REVIEW: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #19 – “Roaches, Mosquitos and Bears?”

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Writer: Ryan North
Penciler: Erica Henderson
Colorist: Rico Renzi

Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 4/12/17

Despite Tony Stark explaining how the myth is scientifically unsound, Squirrel Girl has flown too close to the sun like Icarus and only has a sabotaged flying suit suit to show for it. And, of course, a bunch of animals trained to attack her courtesy of her ex-mentor Melissa Morbeck.

Plot: This week’s issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl opens with a villain monologue, as all good books should, detailing Morbeck’s family history and how she finally achieved control over the animal kingdom thanks to Doreen Green’s fame. Apparently, she engineered Squirrel Girl, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi all attending the same classes in the same dorm and the same school. Machiavellian!

The police and Doreen’s compatriots are trying to break through Melissa’s animal barricade, but the super-villain has other plans and won’t be caught so easily. What horrific catastrophe will she unleash? And what’s Howard the Duck doing here?

Story: While a big chunk of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #19 focuses on Melissa Morbeck’s past and her long road to animal-controlling infamy, there’s a fair share of action here as well. Not to mention the appropriate monthly dose of wit and sass from both Doreen and the creative team behind the book.

Once again, Squirrel Girl manages to educate its audience while entertaining it – perfectly tying the real history of Grace Hopper to the fictional events that have led to Doreen’s current predicament. Even though the first half is a combination of flashback and monologue, Ryan North’s dialogue prevents it from ever feeling static. The transition from exposition to action is also smooth that I almost didn’t notice a plan was in motion until it was too late, which is probably how Doreen herself felt.

The current arc has done a great job of building up a false sense of security so that Morbeck could pull the rug out from under both Doreen and the audience, and now that the cards are on the table North is piling on the feelings of hopelessness just as skillfully. The tone and nature of Squirrel Girl prevents the (commendably high) stakes from feeling oppressive, but the tension is still thick. For once, I have no idea how Doreen will save the day next month – but I know I can’t wait to find out.

Art: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl‘s artistic team remains one of the most unique things about it, as Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi always find new and creative ways to tell the story. It’s clear that both sides work exceptionally well together so that the art always adds to the plot without becoming too busy or detracting from it. For example: Melissa’s flashback at the start of the issue is sepia-toned without looking cheesy, and yet the moth that is central to the point Morbeck is making remains purple as a visual cue to the audience. 

Furthermore, because the plot of this issue is already so busy, Henderson knows not to clutter the background with extraneous details. Instead she hones in on the relevant animals in question and lets us see how Doreen or Melissa are interacting with them. The rest of the world has already been filled in during previous issues, or is irrelevant to a reader’s understanding and enjoyment of the story.

Verdict: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #19 continues to raise the stakes in a surprising and tension-filled arc that manages not to lose an ounce of the lighthearted fun that defines the series. As the current battle wraps up in #20, you’re going to want to be sure to check out the current issue to prepare for whatever Doreen might have up her sleeve. This may be her toughest villain yet!

Star Rating: 4/5

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