Written by: Ryan North
Art and Cover by: Erika Henderson
Trading Cart Art by: Maris Wicks
Color Art by: Rico Renzi
Lettering by: VC’s Clayton Cowles
There’s an air of impossibility surrounding this book. It begins with a song and vibrant neon crime fighting. It deflates the hyper-serious and allows for a sense of whimsy. When I started working behind the desk at a comic shop, something like this would have barely snuck through Marvel editorial as a one-shot – a reaction to an audience that had an appetite for Serious Comics about Things That Matter and very little else. Today things are clearly different.
Over the past few years, the industry has gone through a glacial shift. Slow moving but sure, the spotlight has been shifting away from superhero books that emulate grim reality. Levity has been creeping in at the edges, and fun is no longer such a terrible word. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a product of this shift, something steadfast and confident in its construction and delivery, an unapologetic take on the pyjama drama as a source of unfettered joy. Ryan North infuses the plot with humour and humanity in equal measures, matching Squirrel Girl’s want of a normal life with her need to be heroic. These warring elements provide the engine for this series, a classic “secret identity” story shot through the lens of a whip-smart sitcom.
The art from Erika Henderson (with spot illustrations by the equally wonderful Maris Wicks) mingles well with the plot. There’s clearly a bit of push and pull happening, North’s dialogue being punctuated by Henderson’s deeply expressive character work. From the staging of action scenes to the delivery of punchlines, the book’s timing never fails, a testament to the team working together to great effect.
All of this is bolstered by the electric colour art from Rico Renzi and the very deliberate work of Clayton Cowles. Colourists and letterers are often forgotten, given that their roles are to embellish in such a way that their contributions aren’t intrusive. If a creative team is doing their job, the book should read seamlessly, and this one does. It’s consistent from top to bottom, and doesn’t pretend for a second that it’s something it’s not. It’s bright in every way, with vibrant colour and essential plotting. It is what it is: not a comic where Things Matter, but a comic that matters, with a strong voice that will carry itself through.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is available everywhere on January 7th, 2015.
Brandon Schatz and Danica LeBlanc are the owners of Variant Edition Comics + Culture located in Edmonton, Alberta. They specialize in matching people with the comics and books they never knew they wanted. In their spare time, they write articles and produce podcasts at Submetropolitan.com