Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 8, originally released August 12th, 2015.
Taylor: I recently watched a video of a man who walked, without any safety harness, across a rope suspended 1,000 feet in the air. It’s an impressive feat, if not in bravery, then at least in balance. One wrong move, too much weight to one side, and that guy becomes a smear on the ground. In this case balance is obviously important, but for me it highlights how balance is important in almost everything do. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 8 similarly reminds that balance is important in a different way. Keeping in perfect equilibrium the nuttiness of Squirrel Girl and the gravitas of Thor, this issue expertly walks a fine line between comedy and adventure. And while it might not be nearly as breathtaking as slack-lining, it’s every bit as impressive.
Ratatoskr is running amok on Earth and threatening its very existence. Squirrel Girl has her hands full trying to stop her but is finding things hard given that all of her friends and the people she protects have turned against her. All would be lost if not for Nancy who has teamed up Thor, the Odinson, and Loki to stop Ratatoskr. They find a way to stop the beast and everything ends up happily ever after.
Squirrel Girl has always occupied a weird spot in the Marvel mythology. While it’s clear that the series takes place in the Marvel Universe with numerous superhero cameos, it also isn’t part of the established continuum that most series are bound to follow. A perfect example of this is how Squirrel Girl is blatantly disregarding the Secret Wars event. For whatever reason, it appears Dr. Doom overlooked her particular corner of the universe.
Obviously this is intentional. Squirrel Girl is a lighthearted series that isn’t trying to be like other household name comics. However, in this issue we have elements of the Marvel universe creeping into the margins of the story. Nancy teams up with characters from the Thor series, which is very much enmeshed in larger Marvel narratives. Naturally, it’s interesting to see how writer Ryan North handles the world he’s created colliding with the world that Marvel has made.
We get a good example of this when Nancy shows Thor and the Odinson some information she’s found on Ratatoskr that she located on Wikipedia.
Instead of just showing Thor and the Odinson the info she proclaims it in the high-flown language suited to Asgard. While many writers for Thor and other series have poked fun at this in the past, I like how North uses it as a chance to purposefully show us the difference between his Squirrel Girl universe and the Marvel universe. Everything North writes is a little tongue in cheek and the humor from this scene comes from knowing Thor and the Odinson have no business looking at Wikipedia. That amounts to a huge difference in how the heroes from these two very different worlds solve their problems. Of course what makes the scene all the more charming is that there are no blustering egos to be had here so even though we have heroes approaching a problem differently, they’re are open to all possibilities.
Here, North uses the tension between his world and Thor’s world to great comic effect. Elsewhere in the issue we find that members of the broader Marvel universe fit in with North’s world quite easily. When Loki makes his appearance he shape-shifts into Cat-Thor at Nancy’s request. Loki spends most of the issue in this form mostly just to piss of his brother, the Odinson.
This behavior isn’t actually all that far out of the realm of possibility to Loki. As most readers know, Loki basically lives to upset his brother, so him parading around as a giant-cat, though petty, is something that I can imagine Loki actually doing. What makes it fun is that this action is something that is at home in North’s Squirrel Girl world. It’s goofy, quirky, and cute – all things that can describe most of North’s output. Also the design of Cat Thor by Erica Henderson is just great and makes this ongoing joke fun throughout the entire issue.
Patrick, what say you about yon issue? It’s a straight up issue but as always it’s charmed my pants off. That sounds weird but it’s true. You have anything to add about Thor(s) hanging around in this world?
Patrick: Only that I love how Loki-as-Cat-Thor’s hammer is named Mewlnir and looks like a Hello Kitty product. No wait! I also love that Loki-as-Cat-Thor’s head gradually gets bigger, much to Odinson’s annoyance and Loki’s denial. It’s all so delightfully absurd and self-aware.
I also liked this issue quite a bit, but not just for its zany Squirrel Girl-isms. There’s a pretty clear through line between Ratatoskr and people talking shit about each other on the internet. Ratatoskr is, essentially, a troll – she tells everyone the thing she knows will upset them and then relishes the resultant chaos. Doreen and her friends are quick to call it “mind-control,” but the real-world parallel is much more subtle and subliminal. You can take the timely examples of Fantastic Four or the controversy surrounding The Fat Jew — you probably don’t have any personal experience with either of these things, but your opinions of them are necessarily shaped by the negative things written about them. I’m not going to suggest that that negative attention is unwarranted in either case, but I know that I’ve been making jokes about Fantastic Four in my personal life when I have yet to see the flick. It seems I’ve already succumb to Ratatoskr’s whisperings on that one.
North makes it clear that the people of Earth — and perhaps specifically the people of urban America — are more susceptible to Ratatoskr’s charms than, say, the Asgardians. After all, we’re seeing hordes of “mind-controlled” hipsters, randos, and Spider-Men, not legendary Asgardians warriors tricking into fighting their friends. Why is that? Early on in the issue, Nancy shows off Ratatoskr’s page on Wikipedia, which naturally seems like a revelation to Thor and Odinson, who both just assumed they’d have to find some ancient scroll to learn of the creature’s weaknesses. These Asgardians live in a world of slower information — again, North makes a joke about how Nancy gets the opportunity to introduce blutooth technology to Asgard. That’s a great giggle-line, but it’s worth pointing out that without this freely-flowing information, the Asgardians have to make judgments based on experience and exploration, rather than reading about something or someone on-line.
I’m not 100% sure what the take-away from this is supposed to be, however. Nancy’s solution — put on ear plugs (ignore the troll) — seems like the wisest solution, both in the comic and in real life. But the actually conclusion is a little more convoluted than that. Squirrel Girl tries to save the day with a self-affirming megaphone-monologue which is totally on-point for Doreen, but a little off-the-mark thematically.
Most issues of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl are a little on the chatty-side, and Doreen’s attempt at a rousing speech feeds into some of North’s clumsier tendencies. However, North — who is, as ever, self-aware — smartly makes this speech not work. Or at least, it doesn’t work all on its own — Loki has to Bifrost the creature away before they can really put this conflict to bed. Maybe the message is that we should all focus on positivity and ourselves, but that will never really be enough to block out the negative noise (from the internet or elsewhere).
Which, of course, puts us in a weird position, right? We are adding to cacophony of internet noise right now. But maybe what we’re doing here is a little more like Nancy’s adorable Cat Thor comic (a page of which Hednerson blesses us with at the top of this issue), and we’re just expressing our excitement for a thing we love. You don’t need ear plugs for that.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?