Do you like to be happy? To laugh and to read about cute things? To have the Spider-man song stuck in your head for days? Okay, maybe you don’t like that last one, but if you’re a fan of any of the three former, you need to go buy The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 by Ryan North and Erica Henderson.
In her comics history, Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, is a squirrel-powered mutant who has defeated in battle no lesser foes than Doctor Doom, the Mandarin, Thanos, Modok, Deadpool, Wolverine, and Fin Fang Foom (a giant dragon in hotpants).
She’s kind of notorious in fandom for this, especially since, despite a list of accomplishments that A-list Avengers and X-Men can only dream about, she’s only ever been on the C-list Great Lakes offshoot of the Avengers. (She left the GLA to nanny Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’s daughter.)
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl seems to be at least a soft reboot for the character. It doesn’t mention her past exploits except the allusion in the title, and she’s living in true squirrelly fashion, unbeknownst to the rest of the building’s inhabitants, in the attic of Avengers Mansion in NYC. In her spare time, she beats up ne’er-do-wells to the tune of Spider-man’s theme song—replacing the words with verses about herself, of course. This status quo isn’t around for long, though—she’s decided the time has come to better herself, and she’s about to begin her first year at Empire State University as a computer science major. She swears that she’s going to keep her secret identity, well, secret, but when the no-good Kraven the Hunter shows up on campus, it seems like that might be more of a challenge than she expected.
While reading, take special note of the subscript at the bottom of each page. In a line of text so light and small as to be barely readable or noticeable are Doreen’s wisecracking asides. I didn’t notice them till halfway through the issue, and I had to go back and read all of them from the beginning.
Erica Henderson’s art is decidedly different than that of previous Squirrel Girl incarnations, and I’m actually pretty happy about that. In researching this post, I came to the conclusion that Doreen’s old character design is, well, kind of creepy. Henderson’s dumpy, bucktoothed heroine is a delightful departure from most superheroines’ physical appearance, and the expressions she draws are comical and evocative—cartoonish in the best way.
I’m interested to see how North deals with the more intersectional side of diversity, but it seems like he’s on the right track so far: while Doreen herself is white, the supporting cast of the comic so far is decidedly not. The first person she meets on campus, Tomas, is a person of color (although I’m not sure of his ethnicity just yet) and her cats-and-knitting-obsessed roommate Nancy is a Black girl. Nancy seems especially chill so far, and I think she’ll be a fun foil to Doreen’s hyperactive and spacey personality. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship develops.
Marvel, it seems, has done nothing but release new lady-led title after new lady-led title these days. While not all of them have been successful, I’d much rather they keep releasing them and see what sticks than never take a chance on a superheroine at all. That said, while The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl might seem to the uninitiated to be a long shot for a solo title, its creative team absolutely knocks it out of the park in its first issue. I haven’t had so much fun reading a #1 book in a while—off the top of my head, I’m gonna point to Sex Criminals as the previous frontrunner for fun and funny introductions to a story. (Of course, this is absolutely lightyears more kid-friendly than Sexcrims.)
Basically, the long and short of it is this: do yourself a favor. If you enjoy enjoying things, you want this comic book.