Themes and Team Make for a Dream in Squirrel Girl/Ms. Marvel 1

By Taylor Anderson

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

On paper, the team-up of Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel makes too much sense for it not to happen. Both heroes are young protagonists. Both are second tier Marvel heroes next to the headliner Avengers. And perhaps most importantly, both of their series are strikingly modern and fun. But just because a team-up makes sense in theory doesn’t mean it will really work in practice. Artistic differences and such often derail the best laid team-up issues. Baring this in mind, does Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl/Ms. Marvel 1 strike gold or strike out?

Thankfully, the answer is that it strikes gold, and really that shouldn’t even be a question given the considerable writing talents of Ryan North and G. Willow Wilson. Both are sharp writers and have a levity about their work that all but guarantees this issue’s success. However, just because a writer is talented doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to successfully co-write an issue with a peer. So why are these two able to do it so well?

There’s a lot to that question, but I think much of it has to do with similar themes each explores in their writing. North loves writing about computers and compromise in Squirrel Girl in just the same way Wilson enjoys writing about modern technology and teens in Ms. Marvel. The two are able to find a happy medium in this issue by featuring a plot that has heavy doses of computer technology and the dangers that come with it. The main driver of this action is the antagonist of the issue, Emulator, who is an inhuman who can summon video game monsters at a whim.

She’s also being manipulated by an unknown person on the internet. In her character we see everything that North and Wilson like writing about. Computers, teen angst, inner conflict, and a feeling of being misunderstood are all embodied in her. With such a character it’s easy for Wilson and North to fill out the issue around this person because it allows them to riff on their favorite themes. Along the way we’re treated to the usual humor and witty dialogue both of these writers are known for and the result is a team-up issue that lives up to its expectations.

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

6 comments on “Themes and Team Make for a Dream in Squirrel Girl/Ms. Marvel 1

  1. I know it’s low-hanging fruit, but I loved that conversation about where the consciousnesses for these digital monsters is coming from. The conclusion that they arrive at — that there must be actual gorillas and squirrels that are being portalled into the bodies of pixelated doppelgangers — passes the logic test, but not Occam’s Razor. The simplest solution is that it’s a goddamn superpower, like Reader reading things into existence.

    On the flip side of that, I like that Kamala seems to be restricted by the physical limitations of her powers, but y’know, only kinda. She can’t turn into a truck because that would be breaking into discrete pieces and re-assembling them in a totally new way. That makes sense, but also she’s breaking the first law of thermodynamics every time she embiggens and doesn’t blow away in a gentle breeze, so…

    • It’s a cute sequence, mostly because North goes for the meta joke of pointing out how unexciting a discussion of how these powers work actually is. You’re missing the point, nerds!

  2. Hey, so I’ve been a bit behind on Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, so this is the first time I’ve seen North’s signature alt-text jokes in a while, but I’m going to claim (a small piece of) responsibility for them now being digital- (and specifically guided-view-) friendly. I tweeted @ everyone involved in the production of the book I could find on twitter, and Editor Wil Moss said he’d look into it. Low and behold, a few months later, the alt-text jokes suddenly play a heck of a lot nicer with guided view. I’m not pointing this out to toot my own horn (I had nothing to do with it after that point), but to remark on how small the comics publishing world really is — it’s pretty easy to connect directly with the people who can fix whatever niggling thing you notice. I just hope the annoyance in fixing it is outweighed by the annoyance avoided by having it fixed!

    • And nice work using your power for good! I know you’re not one to @ people with negative criticism, but I’m just so pleased with how every part of that story is positive. The question easily could have been “who’s dumbass idea is it to have these alt-text jokes spread all the way across the page – they’re unreadable in guided view!”

      I’m going to credit you with the fix. Nicely done, Drew.

      • Honestly, I just wanted guided view to acknowledge that that text was there. It hadn’t occurred to me that they would need to adjust the formatting to make that happen. I figured it was just a matter of asking whoever programs the guided view to add in the text as a “panel,” but this solution might be more elegant.

  3. Wow, this book really makes clear just how phenomenal Wilson’s work with Ms Marvel is.

    Not that North’s writing is bad, it isn’t. It is very good, and yet this book still has a massive jump in quality when Wilson starts writing.

    Though North’s section discussing how the powers work kind of annoyed me. Patrick saying that their portaling solution fails Occam’s Razor speaks to the greater issue of this sequence. It only makes sense if you assume that there are much less superpowers in the Marvel Universe than there actually is. THeir discussion of how superpowers work and where the information is coming from would have the potential to be fascinating if they weren’t ignoring a million things that were personally ordinary in their universe. It would be awesome to discuss whether the established characterisations of fictional characters is being used as shorthand to create easy, read to use psychologies for psychic constructs. Since this is Squirrel Girl, you could go a step further and then compare it to computer programming. The psychic powers create ‘hardware’ and the user’s knowledge of a character’s characterisation acts as the underlying code.

    But North’s section is wonderfully good natured, and then WIlson ups the humanity just because her voice with Kamala is well tuned that true humanity shines thorugh. She also has such a great handle on Ember, making Ember one of the better villains of this year.

    Really enjoying this

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