I write about arcade games AND comics now? When the heck did THAT happen? Welp, I hope I’m good at reviewing sequential art!
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Vol. 1, Issue #22
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ryan North has his ups and downs. His ups? He writes good stories. Never once has a Squirrel Girl story felt incomplete or broken. There aren't plot holes, and the stories are consistently entertaining and fun. His downs? Though subjective, I think his dialogue is just…okay.
Now before you leave this page, hear me out. I entirely get what he’s doing. He wants to mimic “real” speech in the same that one typing a comment or Twitter post online would. A lot of the time this entails omitting commas where they would otherwise be necessary, putting one or even two question marks at the end of a declarative sentence, or intentionally using run-ons. And yes, this does work pretty well for the most part. In fact, I don’t even mind it that much. It’s just that, after a while, this style of writing dialogue becomes a tad tiresome.
However, don’t let that stop you from reading The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Like I said, North certainly knows how to write a good story, and his sense of humor is pretty impeccable. For instance, issue #22 provided us with this gold:
And speaking of “North certainly knows how to write a good story,” let’s address this issue’s story. This is following the story arc with that one crazy animal-talking lady and the one-issue “Boys Night Out” story. Now, we’ve started an arc where Doreen (Squirrel Girl, for the uninitiated) and Nancy won a programming contest. The prize? An all-expenses paid trip to the Savage Land! With dinosaurs! Most of the issue is a setup for the rest of the storyline, introducing a possible romance between Nancy and a boy from Latveria—the country ruled over by none other than Dr. Victor von Doom himself. The issue is pretty much nothing but, “Whoa! Savage Land! Dinosaurs!” But somehow, this works. Only on the last page are we introduced to any real superhero conflict, but I won’t spoil it. (It’s not so much of a spoiler as it is “Suspense! Be here next month!” But still, I have the decency not to reveal it.
Speaking of the Nancy/Latverian boy thing brewing, this was the first issue where a joke genuinely made me laugh out loud. I mean, sure, this book is funny, but nothing made me laugh outwardly—until now. Since it’s so priceless, I’ll share it here:
I think the key to the success of the comedy in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the “timing.” Erica Henderson has a great concept of when to draw a “beat” panel in between two pieces of great dialogue from North. In other words, the comedy benefits from good artist/writer synergy. And in all honesty, the art probably is what props up Squirrel Girl so wonderfully. Speaking of art…
Erica Henderson is one of the few “stylistic” artists that I really like. Why, you ask? Because her art makes sense, and it looks really nice. Instead of forcing a bizarre style on us like Robbi Rodriguez (of Spider-Gwen fame), Henderson produces clean, round pencil and ink work. Her art is both extremely expressive and easy to follow, a balance that is necessary in sequential art. Though her panels are very “standard” compared to the wild panels other artists do these days, I think it just makes the art that much cleaner, more cohesive, and easy to follow. Because comics are read through the art as much as they are through the writing, I find this to be key in any good work.
With this issue is particular, Henderson REALLY knocked it out of the park with her art. We’re treated to a lot of lavish depictions of the Savage Land. First, we get a one page splash panel of the entire land mass. Then, we’re treated to not one, not two, but THREE double-page spreads in a row. The book even pokes fun at that fact itself: “DINOSAURS WERE ALIVE AND WELL IN A FUNCTIONING PARK, IT WAS AMAZING, IT WAS SO INCREDIBLY AMAZING/If three double-page spreads in a row full of dinosaurs don’t convince you of that, I don’t know what else we can do.”
If I had to think of sort of criticism, though, it’s that the colors are just a bit too simple. And by that, I don’t mean that I need extremely detailed shading and junk; I just mean that I need a wider array of color so that backgrounds are depicted with more detail (something that added colors very much help with). I say that because, if backgrounds aren’t detailed enough, the art becomes hard to follow. Other than that, though, Rico Renzi’s colors are really nice and bright. They just pop, ya know? At the very least, Renzi’s doing a bit better than he does in Spider-Gwen. (That "atmospheric" purply stuff makes it so hard to grasp where the heck stuff is taking place.) Unfortunately, I’ve never really been a fan of his color work, due to how “stylized” it can be.
To sum it up, though, Erica Henderson’s landscape and character (and dinosaur) art really shines in this issue, so I have to say that I really recommend it for at least that. It may not be hyper-realistic gritty superhero art (because why would it be?), but it’s still wonderful.
Also, you gotta love her cover art for this issue. Talk about MIND-BLOWINGLY AWESOME!
The Twitter feed-esque recap/title page is pretty funny, as usual. I like the banter Squirrel has with Tony Stark this time particularly well, because Tony’s feeling a bit old and out of touch with the kiddos. (“I said ‘all your base; and someone told me it was an ‘old meme,’ so I had to look up what ‘old meme’ meant.”) The title page is usually the page I find the funniest in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, so this was nice.
The captions at the bottom of the pages that mimic a narrator, while an amusing diversion, never really make me laugh out loud. They aren’t bad, though, and the idea of captions at the bottom of the page make for a longer read.
Having a two-page letter section (“Letters From Nuts”) works in this book’s favor, as usual. It really builds a sense of fandom and community around Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. However, I typically just scan it. (I like Amazing Spider-Mail a bit more, but that’s just me. There’s no objective reasoning behind it.)
And of course, there’s the backup feature, which is always just a one-page, amusing B-plot for the reader to follow. I like them, but it never makes me laugh out loud. Like the captions/narration at the bottom of the page, they’re a fun and amusing diversion. But see, I’m not really complaining about this, because after all, Squirrel Girl is THE fun Marvel comic right now. The whole point of the book is to be an amusing diversion, in my opinion.
But overall, the format/presentation of the Squirrel Girl book works. If you enjoy it is purely a matter of opinion, of course, but I find it to be an effectively unique and amusing presentation.
If you tire of constant company-wide event crossovers and generally serious superhero fare, I recommend The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It really is…different. Now of course, you could probably read The Amazing Spider-Man, too, but that’s a story for a different day.
The art? Great, but sometimes colors are a problem.
The writing? Pretty darn good, if you can bear the sometimes tiresome “Internet” dialogue.
So yes, totally pick up Squirrel Girl if you want some good, wholesome squirrel-related fun. However, if you want a comic that has meat to the story instead of being a very long setup for the next issue, wait until next month to pick up an issue of Squirrel Girl. (This one’s still good and funny, though. It works way better as a setup that most comics, let me tell ya that. The buildup issues in other comics are boring as heck.)
And also, I hope you all like my first comic book review ever! In my opinion, I think I did pretty good job addressing everything and staying unbiased in my judgment. And unless we get some new arcade game announcements, my next few posts should be an Amazing Spider-Man review, a Daredevil review, and another Squirrel Girl review. I hope you stick around for more! Oh, and if it's cool with you, comic posts will either be on Thursday or as close to when I get the issue in the mail as possible. Arcade-related posts will still be on Mondays, as usual.
How fitting that I started arcade blogging with a review, and now I start comic blogging with a review. Talk about déjà vu.
Keep it real, ya sweaty nerds.