This issue continues where #17 left off, with our titular hero fighting crime in a new flying squirrel-themed suit provided by her new wealthy (and secretly evil) benefactor, Melissa Morbeck. As always with TUSG, the writing is witty, the art is expressive, and cute animals abound. The question is: is this a good issue, or is this a great issue?
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #18 (Marvel Comics)
The issue starts off strong with one of the series’ unique recap pages. Writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson’s decision to forgo typical “Previously In…” paragraphs in favor of a mock Twitter feed is appreciated as usual. The feed includes a humorous series of tweets that aptly sum up the only change Civil War II ultimately made to Marvel’s status quo, as well a chuckle-worthy gag about Tony Stark’s (in)ability to pass a CAPTCHA. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl team starts the issue off by doing the nigh impossible: making a recap page interesting.
This, however, relates to the issue’s main problem: the recap page sets a high bar that the rest of the issue’s content struggles to match. The last issue revealed Squirrel Girl’s new financier Melissa Morbeck’s supervillain status to the reader, and in this issue SG herself learns of Morbeck’s sinister intentions. Specifically, Squirrel Girl finds out through…her best friend Nancy Whitehead’s desire to move the plot along. We don’t get much indication that Nancy is suspicious of Morbeck before Nancy starts grilling her with inconvenient (and extremely specific) questions about the whereabouts of her pet chicken, Alfredo. This sounds silly, and it is, but it also feels like an excuse to rush events along so that we can get to the good guy versus bad guy portion of the arc. It’s not bad per se, it’s just not North’s best work, and the length of the verbal confrontation sequence drags the issue down a tad.
Thankfully, the artwork is strong as usual. Henderson skillfully conveys a variety of emotions, as her facial expression work continues to be some of the best in the business. Melissa Morbeck’s expressions of frustration and indignation are particularly well-rendered. There are also a number of animal side characters who are so cute that I immediately wanted to read a miniseries devoted solely to them. Alfredo the Chicken’s exploits with Chef Bear continue to amuse, as do the newly introduced Mister Bettany and Mister Edwin, a pair butler bears. The issue also contains clever visual gags in the form of fake billboards for Broadway classics such as “The Fantomex of the Opera”.
This isn’t to say that the art is the only enjoyable part of the issue or that North is totally off his game; the issue still contains plenty of his endearing puns, rhymes, and other wordplay. In addition to a fun fishing-themed pun from Koi Boi, we get an old woman assuring him that he’ll one day ascend to the rank of Koi Captain.
Overall, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #18 is a good time. It’s just not as good of a time as the issue before it. Knowing North and Henderson though, it won’t be long before this series reaches its usual heights again.