REVIEW: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #20 – Animal Kingdom

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

Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 5/17/17

Melissa Morbeck, controller of animals and hopeful conqueror of Earth, has people convinced that Doctor Doom is attacking with killer mosquitos and only she can save them. Now it’s up to Doreen to shed light on the truth and save the day!

Plot: Though Koi Boi tries to come up with a solution using fish, it is the squirrels who prepare to protect humans from mosquitos. It’s called Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, after all. Unfortunately, they don’t get very far in their plan before Melissa (or rather a Bear cosplaying as Doctor Doom while wearing a mask that filters her voice through a speaker) finds them and reveals her plan to make Squirrel Girl herself appear as the real culprit.

It takes no time at all to act on that promise, and soon J. Jonah Jameson is on the scene to eagerly report on how Squirrel Girl is both a menace and a threat. This leaves Doreen with no other choice but to fight the animals under Melissa’s control while Nancy comes up with a contingency plan.

Story: The stakes are pretty high at the start of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #20, especially when it comes to Doreen’s reputation. At times, Ryan North even veers into questioning the very nature of her heroism – although one quickly remembers not to trust anything a woman as evil as Melissa says. But the fact that the populace can be so easily swayed into believing that Squirrel Girl is an egomaniacal dictator does highlight the fine line between a hero and a villain. Of course, this series explores the topic with the lightest of touches. It doesn’t quite come off as flippant, but it does make me wish for a little more meat when it comes to the city’s reaction to Doreen.

Nancy’s side of the story this week is being the brains of the operation, and her plan has hilarious consequences for poor Tippy the squirrel. Actually, it’s a testament to how fleshed-out the character of our favorite talking squirrel is that I genuinely felt bad for her in her rat getup – even as I laughed hysterically. At the end of the day, the issue had an empowering message of teamwork. Not just because Doreen’s friends rally together and do their part to stop Morbeck, but because superheroes throughout the Marvel universe pitch in to vouch for her when necessary. Of course this once again brings up the question of heroism and who decides what it is, but one issue can’t tackle everything in depth.

Art: Once again, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl‘s art team make a cohesive unit that adds so many layers to the comic. Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi have grown with the story to the point that it would be impossible to imagine Doreen and her friends in anyone else’s style. Not only that, but the fight sequences in this issue are even more fun than usual. They strike a perfect balance between chaos and clarity, like comical photographs captured in the middle of a battlefield. Travis Lanham’s lettering heightens the effect even more, and trying to figure out what the next use of onomatopoeia is might just be the best guessing game yet.

Just as Tippy was a standout story-wise this month, the art for her also shines. The transformation she undergoes from fluffy squirrel to naked-looking rat is potentially the best example of Henderson’s talent so far in the series. Her look is realistic without losing the cartoon quality that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is known for, and her horror and chagrin could not be more clearly expressed than in the visual details themselves.

Verdict: Given how more build up there was to the face-off between Doreen and Melissa, the ending to Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #20 might feel a little abrupt to some. However, it was a very fun read and felt like a satisfying first round that can be continued at a later date. It’s certainly worth picking up if you were already invested in the outcome.

Star Rating: 3.5/5

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