The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 32: Discussion

by Taylor Anderson and Michael DeLaney

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 32

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Taylor: Usually when I go to work, I wear contact lenses instead of glasses. Generally, that’s a decision I make based on comfort, or more accurately, on how late I wake up that morning. This being so, people at work don’t see me in my glasses that often and frequently express surprise that I’m bespectacled. My students think it’s hilarious to lovingly (I think) mock me by calling me “Professor Anderson” in their best nerd voice when they see my Clark Kent look. This just shows that superficial changes to one’s appearance often lead to you being seen differently, and the same can be said of comics. Being a visual medium, how things look matters. And when that look changes, it’s a total gambit as to whether it works or not.

Erica Henderson has left Squirrel Girl to work on other projects and Derek Charm has taken her place. Most of the time when a new artist picks up a series, it’s not addressed until the afterward section. However, Ryan North — ever the meta-commenter on his own comic – addresses the change in artists on the first page of the issue.

It’s a coy way of addressing a change many readers of Squirrel Girl, myself included, may find jarring. As comic readers, we become attached to the style of the artists drawing our favorite series. For some, that might be one of the main reasons we enjoy it all. North, in making this comment about someone getting new glasses, is actually helping out fans of Henderson’s art. From the start, we know she’s gone and armed with that knowledge we can read the issue. It doesn’t make seeing a new version of Doreen and company any less jarring, but at least it’s less callous than just starting the issue without any warning whatsoever.

Of the art, I don’t want to be judgmental at this point. I loved Henderson’s artwork so I’m obviously going to be a little biased when assessing a new artist. I say that, of course, but that’s not going to stop me from saying something about Derek Charm’s artwork.

My initial reaction is…eeehhhhh? The primary reason I’m having a hard time feeling positive about the new artwork is how similar the style to comics like Lumberjanes. That’s a not a knock against Lumberjanes in any way though. Let me explain. That series, for better or worse, has been labeled as a comedic one. As is too often the case, this usually means pairing the writer with an artist who has a style editors think is more appropriate for a lighthearted romp. Doreen’s new character design seen above is a good example of what I’m talking about. It’s a bit chunkier, less defined, and more iconic than Henderson’s version of Doreen. Basically it’s a typical character design for a comedic series, such as Archie.

I suppose this makes sense, Squirrel Girl, is supposed to be funny. But I think that was part of what made Henderson’s artwork so much fun. She straddled the valley between the realism of “serious” comic book series and the iconic look of comedic ones. She knew exactly when to draw a character with simple blacks dots for eyes and when to draw hyper-muscular impostor Silver Surfer. I’m not sure if Charm has that in him from what I’ve seen in this issue. Doreen’s look stays the same throughout the issue, which makes me wonder if he has the comedic timing Henderson had in her drawings.

That might make it sounds like I’m down on Charm’s artwork and my promise of not judging it to be a bald faced lie. But wait! There are things I do like about his art which portend a promising future. Again, I’m not so excited for Doreen’s makeover, but I love what Charm does with Kraven, especially in his street clothes.

This design had promise and packs a lot of humor. To start off small, the leopard print scarf and detailing on his shoes is the perfect touch for a man who wears dead animal skins most of the time. That’s a nice touch, but what I love is how Kraven dresses kind of like douchebag. The bomber-jacket, the slicked back hair and sunglasses, tight jeans all point to a man who thinks he’s cooler, and more masculine, than he really is. And really, doesn’t that kind of explain Kraven in a nutshell? This interpretation of Kraven’s character is perfect for who he is and actually has me looking forward to how Charm decides to render other characters in the future. He may be no Henderson, but I just might get used to Charm’s look yet.

Michael, what’s your take on Charm’s art? As I said, I’m biased toward Henderson so I’m wondering if you can offer a more leveled opinion. What do you think of this new story arc? Can Doreen really rehabilitate all her old foes by hanging out with them? And who do you think the new baddy is going to be?

Michael: Taylor I must admit to not being as seasoned of a reader of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as you, so Derek Charm’s art didn’t seem all that out of place to me. And while I might not agree that Kraven’s civilian clothes are as egregious as you do, it’s clear that Charm wants to elicit an overcompensating and macho vibe. Just taken a look at the customized decal on the side of his van, advertising his alpha-male hunter status. Also, who drives around in a custom decal van?? Much like the concept of Kraven the Hunter, his vehicular taste is a little outdated. I have a soft-spot for the whacky hunter however, so I was pretty pleased with his portrayal in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 32.

It’s clear that Ryan North can also see how silly of a character Kraven can be, making him the perfect addition to Squirrel Girl’s team. I’m not positive that Doreen can successfully rehabilitate her foes, but its completely within her go-to plucky character to give it a shot. I like that she reaches out to Kraven solely out of altruistic friendship. Kraven’s penchant for villainy/hunting Spider-Man is depicted as an addiction, and Doreen is merely concerned that her friend has fallen off the wagon.

One of the best/goofiest sequences of the book comes when Squirrel Girl decides to trust her friend Kraven with her secret identity. Charm uses this opportunity to parody/homage the famous moment in Civil War where Spider-Man reveals his own secret identity to the world.

Charm and colorist Rico Renzi stylize the first panel in the glossy, dramatic vein of Civil War‘s Steve McNiven then immediately return to their simpler “Archie-fied” style. This underlines how important Doreen feels this moment is, and the style shift lets all the air out of that moment when Kraven admits that he knows her secret identity.

Squirrel Girl uses cartoon science to conceal her secret identity: she tucks her large squirrel tail in her pants when she is in her civilian clothes. Kraven admitting that he knows the difficulty of compressing fur under clothing is the perfect compliment to Doreen’s M.O. It’s pure comic book silliness.

To answer Taylor’s question, I have absolutely not idea who the escape room baddy could be, but it does look like he’s got a large mustache that protrudes from underneath his mummy bandages.

I like the idea of an escape room that doubles as a villainous death trap, which begs the question: what if someone turns the death trap on by accident? Is the idea that hopefully some superheroes will stumble into the death trap, but until then they still need to make a profit? It’s also entirely possible that our bandaged mystery man doesn’t intend to harm our heroes at all, but wants to provide them with a more appropriate challenge when he realizes who they are.

Bottom line: I really enjoy seeing a humorous take on Kraven and would totally read an ongoing book starring both him and Squirrel Girl.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

12 comments on “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 32: Discussion

  1. Still holding back judgment. I think a thing that should be noted, IMO, is that the new look of Squirrel Girl is absolutely what Marvel wanted. They picked the artist. They certainly gave Charm some notes and direction on the style they wanted. So while his interpretation/influence is there to an extent, I have a feeling this was a VERY guided transition by the editors. SG is very big with the scholastic crowd and and they have pushed middle-grade novels (not by North) and other extensions of the brand in the past couple of years. This pushes the comic closer to the look of those other book-fair offerings, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Charm’s style will very easily lend itself to the next SG hardcover graphic novel.

    • It’s also worth noting that North and Charm have worked together before (their Jughead run over at Archie), so that likely plays into the decision as well.

      I like Charm’s art in this issue. It fits Squirrel Girl’s tone without aping Henderson’s style, and the idea of a supervillain escape room is really fun.

      My money is on Arcade as the villain.

  2. Well this topic is off-topic but… Marvel have done it! They’ve made me disappointed with the decision to put inhumans back into obscurity. Its Marvel’s not fault for not understand what they could be and should be and also not properly communicate with fans. It also the Marvel fans ( especially fans from a specific franchise that is a metaphor for minorities, which I find ironic) for bringing the outrage to the most unnecessary level possible. I might quit the big two considering they just want to take not two, not three, not four, but five steps back. They never able to innovate themselves unless they’re still pandering to the hardcore fanbase ( I mean really hardcore ones). Alan Moore’s right, the big two stagnated because of cultural worship of these tight pants and spandex wearing soap opera characters and I wonder if the big two will able to innovate.

    • Is there any particular piece of news that motivated this? The only recent Inhumans story I can think of is the cancellation of the TV show, that was critically panned by everyone and not watched by a lot of people. No surprise there. And while there is the Death of Inhumans series coming up, that in no way means that the Inhumans are going. It may, but we have no idea whether that is true or not, or whether the title is just meant to sound momentous. Honestly, I suspect that if the Inhumans disappear, it would be much quieter. Just cancellations.

      Though if the Inhumans do disappear, I think it is a bit more complicated than just an unwillingness to innovate. While X-Men fans have behaved horribly with respect to the Inhumans, it is worth noting that the Inhumans became big not because of Marvel having an idea, but because the current CEO is a very petty man with a grudge against Fox for having the X-Men (the X-Men were never in threat of being cancelled or disappearing, no matter how conspiratorial X-Men fans got. They are too popular. But Perlmutter certainly wanted to force the Inhumans into becoming a bigger franchise, just to piss of Fox). That’s why the Inhumans movie was announced, and then why as soon as Marvel Studios escaped Perlmutter for Disney, the first thing they did was drop the Inhumans from their movie line up and why Inhumans instantly became a fast tracked TV show by Marvel TV, that was still under Perlmutter. So it is quite likely that, with Disney purchasing Fox, Perlmutter’s grudge is no longer dictating Marvel policy and Marvel are now changing their plans so that they aren’t making major decisions built around a billionaire’s petty feuds.

      And yeah, this sucks for the Inhumans. I think a big reason why the Inhumans haven’t worked is in part because Marvel resented Perlmutter’s influence, and not been willing to truly commit the talent to making the Inhumans a success. And if the Inhumans disappear to the background again, it would be a shame that a franchise with a lot of potential ended up getting used like chess pieces like this instead of getting a legitimate chance. But hey, if it does disappear, it may have already inspired a next generation that want to write those characters and do exciting things with them down the line, like Christopher Priest’s Black Panther is now so important to the current Marvel Universe (I’ve been too busy to write posts under the latest Black Panther issues, which is a shame as I think the last couple of issues have been among the strongest there are. And I hope that Asira sticks around, because she was my favourite character in Priest’s run. She should be T’Challa’s sidekick again).

      But I can’t begrudge Marvel for being annoyed being in the middle of this nonsense drama, and while I would prefer that the Inhumans stick around with an actually exciting writer that can make them properly work and make them an essential part of the Marvel Universe, if Marvel just want to put Perlmutter’s grudge behind them, they have a lot of other ways to be original and innovative, like creating new characters like Riri Williams or having exciting books like Aaron’s Thor. As long as Marvel innovate somewhere, I don’t mind them trying to distance themselves from Perlmutter’s pettiness

      • Well… I can understand the rumours but I ‘m quite mixed about it. I can believe that their boss have some weird story (DNA thing) but to spite other competing companies…. I don’t want to say that all CEOs are noble but should there is some kind of guidelines or rules for this kind of staff. Why Disney don’t stop him in the first place.
        I also understand that they need to remove his toxic influence but they wasted the opportunity to bring life back to inhumans. This could be an another chance to bring new writers and start anew but they would rather throw it, causing it to be a unnecessary casualty.

        • I believe the grudge that Perlmutter has is well documented. It is a fact, and knowing that, it is easy to see how the Inhumans have been pushed around by Marvel Studios and Marvel TV.

          And on why Disney let this happen, the problem is that the executive whose job it was to make sure nothing stupid happens with Marvel is Ike Perlmutter. He is the CEO, even if he reports to Disney.
          And there is also the fact that Disney, at an executive level, ultimately doesn’t care too much about Marvel Comics. It is ultimately a meaningless line on a balance sheet, and DIsney treat it essentially as the artistic equivalent of a Research and Development centre. The financial cost of Marvel Comics pushing the Inhumans and failing is immaterial, so Disney don’t really care. All they care about is that Marvel Comics exists to test ideas so that the movies can steal them. Hell, I think that they probably like a sustained attempt to make the Inhumans a new franchise, regardless of Perlmutter’s motives, while ignoring what was actually happening because that was Perlmutter’s job. Ultimately, while Disney intervened when Kevin Feige, head of one of their biggest money makers with Marvel Studios, complained about Perlmutter’s interference, Disney don’t care enough about Marvel Comics to do anything but trust Perlmutter.

          Yeah, in a perfect business, Disney should be keeping an eye on Perlmutter and making sure he’s not doing the things he’s doing. But honestly, he is completely uninvolved with Disney’s four biggest money makers (Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Disney Animation), Marvel TV is doing adequately enough, especially with the animation department, so they don’t really care. Which is a problem.

          And yeah, I was actually excited when the Inhumans were first announced to end Phase Three, as it was so out there that I was excited for something completely unpredictable. So it is sad that it has been caught up in this mess. Though it looks like Marvel Studios is working on the Eternals now, which is even more obscure and weird, so hopefully we are going to get to see Marvel doing innovative and unique stuff with the Eternals instead.

          And I wouldn’t count the Inhumans out just yet. Not while Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors is still in production as Marvel’s next big multimedia push. Three out of eight of the heroes are Inhuman, including Inferno, who has always been Inhuman beofre anything else. And while Quake is a SHIELD Agent first, she is a SHIELD Agent who has been defined primarily due to her close relationship to the Inhumans in recent years. Meanwhile, Carol Danvers is team leader, making the main heroes 50% Kree connected, and the main villain is Hala, a Kree villain. I believe Marvel want Marvel Rising to be a success, and that means continuing investing in the Inhumans.

          Like I said, when the Inhumans disappear, it will be quiet cancellations of all their books. Not announced comic book events and central roles in major multimedia projects

    • There is every chance that Marvel may want to get rid of the Inhumans because of them being foisted on them by Perlmutter.

      But when that happens, I bet it will happen because Marvel just cancel everything until nothing is left. Currenltly, Marvel is foreshadowing a big event with the Inhumans, and have a major multimedia project where Inhuman characters are front and centre.

      I think if and when the Inhumans disappear, that’s what will happen. They’ll just stop turning up. So take hope in the fact that there are big Inhumans plans on the horizon, whether it is Marvel Rising or the upcoming Death of the Inhumans. When we stop seeing plans like that, that is when the Inhumans will disappear.

      • Well that’s understandable but I still mixed about it. The animated series is fine by me but I might not watching it and about the upcoming book… well the first thing is that I worried it might be truly the end for them even I know the nature of the big two superheroes. The inhumans are obscure characters that need some kind of resurrection with new and interesting ideas that executes well with the base frame that given by the original creators. I’m sceptical about the upcoming book because even it was written by a well-established writer, I have to wonder if he can do those an able to reinvigorate them or just write it horribly.
        What I want is a writer who can examine these characters, improve the previous ideas and bring new and interesting ideas so that the characters can carve out their niche. While I don’t care Marvel picking up an established writer I would love them find a new voices from different background just like what they did with Black Panther. I also want a writer that is also able to tackle sensitive issues related to these characters. This is I also upset that Marvel Studios didn’t create the movie. While I can understand the behind-the-scenes reasons the potential for these characters to be reinvigorated is wasted.

        • If they make an animated series, they will want some sort of comic book to take advantage of it. Just as we have a Runaways book or a Defenders book because of the show, there will be new Inhumans books because of Marvel Rising

          And yeah, I’d love that for the Inhhumans as well

      • One big thing that would be a shame about eliminating the Inhumans would be if they retcon the origin of Kamala Khan, for whom they’ve gone fully in as an Inhuman/NuHuman. I’m guessing that’s one reason we haven’t seen her on the big screen yet. Her MCU story is bound to get major changes, but I wish they’d keep her on the Inhuman path in the comics.

        • We haven’t seen Kamala on the big screen because we haven’t seen Carol Danvers. Kamala is impossible to do without Carol, as Kamala without the fandom aspect would not be Kamala. I believe we are going to get a Kamala announcement as soon as it makes sense for there to be a Carol Danvers fangirl, especially if Captain Marvel is a success. Which likely means after Avengers 4: Sorry for Infinity War.

          And I think they will keep her as Inhuman, as it gives her a Kree link to Carol, and because you don’t really need the other Inhuman characters for Kamala to make sense. She’s never been a character who relied on Medusa and the Inhuman cast, so it isn’t like removing Medusa forces a change to her origin.

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