By Molly Jane Kremer. I think it’s safe to say the first two pages of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 are… pretty unforgettable. Thankfully not in the “oh no, did I really just read that gross and horrific thing?” sort of way, or even in the much more common “ugh, is this stupid, pointless thing REALLY what they’re doing with that character?” way. Rather, it’s in the “oh my crap, that just made me laugh so hard I need to run across the house to see if anyone else is home so I can show them this!” way. (I might have done something similar to that last one.) The first two pages are Squirrel Girl singing her own theme song, to the tune of the old Spider-Man theme song. The whole song (“… is she tough? Listen bud: She’s got partially squirrel blood…”). And this is while she’s beating up muggers (“Huh? Is she singing?” “Is that–is that a tail?”) with her bestie, Tippy-Toe (an actual squirrel). It might be the best, most concise, most giggle-inducing introduction to a character I’ve ever read.
Squirrel Girl is without a doubt the funniest comic of 2015. Which, yes, is easy to say, considering we’re only a week into January. But come December, this reader is pretty damn sure she’ll be saying the very same thing. (Or at least, it’ll be in the top 3.) Not only is the dialogue stuffed full of the silliest jokes, the plot itself is lighthearted and full of humor, and despite it’s “T” rating, it makes for a perfect all-ages funny-book choice. And “all-ages” is a most apt description of the comic: it’s a fantastic read, and young and old alike will enjoy the hell out of this book… unless they are sadly bereft of a sense of humor.
Squirrel Girl, or Doreen Green, has only been around in the Marvel universe for about twenty-four years, but in that time she’s beaten up Doctor Doom, Thanos, MODOK, and many more in between. However, she’s only ever spent her time on team books, or in random specials or mini-series, and was considered a joke character by many fans. This is her very first solo ongoing series, and it’s satisfying for a joyful character so few took seriously to be starring in a comic this laugh-out-loud funny. Last seen as nanny to Luke Cage’s and Jessica Jones’ infant daughter in Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers, Doreen is now heading off to college (ostensibly for a second time, as she was attending NYU when Bendis was writing her).
Ryan North (of BOOM’s Eisner-winning Adventure Time comic and The Midas Flesh series) more than ably handles the writing duties, adding the extremely clever goofiness we’ve come to expect from his writing of Finn, Bubblegum, and friends. (Squirrel Girl even has the tiny jokes and comments along each page’s bottom gutter, like in North’s Adventure Time: don’t skip those when reading, because they’re great.) He’s able to write a story equally silly and smart, with our eponymous heroine foiling crimes with no more than the flick of an acorn. All this occurs as she simultaneously explains to Tippy-Toe (one of her powers: Doreen can speak to squirrels) why she’s majoring in computer science and not “squirrels” at Empire State University. Adorable.
This is artist Erica Henderson’s first “Big 2” comics gig, and she knocks Squirrel Girl out of the park. Rico Renzi’s colors are vibrant and bright, perfectly matched to the art and the feel of the story. The book feeds off the playfulness and humor of Henderson’s and Renzi’s artwork, the expressive faces, and just how Henderson draws Doreen herself. I’m ever a fan of seeing “normal” looking ladies gracing the pages of my superhero comics (rare though it is in this genre) but Henderson succeeds at just that. She draws Doreen with a pixie haircut, adorably accentuated buckteeth, and, um, what many of us would call “junk in the trunk”. (Which is actually just hiding her big, floofy squirrel tail: my new favorite euphemism for having a big booty, natch.)
Added to the whip-smart humor, each of Squirrel Girl’s characters are written as ineffably quirky. From the muggers Squirrel Girl beats up on the first page (they end their appearance, literally tossed away by Doreen, shouting, “I am currently reevaluating the choices that led me to a criminal liiiiiife!!”), to Doreen’s new college roommate Nancy (“If your squirrel bites you and you get rabies and die and I have to get a new roommate, then Mew and I are gonna be so cheesed”), to hairy-chested Kraven the Hunter, this issue’s villain, who guesses Doreen to be both “Prairie Dog Costume Woman” and “Furry Woodland Creature Lady”. (Shortly after, she tells Kraven, “So let’s get nuts!” as she attacks him. Like I said: it’s perfect.)
Marvel recently cancelled another critically acclaimed gem of a female-led comic, She-Hulk, which makes one a bit nervous for the future of Squirrel Girl. Co-creator Will Murray originally wrote Doreen as a fun, lighthearted character to contrast with the high drama of early-90’s comics, and this ongoing keeps that spirit alive. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 hits all the right first-issue notes and features a funny, confident, kick-ass lady-hero. This series – and its talented creative team – deserves a few years to tell Doreen’s adventures… because that’s probably how long her theme song is going to be stuck in my head, always making me giggle: “To her, life is a great big acorn!”
Written by Ryan North.
Art by Erica Henderson.
Colors by Rico Renzi.
9 out of 10