Doreen’s battle against Melissa Morbeck continues in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #19. Can Squirrel Girl stop a villain who controls squirrels and all other animals? Is the issue good?
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #19 (Marvel Comics)
The issue begins with the classic trope of the villain (Morbeck) delivering a long monologue about her past to the protagonist (Doreen). Morbeck reveals that her family has a history of attempting to control animals, and that she has been much more successful at it than her predecessors. We get a story about the Harvard Mark II (an early computer) and a moth disrupting its operations, thus serving as inspiration for the term “software bug.” That much is totally true, and writer Ryan North adds his signature silly (in a good way) spin on the event by revealing that the moth was under the control of Morbeck’s grandmother.
One of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’s greatest strengths as a series is the way it doesn’t shy away from the humorous or the ridiculous. It doesn’t try to make a girl who can talk to squirrels “gritty” or “edgy.” Thankfully, the writing in is issue is imbued with the series’ usual sense of fun and self-aware campiness. Some particularly great moments include a cameo by Howard the Duck, the latest developments in the ongoing feud between Chef Bear and Alfredo the Chicken, and more appearances from Morbeck’s delightfully dapper bear henchmen (henchbears?). Erica Henderson’s art is strong as usual, and we get to see her cartoony renderings of a lot of different animals we had not yet seen in the series. Her drawings of raccoons, mosquitos, and even cockroaches are charming.
With all that said, this issue still has its faults. Issue #18 spent a bit too much page-time on characters just standing around talking and issue #19 does as well. This would not be much of a problem if the dialogue was outstanding, but it isn’t. North’s writing is still decent, but after two issues of Melissa Morbeck delivering villainous monologues I feel like I should be more invested in the character than I actually am. Not only that, but the beginning of the issue depicts the beginning of a large-scale animal assault on humanity, and the attack just…stops midway through the issue. Morbeck acts as if her big evil plot has come to fruition, just to call it off temporarily for no discernable reason. The ending of the issue then depicts Morbeck attacking again just in time for a cliffhanger. Hopefully issue #20 will actually follow through on the promise of campy animal attacks.
Ultimately, this is a good issue. North and Henderson deliver in their usual campy style, and we get a lot of charming artwork of various animals, to include a henchbear with a gun. Problems with a somewhat lackluster villain and some questionable (even by Squirrel Girl standards) plot events stop this issue from being one of the series’ bests, but it’s still a good time.