Graphic Novels, Tough Chicks is an original feature that celebrates the amazing female characters that abound in graphic novels. While many people still associate this particular form with a male readership, certain graphic novels empower women and combat feminine stereotypes through illustration and text. Tough chicks resist injustice, fight for their beliefs, and they don’t take flak from nobody. These women are capable of fighting their own battles, both literally and figuratively.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power
Author & Illustrator: Ryan North & Erica Henderson
Publisher: Marvel on September 1, 2015
Wolverine, Deadpool, Doctor Doom, Thanos: There’s one hero that’s beaten them all-and now she’s got her own ongoing series! (Not that she’s bragging.) That’s right, you asked for it, you got it, it’s SQUIRREL GIRL! (She’s also starting college this semester.) It’s the start of a brand-new set of adventures starring the nuttiest and most upbeat super hero in the world!
Doreen Green, AKA the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, plans to take a small break from fighting crime to start college and merge into more “normal” social circles. She also needs to take a break from her intense Iron Man fangirling, just saying. Of course, there’s not much chance of either of those things happening…because otherwise there wouldn’t be a story.
This is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek graphic novel that plays with some of the more ridiculous tropes associated with superhero stories. Case in point: Doreen’s catch phrase is “kicks butts, eats nuts.” Admit it, that’s hilarious. Plus there’s her theme song, sung by Doreen herself naturally. There are tons of other funny moments in THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL VOL. 1, and if you’re looking for a more lighthearted approach to the whole superhero thing then I definitely recommend it!
Accompanied pretty much everywhere by her friend (not a sidekick!) Tippy Toe, who is of course a squirrel, Doreen attempts to keep her secret identity under wraps while still fighting injustice wherever she sees it. Doreen can understand squirrels and talk to them, and her conversations with Tippy Toe are so much fun. They’re sassy and meta, the perfect way to break up fight scenes. Unfortunately for Doreen’s GPA, super villains don’t really care that she’s going to be late for class if she has to, you know, kick their butts. While she’s perfectly capable of fighting these villains, I really appreciated the fact that Doreen always tries to talk it out with them first to see if they can reach some sort of understanding. A girl who can fight evil but recognizes the importance of comprise definitely qualifies as a tough chick in my books!
Of course, there are some pretty clear feminist undertones in THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL VOL. 1. Doreen is studying computer science because she figures there’s no better way to augment her crime fighting abilities than to master all that fancy tech that superheroes are using these days. Crime fighting practicality aside, I think it’s awesome to see a young woman – who’s quite literally a hero – interested in pursuing studies in STEM, particularly since this could be classified as a YA comic. Young women interested in these fields need better representation, and Squirrel Girl is here to save the day!
Another feminist character and all around rad person is Nancy Whitehead, Doreen’s new roommate. Nancy is a hyper-intelligent, smart-alecky girl whose generally unflappable demeanor is the perfect balance to Doreen’s complete lack of chill. Nancy is pretty intense about her cat Mew though, so she’s actually not that phased by Tippy Toe – which is a huge boon for Doreen. Nancy is obviously a very driven, capable young woman of colour who won’t stand for injustice and I am here for it, people!
The plot of THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL VOL. 1 is a bit scattered and unfocused, but its charming cast of characters and gently sardonic tone more than make up for it. If you do pick up this graphic novel, keep an eye out for all the cool easter eggs it contains. Hint: look very closely at the bottom of each page…