Hippo the Hippo wants to rob banks, and a Girl Squirrel wants to spread chaos. Time for some classic(?) Squirrel Girl Team-Up.
This issue reads as a “down time” issue, one of those comics in between major story arcs but still provides some continuity and exploration of the characters and their world. That doesn’t mean it’s overly sentimental or superfluous. In fact, it helps really round out the Squirrel Girl corner of the Marvel universe. Which, unsurprisingly but nicely amusing, has a blend of animal and human that almost treads into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle territory. (Hey, that’s some high praise, I’ll have you know.)
I just mean that it takes a feature of the main character, her connection to the animal world, and just explodes it to nearly every corner of her world. To some pretty humorous results. Chipmunk Hunk is hilarious, as is Koi Boi. It’s becoming self-referential and parody, but without any mean spirit or criticism, resulting in Pure Fun. Yes, that deserves capital letters.
The comic further subverts our expectations of plot and situation, having the Hippo’s pure intent being to rob a bank. Ah, so refreshing to have a simple criminal motivation. I only regret him losing because that means I don’t get to see him carry a brown sack with a giant dollar sign label. Of course, when he *does* lose, it’s by having a conversation, Squirrel Girl’s most powerful move that takes down no one less than Galactus himself.
Which makes it interesting that the true villain, Girl Squirrel, uses a similar move in creating the destruction of the city that carries us into next issue. For a “silly” comicbook, that’s some sophisticated narrative parallelism going on there. Which isn’t the only example, what with names like Hippo the Hippo, Girl Squirrel vs. Squirrel Girl, or even visual gags such as complaining about rodents talking with their mouths full … while talking with his mouth full.
Those visual gags happen throughout the comic, too– a key feature of the series. The Hippo’s T-shirt is hilarious, especially since it’s just a throwaway gag that’s not really important; it’s just there. Ditto the way Kraven the Hunter peers over the flashback panels, and whose recent activity appears in a subheading of the news site. I always appreciate how this comic rewards multiple readings. Visually or story-wise, there is always some new little thing to laugh over as you re-read.
If I were to look at the negatives, I’ll admit the art feels a little sparse this issue, with less detail on the figures that often result in simple shapes and blocks of color with little shading. The last panel of the comic is a particularly disappointing example of this, and it’s supposed to be an exciting cliffhanger. It might be that the strengths of the artist is not cityscapes, favoring characterization and pacing, as that’s where the comicbook really shines. That same last page shows the strength of pacing, even if the detail is lacking, as each panel feels like a beat, and the perspective widens until we see the full picture of what’s happening.
That, and the joke of the narration goes on for a bit too long for my tastes. Like the running metacommentary along the bottom of most pages, some of it is funny, and the “voice” of the narrator has become a character in its own right, but it takes me out of the world of the comic because it’s becoming to self-referential, and that’s disassociating, to say the least.
Lately I’ve realized I'm looking forward to the latest issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl more than most things on my pull list. Here, the world of Squirrel Girl gets a little more rounded out, and what a fun world it is. It’s the kind of humor that’s light and silly without being unsophisticated nor gratuitous. I’m reminded of fun superhero stories like Freakazoid and Defenders of Dynatron City, which means that Men of Action studios better get started on a Squirrel Girl and her Amazing Friends animated television series like RIGHT NOW.