The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power
Comic book series by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), VC's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Maris Wicks, Kyle Starks, Chris Giarusso (trading card art)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: August 19th, 2015
Squirrel Girl is a squirrel-based superhero created by the legendary Steve Ditko and Will Murray. She has the tail, teeth, claws, and proportional strength of, you guessed it, a squirrel. She originally appeared in a 1992 stand-alone adventure called "The Coming of... Squirrel Girl" in Marvel Super-Heroes #8. If you haven't read the story, then good news! It's included at the end of the collected Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power trade paperback. Back when she appeared in the early 90's, Doreen Green was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the style of comic characters at the time. Her story was a throwback to the comic style of the 60's, but stood out in the dark ages of the depressing and "xtreme" 90's. Squirrel Girl had appeared on-and-off throughout Marvel's history since then as part of the Great Lakes Adventures, the regular Avengers, and even acts as the babysitter for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' baby.
Squirrel Girl has a lot in common with another wildly popular Marvel character: Deadpool. Both are oddities that have made an impression on fans and other characters with their sense of humor and penchant for breaking the fourth wall. But where Deadpool represents the aforementioned dark ages of ultra-violence and pessimistic 90's comic milieu, Squirrel Girl harkens back to the silver age of comics, complete with a positive outset and a ridiculous design. Which is kind of the point: Squirrel Girl is a joke. Sorta. She's defeated the greatest threats the planet has ever seen, including Galactus, Doctor Doom, and Thanos, and audiences love it because, well, she's a girl with the powers of squirrel. Squirrel Girl had long captured the attention of fans, but she was often used a punchline rather than given real consideration. That is until the "Marvel Now" initiative. In her first ever solo series, Squirrel Girl decides decides to put a pause on her superheroing in order to start college. In The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Doreen participates in the time-honored traditions of the collegiate world, including meeting the weird roommate, signing up for college clubs, and trying to stop Galactus from consuming the world. The adventure is punctuated with "visits" from various super villains, a stopover at Stark labs to commandeer a suit, and a falafel-stop gone wrong. It's an oddly cheerful and positive comic, where Squirrel Girl learns the classic lesson of staying true to herself while ending conflicts through discussion rather than brute force.
To pull this off without being too jokey or satirical, Squirrel Girl needs a writer that can give her the respect she's earned and combine it with the silliness that derives from being a girl with the powers of a squirrel. Enter Eisner-winning comic writer and creator of Dinosaur Comics, Ryan North. North has an incredibly modern style of humor that is a reflection of the type of dialogue and timing that fits into today's post-hipster world. There's a very trendy approach to the dialogue in North's writing that reflects the internet age, such as Squirrel Girl lunging towards Kraven the Hunter with a battle cry of "You're a jerk who suuuuuuuucks!" Likewise, there's something surreal yet oddly satisfying to see Galactus call another character a "tool." North also continues a trend he began when writing Adventure Time comics by providing a running commentary in small text on the bottom of the page. If you're a reader obsessed with Marvel canon, North's casual style will give you a heart attack. For the non-obsessives who just want a good time, North's book is a great time.
Of course we can't give all the credit to North, as Squirrel Girl wouldn't work nearly as well without Erica Henderson's fantastic art. Henderson's illustrations are kinetic, colorful, vibrant, and expressive. Whereas artists like Fionna Staples in Saga create a very realistic world, Henderson uses a cartoonish flexibility that complements the comic's style. When Galactus sits down cross-legged on the moon to ponder, or when a horde of squirrels encase and entrap a super villain, you need that flexible style to pull it off. Henderson's designs go a long way with Squirrel Girl, who has gone through different artists looking unnatural or downright terrifying at times. Here, she's kind of a dork with prominent front teeth, but she's a confident dork, and one we can't help but admire. In a world where the word "hero" describes some pretty terrible people, Doreen Green is the real deal.
The Unbeatable Squirrel ranks up there with some of my favorite Marvel comics from the Marvel Now period, and I put it on the same level of quality as Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, and Deadpool as some of the best Marvel gave us during that period. I guarantee that we'll see more of her here, and I highly recommend you check this book out.