REVIEW: THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #1 Knows Exactly How Awesome It Is
By Josh Epstein
Let’s get one thing straight: Squirrel Girl rocks.
For a throwaway cameo character originally introduced in Marvel’s 1991 Marvel Super-Heroes Winter Special and forgotten until she showed up as one of the Great Lakes Avengers, a roster comprised of heroes so bad that geek-rock band Kirby Krackle wrote an entire song on how terrible they are, Squirrel Girl has built an impressive cult following.
How? She has kicked everyone’s ass.
Her first victim: Doctor Doom. Him she overwhelmed with an infinite army of Squirrel. Next up, Maelstrom. A genius level, cosmic-power-possessing Inhumans villain. MODOK: check. Terrax: Check. Thanos: Check. Yes, that Thanos. The one Marvel has been teasing as the terrifying big bad for their cinematic universe. Squirrel Girl owned him.
For the last several years, Squirrel Girl, a.k.a. Doreen Green, has been serving as the nanny for the child of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Why? Well, if you were a super-hero couple, who would you rather have watching your kid than someone who has proven she can single-handedly wreck the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe?
In the first issue of the Squirrel Girl solo series, Doreen is finally growing up. She’s leaving Avengers mansion and going off to Empire State University (alma mater of one Peter Parker, whose theme song she blatantly and unapologetically steals in the opening pages) to study computer science.
Along the way, she runs into Kraven the Hunter, and hijinks ensue.
That’s all I’ll say about the story. You’ll need to read it to find out the rest. Suffice to say it hits all the requisite first-issue beats, doing a fine job of establishing who Doreen is, what she wants, as well as the environment and her supporting cast, which consists of a love interest, a possibly-crazy roommate, a kitten, and a squirrel in an oak tree.
Writer Ryan North, the Eisner-winning writer behind the Adventure Time comic books, was a natural choice for the Squirrel Girl task. The irreverent, off-beat, and slightly mad way in which Doreen navigates the world is right up his alley and it shows from the very first page. She chatters away throughout the entire book in a way which is both endearing and annoying, but also perfectly illustrates the frenetic nature of her personality. He also sprinkles in absolutely delightful asides in small print at the bottom of each page (a technique he perfected in his work on Adventure Time) which both left me rolling in laughter and really wanting to read an entire mini-series starring Kraven: College Administrator. Beyond this, he manages to sprinkle in just the slightest bit of real-world relevance, in Doreen’s struggle for shelter which has led her to squat in the attic of Avengers Mansion and a little wink and nod to prospective readers about what they might want to major in when they head to college.
On art, Erica Henderson (Quantum & Woody, Subatomic Party Girls) does a magnificent job of creating the airy tone this book needs. Everything is somewhat surreal and cartoonish, yet somehow she still manages to convey a sense of detail and reality in the world around Squirrel Girl which makes the whole thing work. In the same way that North’s script conveys Doreen’s personality through her constant chatter, Henderson’s depiction of her shows a character constantly in motion, filled to bursting with energy, and ever-so-slightly out of her mind.
The book is filled with little nuggets that will delight long-time fans of the character and of comics in general, but not in a way which distracts from what is a wonderful first issue. The sensibilities of the creative team and the intrinsic nature of the character combine to create a book which is marvelously irreverent, whimsical, and entertaining. This is a book which parents can feel comfortable handing over to their children, but only if they’re prepared for constant demands of a Tippy-Joe the Squirrel plushie for their next birthday.
“The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1” hits on all cylinders. It knows exactly what it’s trying to be and makes zero apologies for it. This book is fabulously funny and perfectly composed.
In memory of Monkey Joe, “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1” gets 10/10.