The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11 is an odd issue, but no more than the rest of the series. Afterall, this is a comic that embraces the oddities of both the superhero genre and comics medium to be one of the most fun, quirkiest, and accessible books being published by Marvel Comics today. That doesn’t make the premise any easier to sell as Squirrel Girl uses computer science skills in an extended dream sequence. You just have to trust that this is way more enjoyable than it may sound.
Writer Ryan North has made plenty of references to Squirrel Girl’s study of computer science with lots of college-educated gags, but it has never been the focus of an issue. Here he builds the story around a three-part lesson (each with its own villain!) to teach readers some rudimentary coding knowledge. What’s shocking is how successfully he implements this plan. Each new lesson plays into the defeat of a bad guy in ways that are both funny and exciting. Featuring logic at the center of a battle with Doc Ock doesn’t preclude plenty of punching. Squirrel Girl also makes for an excellent teacher as her boundless enthusiasm transforms exposition into the sort of dialogue that can be endlessly re-read with a smile on your face.
Compared to other issues of Squirrel Girl the most expository panels do seem dry, but they are well paced so as to never last too long. North includes brief bursts of knowledge, then allows readers to utilize them later in order to better appreciate a joke or particular plan. The humor itself along with the action is everything fans of this series will have come to expect (i.e. excellent).
Another delightful aspect of this premise is how it naturally utilizes a guest artist without disrupting the cohesive whole of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Jacob Chabot is a natural fit for this tone of story. The exuberant energy of his figures and expressions match those of regular artist Erica Henderson. It’s easy to imagine Chabot as the standard artist for the series in a world where Henderson has chosen to move on to other projects. In this issue it functions as a reflection, contrasting Squirrel Girl’s dreams to the “reality” of her life as highlighted late in the story.
Chabot is not attempting to mimic Henderson’s artwork though. He utilizes more finely detailed lines and denser backgrounds in a less distinctive style that still leans heavily on exaggerated elements. The delivery of comedy shows Chabot to have a top-notch sense of timing. North writes most pages to deliver a punchline in the final panel; Chabot excels in making these land with both facial expressions and slapstick. Every word balloon is significantly enhanced by the face behind it with furrowed eyebrows or an stuck-out tongue creating a clear tone.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11 is a surprising one-shot. It’s the rare instance in which a comic includes a lesson plan in its DNA and succeeds. That and the inclusion of a guest artists could have made this issue an exception to the rest of the series, but instead it’s another excellent issue. You could take The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11 and place it in anyone’s hands, confident that it shows the best of what this series has to offer. And this is a series that has a lot to offer.
Rating: 1001/0101 (that’s 9/10 in binary!)