The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #41 Review

by Charles Martin on February 13, 2019

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #41 Review
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Naomi Franquiz
Colourist: Rico Renzi
Letter: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

After all her tumultuous adventures, Squirrel Girl is ready for a nice, relaxing movie night (in the middle of the day?) with Tippy-Toe.

Does anybody want to bet that her creators actually let her unwind in the issue? No? Of course not. Smart betting, Squirrel Girl readers!

A standard-issue supervillain news alert puts the girls into action when the nefarious Ms. Quizzler raises a ruckus with her elaborately exhausting mind-games. She's taken student hostages at ESU and demands heroic participation in her brain teasers.

The hostages in question? Only Nancy Whitehead and Peter Parker! 

Nice set-up work explains that this happens during the recent period when Peter Parker and Spider-Man were super-scienced into separate people. Importing this premise pays off because Pete and Nancy spend most of their scenes playing hilarious secret identity deduction games.

She-Hulk and Thor are also on board to raise the guest-star quotient even higher. They add depth to the quiz segments and behave with an irreverent but thoroughly-informed respect for their current characterization in more serious comics.

The last piece of the puzzle is a noteworthy little segment that lets Tippy-Toe do some aggressive squirrel-heroing on her own. Her part in foiling Ms. Quizzler's plan is pivotal, smart, and plenty of fun.

What's missing here? Notice my curious silence on the subject of Squirrel Girl herself. She deploys all the classic Squirrel Girl tropes: ridiculous cover for her secret identity, boundless faith in The Power Of Friendship, and of course smart, empathic problem-solving skills.

Unfortunately, this issue's script balances Squirrel Girl on a tightrope of personal cliché. Her familiar antics could come off as comforting - or they could cross the line into rehashing stale character beats.

What makes this unfortunate is that "portraying Squirrel Girl" turns out to be the weakness of the art as well as the writing. The visuals have a vibrant, cartoony style that's heavy on background detail, and they deliver plenty of great wordless gags. (Witness the squirrel-cuffs used to secure Ms. Quizzler at the end.) The colours do a good job welding this issue into the title's established palette, too.

Squirrel Girl herself, though, looks off. The attempt to blend the character's established design with the guest artist's personal style doesn't work nearly as well as it could or should. The frequent use of emoji-level facial expressions on Doreen is particularly unpleasant. While previous artists have conserved detail in drawing Doreen's face, they didn't actually resort to cartoon shorthand to convey her emotions in critical moments.

This is frustrating because the artist otherwise delivers a formidable performance creating her own renditions of iconic characters. Thor, She-Hulk, Peter Parker, and even Tippy Toe and Nancy look great. 

This is not, by any means, a bad comic. There's a lot of heartfelt humour and the story is endearingly goofy. The guest and supporting stars play excellent roles. It's the portrayal of Squirrel Girl herself - artistically and also narratively - that pulls Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #41 down short of its full potential.

Our Score:


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One last artistic thing: Did the artist get bonus pay for drawing Squirrel Girl from behind? 'Cause she does it a lot.