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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

30 Days of Reviews: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In the spirit of the month, instead of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m going to write a short review every day, up to a maximum of 300 words. Think of it is NaNoReMo (National Novel Review Month). This month I’ll do short reviews of books, varieties of tea, and even individual short stories as the mood strikes. So read on!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel UniverseTitle: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe
Author: Ryan North
Illustrator: Erica Henderson
Publisher: Marvel
Format: Print
Rating: 4 out of 5

Squirrel Girl is no stranger to this blog. It’s a witty series! It’s funny! It’s got heart! It’s meta! It scratches a lot of my itches.

What I wasn’t expecting, in this world where we suddenly find ourselves contending with the reality of Trump having won the election, is that The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe is a surprisingly timely and relevant story about the perils of autocracy and the value of community and togetherness.

Quick summary: After inadvertently coming into contact with some alien technology that Iron Man has jury-rigged together, Doreen Green, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, now has a clone, Allene. Things are hunky-dory at first, but go south quickly when Allene feels that the only way to really keep the world safe is by getting rid of the true source of its problems — other people — and instituting a squirrel-ocracy in its place.

I mean, “She alone can fix it”, right?

Thus Allene concocts a surprisingly successful plan to defeat every single Marvel superhero and villain, progressively working her way up the ladder by treating it like an RPG with loot drops and boss fights. It’s only when Doreen and her mascot, Tippy-Toe, sacrifice themselves for the greater good that Allene has a change of heart.

I’ve been heartsick for the past few days. Scared, overwhelmed, tired. Reviewing books and tea feels  like fiddling while Rome burns. So imagine my surprise when I read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe and genuinely laughed and forgot our political situation for a few minutes — up until I saw its parallels to the current state of world politics and got unhappy and uncomfortable all over again.

It’s really interesting having a see-sawing reaction like that. So while I liked the book, I’m still guarded about it.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson: Squirrel!

unbeatable_squirrel_girl_vol1_coverTitle: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1 (Issues 1–4)
Author: Ryan North
Illustrator: Erica Henderson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Rating: 5 out of 5
Format: Print
How I got it: I borrowed a copy from the library

Rare is the book that can make me howl with laughter from the first page, but Ryan North and Erica Henderson are just the right people for this sort of thing. North, of Dinosaur Comics and To Be or Not to Be fame (trust me, having a choose-your-own-adventure-story based on Hamlet is so worth it), and Henderson have created something so rich and funny and utterly joyous that I can’t stay uncharmed.

Doreen Green is Squirrel Girl, a mutant with the powers of both squirrel and girl. Although she’s spent her formative years in a secret hideout in the attic of the Avengers Mansion (where else would a squirrel girl go?), she’s off to start university with her pet and sidekick, the squirrel Tippy-Toe. University is weird but fun, and Doreen and her roommate worry about classes, getting falafel, and finding clubs to join. (I myself would want to be part of the Get Together and Eat Cookies Once a Week Club, as well as Small Fighting Staff Club.)

But wait! Squirrel Girl also has to deal with things like bank robbers! And Kraven the Hunter! And Whiplash! And Galactus, Devourer of Worlds and Wielder of the Power Cosmic, who is less than two hours away on a course headed straight for Earth! (Squirrel Girl is the only one who knows that Galactus is coming because Tippy-Toe is in touch with all of the secret squirrel observatories around the world. Of course.)

Can Squirrel Girl rescue her roommate, defeat Kraven, find an Iron Man suit, defeat Whiplash, and prevent the Earth from being eaten by Galactus in two hours?

Of course! She’s unbeatable! And, oh yeah, she’s got her wits, her set of “Deadpool’s Guide to Super Villains” collectible cards, and a huge army of squirrels (and one confused chipmunk) at her beck and call.

Fans of Dinosaur Comics will see North’s brand of meta humour at work here in spades, from the snarky text on the Deadpool cards to the running captions in the footer of most of the pages from issue 2 onwards. Hell, there’s even a fake Twitter feed in some of the issues showing her Twitter conversations with Kraven and Iron Man.

Erica Henderson’s lines are smooth, fluid, and distinctive, and I love her decision to draw Doreen Green/Squirrel Girl as a short, chunky girl with powerful thighs. Also, I am stupidly happy at the fact that Squirrel Girl disguises her tail when she’s in “human” form by making it look like her butt is super big. Doreen’s got junk in her trunk, and she’s damn proud of it! I like this way better than the stick-thin, D-cup bombshells you see in most mainstream comics.

I love, love, love this series so far for its humour, its wit, and its steadfast refusal to indulge in any of the fate-of-the-cosmos, grim-and-gritty histrionics that other comic series do. I can’t wait to see what the next few issues will be like.

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