It’s boys’-night-out time in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #21, an issue focused on Brain Drain, Chipmunk Hunk, and Koi Boi. Is it good?
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I’m always a fan of when series set aside an issue to further develop their supporting cast, so I came into this issue with high hopes. Thankfully, the issue delivered. Though they appear repeatedly throughout the series, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi seldom get much spotlight, so it’s nice to see them as the focus for once. Even more so, I’m pleased with what this issue does with Brain Drain. A vessel for verbose nihilistic philosophy packaged up in a goofy exterior, the character is one of my favorites in this series. With that said, it would be easy for writer Ryan North to let Brain Drain remain primarily a joke character in this issue. He doesn’t, however. North’s depictions of Brain Drain struggling with human companionship and loneliness are touching, and help to elevate the character beyond a simple punchline.
On the downside, the issue’s first third is a bit too slow. The setup and initial scenes are predictable, and while they’re not badly executed by any means, they don’t have same level of charm that North imbues the rest of the issue with. Once things get going though, they really get going. Characters from around the larger Marvel universe (sort of) make appearances, and they do so in delightful ways. The image of Spider-Man saying “Stay thwippy, my friends!” is my favorite from any new comic this week.
Artistically, Erica Henderson does good work as usual in this issue. She definitely has a style that could be a bit polarizing (depending on how fond one is of cartoony, relatively undetailed art), but I personally enjoy the simplicity of her pencils. There’s a sense of campy action to the line-work that fits the tone of the issue and reminds me of classic, old school comics and cartoons (like the 60s Spider-Man and Batman TV series). Colorist Rico Renzi’s work is a good match for Henderson’s, and helps to emphasize the issue’s fun sensibility. The coloration of the last page’s skyline is especially lovely.
Overall, this is a good issue that delivers what its cover promises: a fun romp starring the less frequently utilized members of the series’ supporting cast. Brain Drain in particular shines with not only humor but impactful character development. The writing, line-art, and colors all work in tandem to create a cohesive book. Letterer Travis Lanham contributes to the cohesion as well, with work that is clear and legible while also full of personality. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #21 has some cons, mostly relating to its slow start, but is ultimately a boys’ night out to remember.