This week’s Marvel Rundown features a bittersweet ending and a new beginning. First up, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Marvel’s longest-running current title, wraps up its nearly five-year run this week. Creators Ryan North, Derek Charm, Rico Renzi, and Travis Lanham are joined by original series artist Erica Henderson for the series finale.
Then, the opening salvo of Marvel’s Dawn of X line adds its final title with Fallen Angels. With so many other mutant-centric titles on shelves now, does the series distinguish itself from the rest of the pack?
We’ve got discussion and reviews of those titles, plus your weekly Rapid Rundown of other new releases from the House of Ideas, in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #50
Written by Ryan North
Illustrated by Derek Charm and Erica Henderson
Colored by Rico Renzi
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by Erica Henderson
Joe Grunenwald: Doreen Green kicks her last butt and eats her last nut for the foreseeable future in this week’s final issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Friends, what did you think of the send-off for the series?
Chloe Maveal: I can tell you guys this much — I was completely unprepared to actually, honest-to-god cry over a Squirrel Girl comic.
AJ Frost: Over the years, Squirrel Girl has provided so many laughs, so many clever moments, and so much charm (and I don’t just mean Derek!). This “final” issue of the run is certainly one of, if not the, best individual books of Ryan North’s entire run. Over these twenty-five pages, readers will (re)discover why they embraced these books and this character in the first place: her heart, her humor, and her desire for true justice. This is one of the most moving Marvel books in many years.
Grunenwald: I have to confess that, before this evening, I hadn’t read any of the final arc of Squirrel Girl out of…I guess denial that it was ending. I don’t want to live in a world without new issues of this comic. I read all four issues in one sitting and it turned out to be the nicest victory lap for the series you could ask for. The final issue in particular is incredibly touching and, to AJ’s point, highlights what’s great about Squirrel Girl and the world that Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Derek Charm, and co. built for her over the course of this series. Others may end up doing things with the characters in this series, but it certainly will never be the same.
Maveal: 100% agree with everything you’ve both said. North has consistently created a charming, smart, and funny universe that has given us, objectively, the best Squirrel Girl we’ve ever seen. And though Erica Henderson has been off the book for a while now, Charm has managed to add his own charm (insert rimshot here) to the series that echoes what we as readers have come to expect from the series. It’s sad to see it go, but it’s been such a wonderful run. It’s definitely going to be something difficult to live up to for future creators taking on the title.
Frost: I really dislike change, especially with things that give me joy. I’m really sad that this run is ending, but glad that the collected editions will give me the chance reminiscence. This entire run, from issue #1 (both of them), to #50, is one of those alchemical miracles that will never be replicated.
I think Ryan created such a singular take on the character that other iterations are just never going to live up to it. The Marvel Rising take just never translated Doreen’s unique qualities to TV and the Internet. I know that this book was never everyone’s cup of tea, from the concept to the little asides on each page. But for those who wanted an escape from the grimdark malaise of most modern comics, Squirrel Girl was the perfect oasis.
Grunenwald: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has been such an unlikely success story. As North pointed out in his end note, most Marvel books don’t make it to 50 issues anymore without some sort of relaunch or revamp. This book did have one of those early on, but it’s still pretty remarkable that it didn’t happen three or four more times. I think that speaks to the strength of the work the creative team was doing, and the faith that Marvel had that the series had founds it audience and didn’t need gimmicky reboots to maintain them. Given the success of the series in collected editions, if and when we see Squirrel Girl again, I’d wager it’ll be in original graphic novel form.
Frost: Let’s get down to the issue itself. What did we you all think about it as a concluding piece of the run? Did it work well on its own merits?
Maveal: The way they chose to conclude it almost felt like the final episode of the after-school specials that a lot of us grew up with…but in the best way. It was sappy and silly and full of feeling in a way that felt both nostalgic, and like it really was a big thank you to the readers who have stuck by the creative team.
Grunenwald: I was going to make a joke about this not being a great jumping-on point, but honestly, it might be the perfect jumping-on point. It features some of the biggest heroes and villains in the Marvel U, and it illustrates why Squirrel Girl belongs right up there with them. As an introduction to the character, it was really lovely. And as Chloe said, it definitely felt like a thank you to the readers. The conversation between Doreen and Galactus is also a not-so-subtly-meta reminder that these stories and characters will live on forever in the 58 preceding issues, and that we can visit them anytime.
Frost: I think I have Watchmen on the brain because Galactus’ speech had a lot of Dr. Manhattan vibes. Did anyone else sense that?
Grunenwald: Yeah, I can see that. Just the idea of a cosmically-powerful being experiencing time differently is a very similar idea.
Frost: I’m sure Doreen would be Rorschach’s friend, but that’s neither here nor there.
Maveal: I liked his speech too much to compare it to anything relating to Doc Manhattan. But I can see where you’re getting the vibe from!
Grunenwald: If anyone could talk Adrian Veidt out of doing what he did, it’d be Doreen. Was there anything that didn’t work for anyone? Or anything you didn’t see that you wish you had?
Maveal: Honestly, as someone who usually has some “aww, I wish –” things for the end of comic runs, this felt damn near perfect. Even the last little “montage” at the end gave readers some of the things from over the years as sort of a recap, so that felt like a nice tip-of-the-cap to a little bit of everything. And don’t even get me started on the letters at the end from the creators. Good lord. Sob.
Frost: I thought there was a nice balance of funny and melancholy throughout the whole book. I agree with Chloe here as well. Those letters were sublime, especially Erica’s contribution.
Grunenwald: Improbably, my favorite relationship throughout the series, aside from Doreen and Nancy’s, was Doreen and Kraven. I thought we’d already said goodbye to this iteration of Kraven a few months ago, so it was nice to see him again and get one final moment between the two of them. That may have been my favorite part of the issue. (I know this answers none of the questions I posed, but basically everything worked for me and I wouldn’t have added a thing.)
Frost: Alright gang. Shall we deliver our verdict?
Maveal: Sure! But if wasn’t clear enough, this is a massive BUY from me. Whether you’ve been reading Unbeatable Squirrel Girl since issue #1, or are just jumping in and working backwards, this series lands on its feet in the same way that it ran: perfectly.
Grunenwald: If I don’t render a verdict, does the series never end? Truly, though, I will miss The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl dearly, and I’m eternally grateful that we got to have it in the first place. It’s been funny and good-hearted and really something special, and I don’t know that we’ll see anything like it again for a long, long time. The final issue, along with the rest of the series, gets a BUY from me.
Frost: This is a BUY: from me, unequivocally. What a wonderful way to end a wonderful series of comics, one of Marvel’s best of the decade. This is a must-read.
Final Verdict: The final issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl gets a unanimous BUY verdict from the Rundown crew.
Fallen Angels #1
Written by Bryan Hill
Illustrated by Szymon Kudranski
Colored by Frank D’Armata
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Design work by Tom Muller
Cover by Ashley Witter
Samantha Puc: When I initially saw the lineup for Fallen Angels, I was super invested. I want to see justice for Kwannon and I am always ready for more Laura Kinney content, because she’s one of my absolute favorite characters. Unfortunately, Fallen Angels #1 completely fails what could be an incredible, dynamic concept and team. It seems Marvel still can’t figure out how to rectify a racist story that spans decades (big surprise there), and Szymon Kudranski‘s art is as ill-fitting as Bryan Hill‘s writing. With a stronger, more diverse creative team dedicated to handling these characters with the nuance and aplomb they deserve, this series could easily be a massive hit. Alas, it’s lacking all around, which is hugely disappointing, especially after week after week of excellent work from the X-office. My final verdict? SKIP.
Nick Kazden: Well, the last series from the Dawn of X’s first wave is here and… it’s a bit of a clunker. Despite the fact that the book has a stacked cast—full of fan-favorites like Psylocke (Kwannon sans Betsy Braddock for anyone who can’t keep track), X-23 and Magneto—the opening issue feels like a dour punch to the stomach after the rush of excitement the other new series have been so far. More than anything, Bryan Hill’s writing feels somewhat separate from the larger tone being established in the Dawn of X, and his handling of both Psylocke and Laura is somewhat off-base. I understand every society has people who stick to the shadows and prefer chaos to security, so I’m not complaining about the fact that these characters are itching for a fight, but everything here, from the fireside skirmish between Cable and Laura to Magneto’s 90s-ish feel, just doesn’t quite do it for me. With Mr. Sinister smack in the middle of things, Fallen Angels will stay on my pull list for a few more issues, but the creative team has a lot of work cut-out for them to lift this series to match the high-bar set by all of the other DoX titles. Verdict: BROWSE.
Joe Grunenwald: Of all of the Dawn of X titles, Fallen Angels was the one I was most wary of. What is this series? Who is it for? What niche does it fill within the X-lineup? After reading the first issue, I still don’t know the answer to any of those questions. Where off-the-beaten-path titles like Marauders or even Excalibur all have clear mission statements right off the bat, Fallen Angels is a book that meanders around looking for purpose and finding none by the end of its debut. As a jumping-on point for new readers, even those who’ve House of X/Powers of X and the other DoX titles, Fallen Angels utterly fails to introduce its characters or the reasoning for anything they do, or to broach the complicated backstory behind central character Psylocke/Kwannon. The artwork by Szymon Kudranski and Frank D’Armata is muddy and often hard to follow, with similar-looking characters and a muted color palette not making distinguishing them any easier. After such a rough start it’s going to take a lot to right this ship. It’s a shame the initial lineup of Dawn of X titles has to go out on such a low note. Verdict: SKIP.
Final Verdict: Samantha and Joe both give Fallen Angels #1 a SKIP, while Nick gives the title a BROWSE.
- Black Cat Annual #1
- Much like the Black Cat ongoing, this annual — which takes place pre-series — is pure perfection. Jed MacKay writes Felicia beautifully and Joey Vazquez, Natacha Bustos, and Juan Gedeon nail the art in every last panel. Black Cat Annual #1 definitely hits some very specific buttons for me (follow me on Twitter for more info!), so by the time I got to the last page, I was clawing at my face in a combination of euphoria and agony. Brian Reber‘s colors are also spot-on and Ferran Delgado makes my favorite moments even better with absolutely superb lettering. I don’t have enough words to describe how much I loved this one-shot. I just… yes. — SP
- History of the Marvel Universe #5
Much like we’ve seen with the previous four issues, History of the Marvel Universe is a bizarre but super-fun and engaging retelling of Marvel’s past. Mark Waid, as always, has a tendency to be really verbose; yet not a word seems to go wasted in this. Top that with some great linework and expressive colors from Javier Rodríguez and Álvaro López, and this is continuing to be a comic to look out for. — CM
- Invaders #11
- The penultimate issue of the series features a conversation between Steve Rogers and Namor that’s been ten issues in the making. With the spotlight firmly on those two, Chip Zdarsky, Carlos Magno, Butch Guice, and Alex Guimarães deliver an intense showdown between the two giants, and it’s absolutely worth the wait. Zdarsky does a nice job drawing new parallels between the characters and their experiences, and Magno and Guice’s alternating styles continue to complement each other nicely, tied together seamlessly by Guimarães’s colors. If you haven’t been reading Invaders, you’ve been missing out. — JG
- Punisher: Soviet #1
- Call me ignorant, but I thought this issue was going to be a one-off What If? tale about Frank Castle taking down Joseph Stalin. In reality, it’s actually the first issue of a new Garth Ennis-penned mini-series starring Marvel’s most notorious vigilante. An issue that leans on Castle’s inner thoughts to pull readers into the story, it definitely feels like Ennis is ironing out the kinks a little bit as he gets back into the character’s head. With some beautiful art courtesy of Jacen Burrows and colors by Nolan Woodard, this is a definite buy for any big fans of the character. — NK
- X-Men #2
- Here there be drama… and Daddy!Scott. (No, I’m not sorry.) This issue of X-Men feels like a stopover in some ways, but it establishes some major plot points that will certainly affect the entire Dawn of X line, so if you’re keeping up with this bold new era of the X-Men, don’t miss out. — SP
Next week, the merc with a mouth returns in an all-new Deadpool #1!