As if anyone was even the slightest bit surprised, the new issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has arrived and once again, I am head over heels in love with it.
Really, though, if any of you are startled by this, I’d have to ask if you’ve glanced at any of my reviews of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl before, because I’m certainly not shy about how I feel about it. This comic has been — and continues to be! — one of the best things to come out of Marvel’s recent lineup, mostly because it is so unlike anything else in said lineup in the utter joy it takes in being a self-aware ridiculous superhero comic.
Issue #1 relaunched the still-relatively-new title with the second year of college for Doreen and the rest of the crew, complete with attacks from brain-powered robots who went on to get rebuilt and audit college courses to get a new start at life. (In retrospect, the choice of villains last time could and probably should have been handled differently than it was, especially given the fact that Brain Drain explicitly stated he was an unrepentant HYDRA scientist before becoming a robot. That’s… not really the kind of person you want to see redeemed in stories, especially given the real-life connotations. Saying he wasn’t ever willingly part of HYDRA or perhaps choosing another villain altogether might have been a smarter move.)
This week, a pretty big wrench gets thrown in the works to muck up Doreen’s usual school-life-heroics routine: time travel.
That’s right, folks; I get to make an “excellent adventure” joke two weeks in a row, because — like the cover itself states — Doreen and Nancy are on an excellent DOOM-venture, since Doreen has been flung back in time to the 60s, as well as being erased from the timeline everywhere but Nancy’s memories. And none other than Doreen’s original nemesis, Doctor Doom himself, seems to be responsible for the whole thing.
If this means issue #3 is bringing us a Squirrel Girl vs. Doctor Doom beatdown, I am so here for this. It just might make the utter inanity I’ve had to sit through with Secret Wars feel ever so slightly vindicated.
All joking aside, this is a strikingly well-constructed issue, with parallel storylines running between Doreen’s attempts to fit in during the 1960s (complete with attempted crime-fighting against people who have no idea how to react to superheroes) and Nancy’s quest to restore her roommate’s existence in the present. Nancy Whitehead has quickly leaped up my list of favorite civilian characters in the Marvel universe, partly because of her inherent ability to cut through the layers of ridiculousness surrounding superheroes (a trait she shares with Doreen, which hearkens back to Squirrel Girl’s inception in 1991). Domino masks hide no identities when confronted by Nancy’s gaze.
Nancy is an incredibly smart, talented, and resourceful woman, with a diverse range of talents and interests (knitting, Cat Thor, and coding are just the top of the pile). She’s funny, she’s a unique and fleshed-out individual, and she’s outspoken (three traits guaranteed to endear me to a character), and she’s not afraid to roll with the ridiculous punches that Doreen’s superhero life drops in her lap on any given day, even if it’s time travel. Nancy may not be able to talk to animals (yet?), but she counts as a superhero in my book, only for her incredible dedication and willingness to go the extra mile to get the job done, even if that extra mile is starting a Twitter fight with Tony friggin’ Stark because he won’t lend her a time machine.
Basically, Nancy is fantastic and needs to stay forever, please and thanks.
While Nancy is busy being a badass in the present, Doreen is having almost far too much fun in the past. After placing an ad using very obvious modern slang to try to find any other time travelers stuck in the 1960s (since she’s already found one besides herself), Doreen sends Nancy a note inside a brick being used to first build their student housing to let her know what’s going on. But there’s another game afoot — Doreen notices an ad for the “Individual Portable sOng Device (I.P.O.D.)” in her newspaper, leading her to realize someone is using a time machine not just to send people back in time, but to rewrite history.
Time travel may be one of superhero comics’ most favored plot twists, but The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl brings its unique take on the trope to the table and so far, it’s fantastic. Both Doreen and Nancy’s processes of figuring out that yes, time travel has occurred are as brilliant as they are different, and the cuts between their two timelines are excellently framed. North’s writing is as sharp as usual (and the yellow alt text has once again left me laughing so hard I wheeze, and multiple times at that), and Henderson and Renzi’s paired colors and art fit so well with both the 60s story and the present, allowing the storylines to merge both thematically and visually.
There’s a certain sense of energy to Henderson’s art that matches the constantly energetic Doreen, and the attention to detail is excellent, both in terms of characters and backgrounds. Characters are so expressive in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, with big things like body language or even little things like narrowed eyes or a curled lip used to help characters emote straight off the page. Little details, like the café’s “New! Open Air Dining” sign after Doreen smashes the window in her first crime-foiling attempt in the past or Doreen’s cross-hatching on her fingernail-etched acorn symbol on the brick holding her letter to Nancy, only serve to add to the irrepressible joy of the whole story, and are worth a good chuckle when spotted.
The second installment in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’s second volume is a delightful romp through the oft-overused trope of superhero time travel, and it still comes off as a fresh and engaging take on an old favorite plotline. The juxtaposition of Nancy in the present and Doreen in the past helps the story unfold naturally, without giving too much away at once. Doctor Doom’s appearance at the close of the issue suggests we’re in for a Doreen vs. Doom face-off very soon — or even one with Nancy vs. Doom — which I absolutely can’t wait to see.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2 was written by Ryan North, with art by Erica Henderson, trading card art by Matt Digges, David Robbins, and Chip Zdarsky, colors by Rico Renzi, and lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles.
Images courtesy of Marvel
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Eve is asexual panromantic, a graduate student with no time for sleep (but always time for comics), a senior contributing writer for the Rainbow Hub, and an avid consumer of any type of media she can get her hands on. When not perusing her incredibly large collection of Marvel comics, she can be found reading, knitting in front of the TV, or on her laptop.