unbeatable_squirrel_girl_4By Molly Jane Kremer. Humor isn’t always an easy thing to sustain in superhero comics. (Well, unless your material tends to get a little blue a lot of the time, and yes, I’m talking about you, Deadpool.) An enduring (and endearing) stream of witty, quick, and intricate jokes are a rarity these days, and to find an entire comic book masterfully entwined into tightly-compacted hyperdense funnies is the proverbial needle in a haystack. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the happy exception to that rule.

This is the final issue of the first storyline, capping off everything that’s occurred so far quite nicely, and it mostly consists of Doreen Green, our esteemed and eponymous Squirrel Girl — and her squirrel friend, Tippy-Toe — fighting Galactus on the moon. Except (surprise, surprise) they’re not really fighting him so much as hanging out with him, discussing science and linguistics and the logistical problems inherent in having a herald (“… so I thought, you know, maybe not giving an entire planet full of super heroes the chance to prepare might work out a bit better this time…”). Turns out, just get Galactus talking, and he’s kind of a cool guy, when he’s not constantly name-dropping “The Power Cosmic.”

The well-woven structure of the jokes inside Squirrel Girl #4 have build-ups that vary in length from a single panel to an entire page, and the punchlines might hit in the next line, or non-stop for the next three pages. (Or they may pop up in the margins; seriously, the bottom gutter of each page has a line of silly commentary or observation, adding yet another level to the funny.) Writer Ryan North has written some of the most clever dialogue you’ll read in a superhero comic, somehow making it simultaneously dense and fluffy (exactly like really, really excellent cake). There’s also a dusting of light science, but it’s done so accessibly that any dryness inherent in the subject is utterly negated. Rarely is a comic this intelligent also so approachably, consistently, funny.

Even the format of the book itself is structured for laughs: the opening page of the comic has “The End!” printed at the bottom, a splash of Doreen taking a selfie on top of Galactus’ prone body (“Well, gosh, that wasn’t so hard after all!”), and is then followed by the letters pages. The following page (“Okay, Fine I Guess It’s Not The End”) returns to Doreen and Tippy-Toe cheerfully discussing how they defeated Galactus: “We’re all the heroes of our own story, yo!” before, luckily for us, they decide to “go over how we defeated him again”, and the comic’s plot commences.

4510851-sqgirl2015004_int2-0+copy - EditedErica Henderson’s art, colored by Rico Renzi, is still the best possible complement to North’s goofy witticisms. She draws Doreen with such an endearing quality that seeing her utter, “Gosh,” or “Frig,” is believable (and utterly adorable.) Henderson also does a fantastic Kirby impression for a few panels, drawing a spot-on first-appearance Galactus (you know, with that big goofy-ass “G” on his chest), and a pretty great Silver Surfer to boot. Her knack for drawing expressions continues, and she gets more emotion out of the Devourer of Worlds than is typically possible.

While most of the Big Two’s other comics are either in the midst of a massive (and massively over-complicated) crossover, or only approaching the vastness of another (incredibly similar) one, a self-contained, light, and funny all-ages comic like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl should be on everyone’s pull list. Its adorable irreverence (and blessed self-containment) is the perfect antidote to much of DC and Marvel’s current output, and will keep a buck-toothed grin on your face from cover to cover.

Marvel Comics/$3.99

Written by Ryan North.

Art by Erica Henderson.

Colors by Rico Renzi.

9 out of 10