Making a comic for all ages can be a tricky task. Having to balance between truly being “for all ages” but not excluding older readers is something that not all books can manage to do, but if The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 is any indication, Nolan North may be doing just that. It’s pretty standard as far as an intro book goes, and featured kind of a lame duck villain, but it is an enjoyable first look into Squirrel Girl’s first solo series and life outside of the Avengers Mansion’s attic.
The whole idea of Doreen Green aka Squirrel Girl and her squirrel sidekick Tippy leaving the Avengers Mansion’s attic is a nice little metaphor for this whole series. In the first few panels post title page we see her preparing to leave and go off for college. Much like how she is leaving her old digs and the safety of the Mansion, the once background character of Squirrel Girl is moving onto to her own big adventure, which the series promises to be.
Throughout the issue we see Doreen dealing with standard college entry problems of any late teen – moving boxes, meeting that new roomate, and deans messing up all your courses. The twist, naturally, is that all her problems are being solved super powers, while she clumsily tries to hide them. She can lift all five boxes stuffed with her belongings thanks to her squirrel blood-induced super strength, but she obviously shouldn’t in order to keep her identity as Squirrel Girl a secret. It’s small touches like this within the story of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 that gives it an overflowing amount of charm and allows to be “for all ages” but still very readable and fun for the grumpiest of adults.
Squirrel Girl’s friends and story line in this first book are kept purposefully simple. She meets her college roommate who, in a rather stereotypical college dorm student kind of way, only wants to be left alone with her cat and her various knitting posters. This still unnamed roommate has a clear set up as the straight man of sorts to Doreen’s goofiness. It’s already easy to envision a world where Squirrel Girl will constantly be fighting off bad guys and having to fight crime in a big and flashy way, only to come back to her dorm room with her judgmental yet unsuspecting roommate being none the wiser – as was done already here in the first issue. How well it will be handled depends on how much faith you have in Ryan North’s ability to not turn up the campyness to an unbearable level, but it was done well enough in this first issue.
The most direct, albeit imperfect, comparison to make for Squirrel Girl is a PG-rated Deadpool – and this first issue even acknowledges this fact. While fighting her first big foe solo, she pulls out a “Deadpool’s Guide to Super Villains” card that details him with trademark Deadpool sarcasm and fourth wall breaking. While Doreen Green is not the merc with a mouth that Wade Wilson is for obvious reasons, the similarities are certainly there in terms of how she deals with villains in comical and mostly impossibly ways as well as her every day life.
Both the art style and panel layout of Unbeatable Squirrel is kept simple and flat, perfect for young readers and it sets up the tone of a simplistic story well. One touch in particular I liked was that, anytime something outside of Squirrel Girl’s own little world was referenced (like the Deadpool cards), they were more detailed and featured a darker palette. It alludes to the fact that Squirrel Girl’s world may be simplistic and relatively plain, but there is a whole big world out there full of big and scary things, all of which she’ll need to tackle.
Squirrel Girl’s humor and charm work best with a big powerful enemy, which unfortunately the first issue lacked. It’s understandable that a lot of the first issue is filled with establishing and background information so there is not time to develop a major character, but watching Squirrel Girl “defeat” one of Spider-Man’s minor villains isn’t the most satisfying thing in the world. It did, however, set up her tone and fighting style for the future issues, which is I guess all you can ask out of a starter book.
Overall, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 was a decent first issue that featured a not-so-great villain, but a whole lot of spunk. Solid writing, purposefully simplistic art, and a lot to look forward in coming issues.
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