In order to forestall an immediate and savage Internet beating, let me stress that when I say, “I was never really a fan of Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics,” it’s not that I’m saying I didn’t like it. It’s just that, like a lot of things out there, I’d occasionally read it, find it funny, and then forget to follow it because it’s a big crazy world out there and there’s just too much awesome stuff and too little time to follow it all. But the point is, I was never really a fan of Dinosaur Comics. I never really followed Ryan North’s career, nor Erica Henderson’s. But I do pay attention to Squirrel Girl.
Because I love Squirrel Girl. I love the joke behind the character–that there’s this super-powerful, super-competent, super-capable superhero out there that we never even hear about because she’s just so inherently silly that she’d reduce the respectability of the Marvel Universe if anyone knew that all their worst villains can be defeated by a woman named “Squirrel Girl”. It makes fun of the pompous obsession with “coolness” and “darkness” that superhero comics have been stuck with since the 80s, and it also makes fun of the obsession that creators have with retconning each other’s stories that they don’t like. (The Watcher’s line, “Yes, Squirrel Girl, with my cosmic senses I can confirm that that is, in fact, the one, true Thanos, and not a robot, clone, or simulacrum,” should be framed in a museum.) I love that what started as a little gag by Dan Slott in a Great Lakes Avengers special has become beloved by fandom because we like things that are fun, and that are funny, and because Squirrel Girl is one of the few characters (along with Deadpool) who are allowed to acknowledge that comics can be a little bit silly sometimes and that’s okay.
So when they said there was going to be a Squirrel Girl comic, I picked it up without knowing who was writing it or drawing it. But you know what? Marvel found the perfect creative team for this one. Ryan North writes the title with exactly the blend of silliness and seriousness that’s needed for the character to work–Squirrel Girl isn’t like Ambush Bug, an overt fourth-wall breaking meta-commentary on comics. She exists in Marvel continuity, and her series has to work as a superhero comic in its own right for the comedy to really click. When Squirrel Girl fights Kraven, you have to believe that this is the “real” Kraven she’s fighting and not just a parody of Spider-Man’s villain, and North nails it. (And I love the callback he did a few issues later. “Have you caught any Gigantos yet?” “These things take time.”) He makes Squirrel Girl a believable and funny hero, while scattering a billion great little gags through the rest of the comic to keep it actually, you know…funny.
And Erica Henderson’s art hits that wonderful sweet spot as well, between cartoonish and realistic. It’s cartoony, because this is a humor comic and you want it to look bright and cheerful and funny, but it’s not so cartoony that you can’t really recognize it as a story. The characters live and breathe on the page, which is awesome, and it’s also really damn awesome that Squirrel Girl is drawn as having a body type that isn’t identical to every other woman in superhero comics. She’s adorable without being yet another Emma Frost wannabe.
And if that doesn’t explain it all, the current story arc involves the squirrels finding out about Galactus’ imminent arrival on Earth, and Squirrel Girl stealing Iron Man’s armor and going out into space to fist-fight him on the moon. If that is not a Thing You might Love About Comics, then you and I are just very different people. (Although I should ask: Does it sweeten the pot if you know that her squirrel Tippy-Toe is wearing armor made of Iron Man’s helmet connected directly to his glove? No? Suit yourself.)