Kicking butts and eating nuts is all in a day’s work for Marvel’s latest and greatest hero, starring in her very first solo title. She’s taken down the likes of Thanos and Dr. Doom, and squared off toe-to-tippy toe against some of comics’ other biggest baddies and emerged victorious every time. You don’t earn the title “unbeatable” for nothing. Who in the world could this possibly be?
That’s right, I’m talking about Doreen Green, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, whose first issue just released on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015. Written by Ryan North, with art by Erica Henderson and colors by Rico Renzi, this book starts the new year off with an unbeatable bang of whimsy, nutty fun, and squirrels, of course! So grab your furs and shake off the snow, we’re coming out of hibernation and going back to college with one Marvel heroine who is sure to be a hit.
The whole premise of this hero is a simple one, if not a little implausible – Doreen is a young woman with mutant abilities entirely derived from the powers of a squirrel, thanks to her partially-squirrel blood. She has buck-teeth, a prehensile tail, the proportional speed and strength of a squirrel, and perhaps most importantly, is totally fluent in many dialects of Squirrelese.
In her original appearance (which, admittedly, was rather frightening when compared to Henderson’s cute, exaggerated style), she hoped to become a crime-fighting partner of Iron Man, but that didn’t turn out. Since then, though she originally was a bit of a joke, Doreen has evolved into a Marvel legacy character known for her strange powers and unforgettable fighting style. Not everyone can boast her record of defeating others in battle.
Seriously, is the Hulk unbeatable? No, he’s just incredible. Is Spider-Man unbeatable? No, he’s just amazing. Doreen Green has earned her title and her own book through sheer perseverance, like a… uh, determined squirrel who is ready for battle. No, I’m serious!
North’s story gives us a look into her life as a young woman going to college while trying to balance her heroic antics. She just happens to have a tail, which she manages to tuck into her pants to disguise her squirrely bits. Also, her best friend and crime-fighting partner is an adorable girl squirrel named Tippy Toe. But, totally normal human Doreen Green totally doesn’t have a tail or anything like that, no sir, she’s just trying to get her degree in Computer Science from Empire State University. At least, as far as her classmates know, Doreen is just a regular college freshman like the rest of them.
Hilariously subtle lines of dialogue are hidden at the bottom of every page, in the white space beneath the last panels. I can only assume these are Doreen’s innermost thoughts, though they may be snappy remarks on behalf of Ryan North about the plausibility of each scene. Whichever of these it is, the book definitely begs for a second read if only just to experience these quick sentences that make for an insight on our heroine and the absurdity of some aspects of the story.
Henderson’s art is clean and relies on exaggerated expression and movements to get across just how quirky and lighthearted our heroine is. It’s really different from most other art styles out there, lending its unique look to set the perfect tone for the first issue.
Though Doreen is partially-squirrel, her anxieties and aspirations are really relatable, as she tries to find her way in the world. She’s graced with the good fortune to be incredibly confident in herself, which allows the reader to suspend all disbelief and be just as confident in Squirrel Girl’s abilities.
Doreen does, from time to time, rely on humorously-styled trading cards penned by Deadpool in order to understand who she’s up against- in the first issue, she takes down Kraven the Hunter on campus, and in the next issue… well, I won’t spoil who it is, but he’s got a colossal appetite that’s absolutely out of this world. That’s right, this book promises to confront the absurd head-on and take it down with an army of squirrels.
North and Henderson let us know right away that they’re not afraid to own up to the strange story of Squirrel Girl, and while maintaining the same good humor people have come to see her with, this series hopefully will give her a stable footing in Marvel lore. Up until this point, readers’ understanding of this hero has been up in the trees.
I can understand where a character like this, who is so silly but at the same time so powerful, can seem a bit confusing or awkward to those out there who don’t already have an adoration for this little nut. I think it’s refreshing to start the New Year with this type of a hero, who is, for me, in my own age demographic and stage in her life.
She doesn’t have an overdone physique, with exaggerated aspects to make only certain parts of her more attractive to the readership. No, she’s got an average body, buck teeth, big eyes, and lots of heart. She could be any one of your classmates on a college campus (if you don’t pay attention to the tail). She’s smart, but sometimes the quick comebacks fail her in the heat of the moment.
She loves herself, which inspires the readers to love her just as much. And I have this feeling she’d get along pretty well with Kamala Khan, Marvel’s other recent teenaged hero, whose ongoing title took 2014 by storm.
This book’s commitment to its story, no matter how silly it seems externally, really sells this first issue as the start of a wonderful series about one of the strangest heroes (and one of my personal favorite heroes) to ever grace a Marvel page. It’s got humor, heart, and action, without being needlessly gritty- you can only be so serious about a nutty hero like Doreen. It’s a strong open for Marvel’s latest female solo title, and I give it five out of five acorns.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 is available in your local comic stores and online at Marvel.com right now!
(A special treat, I found a squirrel-ified version of the theme song she sings for herself as performed by writer Ryan North and a few of his friends. Listen to it here!)