Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It's True by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

The second collection of the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series is titled Squirrel You Know It's True, and, yes, that does mean it's just as silly and frivolous as the first one. Sustaining silly frivolity for longer than a mini-series is a major deal in Big Two comics -- where everything has to be as dour as possible, to show how serious wearing long underwear and punching people is -- so that's major kudos to writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson.

This book collects four more issues of the ongoing series (from 2015; I'm running a couple of years behind), along with three short back-ups from the era where Dan Slott was keeping Squirrel Girl alive with random appearances here and there. I like the current Henderson-designed version of the character better than her domino-eyed teen previous incarnation, but it's heartening to realize that SG has never had a "sexy" look, and (I seriously hope) never will.

In keeping with the theme of SG's career, she defeats yet another world-threatening villain this time out -- but it's more central, and takes more than a moment or two off-panel. (It's also her first original supervillain: Ratatoskr, the absolutely real (mythologically speaking) squirrel that scurries up and down Yggdrasil, and, in the Marvel Universe at least, also foments fear and distrust and anger by whispering in people's ears.) I'm not sure if this step towards her own Rogues Gallery indicates the first step to Marvel-izing SG, and that she'll inevitably lose her powers and her left leg next year, only to re-emerge at the next series re-launch wearing a costume with strategic cutouts and a giant gun that fires squirrels. I hope not, but I tend to assume that every stupid thing will happen eventually in a superhero universe. So, if it happens, remember that I predicted it.

But, anyway, for this stretch Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is still primarily counter-programming to the standard long-underwear narrative. It's funny and silly and takes itself just exactly seriously enough. (Which is very, very little.) It also introduces the joke character Bass Lass and the not-exactly joke characters Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boy, so it can be forgiven its flirtations with the dark side of superhero angst. It's like a time capsule from the era when superheroes were silly light entertainment for a wide audience rather than the passion of middle-aged neckbeards -- of course, that point is slightly marred by the fact that every comic these days is for the passion of some specific small group, and nothing at all does (or maybe can) aim at that vanished wide audience.

It exists, though, and was created this decade. Let's count that as a win.

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