This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The provenance of epistolary texts are always weird. Actually, it’s probably less weird than traditional narratives, where we might somehow be privy to the private thoughts of the protagonist or even the perspective of an omniscient narrator, but epistolary texts necessarily draw our attention to the weirdness in a way that more traditional narratives don’t. Because we’re reading documents composed within the diegesis of the epistolary narrative, the ostensible writer of those documents are a character, even as the actual writer attempts to become invisible. That tension, between our hyperawareness of the fictional author, and purported obliviousness of the actual author, puts epistolary narratives in this weird netherworld of headspace, embracing the self-awareness of postmodernism in an attempt to produce an entirely un-self-aware story. It’s a concept that already folds in on itself, but writer Ryan North adds a few more wrinkles, confusing the notion of self-awareness enough that the confusion starts to be to point. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 20, originally released May 17th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.
Drew: We like to think that the truth in an unstoppable force, that its discovery is inevitable. It’s a comforting thought, and may very well be true over the long-run, but heaven knows it can be effectively obfuscated in the short term. This is exactly what Doreen finds herself up against in the depressingly timely Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 20, as Melissa Morbeck attempts to frame her for her own crimes. Ryan North and Erica Henderson pack the issue with enough parallels to the 2016 election to make the familiarity sting, but manage to keep it just as packed with jokes, maintaining their distinctive levity, even as things look their bleakest.
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 16, originally released January 11th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: Part of Marvel’s brand is using vague, subjectively defined adjectives in the titles of their comics. Words like “Amazing,” “Astonishing,” or “Totally Awesome” don’t hold any absolute value, so ultimately don’t really mean anything. “Unbeatable” is different. “Unbeatable” is absolute. What’s “Totally Awesome” today may not be tomorrow (and vice versa), but whether a thing can or cannot be beaten is timeless in its objectivity. In this way, Squirrel Girl’s defining quality stretches across time, meaning we’ll always be able to recognize her, whether we’re looking into the past or the future. That idea is at the heart of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 16, an anniversary issue that reminds us that, whatever life throws at Doreen Green, she can always beat it. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 5, originally released February 24th, 2016.
Spencer: I grew up on shonen anime, so “the power of friendship” has been a beloved trope in my life for as long as I can remember. It’s nice, then, to find an American comic so willing to embrace the idea; the power of friendship is so engrained into The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl‘s DNA that sometimes that friendship even comes in the form of Squirrel Girl’s time-displaced counterparts! Yeah, this issue is a zany romp full of complicated time travel shenanigans, but its heart beats with the same moral that has come to define this series: that victory is achieved, not through violence, but by reaching out to, and learning from, others. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 4, originally released January 27th, 2016.
Spencer: What does it mean to be “unbeatable?” When Squirrel Girl was mainly a joke character, it meant that she could take down any opponent in combat, albeit always off-panel. While Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s take on Doreen still has extraordinary physical prowess, her victories under their pens have instead come from a place of compassion, understanding, and compromise; Squirrel Girl’s “unbeatable” because she always finds a way to appeal to and appease the humanity of any opponent she faces. It makes sense, then, that Doctor Doom is the first enemy to truly flummox Doreen. How is she supposed to defeat someone with no humanity to appeal to? Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing New Avengers 1, originally released October 14th, 2015.
Spencer: I love “team” books. There’s just something fun and exciting about throwing a bunch of heroes — be they A-List or Z-List — together and seeing what happens. Despite the potential for almost endless variations, though, many team books find themselves repeating certain familiar combinations, tropes, and ideas over and over (look how many books started using the “traitor” plot once Terra first popped up in the Teen Titans, for example — and even she was a riff on Kitty Pryde’s role in the X-Men). Thus, my favorite part of Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval’s New Avengers is how quick they are to acknowledge and subvert many of those tropes. This book is clever, fun, and gets right to the point; it’s pretty much everything I look for in a team book. Continue reading →
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.
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 6, originally released June 3rd, 2015.
Drew: Hero punches bad guy. Bad guy goes to jail. Hero winks at the camera. It’s an ending we’ve seen a million times, but after 6 issues, its clear that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl will never be quite so rote. That’s not to say that Doreen isn’t perfectly capable of punching bad guys (or winking at the camera), just that she may be more open to alternative solutions to her problems. It’s an approach that is surprisingly rare in the world of superhero comics, but makes perfect sense when you look at her character sheet: talking is one of her superpowers. Sure, the remarkable part of that power may be that she can talk to squirrels, but honestly, conversation powers are rare enough when it comes to superheroes to forgive the generalization. This issue reminds us of why that power is so key to who Doreen is, then pushes beyond it to show us what else makes her so special. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 4, originally released April 22nd, 2015.
Patrick: Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab (of Community fame) have a little pet project in L.A. called Channel 101. It’s a sort of DIY 5-minute-TV show festival/competition that takes place once a month at the Downtown Independent Theatre. It’s pretty cool, and the shows that come out of it can really run the gamut from brilliant to moronic, from sharp and professional to shaggy as hell. It’s an intense artistic environment, and the sense of community surrounding every showing is palpable. I was introduced to Channel 101 by our very own Scott Baumgartner, and the two of us (and my co-editor Drew) attended one of their events in December of 2012. As it was the end of the year, we weren’t going to just another screening but the end-of-year award ceremony called “The Channies.” It was still a fun time, but 90% of what occurred on that stage, and on that screen, played against everyone’s expectations for a Channel 101 event. It worked like gangbusters on the crowd, most of whom had been submitting shows to the competition for years. With the conventions and expectations of a Channel 101 show so well understood, the award show’s producers were able to crank out one well of a subversive experiences — even if it was 70% lost on me and Drew. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 4 takes our shared expectations for comic books and flips them all on their head, pitching Squirrel Girl herself as Queen of Subversion. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1, originally released January 7th, 2015.
Spencer: Before reading Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1, I always thought of Squirrel Girl as more of a meme than a character: she was the girl with silly powers who routinely (and often inexplicably) defeated the most powerful players in the Marvel Universe without breaking a sweat, and while that’s awfully funny the first few times, it never seemed like a concept that could support a character in the long-term. Fortunately, North and Henderson’s take on Doreen Green eases any worries I may have had in this regard, giving us an instantly likable character who is far more than just an easy joke, and ultimately declaring that it doesn’t matter if Doreen always wins — what’s interesting is seeing how. Continue reading →