The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

August 7, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

universeThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North, et al.

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I’m not a fan of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, the series. The character I admire for all of her positive traits, and I endorse giving this book to young girls interested in comics so they can see what a female superhero can be, but for me, a forty-five year old male with no children, female or otherwise, it doesn’t quite ring my bell. It’s a shame, really, because for all the other childish things that appeal to me (The LEGO Movie, the Animaniacs, and almost everything Pixar has ever created), I expected this series to hit all the high notes.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe, though, surprised me. Maybe it’s because I had written off the series for not being my thing, and went into the graphic novel with lowered expectations, or maybe it’s because it’s a standalone work without the inherent baggage of ongoing titles, or maybe it’s just a better written work. Whatever the case, I found myself laughing more at the story than I did with the two collections I’ve read.

The characters are the same, their dynamics are the same, and the storyline is similar to what one would find in the series (only with a clone added into the mix). The running gags carry over from the main series (the Spider-Man theme song continues to make an appearance in one form or another), and the commentary along the bottoms of the pages is still there, but something about it clicked for a change. It’s not enough to convince me to keep reading it, but it was an improvement over the main series.

I’d still recommend this to younger readers, especially girls, but boys, too, so they can see there’s more to being a female superhero than skimpy outfits and assisting male superheroes. Adult readers, though, may have a harder time getting into it.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel You Know It’s True

August 4, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

squirrel2The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel You Know It’s True by Ryan North, et al.

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I have a rule with ongoing graphic novel series: Read at least two collections before drawing a conclusion on how much I like them. The Unwritten had a bit of a boring start, but once it caught its groove, it surprised me with how much it could do. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl was a title I’d heard a lot about, all of it good, but Squirrel Power just didn’t quite do it for me. Squirrel You Know It’s True is more of the same style presented in the first collection, which is good or bad, depending on how much you liked the first one.

Look I get it: she’s a positive role model for young girls; she attempts diplomacy before violence (and usually succeeds at it); and her adventures are light enough for young readers, but not without serious consequences. If I had a young daughter, I would love for her to read these books. The thing is, I don’t, and there’s just not enough to the stories by itself to encourage me to keep reading it. I loved (and still love) Ambush Bug, the Animaniacs, and the Looney Tunes cartoons, so the loopy sense of humor the series has should have appealed to me, but somehow it was more ingratiating than funny. The Twitter exchanges were still the highlights for me, but overall, it didn’t quite hit my funny bone.

I’d recommend this series to readers with kids, but for adult readers, I’d suggest they pass on it. They don’t take long to read, so the investment of time is slim, but there are so many other good series written for adults that it doesn’t seem worth it to devote what short time it would take to read these books. I have another of her books to read (what can I say? They were on sale, and my expectations were high), but I don’t see myself adding it to my titles to follow.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power

July 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

squirrel1The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power by Ryan North, et al.

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I’ve heard a lot about Squirrel Girl, all of it positive. I hear she’s a good role model for kids, especially young girls, and that she’s more inclined to solve problems with diplomacy than with punches. Plus, I hear there’s a loopy sense of humor to the books, so when I saw that these were on sale, I figured it was time for me to see what all the fuss was about.

The good news is I see all of the good I read about in other reviews; the bad news is I still couldn’t get that invested in it. I do think she serves as a strong role model, and it’s refreshing to see a female superhero who isn’t all about skimpy costumes and helping the male superheroes, but the tone of the book put me off. I grew up on Ambush Bug, so I was prepared for loopy and irreverent, but there was something about the characters that didn’t do it for me. Part of it, I think, is the feeling that these books are supposed to be part of official continuity. Continuity, to me, suggests a level of seriousness that doesn’t exist with this title. The fact that she couldn’t keep her secret identity secret (not that it’s broken in this book, but come on; it’s not going to last) opens up a vulnerability to all the characters who know her, and it all fell apart in my head.

There were parts of the story that made me laugh (the Twitter exchanges that started a couple of the issues cracked me up), but for the most part the humor grew tiresome. I gave up on trying to read all of the editorial comments that were at the bottom of each page, as they became distracting, slowed me down, took me away from the story, and in the end weren’t really worth the time. Plus, I was reading a digital copy of the book, and in order to read them all, I had to enlarge the page. It was too much effort for not a lot of gain.

My disappointment might lie with my expectations being too high, but I’m not feeling it so far. I still have a couple other collections to read (they were on sale, and I do still abide by my rule that I have to read at least two collections before drawing any conclusions on a title), but I’m not champing at the bit to get to them. I’ll get there when I get there. I can appreciate the title, and I would recommend it to readers looking for positive comics with a female lead, but so far it’s not going to be a go-to title for me.

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Invincible Compendium One

September 6, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

invincible1Invincible Compendium One by Robert Kirkman, et al.

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So, I had no idea that Robert Kirkman wrote anything other than The Walking Dead, so I was surprised when I read that this series would be coming to an end. As much as I like The Walking Dead, I wanted to check out Invincible, too, and I figured why not go whole hog into it? So I splurged for the first compendium so I could get “introduced” to the character.

To say that a lot happens here is no surprise; this collection is 1,092 pages long. We learn Invincible’s secret identity, origin, trials, successes, failures, glory, and see his entire life turn upside down at least twice. We also see a lot of things happen that don’t usually happen in superhero comics. One hero quits all together to devote her life to helping people in ways other than just catching the bad guys. The stories aren’t quite a deconstruction of the genre, like you’d find from Alan Moore, but there’s enough self-awareness there for some fun inside jokes. (Look for Charlie Brown in the first dozen or so pages.)

This compendium collects the first 47 issues (and then some), so there are about six different story arcs happening here. It was interesting to read them back-to-back like this, since I could see how Kirkman set up the recurring characters, themes, and storylines. It was fun to see how something minor that happened in the first issue (Mark throwing a bag of trash into a dumpster, only to huck it into high altitude) showed back up in the sixth issue or so (the same bag of trash landing in a heap somewhere in England several weeks later). This is just one example, too; there were a handful of seemingly random events that took on more of a level of importance later in the series.

Kirkman applies this same principle to the characters, too. The anti-superhero themes we see here serve more of a purpose than just to be different; they’re central to the characters of the story. That one hero quits to do a different kind of good speaks more to her own character than anything else, and when we revisit that character later in the story, we learn more of why she made that decision. Other heroes die; their deaths aren’t just to increase sales; they’re meant to give more depth and meaning to the characters, and most of them stay dead. Those who don’t stay dead don’t come back through some meaningless trope; their resurrection makes sense, and serve their own growth as well as the development of the story. Even the one death that seemed to serve the purpose just to motivate another character was turned around to be something different.

The title is clever, and surprising, and well-told. For the most part, I’ve given up on superhero comics because so many of them are carbon copies of each other, but Invincible is something else entirely. Anyone else who finds themselves thinking the same thing about the genre would do well to give this title a try.

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