by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Squirrel Girl tries to prove her worth, as she runs through a New York City under attack to get to Luke and Jessica’s baby.

What’s Good: When I read that this issue was going to be centred on Squirrel Girl, I honestly expected goofy comedy.  I realize that Fear Itself doesn’t exactly lend itself to belly laughs, but I just couldn’t see a “Squirrel Girl saves the day” comic being anything but comedy.

Bendis manages to make me feel pretty guilty, in this respect.  He puts out an issue that’s fairly serious, one that focuses on the tough life of being an unknown superhero.  The result is a comic that is far more rewarding than one played simply for cheap laughs.  Squirrel Girl, under Bendis’ hand, becomes a fully realized, sympathetic character who ends up being more “Doreen” than “Squirrel Girl.”  It’s hard not to root for her and like her and she certainly has that “lovable loser” appeal, but without ever becoming a punch-line.  With goofy lines like “Great Lakes Avengers, represent!” after beating Wolverine in combat, she’s naturally adorable in a way that’s never forced.

There are monologues from Doreen as well, with the issue following much the same format as last month’s Mockingbird feature.  Once again, it lets us really get to know Squirrel Girl.  She’s more “person” than superhero, and Bendis very naturally portrays her “hard luck” status, being a relative unknown from a team of Avengers no one’s ever heard of.  Worse still, having a giant squirrel tail makes her stick out like a sore thumb, even as she struggles to go about doing normal, everyday things.

Ultimately, Bendis makes a real character out of Doreen.  She’s imperfect and perhaps a little downtrodden, but this issue ends up being something of a heroic redemption for one of the Marvel Universe’s most lovable losers, and really, that’s a feel-good story that pretty much never fails.

What’s Not So Good: Unfortunately, this comic has a hard act to follow in last month’s amazing Mockingbird story.  Both are done in similar formats and both focus on female characters in search of respect and purpose.  However, it’s just about impossible for this Squirrel Girl feature to match up to what we got last time around.  Mockingbird simply has more of a history to draw upon and she’s been with the team a long time.  We already know enough about Bobbi to at least a little invested in her, which isn’t the case for Doreen.  Furthermore, Bobbi was also in the interesting position of recently getting a major power upgrade.  It’s a naturally more compelling story and one that invites unflattering comparisons with this comic.  It’s unfair, but it’s hard not to see this book outside of last month’s shadow.

It’s also just a minor gaffe, but there’s a scene in which Squirrel Girl interrupts a rape/mugging in progress that’s pretty awkward.  Seriously, what are the odds of a crime like this taking place in broad daylight on NYU’s campus, and at exactly the moment that Doreen happens to be around?  It’s totally ludicrous and it’s the sort of ramshackle storytelling that can make superhero comics look bad.

Conclusion: A solid issue of New Avengers.  I continue to enjoy how Bendis is using these tie-ins to give us a more personal vantage on such a massive, universe-wide event.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans