Comics: Black Widow, Mockingbird, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Loading up a moving van gives you a new perspective on how much stuff you actually want to own. For me, a casualty of moving from one state to another a couple years ago was comic book collecting. But I still dabble in the odd graphic novel—or three, in this case a trio of Marvel superhero solo titles, which is where the company seems to excel these days, and also where they’re making strides toward a gender parity they can’t seem to manage in their movies.

First up, and perhaps the title I was most expecting to love, is Black Widow: S.H.I.E.L.D’s Most Wanted. From the illustrious team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, whose Daredevil run remains one of my favorite recent titles, this series tackles Black Widow the way I imagine a solo Marvel film would: it’s basically a spy story, with a strong focus on action and visual story-telling. Alas, I think that approach works better in an audio-visual medium than it does in panels; I quite enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite rise to Daredevil heights.

Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk’s Mockingbird: I Can Explain, on the other hand, is a unique and unusually satisfying take on a traditional Marvel “second-string” hero: Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird, recently brought to TV life by Adrianne Palicki on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cain goes to great lengths to work much of Bobbi’s lore into this inventive contraption, which had me turning back to re-read the first issue after I’d finished in order to decode its unusual structure. It’s episodic, and the episode quality varies, but overall it’s quite funny and compelling, with effective artwork.

The Unbeatable Squirrel GirlThe surprising winner of this batch, however, is Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power. If you think Mockingbird is going off the board, meet Doreen Green, the Squirrel Girl, with powers you can probably guess. Doreen is a college student by day, but by night she fights crime, up to and including freaking Galactus. From the daft fringes of the Marvel Universe, Squirrel Power is zany, unpredictable, and hilarious.

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