I’m going to admit right off the bat — I didn’t get the whole Squirrel Girl thing at first. Not that I knew much about Squirrel Girl to be totally honest, aside from being in Great Lakes Avengers and often showing up in group shots when the whole Marvel Universe came together for some big deal event. Even knowing the character had a cult following of sorts on the internet, I just didn’t get what the hoopla surrounding Squirrel Girl was. Until now that is.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1, from the creative team of writer Ryan North (Adventure Time) and artist Erica Henderson (Atomic Robo), was freaking hilarious. Nothing more, nothing less, but it’s the closest thing the Marvel universe has to a classic screwball sitcom, and on those merits it succeeds perfectly. Superhero books are almost afraid to be funny these days, outside of the occasional one-liner from your title hero here and, even then, they’re only there to keep a dire situation light. In a world of deadly serious “life and death stakes” superhero books, you need one that is really only concerned about delivering the funny, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl succeeds at doing precisely that. There’s at least one good laugh on almost every page, and really, what more could you want out of a book about a girl with squirrel powers?
So who is this unbeatable Squirrel Girl you might ask? Well, here’s all you need to know: Squirrel Girl is really Doreen Green, a mutant who has the ability to communicate with squirrels and has “the proportionate strength of a squirrel.” (Somewhere, Aquaman is counting his blessing that Squirrel Girl exists and can take some of the heat off of him for a change.) Those are pretty much her powers in a nutshell, pun totally intended. Also, she’s possibly a wee bit crazy.
In the first issue, Doreen, who has been living in the attic of Avengers mansion with her pet squirrel Tippy-Toe, decides it’s time to move out and go to college. Her college of choice, of course, is Spider-Man’s alma mater, Empire State University. Because just as there is only one lawyer for everyone in the Marvel universe (Daredevil. Okay, She-Hulk too) there is also apparently only one university as well.
So after arriving on her new school and meeting her new roommate and the first nice dude on campus (probable future love interest), Spidey villain Kraven the Hunter invades the campus for reasons which are both kind of unclear and totally unimportant. He’s there because Doreen needs a bad guy to fight. And Squirrel Girl manages to kick his butt. Well, actually she mostly gets her butt kicked, but wins out by ultimately convincing him there are far worthier opponents than her or even Spider-Man, and most are monsters that live under the water and fight Namor the Submariner. Go bug them if you want to prove your awesomeness.
Aside from the humor, what I really loved about this issue, aside from just how consistently funny it is over all 20 pages, is just how Doreen is portrayed unlike any other heroine in the Marvel Universe. Sure, this is a comedic book first and foremost, so the art is on the cartoony side, but Squirrel Girl isn’t just just boobs and minuscule waist like most female superheroes are (regardless of which publisher they come from). Nope, she has realistic proportions, which is funny considering how cartoony and exaggerated the art is overall. And she’s also buck-toothed and, at best, ordinary-looking. In a world where are female heroes need to be “hot” (in other words, look like a porn star) it’s refreshing to see one who doesn’t fall under traditional ideas of what “hot” even means.
Superhero books that are pure comedy like this one are hard to maintain over time — although arguably Justice League International and Deadpool have had success at doing just that. That being said, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is even sillier than those two books, so the question remains, just how long can a book like this one, which is pretty much pure farce, go on? That’s a question for another time though really, because at this point in time, this comic is a total hoot, and well worth checking out.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 burritos