Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 10: Life Is Too Short, Squirrel by North Charm Franquiz Renzi

North Charm Franquiz Renzi! For all your complex consumer litigation needs! Our professional and compassionate attorneys will listen to your story and determine if you and your loved ones may be entitled to monetary compensation, all at no up-front cost to you!

OK, maybe not. But that's what modern comics credits sounds like. Actually, this time out we have Ryan North as writer (as he has been for the entirety of this series) Derek Charm as the main artist (on four of the five issues), Naomi Franquiz drawing the remaining issue, and Rico Renzi on colors and the odd trading card.

What they deliver is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 10: Life Is Too Short, Squirrel, which collects issues 37 to 41 of the series - I believe both the issues and this compilation were published in 2019, which is nicely tidy. If this is your first exposure to a college student with the powers of both squirrel and girl, may I direct you to my posts on the first volume and the most recent volume? (I also have posts on all of the ones in the middle, but I'm trying not to do the massive-list-of-links things anymore these days; assembling them is not how I'd prefer to spend my time. You can track backwards one at a time from Vol. 9 for as long as you are entertained, if you'd like.)

So this is superhero comics, but somewhat nonstandard - Doreen Green (she who is secretly Squirrel Girl) prefers to talk through problems and help people rather than just punching things, and her stories lean heavily into science and fun and friendship, aiming for an audience substantially younger and more female than most superhero comics. It was something of an anomaly for Marvel while it was running, and I bet there were people in their offices who were quietly waiting for it to end so they could go back to entirely ignoring women and young readers instead of just mostly doing so. And, yes, this series has ended: the big final issue #50 hit your local comics dungeon more than a year and a half ago.

This tenth collection follows the pattern of most of its predecessors: one big four-issue storyline and one somewhat lighter single-issue story. The big story this time features the Death! Of! Squirrel Girl!, a shocking event that happened entirely between issues and is shown to be not true on page four. It does give us a big funeral scene, some semi-paranoid computer-science-informed theorizing, a surprising tie-in to a past Marvel cross-over, and a new character who I doubt anyone has done anything with (but I could be wrong). It does all end pleasantly for all concerned, which is the definition of a North-era Squirrel Girl story.

The single issue has a villain who I don't want to call a complete rip-off of DC's The Riddler, but only because I am polite. Ms. Quizzler is young and Black and female, but otherwise nails the "obsessed with holding people in deathtraps and testing heroes with riddle-based obstacles" rubric. And she, in turn, is indeed bested by the Girl of Squirrels, as she must be.

The book also reprints the letter columns, which is nice to see, even though I stopped reading them many books ago. (Lots of cute pictures of people's kids dressed up as SG, lots of stories about how much said kids love SG, many of both from the kids themselves - totally wholesome and like a wave of niceness, but entirely the same thing over and over again.)

I read Squirrel Girl because I like to reminded that the superhero form is not inherently stupid; that it can have uses that are positive and life-affirming. And because I know the end is near, and because of North's page-bottom captions, and sometimes mostly because of the mildly nihilistic Brain Drain. If any of those reasons seem relevant to you, or if, more importantly, you have younger female persons infesting your home, you may also be interested in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

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