THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #31
Writer: Ryan North
Penciller: Erica Henderson
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Release Date: 4/11/18
Doreen Green is back from her space adventures and ready to take on crime once more! Good thing live-streaming criminal Epic Crimez is around to pull off a heist for her to stop, right?
Plot: What starts as a routine robbery prevention session with Nancy in tow turns into something much stranger when youtube sensation Epic Crimez freezes time using alien technology before he can be arrested. Or rather, he puts Doreen and Nancy into “hypertime,” where they are moving so quickly that everything around them feels frozen. How will they get out of this one? And would they even want to if crime-fighting is so simple when you’re solving it at super-speed?
Story: Before we begin, I can’t overstate how rare it is for a comic book run to be this consistent and high-quality. I have never read an issue of this series that I didn’t want to re-read, and for that alone Squirrel Girl #31 should be commended. Once again, Ryan North flips a simple situation into an exciting yet silly adventure that never fails to be fun. The hyper time scenario gives Doreen and Nancy a lot of room play, and the results are hysterical and heartwarming as usual. While my poor brain has little grasp of sci-fi and therefore kept forgetting whether the girls were moving really fast or the boys were moving really slow, but once the stakes rose high enough to put their lives in danger I was fully onboard.
Speaking of the stakes, the moment readers realize that Nancy and Doreen only have a week of real time left to solve their problem is also the moment that Squirrel Girl #31 turns into a bit of an epistolary novel, and I’m not sure any writer but North could make that device work as well as it did. Of course, it’s not all letters back and forth, because Doreen is a hero at heart and spends a lot of her time making sure everything is perfectly in place so that the next moment in real time won’t experience any accidents, tragedies or disasters. There’s even a delightful cameo of Spider-Man being rescued by Squirrel Girl’s ever so helpful extra web fluid.
Even as the story grows more convoluted with citizens taking advantage of their hyper-timed superheroes, Squirrel Girl #31 remains a grounded and fascinating look at how differently time moves for different people. It’s especially interesting once the boys become more involved, because flipping back and forth between real and hyper time makes for a surprisingly poignant story. Even the thought of losing a weekend (and yet also a lifetime) of growth and shared experience becomes a bittersweet climax for these two best friends, and the book ends with the sensation that we have shared in that lifetime too.
Art: There’s no doubt that stellar art team of Squirrel Girl #31 love their jobs, seeing as how they can take the most mundane scenario and turn it into a visually exciting panel. North’s set up of a villain recording crimes on his phone in the opening scene provides the perfect opportunity for Henderson to give readers Doreen and Nancy via the phone lens as well as in “real time” as it were. Furthermore, the minimalist background allows for the foreground to be as busy as it needs to be given how much needs to be accomplished in so little time.
Rico Renzi’s colors are bright and vibrant, as well, complimenting Henderson’s style as they always do. The way older Nancy and Doreen are drawn is much more realistic than one would expect, which also helps to ground the story and make them feel as important as their younger selves instead of a one-off gag. The moment of reckoning, when Nancy’s body restoration machine (for one use only!) finally works, is drawn and colored with special care. In fact, it may be one of the most beautiful pages in Squirrel Girl‘s history, with a lifetime of emotion embodied in it and only one line of dialogue for company.
Verdict: Squirrel Girl #31 is another stellar entry in a story that keeps reinventing itself while staying true to the basics of its main characters. It’s definitely worth picking up even if you’ve never read it before, because this one-shot will tell you everything you need to know about why fans love Doreen Green and the creative team behind her book.
Star Rating: 5 out of 5