Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Trading Card Art: Maris Wicks
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Everything that could go wrong, was going wrong. I was having a week of Mondays. I sat down on Wednesday and looked at my pull list. Squirrel Girl, it said. I was skeptical that this would be good – how good can a comic be about a superhero with the powers of a squirrel?
Turns out, really, super, amazingly good.
The first two pages are devoted to Squirrel Girl’s theme song. I was hooked immediately; these silly panels reminded me of the lovable Kronk from the Emperor’s New Groove humming his theme song as he dumps llama Kuzko. I giggled through the whole comic. I love the writing – smart, funny and witty. I love the art – commandingly drawn and boldly colored. This reminded me of one of my favorite webcomics: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Both feature a smart, realistically proportioned (love the tail-booty. Seriously though, where else would you stash a tail?) heroine. She defeats the enemy not with the strength of her muscles, but the strength of her brain! Doreen is also a STEM chick – computer science major FTW. She’s a fantastic superhero for all ages. I’m so excited to read more of Squirrel Girl’s wonderful (mis)adventures.
Did y’all love Squirrel Girl as much as I did?
The only Squirrel Girl exposure I had received before this comic is Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s world-famous NextW.A.V.E. series. There, Squirrel Girl operated as a ditzy blonde that blew things up with just a click of her finger. As funny and charming as that version of Squirrel Girl remained throughout NextW.A.V.E., she had several team members who were equally (in)competent that helped her carry the series. So the main question I had before opening up The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 was how the hell are Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Rico Renzi going to pull this off?
Marvel’s answer for most books nowadays, it seems: make it a slice of life series.
It opens up as an almost-musical with Squirrel Girl singing a modified Spider-Man theme while kicking park muggers’ butts. It was by far the perfect opener for this book. As it is, I could probably live with the entire series becoming a real musical with accompanying Youtube videos like they did for the NextW.A.V.E. theme and Spider-Gwen’s one song with The Mary Janes. If there’s one thing Marvel has been doing right for awhile now, it’s taking advantage of current technology to bolster their readers’ experience.
Afterward, when Squirrel Girl starts going to college, I didn’t find so much that made me laugh out loud. While the book maintained its funny tone, nothing quite matched the theme song parody. However, that isn’t to say that I didn’t like many of this comic’s elements. Squirrel Girl’s trick in hiding her tail benefitted in both making a believable disguise for herself and adding diversity to Marvel female characters’ body shapes. Tippy Toe makes an adorable companion and fills in as a confider role for Squirrel Girl that she would have sorely lacked if this version of her were closer to previous depictions. There’s something about the roommate, Nancy Whitehead, that makes her likeable despite her sharp manner and I look forward to the creative team developing her in the upcoming installments.
I don’t expect this comic to last long on my pull list if only because I am the person who ditched Sex Criminals at issue 4 and She-Hulk at issue 6. Unless a creative team’s humor is bitingly British, comedy books don’t stick around long with me. But that’s less a reflection on the creators’ efforts here and more on my very particular taste.
As long as we’re talking about how absolutely delightful the theme song is, I thought I’d share:
For those who don’t want to search through Ryan’s twitter feed, his original song is here, and the Comixology squirrelified version is here. This twitter exchange is probably the only thing I could think of that could possibly make that intro better.
I thought this was really delightful. The humor felt completely on-point, Doreen’s character was about as relatable as a partially-squirrel girl could be, and something here just felt really refreshing. It’s not that we haven’t seen incredibly realistic teen girls portrayed in top-selling titles, because hello, Ms. Marvel? I’m just really happy about the combination of high self confidence and complete dorkishness. Like, this is no Spider-Man level sarcastic one-liner type battles, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl says “you’re a jerk who suuuuuucks” while she kicks bad guys in the head. And I know it’s stupid and I love it. In fact, as soon as I got done reading it, I sent a message to the manager at my LCS and asked that it be added to my pull IMMEDIATELY. Plus I bought a few extra copies to share with people, because I know it’s premature, but this is my favorite comic this year.
For me, and in summary: eat nuts, kick butts.
I went into The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 knowing absolutely nothing other than the huge hype surrounding its release. After reading this issue, I can say for certain that Squirrel Girl has a new fan. This a wholesome, charming, and fun romp in the Marvel Universe that creators Ryan North and Erica Henderson make accessible to anyone.
North’s plot is rather light, but fitting for a first issue. There is a lot to like here, such as humorous commentary on superheroes maintaining secret identities. That said, the standout for me has to be Squirrel Girl’s handling of her initial antagonist. For a character that has been around for decades, her approach to attacking him – through his ego – was both refreshing and satisfying.
What is noteworthy is that you can actually hand this comic to someone under the age of twelve without hesitation. Marvel, despite the reputation it is building as being the “family” option of the Big Two, doesn’t have many viable options for younger readers. It’s a void that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl fits so well. Even though it still has a “T” rating, it’s effectively an all-ages comics without the stigma of being labeled an all-ages comic.