Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Unstoppable Wasp 3, originally released March 1st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Taylor: Being an adult who is every day more aware of the inescapable progression of time, it’s becoming easier to look at he past through rose-tinted glasses. When I think back to my time in high school, it’s hard not to picture it as a carefree time when things were simple. However, when I make the effort to wade through the thick seaweed of nostalgia, I remember that high school was anything but easy. One of things that made it challenging was trying to figure out who I was, what social group I identified with, and who I planned on being in the future. These are things every high schooler deals with and as Unstoppable Wasp 3 reminds me, being smart and talented doesn’t make those choices any easier.
Nadia is in the process of assembling her G.I.R.L. (Geniuses In Action Research Lab) team and is asking some of the smartest girls she can find to be her compatriots. Her search leads her to Lunella Lafayette and two other girls who have proven to be geniuses. Nadia goes one for three on her recruitment trip but along the way at least she gets a new phone!
What I enjoyed most about this recruitment issue is the varying responses Nadia gets to her proposal. Things start out on the wrong foot when Lunella, the smartest person on the planet, declines Nadia’s offer citing a busy schedule.
Lunella already has her own series and, as she flippantly mentions, she has a bunch of things relating to her adventures from that series to take care of such as the Inhuman crisis, “a few monkey guys,” and of course Devil Dinosaur himself. There’s something charming about Lunella’s frankness in her rejection of Nadia’s offer and, as Elsa Charreteir’s artwork depicts in the last two panels, these issues literally loom over Lunella.
Nadia has trouble later in the issue when she tries to recruit Priya, another girl scientist who is a wiz at genetics. Unlike Lunella, Priya doesn’t have anything going on in her life that would qualify as bizarre or adventurous. She’s just a regular teenager and she wants to keep it that way. When Nadia asks her to join G.I.R.L. she declines and explains why.
Among the reasons Priya gives for not wanting to join G.I.R.L. are her heritage and parental expectations, her brother’s path in life, and her desire to be a normal, popular kid in high school. She’s so determined to make this last thing happen that she’s even willing to put up with vapid “friends” who ask blatantly racist questions of Priya that make me supremely uncomfortable. Of the girls Nadia tries to recruit, I empathize the most with Priya because she seems so real. She is being pulled in three or four distinct directions and she has to make a choice about who she wants to be. This makes her an interesting character and I’m glad to see Jeremy Whitley show that it isn’t always easy to be smart, especially when you’re still in school.
Priya stands in stark contrast to the one girl who accepted Nadia’s offer. Lashayla is an enthusiastic young scientist who values her work above all else. She has seen friends come and go and has blown up her apartment several times, as her lovable dad shows us.
From these panels it’s easy to see why LaShayla isn’t afraid to be who she feels she is on the inside. Her dad is supportive of her and obviously loves and encourages her pursuit of science. However, knowing who she is and what she values has cost Lashayla friends. Even though this is a joyous scene, it doesn’t take too large of an inference to guess that Lashayla has some emotional baggage that will come to light later. That being said, I like how Whitley is taking the time to develop characters who have all taken very different paths to science and who’s life experiences are very different. Given that they’re all still in high school, it will be interesting to see how they grow and develop into their identities.
Even though I like where it looks like Whitley is taking this series, this issue did suffer from one major problem. From the very beginning there isn’t much of a flow to the issue — it lacks any definite structure. As Nadia makes her way between the three girls she is recruiting for her team, the narrative never feels propelled along by any particular force or conflict. This makes the issue feel aimless at times and even though individual scenes are compelling, on the whole the issue feels a bit sluggish. A perfect example of this is the weird digression that occurs when Nadia stops to talk to a random person on the street about her tattoos. The conversation Nadia has with this stranger, Amber, seems to have little to do with the issue, and while it’s possible it will relate to later events, it just feels a little too random to have any particular meaning here.
Still, I’m enchanted by this series because of Nadia’s boundless spirit and it’s undying enthusiasm for science. Patrick, do you feel the same way or do you find Nadia’s exuberance growing stale? Was there anything about Charretier’s artwork that stood out to you? Also, minus a giant T-Rex, how would a person deal with a giant raccoon?
Patrick: That’s the craziest thing! Surely, a character in Hank Pym’s lineage would use Pym Particles to shrink the raccoon to manageable size, right? Or, y’know, maybe a pair of geniuses (including the smartest person in the world) could have come up with something that doesn’t involve a fight between two 20 foot tall monsters on the streets of New York.
I love Charretier’s artwork, but I think she’s charged with a relatively thankless task in this issue. Whitley’s dialogue is incessant, and every scene pivots around a conversation, rather than around action. Plus, there are SO MANY discrete scenes in this issue that have seemingly nothing to do with each other. Taylor mentioned four conversations, but I’ll also toss in Nadia’s talk with her former-best-friend Ying and the telephone scolding she gets from her mother for not keeping her appointment with Matt Murdock. There’s a way to structure an issue around six conversations with six different women, but Whitley never finds it. I’m tempted to think that we should be looking to how the conversations are different to draw some conclusions about how Nadia relates to people, but the text just doesn’t bear that out.
Actually, let’s stay on the text for a minute. The broad strokes of this issue are compelling, but I find the execution woefully lacking in specificity. The only times when Whitley does let his characters get specific is when they’re talking in broad, pop-culturally accessible terms. Shaya calls Jarvis “Bates” and “Carlson,” both references to Downton Abbey… I think. Presumably, Shaya means to call him “Carson,” the name of Downton’s butler, but that pesky “L” threw me a little. I did a double-take – did she just call him “Carlton,” like from Fresh Prince? The reference game gets further convoluted when her father calls him “Niles,” which must be a reference to Fraiser, but like, Niles ain’t a butler. Whitely’s grabbing for easy references at the expense of the characters he’s trying to develop, and he’s not even grabbing consistently or accurately.
That surface-level approach to references extends into the realm of science, where Nadia and her peers should really be more wonky. Three scientists get name-checked in this issue: Nikola Tesla, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. That’s a frustratingly main-stream list of names and renders any of Nadia and Amber’s (or Nadia and Shaya’s) bonding over their shared admiration of these universally admired figures totally pointless.
The “Science Facts” that pop up on the page further emphasize the generic quality of these choices. “Nikola Tesla is cool.” “Carl Sagan — also cool.” Those are hardly facts, and not at all demonstrative of what makes them cool. We only get details from these characters’ lives when they are easy details to give. It’s the same reason we learn the most about what else Lunella is up to: it’s being published in other comics right now.
Part of this may just be a problem of volume. It’s not realistic to think that we’d walk away from this issue with clear idea of who Ying, Lunella, Shay, Amber and Priya are. Conversations with them reveal bullet points about their circumstances, but grant no insight into their personalities. Even the hooks that worked on me in the first two issues — like Nadia’s enthusiasm, which borders on sociopathy — feels dull and non-specific during this science-girl collect-a-thon.
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?