In the 50th issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (the cover says #42 because reasons), writer Ryan North weaves a story of time, butt-kicking, and life-long friendship that encapsulates everything we have come to adore about Doreen Green. With artists Naomi Franquiz, Derek Charm, and Erica Henderson (in order of appearance) North puts a beautiful button on Squirrel Girl’s story, showing us what can happen when a creative team truly embraces and loves a character beyond the page.
Beginning at some point in THE FUTURE, where the world is a wasteland and Tippy Toe is a brain in a jar, Old Lady Doreen fights a seemingly unbeatable foe: Kang the Conqueror! His time-travelling abilities thwart her and her future squirrel army, but fail to drop a building on her from the past. This troubling setback sends Kang back to the “present” where he is thwarted yet again while attempting to blow Doreen, Nancy, Brain Drain, and a building to pieces. Another jaunt back through time gets us to the sewers underneath New York where a 10-year old Doreen disarms some bombs with her original sidekick, Monkey Joe. A feat of butt-kicking, time-warping science gives all the Doreens the chance to figure out how Kang travels through time, bringing them all together for a super-extended version of that episode of Doctor Who where they needed Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows and some footage from the 1960s to save Gallifrey. With some help from another, farther-future version of Kang, the Doreens win the day, but not without some sneaky and wonderful adjustments that save more than just themselves.
While the “Old Man/Lady” storylines are starting to wear thin elsewhere, Franquiz and North give us a dark future where hope still shines through at least one hero. One of the keys to this anniversary issue is the separation of the artists based on time periods. Franquiz does a great job with future Doreen and Iron Monger 2000 who looks surprisingly like The Iron Giant. Current USG artist picks up the “present day” act of the comic after a short break, bringing back his particular style that I would pay good money to see as an episodic cartoon series. For reals. Henderson, part of the OG creative team with North follows up with the “past” Doreen and her adorable Incredibles-style mask. The combination works really well to demonstrate the time changes and also the evolution of USG‘s style while maintaining the wit and the love that has been central to Doreen as a character since both issues #1.
As much as Henderson’s last full issue of USG was a love letter to the relationship between Nancy and Doreen, this issue shows how far Doreen is willing to go to save Nancy and how key Nancy is to the future of the Marvel comics universe. In addition to this wonderful nod to that amazing issue, North includes a Writer’s Commentary to the first first issue, giving fans an insider look at how the comic came about. Whether it’s in floppy form or in the next graphic novel (or both!), this issue is an important one for fans to pick up. From all of the Squirrel Scouts, congratulations on the milestone. Here’s to 42-ish more!