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Three comic book reviews: Pull List #26 ('The New Avengers', 'The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl')

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This will be the second Pull List in a row to feature only Squirrel Girl comics (and also the second Pull List in a row to feature a The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1, because Marvel's doing a thing again). Between her and all the Friendship is Magic comics, this Pull List thing has just become one big, happy ball of positive energy. Except when I throw in a Hack/Slash, an Avengers Arena or a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #4, and things get a little darker.

But, the stories we tell (and the stories we enjoy) influence how we think of the world; it's much easier to believe the world will end in some kind of apocalypse when your favorite TV show is The Walking Dead (a show about the apocalyptic end of the world), even if you don't necessarily believe it will come via zombie plague. It's harder if you watch a show where you have to take a time machine five million years into the future to see the end of the world. So, anyway, if you're looking for a comic book series that might influence you to see the world more positively, basically, stuff with Squirrel Girl helps.

newavengers1.jpgThe New Avengers #1

This is actually the fourth volume of The New Avengers, the original volume beginning way back in 2005, a decade ago. Normally, I'd say that wouldn't make the title very accurate, but this volume does feature a new status quo (basically, a formerly evil organization, A.I.M., has been bought by billionaire mutant superhero Sunspot, and has started his own Avengers team) a few first time Avengers, including Squirrel Girl. And, I guess, Tippy Toe, though that's probably only in her and Squirrel Girl's heads.

The title for the issue, is "In at the Deep End," and that explains the story pretty well. This isn't a "getting to know you" issue. I'm fairly familiar with most of the team, though Power Man is a bit of a mystery. I'm glad that Songbird is the field leader; I know she was a founding member of the Thunderbolts, which means she wasn't originally a superhero, but a supervillain (with the rather embarrassing name and costume of Screaming Mimi) who was part of a scheme to trick the world into only thinking they were good guys, before deciding she actually liked being a good guy better, and became a real superhero (and, by the way, I just kind of spoiled possibly the most famous twist in comics, there, but almost two decades later, the spoiler expiration date has expired). I always liked Songbird because of her "redemptive arc" story, but I know her story because I know her story. Good luck getting her backstory (or anyone else's on the team) from this issue. Anyway, the team is fighting a bizarre outbreak of diamond-headed zombies in Paris, while back at their base, S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing a surprise inspection. That's the basic gist. For all the lack of backstory, however, it does get character moments in; Squirrel Girl trying to talk the diamond head zombies down before beating them up is what that character is all about.

This volume's writer is Al Ewing, who also has written for Doctor Who comics, and now you know why the random plug of old episodes of Doctor Who in the intro happened. Amusingly, Ewing writes Squirrel Girl in a way that hints she is a Doctor Who fan herself; she uses one of the tenth Doctor's catchphrases as her own battle-cry.

newavengers2.jpgThe New Avengers #2

This issue has a great Squirrel Girl moment that does justify having Squirrel Girl on a superhero team; a pair of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents with Hulk-like enhancements are infected, and the bad guys send them after the team. They're really built up, and at one point we are literally told that they can take anyone.

Except, you know, Squirrel Girl. That fight lasted a page. This book features little captions telling us who the team members are and what their powers are, which is, admittedly, a bit of a Marvel comics cliche at this point, but Squirrel Girl's powers are listed as "Beat up Thanos once." I will be disappointed if the entire "Marvel Cinematic Universe" isn't just a long, complicated set up to a reveal that Squirrel Girl has already beaten Thanos off screen sometime between Avengers 3 and Avengers 3: Part 2. (By the way, Squirrel Girl explaining why Thanos is a hybrid goth/hipster is the greatest thing ever.) Of course, this is a science-y Avengers team, so actually having Squirrel Girl just punch everything won't actually win the day; the actual fixing of the whole diamond head zombie problem comes from judicious application of ridiculous comic book science. But it makes sense. In context. That context being diamond head zombie attack.

Now, on to art, which is by Gerardo Sandoval. It's a sort of modern cartoony style; the characters are very exaggerated, but they are colorized in a fairly realistic way. I like the style, myself, but this is a pretty divisive way to draw superhero comics. But if you like it, it's good.

theunbeatablesquirrelgirlvol21.jpgThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1

Well, now that we've seen Doreen Green, the unbeatable Squirrel Girl, as an Avenger, let's take a look at how being an Avenger has affected the status quo of her own book. Unlike Al Ewing on The New Avengers, Ryan North opts not to drop the readers into the deep end, instead giving us a story setting up Squirrel Girl's world. Turns out, there's a teleporter installed in Doreen's closet, in case the Avengers ever need her.

We're reintroduced to all the recurring characters of the book, and learn that enough time has apparently passed between this issue and the final issue of the first volume that Doreen is now a second year computer science student, and that she's now moving into an apartment with her former dorm roommate, Nancy Whitehead. Also, for the first time, we get to meet Squirrel Girl's mom. Which, to say the least, is an interesting addition to the cast of the book. It does give us a peek into where Doreen's worldview comes from; Maureen Green is, if anything, even more of an eternal optimist than her daughter. Also, this issue maybe retcons that Doreen is a mutant, or at least a mutant in the "like the X-Men" sense. Doreen doesn't actually care, and anyway, a Nazi-brain-in-a-jar-on-top-of-a-robot-body attacks soon afterwards, so the discussion never really gets very far.

If you've been reading the the Previews solicits, you know they've been rather coy about the villain of the next story arc; that villain is finally revealed on the final page of this issue. I must say, they were right to keep it a surprise!


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