belts, buckles, and pouches are so precisely decorated as to almost look like separate pieces.
These incredible paint apps are part of that increased price tag, and seeing them in person and how much they blow away even the best from Hasbro reminds me that these imports are worth it every once in a while as long as you don’t start comparing your twenty dollar domestic releases to them.
It’s not just the paint that impresses. The materials and sculpting are fantastic, as well. Gwenpool is a little more uniform in consistency than standard releases. All of this figure’s components aside from the actual joint pieces have the same feel, as opposed to the PVC limbs and ABS torsos of what gets released here.
The figure might look and feel a bit delicate at first and I certainly handled it that way, but as I got through the photography session it became clear that it was fairly tough and well-assembled. I was ready for parts to simply slide or pop off as I moved them, but Gwen is a little more resilient than some other MAFEX releases I own.
As far as poseability goes, this figure seems to have a similar balance to Mezco’s One:12 Collective – with aesthetics taking a slight priority over articulation, though this one seems to tip the balance a bit more in favor of articulation.
The head is mounted on a neck with a ball joint at the base, giving almost as much range as a human has. The connection point is seated fairly deep in the skull, though, so up and down is a bit restricted.
The arms have fantastic range thanks to butterfly joints in the shoulder – that blend nicely with the costume design and torso shape – and the generous joints at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. These swivel-and-pivot joints are a bit more visible than I usually like, but blend in just well enough that they don’t bother me. The sculpt around them is quite effective at minimizing their impact on the figure’s profile.
There are two joints in the abdomen, both so well-concealed by the design that you don’t know they’re there until the figure is in hand. This is a massively expressive figure and much of that is due to the effectiveness of these two joints. You don’t realize how much of human body language relates to the torso until you have a figure that has this kind of poseability. It can make the difference between confusion, shyness, casualness, and aggression that regular figures cannot convey as well.
The hips are the most restricted part of the figure due to the construction of Gwen’s costume. Aesthetically it had to have a certain cut to reflect the comic book art, so there was no fudging the lines. Because of this the legs don’t bend at the hips as deeply as I expected. Sometimes Japanese figures have a sort of extending joint to compensate for this kind of restriction – the MAFEX Harley Quinn and Joker did – but Gwen doesn’t. that’s okay, though, because those tend to look really bad when extended. I’m okay with the limitation.
The knees bend a little more than ninety degrees. The ankles are a little restricted by the design of the kickpads, but solid, sturdy toe joints make up for that. These aren’t Toy Biz or NECA toe joints that just flop around – they’re tight and functional.
Gwenpool comes with two alternate heads, two backpacks, two katana, a scabbard piece, a “down” mask piece, a cell phone and twelve alternate hands.
I’m going to start with the backpacks because one of them confuses me.
The two regular backpacks are straight out of the comic. The penguin is an adorable penguin and that’s all it needs to be. The shark is great, but I do wish it was a little more functional so as to allow the recreation of one of the more laugh-out-loud scenes from the comic:
The third back accessory is the weird one. I’m not sure why Medicom chose to make the scabbards with permanently affixed katana handles because this means when she’s holding the swords this piece can’t be on or it doesn’t make any sense. It looks good and fits perfectly and all (as do all three back pieces), I just don’t get the decision. I would have definitely preferred a standard set of scabbards that the swords fit into.
All of the back pieces have straps that are easy to slide over the figure’s arms thanks to those butterfly joints. They fit perfectly and stay in place well. The sheathed katana are a bit looser than the backpacks, but it’s not a big deal. Especially since I probably won’t be using that piece.
The hands are more secure than those on my other MAFEX figures. They’re fairly easy to switch out, but they do stay put during posing. Pretty much every gesture and pose you might want is here, including the obligatory peace signs and phone-holding sculpts.
The phone has a painted screen and case, as well as a sculpted “home” button. One thing the Hasbro Gwenpool had that this one doesn’t is a pouch to store the phone. I’m a little surprised that this one doesn’t have that, or at least a slot in one of the backpacks.
The katana look great and fit perfectly into the corresponding hands. The paint and sculpt are spot-on.
The mask piece goes with the unmasked head to look like her mask is down. It slips over the neck while the head is off and looks great.
The unmasked head is one of the big draws for this figure since the Marvel Legends release didn’t include one and Gwen’s look is such an important part of the character. The proportions are all accurate to the comic, though I might have liked some kind of expression. It’s rare that Gwen is just staring like this. The sculpt of the hair is particularly good, with lots of detail in the back. Paint-wise the pink fading out at the ends of the blond looks great.
This is top-notch deco for a figure.
The extra masked head is freaking out and it’s hilarious. Gwenpool was very cartoony at times, much like Teen Titans Go! and this was a not uncommon look for the character. If Medicom wanted to offer a whole box of expressions like DC Collectibles has done with some of the animated figures I’d buy it.
If you’re a fan of Gwenpool this figure is a must-have. While it’s a great Gwenpool, I can’t claim that it’s any kind of special revelation as far as just being an action figure, so it’s not one of those I’d say you have to buy as a toy fan.
I’d love to see the rest of Gwen’s gang and maybe even a MODOK to go along with this even though it would get pretty expensive. Figures that capture a specific character and personality this well are few and far between and I wouldn’t mind having some more from this corner of the Marvel Universe.
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