Friday, October 19, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #292: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

This is not a collection of the Squirrel Girl comic. Somehow, in 2016, while I think they were also putting out the regular comic monthly, creators Ryan North (words) and Eric Henderson (pictures) also created this unpaged-but-clearly-at-least-a-hundred-pages-long OGN as well.

I'm not totally clear on where it fits into continuity, if you're looking to read it in sequence with the regular comic -- I came to it after Vol. 5, which feels a little late. (Doreen's newish friend Brain Drain is completely missing, through Koi Boy and Chipmunk Hunk are here.)

What is this thing? Well, it's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe, and SG's tone is much closer to Fred Hembeck than the Punisher in the piling-up-the-bodies-on-the-cover competition. (Deadpool, as usual, wants to have it both ways: to be gritty and funny.)

And there is an asterisk: it's not our Squirrel Girl, the indomitable Doreen Green, who beats up all of the heroes in the MU, but her evil twin.

Well, maybe not evil twin. Will you accept misguided? Single-minded? Squirrel-obsessed? Well-meaning but unwilling to compromise? Maybe all of those things.

Anyway, that's the deal: there's a mysterious science artifact, which of course Tony Stark is poking at, since that's what he does. And it sucks in our heroine Doreen Green and spits out two of her.

Foiling the usual expectations, they both know which one is the original: the one on the right. (Because they both remember being the one on the right, and one of them is now on the left.) Similarly, the duplicate, swiftly calling herself Allene from their shared middle name, is not obviously evil, and the two of them joyfully team up to fight crime...and then hatch an even bigger plan to use squirrels to make the world a utopia, using the language of computer programming.

(It all makes sense in context, trust me. Though the context is "a Marvel Universe book substantially sillier and more obsessed with computer science than its peers.")

But, inevitably, Doreen and Alleen fall out over means and ends, as good and evil twins always must. And Alleen is possessed of all of the spunk and gumption and unbeatable-ness of the original, so she does -- as the title promises -- defeat ninety-nine-point-something-or-other percent of the heroes in the MU and send them into the Phantom Zone Negative Zone. And all seems lost.

But all can't be lost for the heroine of an ongoing series, so you know it works out right in the end, with all of the MU folks brushed off and returned to their rightful places in time for the next issue of their own comics, never to speak of the time they were banished to the Negative Zone by Evil Squirrel Girl.

This is a pleasant exercise in the "my character can beat up your character" derby, but the superhero-furniture stuff (oh, no! all looks blackest before the dawn! how can I manage to defeat {insert overwhelming villain here!}) has always been the weakest and least interesting part of Squirrel Girl, and that's the core focus of this book. We don't get a lot of characterization of the main cast, since Ryan and Henderson have to shoehorn in every MU character they were approved to mention, and the book is a long collection of short fight scenes.

They're funny fight scenes, granted. Beats Up is amusing in the Scintillating Squirrel Girl manner; it's just not as good as the heights of the regular book. It's just that we've seen this "everybody fights" plot so many times before, and there's only so many changes North and Henderson can ring on it.

If you like Squirrel Girl, grab this in the middle -- I'd suggest trying it after Vol. 4 of the regular series. But it's not the place to start and it may be faintly disappointing.

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