The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Nuts to Dark and Gritty

Back in 1992, Steve Ditko and Will Murray introduced to the world a new hero in the Marvel universe: Doreen Green, otherwise known as Squirrel Girl. Gifted with the powers of speed and strength proportionate to squirrels along with having a big bushy tail and the ability to communicate with squirrels, she accomplished something rather stunning in her first appearance: defeating Dr. Doom. This moment would be quietly forgotten along with a few sporadic appearances, until 2005. Within the pages of a miniseries devoted to the Great Lakes Avengers (a team made up of heroes with weird and nearly useless powers), Squirrel Girl was brought back. In the wake of darkness and grit during events like Civil War, she became a character who served to call for a return to the sort of light-hearted fun that superhero comics used to have. Her defeat of Dr. Doom even grew into a major element of her character, with her having since taken down gigantic threats such as Fin Fang Foom and Thanos (all off-panel victories, mind you). Since then, she’s become a presence in the Marvel universe who helps to offer a cheery, hopeful light among the chaos. At last, she has finally received her own title and it is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

Having spent most of her teen years battling evil with the use of her squirrel-based powers and defeating villains like Thanos, 19-year old Doreen Green decides to do something new with her life: go to college. So, with the company of her squirrel friend Tippy-Toe and a major in computer science, Doreen sets out on this new chapter of her life at Empire State University. There, she makes friend with her dorm roommate Nancy Whitehead and develops a crush on Tomas Lara-Perez. However, just because she’s starting college doesn’t mean she can stop being a hero. Along with other villains to deal with, Doreen finds that there is a huge threat heading towards Earth: Galactus, the devourer of worlds. With no other superheroes aware of the growing threat, Doreen Green must use all of her gifts to show just why she is…the unbeatable Squirrel Girl!

The series makes for a fun read. Its story moves at a brisk and fun pace, capturing the sort of cheery spirit that comes with a character like Squirrel Girl. In the hands of writer Ryan North, best known for the webcomic Dinosaur Comics, he offers up a good dose of humor to fit along with the cheery spirit. Whether it is character details like Squirrel Girl singing her own theme song as she beats up criminal in the first issue or minor ones like ridiculous names for clubs seen during a college club fair, the comic is packed with a series of clever gags. Along with that, Erica Henderson’s more cartoonish style of artwork fits the tone and captures a warm touch in its visuals. What strikes me most with this series, however, is in how it manages to really present Squirrel Girl as more than a cheery joke herself.

When Squirrel Girl was brought back to prominence in 2005, she became mostly regarded as a joke. Though she was solidly written, most came to view her as just a punchline due to an overemphasis on the idea of her managing to take down huge threats all because of her first victory over Dr. Doom. Now, in the pages of her own comic, she feels like a more fleshed-out character than she has been in a long time. They have maintained her chipper attitude, but they have done more than that. She is awkward and a little awkward, clearly not used to living a normal teenage/young adult life since starting her superhero career. Not only that, but her skills (which had so long been a joke due to the conflict between her cutesy idea and the levels of these villains) are shown as well-deserved. It is not simply through brute strength that Squirrel Girl triumphs over supervillains and monumental dangers. Rather, it is with her mind and her cunning that she defeats them. Whether it is with a clever maneuver with her squirrel friends or through simply talking it out with the villain at hand, she outsmarts her way around the problems. In fact, some villains may even leave an encounter on friendlier terms thanks to her suggestions if they discuss the issue at hand. Thus, she pours her same chipper, upbeat heart into dealing with supervillains in much the same way she carries through her life. It’s a refreshing and interesting approach for a superhero and one that fits neatly with the manner of Squirrel Girl.

With this new series, Squirrel Girl is finally being treated as a real character with heart and not only as a punchline she was viewed as for a while. In fact, she’ll even be turning up in the pages of New Avengers as a member of that team. If you want to check out the excitement of Doreen Green’s life, The Unbeatable Squirrel Vol. 1: Squirrel Power is available in stores. The second volume, subtitled as Squirrel You Know It’s True, will be available on December 8th.

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