The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, vol. 1: Squirrel Power

Monday, March 7, 2016  By  Matt Morrison     No comments

usgvol1She saved Iron Man from Doctor Doom in her first public outing when she was 14. She’s the only person Luke Cage and Jessica Jones trust to protect their daughter in a fight and serve as a capable nanny. She has defeated Wolverine, Deadpool, and even Thanos in single combat. She is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and she is here to kick butts and eat nuts!

Correction—she’s here to kick butts, eat nuts, AND start college as a computer science major at Empire State University!

Why? Because being a superhero is fun, awesome work but it doesn’t pay particularly well. And until she can convince Tony Stark to officially adopt her as his young ward (because he totally owes her one and she’d be a great young ward), she still has bills to pay.

And so it comes to pass that Doreen Green (aka Squirrel Girl) moves out of the Avengers’ mansion and into the ESU dorms. She adopts the guise of an ordinary college freshman with an unusually large yet awesome butt. (Because she has to tuck her tail down the back of her pants, you see?)

Unfortunately, pretending to be ordinary is difficult for Doreen. She keeps forgetting little things like the fact that normal people aren’t able to lift five large boxes carrying all their belongings at once. And villains like Kraven the Hunter and Whiplash suddenly deciding to attack the campus on the first week of classes don’t make things any easier.

Actually, they’re easier to deal with than Doreen’s new roommate and talking to cute boys, but she can handle it. She’s the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! But can she handle it when a hungry Galactus approaches the Earth and the only creatures that can perceive his arrival are squirrels?

The Marvel Universe is a remarkably silly place if you think about it. And most modern comics forget that superheroes are, when you get right down to it, escapist fantasy. Yet there’s often no effort to make these other worlds where the gods fly overhead and people “can do whatever some animal can” after a radiation-infused bite seem like a place worth escaping to. Everything has to be realistic and serious.

That is why I am thankful for comics like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It’s an idealistic throwback to the days when everyone had an alliterative or rhyming name and loved fighting the good fight. It isn’t ashamed of how silly it is that a young woman has the proportional speed, agility, and fluffy tail of a squirrel or that she is able to talk to squirrels. It embraces the sheer silliness of the concept and runs wild with it.

Ryan North does a remarkable job of making this series both fun and funny. There’s a lot of humor in this book, with hilarious dialogue and a writer/character commentary at the bottom of most of the pages that has to be seen to be believed. But more importantly, this is just a light, hopeful book to read.

North’s scripts are well-matched by the art of Erica Henderson. Henderson boasts a cute, cartoonish style that suits the character of Squirrel Girl. More importantly, Henderson excels at depicting the slapstick action that dominates most of Doreen’s adventures.

This volume is rated T for Teens 13 and up and I consider that a fair assessment. There’s nothing inappropriate for younger audiences in this series but the writing is complex enough to be appropriate for middle school students and older. Advanced younger readers shouldn’t have any trouble, however, and this series might be a welcome gift for the shojo snob in your life who doesn’t think there are any good comics about girls being published in America today.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, vol. 1: Squirrel Power
by Ryan North
Art by Erica Henderson
ISBN: 9780785197027
Marvel Comics, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: T (13 and Up)

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