LitStack Review: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Marvel

Everyone should read the ongoing Marvel Comics series “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, written by Ryan North with art by Erica Henderson. Squirrel Girl is the alter ego of Doreen Green, teenage computer science student with the powers of both squirrel and girl. She has the proportional speed and strength of a squirrel, a sweet tail, sharp teeth, the ability to talk to squirrels, and a penchant for solving big problems in unconventional ways. In one of her first adventures, she was the only person on earth who knew that Galactus was on his way to destroy the world. The Avengers were out of commission, and it was up to her to stop the devourer of worlds. She stole Iron Man’s spare set of armor, met Galactus on the moon with her actual squirrel sidekick in tow, and talked the omnipotent destroyer out of devouring the earth by showing compassion and understanding.

The Galactus episode set the tone for the series. Squirrel Girl consistently takes on some of the most powerful villains in the Marvel universe and defeats them with some combination of her squirrel army (who she doesn’t command, really, but rather has convinced to assist by befriending them and earning their trust), her friends, her sweet computer science skills, or when all else fails, kicking butt. The classic villain Brain Drain, a robot with the transplanted brain of a scientist, is discovered to merely be seeking upgrades to its badly outdated technology and to be acting villainous because its programming made it do so. Doreen and her roommate “defeated” Brain Drain by wiping his malevolent programming and upgrading his WWII era technology, making a valuable new friend of Brain Drain.

The short version of why everyone should read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is that Ryan North is a genius. The stories are clever, quirky, and funny, and consistently rewards compassion and empathy. The art by Erica Henderson hits just the right tone. Lacking in sex, serious violence, or profanity, the book is appropriate for all ages, though may go over the heads of young readers. In 2017, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl won the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens, and has spawned a standalone graphic novel where Squirrel Girl takes on her evil-ish doppelganger and a standalone YA novel written by Shannon Hale, covering Doreen’s early teen years. Also check out Ryan North’s regular online comic strip Dinosaur Comics, which are often weirdly hilarious.

–Richard PIttman

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