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Review: ‘The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe’

unbeatable_squirrel_girl_beats_up_the_marvel_universe_vol_1_1The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Marvel; $24.99
Rated T for Teen

What could possibly be better than The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl? How about two Unbeatable Squirrel Girls? That’s the basic premise of the new original graphic novel The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe, which operates under a similar more-is-obviously-better logic. That is, what could be better than the regular trade paperback collections of Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s monthly comic book series series? Why, an original, hardcover graphic novel of that same series, providing an entire, all-new, “extra” 120-pages worth of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by the very same creative team.

And that’s just what this book is, basically; an extra-long installment of the comic you hopefully already know and love. (And if not, this serves as a pretty great jumping-on point.)

When Iron Man Tony Stark gets his hands on a mysterious device and needs to test it on living things, he decides to call upon his online friend Squirrel Girl, who he figures can hook him up with plenty of squirrel volunteers. She, of course, is not down with that, and neither is her friend and ally Chimpmunk Hunk, who is to chipmunks what Doreen is to squirrels.

And then, because this is a superhero comic, bad guys attack, and Squirrel Girl gets pushed into the mysterious device and…duplicated! See, I wasn’t kidding about the two Unbeatable Squirrel Girls. This book literally has twice the Squirrel Girl compared to most other Squirrel Girl comics.

Things go swimmingly at first for Doreen and Allene, as they call the duplicate, as they fight crime and have adventures together, but, again, because this is a superhero comic, things must eventually go bad. It seems Allene differs from Doreen in at least one key way: She has come to the realization that since almost all of the threats they’ve ever faced were committed by humans (or human-like aliens) and because almost none of them were committed by squirrels, the world would be a better place if squirrels were in charge.

Naturally, this drives a wedge between the two Squirrel Girls, with Allene stealing Iron Man’s duplicator to make herself an army of loyal squirrels and then set them loose on the world’s power grid, as I guess squirrels cause power outages pretty much constantly in real life, if North is to be believed. And that’s by accident. What if they were trying to do so, and they had tools?

But surely all the superheroes and/or supervillains in the Marvel Universe would stop Squirrel Girl’s evil, or at least misguided, duplicate from destroying modern, electricity-powered society and handing the world over to the squirrels, right? Well, you might think that, but remember, Squirrel Girl is unbeatable. It’s right there in the title! She took down Doctor Doom in her very first appearance, has done so again since, and she’s even vanquished the likes of cosmic, all-hands-on-deck, apocalyptic threats like Thanos and Galactus.

“Nobody’s ever approached this problem with the logical mind of a second-year computer science student,” Allene tells her army of squirrels, noting that she’s not only going to beat up the heroes and villains, but also take their stuff, following the elaborate “tech tree” chart she built; basically, if she beats up one hero and takes that hero’s stuff, that hero’s stuff will allow her to beat up the next one and so on.

Does it work? Well, almost! But even an unbeatable combatant can be beaten by another unbeatable combatant…especially one who has lots of friends, some of whom aren’t squirrels.

As is typical of North and Henderson’s series, the story is silly and packed with jokes that celebrate as much as parody the inherent wackiness of the Marvel Universe setting, while simultaneously demonstrating that what makes Squirrel Girl so unbeatable is that beneath her bluster, squirrel powers and excellent punching ability, she’s also a really good person who listens to and understands her adversaries. She wins not through violence or trickery alone, but generally by talking it out.

The Marvel Universe may be populated with heroes and villains, after all, but that doesn’t mean that there are really good guys and bad guys. Doreen–and North and Henderson–understand this, and it makes Unbeatable Squirrel Girl more than a really fun and funny comic book, helping it to transcend its considerable charms and present a superhero who is truly heroic in a way that has nothing to do with her super-powers.

To return to the question we began with, what could possibly be better than The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl? Honestly, nothing.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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