It’s Doreen vs. Dino-Ultron in the Savage Land!
Doreen’s Savage Land adventure continues in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #24 as she goes head to head with a dinosaur version of Ultron. Does the issue live up to the series’ usual high standard?
Writing-wise, this issue is a mixed bag. There are a variety of nice touches and gags, but I’m not certain that everything adds up as effectively as it could. Plot-wise, most of the issue consists of a drawn-out fight scene where Doreen and Antonio the Doombot square off against dinosaur-Ultron while Nancy and Stefan watch and sometimes comment. When the characters aren’t fighting, a lot of the dialogue revolves around this version of Ultron’s origin.
There are some cool ideas here (Ultron reconstructing himself using a very limited frame of reference is fun, and it’s neat to ponder how the circumstances of his return could shape his form and motivations), but the villain’s actual motivations aren’t all that interesting. He’s Ultron and he hates carbon-based life forms, as usual. Hopefully Doreen will have more meaningful interactions with him next issue, because right now their personalities don’t really bounce off each other in any special way.
This lack of interesting character interaction isn’t limited to just Doreen and Ultron. Few of the cast members get shining moments in this issue, as so much time is devoted to exposition. With that said, the writing does have its great moments. Tippy Toe returns with some of her beloved sass, and the Deadpool supervillain trading cards make a comeback as well. They’ve long been my favorites among the series’ various running gags, so their inclusion is much appreciated, especially with how infrequently they’ve appeared as of late. My favorite joke in this issue, though, was a subtle reference to writer Ryan North’s other work, Dinosaur Comics. It’s worked into the story well enough that if you hadn’t read the reference material you wouldn’t even notice it, but for those who follow the other series it’s a great Easter egg.
Unfortunately, I think that Easter egg is indicative of the issue’s overall success. The best moments are all fairly minor and short, taking place in the middle of an elongated battle/exposition segment. Artist Erica Henderson’s work on the issue varies in quality as well. When her pencils are great, they’re great. The two-page spread of Doreen and Antonio attacking Ultron is great, and Ultron’s facial expressions throughout are very comical. The visual storytelling of the issue’s best pages is very effective. Unfortunately, there are also many pages where the art looks rushed. In said pages, fine detail is frequently lacking and there isn’t enough stylized emotiveness to make up for it.
Overall, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #24 isn’t a bad time, but it isn’t as strong of an issue as I had hoped. There are multiple nice touches, but shining moments don’t make up for an overarching plot in which little actually happens. How little transpires narratively is especially evident in part because the series’ lovable cast of characters don’t get enough time in the spotlight. This issue is worth buying just to stay up to date with the usually more consistent series, but it isn’t particularly memorable of its own accord.