I was going to be proud of the fact that I reviewed every single issue of Squirrel Girl, but then I looked back and realized that I skipped #7 due to some traveling. Trust me, the traveling was great, but what a horrible milestone I missed in consequence. Oh, Sigh! Well, I get another chance, as this issue may be the final one, only to be reborn in a second volume following the Secret Wars event.
So how is it, as a final issue, and perhaps as a cap for a whole volume of issues? Well, pretty spectacular I have to say. The action picks up from last issue, with nothing less than a god-level squirrel from actual Norse myth wreaking havoc through the world, and high-profile guest stars that help our cast save the day. One of which wears a giant cat head. And is hilarious.
The tone is set right away, with a ruled-paper and penciled comic of Cat Thor, who will return “next time I’m bored in class.” It’s a complete make-over in the same way as Spider-Ham, and come to think of it, that would be an amazing crossover. And yet, it’s also completely earnest, and that balance between comedy/parody/earnestness is what makes Unbeatable Squirrel Girl such an endearing character, story, and series.
The whole issue is a protracted battle pitting Squirrel Girl against Ratatoskr (what? Spellcheck doesn’t recognize Ratatoskr? Unbelievable.) There are two distinct phases in the battle, although the first one has Squirrel Girl using, of all things, Spider-Man’s web shooters. On one hand, this is becoming a motif, with S.G. taking on the equipment/signatures of other heroes, like the time with Iron Man? However, it comes across as gimmicky and forced, perhaps because here it’s a sudden surprise that feels as random and non-sequitur. That might work for an episode of Teen Titans Go! but it doesn’t feel like it should be the kind of silliness inside Squirrel Girl. Especially since it’s essentially useless and dismissed after a page.
By contrast, the use of the guest stars Thor and, more to the point, Loki, are exactly the kind of silliness that makes this book work. This is the kind of Loki that harkens to the playful portrayal of Tom Hiddleston’s in Thor: The Dark World, but amps the self-assured cockiness of him to find some really humorous stuff.
As usual, Squirrel Girl’s ultimate weapons are her can-do attitude and her optimistic speeches (this time with a little help from Loki.) But man, there are a *lot* of speeches in this issue. It’s not uncommon for word balloons to crowd the entire panel, overlapping characters and obliviating the need for backgrounds. What’s more, the font size has to shift subtly to accommodate such long paragraphs of text, which disrupts the reading experience. Comics are often “poetic” in the sense of the economy of words (and certainly some writers have been too economical at times) but that doesn’t seem to be of concern for the writing here. Thankfully, the added benefit is to really allow characterization to come to the fore.
The lack of backgrounds isn’t just due to word balloons, of course, as the artist chooses to focus more on characters and their interaction. It’s certainly a strength and helps lend the charm to the characters and capitalize on the humor. Still, it’s difficult to see the characters in context of their environment, and when a large group of characters are interacting in a space, even during the battle with Ratatoskr, it can feel quite flat.
The final panel is a nice cap to the entire series so far. It allows us to see S.G. in her new setting, but we are pulled back so we see it from afar, through the window, as we leave her world. But with all the characters together in camaraderie, taking squirrel-language lessons, it’s hopeful and triumphant. It’s appropriate the last word is… “Unbeatable.”
Fun of charm and fun, this issue brings the action as well as laughs. It’s all in complete earnest, however, and the characters never feel like they *are* a joke nor *telling* jokes, the humor simply *is.* It’s an excitingly optimistic book, which might be ironic for being the final issue of the volume/series, but that’s exactly why it’s so endearing.