‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ – So Good It’s NUTS!
Whew! What a day in Comic Book World, huh? I mean, FIRST we have to deal with the possibility that DC Rebirth might actually be AWESOME and THEN we get sucker punched by Marvel Comics throwing their most iconic character UNDER A GODDAMN BUS? A BUS DRIVEN BY NAZIS??? This is why I stopped reading comics all those years ago, comrades! I CAN’T TAKE THE PRESSURE! Lucky I just started reading ‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ or I’d really be in trouble.
(Sidenote: Before I get into a [possibly] overlong rant about how much I love ‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and why you should too, let me quickly address the “shocking” revelation that Captain America is now and has always been a freaking Hydra Agent: it’s bullshit. I know that, you know that, Marvel Comics knows that, and damned sure the idiots who have been sending writer Nick Spencer threats over this know that deep in their woefully under-developed hearts. I plan on coming back to this subject later, but right now all I’m gonna say is that it’s bullshit, but time will tell if it’s brilliant bullshit or pathetic bullshit. Ok? Ok! On with my love letter to ‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’)
It’s hysterical to me that I finally gave in and bought a copy of ‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ a mere two freaking days before this Cap nonsense broke. I’d heard mutterings through the grapevine that it was a good book, but, honestly I thought it was a “funny animal” comic, and, well, I have always hated funny animal comics. Plus, I’ll admit that I’ve been easing back into regular comic buying/reading slowly, and I wasn’t necessarily looking to start reading another title right away.
As it happens, my timing was perfect.
‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ is like a tiny, beautiful gift from the universe. I don’t know writer Ryan North or artist Erica Henderson, but if I ever meet them in The Real World I’m gonna give them each a smooch and a big hug. Every issue of ‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ pops with action and honest-to-god, actual wit! The dialogue is breezy and charming, but utterly dead-on smart! The art is a genius mix of ‘cartoony’ with ‘classic illustration’ style. It looks so easy, but that kind of pure storytelling verve is SO DIFFICULT to pull off properly.
In short, Taylor and Henderson are my new heroes.
The other great thing is that, even though it’s tone and style at first seem to be miles from the standard Marvel Comics “Super-Hero” conventions, it still exists and makes sense in the larger ‘Marvelverse’ whole. Squirrel Girl (or, as she’s known in her not-so-secret “secret identity” Doreen Green) lives and goes to school in New York City, is a member of The Avengers and regularly interacts with classic Marvel Villains. Of course, by “interact with”, I mean “beat the ever-loving butts off of”.
But, even here, in the classic comic book trope of never-ending fight scenes, ‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ has a twist. Many times, she resolves conflicts with common sense or by reasoning with the bad guys. Like in this scene from issue #6 when she encounters The Hippo.
I love that! Other things I love about this comic? The way there’s a tiny little scrawl across the bottom of just about every page that comments on the action above it. (In case you can’t read the one in the above example, it goes: “The demolition company Squirrel Girl’s mom’s friend works at is called “Yo, What’s Up, We Hate Buildings TOO” because who wouldn’t hire a demo company with that name? The answer: nobody.”) I love the way when there was a story arc that involved the Norse God of Squirrels Ratatoskr (obviously Loki and the two Thors were involved), it managed to be genuinely creepy as well as funny and clever. I love how it has moments of earnest yet silly emotion like this…
…followed by scenes like this:
She beat up The Avengers! Because they called her friends jerks! How freaking awesome IS that?
Also? I love the way the opening page has a quick recap of the previous issue in twitter-format! I thought that was going to be lamer than lame, but noooo! Instead, you get moments like THIS:
Ok. I’ll admit, it’s a little absurd that Hulk is tweeting, but… Damnit! I love absurdity in my comic books. Heck, I just plain old love absurdity. And it’s not like Squirrel Girl was any less absurd when she first appeared back in Marvel Super Heroes Winter Special of 1992…
Yep. That’s Squirrel Girl’s first appearance, drawn by none other than the legendary Steve Ditko. Full confession: I did not know that Squirrel Girl was a genuine Marvel Super Hero prior to the new series. Let alone that she was co-created by Steve Ditko, the man who co-created Spider-Man back in the day.
Aw! That’s Doctor Doom being defeated by squirrels! Bless.
Here’s the thing, comrades… I appreciate darker, adult comic books as well as the “lighter” tones of, say, ‘Ms. Marvel’ or ‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’. (In fact, the next comic series I’ll be reviewing is so not for kiddies it’s kind of hysterical.) And I appreciate it when creators take risks with more challenging or topical storylines, but I really, truly love it when comic book writers and artists genuinely nail the spirit of fun that made me like comic books in the first place. For too long it seemed like that concept was forgotten (or blatantly ignored) by too many comics. In fact, that’s what has me most worried about the Captain America story line. Are we looking at another year or two where we have to suffer through the trauma of Cap suddenly being a Nazi scumbag? That doesn’t sound like fun. At least, not to me. Frankly, I’ll take Squirrel Girl battling Galactus over Nazi Captain America any day, no matter how “insightful” the story line might ultimately be.
So yeah. I may have arrived late to this particular party (‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ started publishing in January of 2015) but I think I arrived just when I needed to the most.
Nutty how that works out sometimes, eh, comrades?